Roxcy Bolton, women's rights crusader, dies at Coral Gables home

Pioneer of nation's first rape treatment center in Miami dies at 90

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor, Laurie Jennings - Anchor, Kathleen Corso - Special Projects Producer

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Roxcy Bolton, one of Florida's prominent crusaders for women's rights, died Wednesday at her Coral Gables home. She was 90.

U.S. Rep. Ileana-Ros Lehtinen, R-Florida, said on Twitter that Bolton died about 5 a.m. Wednesday.

George Navarette, the director of Miami-Dade County's public parks, later confirmed her death.

Bolton was a woman who could not be intimidated or ignored. She faced down politicians and police departments in the name of women's rights.

"I think about the rape treatment center, the first in the country, and when we marched down Flagler Street," Bolton once told Local 10 News. "I went to get the permit at the Miami police station and my, did they laugh."

But no one can laugh at her accomplishments.

"I went to get the permit at the Miami police station and my, did they laugh," Roxcy Bolton told Local 10 News as she recalled her efforts open what is now the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

From her home in Coral Gables, Bolton raised three children and a community's consciousness.

"It was the best of times here and the worst of times," she once remarked.

Over the span of three decades, Bolton founded the Miami-Dade County chapter of the National Organization for Women, the nation's first rape treatment center at Jackson Memorial Hospital (later renamed the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center), Miami Women In Distress, the Women's Institute at Florida Atlantic University and Miami-Dade County's first neighborhood crime watch.

"Roxcy O'Neal Bolton was a pioneer for equal rights for women," Jackson Health System said in a statement. "Her legacy will live on through the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, which was founded in 1974 as the first center of its kind to help victims of rape and sexual assault. Since then, the center has provided emotional and medical services to more than 70,000 people. Throughout her lifetime, Roxcy Bolton made a profound and long-lasting impact in Florida, Miami-Dade County and at Jackson Health System. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family." 

In 1990, she came out of self-imposed retirement to fight for women who were fired from Howard Johnson hotels.

"I will go before every group that I can speak to," Bolton told reporters in 1990. "I will do everything that I have to do to ask the people of this community to boycott Howard Johnson's."

Two decades earlier, Bolton demanded that a South Florida department store open its "men's only" dining room to women.

Bolton led the effort to create Women's Park, which opened in 1992 as a tribute to past and present women leaders in South Florida, and was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1984.

Roxcy Bolton is honored during a 1999 ceremony designating her Coral Gables home as an historic place.

She was honored in August 1999, when her home was designated a historic landmark, receiving the first state marker ever placed on private property.

Bolton, then 73, reflected on what her life had been.

"As the tide ebbs, we always reflect," she told Local 10 News at the time. "We want to make everything right. I want to be a better person. I have no regrets, trust me, no regrets, I did it my way."

Copyright 2017 by WPLG - All rights reserved.