LAS VEGAS, NV – The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada is pleased to announce that Ruby Duncan has been chosen to receive the 2013 Emilie Wanderer Civil Libertarian of the Year. Duncan is an organizer and activist who has dedicated her life to helping the poor, especially women and children.
The ACLU of Nevada will present Duncan with the award at its Eleventh Annual Celebration of Civil Liberties on Friday, June 14 at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve Cafe.
”Ruby is an icon of the civil rights struggle in Nevada,” said Tod Story, Interim Executive Director for the ACLU of Nevada. “She spearheaded the movement for the rights of mothers and their children in the 1960's, by leading the effort to reform the way Nevada treated its most vulnerable. She exercised her rights to stand up, speak out and advocate for a system devoid of discrimination and her actions gave a voice to those families who otherwise shied away from public involvement. We are thrilled to recognize Ruby for all the work she has done and the lives she bettered through her civil rights and advocacy work.”
Ruby Duncan moved to Las Vegas in 1952, when southern Nevada was still highly segregated. She worked in hotels and casinos, but when she was fired from one job for attempting to organize hotel maids and injured at another, she was forced to go on welfare to support her family. In 1969, after bringing concerns of mothers on welfare to Nevada State Legislature, Duncan was elected president of the new Clark County Welfare Rights Organization. In 1971, when Nevada cut 75% of aid to welfare recipients, she organized demonstrations, eat-ins, and two large marches on the Strip, famously shutting down Caesars Palace and other casinos. In 1972, she founded Operation Life, a community-run anti-poverty non-profit organization, which brought important changes to the poor in West Las Vegas including building a medical clinic and library; promoting economic development and education; creating housing and job training; and providing day care for working mothers. Duncan served as the Operation Life’s executive director until 1990, and the organization closed its doors in 1992. Duncan believes all people should have “bread, justice and dignity.” She has received numerous local and national awards for her dedication to women’s and children’s rights.
The ACLU of Nevada’s Civil Libertarian of the Year award is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the protection and advancement of civil liberties in Nevada. It is named in honor of Emilie Wanderer, one of Las Vegas’s first female attorneys and a long-time civil rights advocate. Additional information about the Wanderer Award and the ACLU of Nevada’s June 14 Celebration of Civil Liberties is available at www.aclunv.org/event/2013celebration.