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The life of an AGELESS ACTIVIST A women's rights protester, a pioneering professor, a Peace Corps volunteer at age 65--Alice Rabson makes a difference
Alice Rabson is one of Fredericksburg's local legends. She's helped shape Fredericksburg in the last 36 years. By Jessica Allen

 Rabson brings her faithful pet, Arthur, last month to the Unitarian Universalist Felowship's Blessing of the Animals service.
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Date published: 6/18/2005

LICE BRAND RABSON made her feminist views known the first year she moved to Fredericksburg.

On Aug. 26, 1970--Liberation Day--she walked around downtown and at a nearby shopping center decked out in sandwich-board signs reading, "Let Woman Be Free" and "Celebrate Woman's Liberation Day."

"People threw things at me and pulled their children away, saying: 'Don't talk to that woman,'" Rabson said recently while sitting in her apartment in Fredericksburg.

But she didn't care what they said. Not then and not now.

Rabson, 84, has been an activist her entire life, and she doesn't plan on letting her age stand in her way.

She didn't let it interfere when she joined the Peace Corps at 65--being one of the oldest people in her group.

Standing a little over 5 feet tall, Rabson comes across as a fragile woman. But it's her feisty personality, strong opinions and actions that have helped shape Fredericksburg over the past 36 years.

Her passion for justice was one of the reasons Mary Washington College, as it was known then, went coed in 1970.

Her desire for equality motivated her to become one of the first members of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. And her compassion drove her to advocate with others for the creation of the Rappahannock Area Council on Domestic Violence, where she is still a counselor.

Rabson's philosophy is simple: "Even if it's unpopular, you have to stand up for what you believe in," she said.

All in the family

Rabson is a self-described feminist and pacifist. It's in her blood.

The New York native and descendant of European Jews said her family emphasized tolerance and education. They didn't just speak it; they showed it, she said.

Many attended universities and became professionals. They also were active in their communities.

Rabson's maternal grandfather marched with her mother, Ernestine Isabel, in the suffragette parade in New York in 1912. Alice's mother also taught English to foreigners during World War I.

Her father, Albert Brand, was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union--of which she is a lifelong member.

Brand also taught ornithology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Rabson was among the few women to attend the university and graduate at the time.

"The ratio was 7 to 1 [seven men to one woman]," she said. "I had a wonderful time."

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