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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 page 4
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


The ACLU took a step beyond Mary Washington and asked that the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court prohibit sex discrimination at any state-supported college or university.

The civil-liberties organization won.

Rabson, who retired in 1985, said she doesn't think she's responsible for the school going coed. Others might have complained. But she has noticed how Mary Washington has changed over the years and loves it.

"The first year I started working there, women wanted to be secretaries or nurses, and all of them wanted to be married and, by the time they graduated, they were engaged," she said. "Students aren't like that anymore."

Smith, who remembers Rabson driving a purple Volkswagen beetle decorated with bumper stickers, said Rabson was always fighting for a cause.

Fighting for a cause

Since women's rights have always been a concern for Rabson, it seemed natural that she and a group of friends would form a local chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Elizabeth Clark co-founded the local chapter in 1972. Rabson, who commuted to Northern Virginia for meetings, was among the first members. Others included Becky Reed of Stafford and the late Sue Hanna.

Rabson also recruited students from Mary Washington to join.

"She spoke out on discrimination of every kind you can think of. She does not mind taking a stand on issues," Reed said. "She's a pacifist, which is unusual these days."

The group of friends was also active in the creation of a local shelter for battered women.

"There was absolutely nothing for women here," Rabson said. "Something needed to be done. We wanted to get a place where they go, and no one would know where it was."

Rabson, Reed, Hanna, Becky Guy of Stafford, Ray Davis of Stafford, Florence Ridderhof of Fredericksburg and others founded the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence in 1978.

The group first worked with women at their homes--Ridderhof had some live at hers. RCDV soon got a grant and was able to open a shelter called The Haven, which is at an undisclosed location.

Each member had a role to play. Rabson worked as a crisis counselor with the men who were court-ordered to attend group sessions, Ridderhof said.

Rabson continues to serve as a counselor for the nonprofit organization, which has an office off U.S. 17 in Stafford County.

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