Virginia Chapter of the

National Organization for Women

Foremothers Bios

Foremothers Biographies

Mary Peterson Hartzler


Mary Jane Peterson Hartzler served an essential role in the demonstrations and civil disobedience of Virginia feminists in the push to ratify the ERA during the 1970s-1980s. She was the "bag lady," the person who held the bail money for any arrestable actions. Mary fundraised at the local Methodist church for their 'bail money'.  (And would you believe the church donated in support of non-violent arrestable actions for the Equal Rights Amendment?)  

As the “bag lady”, Mary remained in charge of the money for the rare occasions in which ERA protesting did result in arrests. Because of her husband’s top secret government position, she felt it would be a rather wise idea not to get arrested.  Instead, she used her savvy business skills to keep the chapter well-funded.

Mary attended the historic March in Richmond and made sure her fellow ERA advocates were safe by driving along beside them and picking up anyone who was too exhausted to walk any longer.  She provided food, water, bail money, she kept hold of everyone's IDs, personal medications, and she provided any first aid equipment that the ERA marchers may have needed.  Whenever Mary saw her friends being taken away into a police van, she would jump into a taxi and say, "Follow that van!"  Friend and fellow ERA Foremother, Georgia Fuller quotes, "Our lives literally depended on Mary."

Inspired by the NO COMMENT department of Ms. Magazine, Mary wrote Daughter of No Comment, a regular feminist opinion column from 1994-2007.

Originally from Chicago, Mary has lived in Alexandria/Fairfax, Virginia for over 26 years.  Mary was born on May 10th, 1931 and proudly refers to herself as FBFH, "Feminist Bitch From Hell". 

Mary also produces a Community Access TV Show called “On the Go” which is shown on Channel 10, a public access channel in Fairfax County (AKA Fairfax Public Access).

Mary Hartzler Biographical Facts

  • Mary has always been self-employed, living well off in stocks and bonds.
  • Mary learned real estate by working for her father in Chicago as a shadow, he was her only daughter.
  • Mary has lived all over the world - East Coast, Midwest, Europe, lived abroad, and been very happy!
  • Mary was the always the money person.  It was what she could offer.  A fellow ERA Foremother quoted, “Put a dollar sign in front of Mary and she’ll get it right away.”
  • Mary wasn’t fond of chaining herself up to the White House fence back on February 15, 1982, so she offered to be the one to provide money in any situation needed within the ERA movement.
  • Mary was Porsche Rally Driver in Marl Burl.
  • Mary has one son who currently lives in Baltimore.