Monday, July 21, 2014

Aloha Eagles (1916-1992)

                                      Portrait courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

  Joining an all-too-short list of oddly named female political figures who've had profiles here on the site, Minnesota native Aloha Pearl Taylor Browne Eagles was a homemaker who was elected to several terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives, gaining statewide distinction as an advocate of liberalizing that state's abortion laws. Prominent in state social organizations in addition to public service, Eagles was honored as North Dakota Woman of the Year in the early 1970s and was accorded similar honors in 1976 by the University of North Dakota. 
   Born in Duluth, Minnesota on November 8, 1916, Aloha Pearl Taylor Brown was the daughter of Edward Richard (1879-1967) and Irene Belle Taylor Browne (1885-1978). She would attend school at the Crosby-Ironton High School and later studied at a nursing school in Duluth for a short time. She graduated from the Hibbing Junior College in Hibbing, Minnesota in the class of 1936, and also studied at the University of Minnesota for one year. In August of 1939, she married Donald Eagles (1916-1980), with whom she would have two sons, Donald Taylor (died 1994) and Keehn (born 1947). 
  In 1942 the Eagles family removed from Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota, where Aloha would be a homemaker. In 1966 she announced her candidacy for a seat in the North Dakota State House of Representatives from that state's 21st district, and in November of that year won the election. Elected as a Republican, Eagles took her seat at the start of the January 1967 term and so began an eighteen-year tenure in the North Dakota legislature, one that would see Eagles become a standout figure in state government, being a prime mover in legislation for women's rights.
   As one of just three women serving in the North Dakota legislature during the 1969 term, Eagles authored a bill (House Bill 319) that aimed to legalize abortion "in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health was endangered". At that time, women residing in North Dakota could be subjected to fines and imprisonment for asking for an abortion, and with the announcement of Eagles' bill, a storm of controversy ensued. As the leading voice behind House Bill 319 Aloha Eagles was targeted by anti-abortion advocates, receiving "abusive phone calls", hate mail and even death threats. These threats eventually necessitated Eagles being provided with a North Dakota Highway Patrol officer out of concerns for her safety, and in 1969 House Bill 319 was defeated by a vote of 52 to 42. Undeterred, Eagles reintroduced the same bill during the 1971 legislative session where it again met defeat, this time being struck down by a vote of 85-15.
  In spite of the failure of House Bill 319 Aloha Eagles made great strides in promoting other pieces of social legislation, including a bill that prohibited "the sale of volatile solvents" that were being used in "glue-sniffing", as well as being an advocate for the construction of a women's prison in the state. During her third term in the legislature Aloha Eagles was named as North Dakota Woman of the year for 1973 and three years later received the University of North Dakota's Law Woman's Award.

Aloha Eagles, a scanned portrait from the 1981 North Dakota State Blue Book. 

  While still an incumbent legislator, Aloha Eagles was an active participant in a number of North Dakota social services and organizations, being a member of the State Law Enforcement Council, the Coordinating Council for Family Planning, the State Day Care Board, the Advisory Board for Vocational Rehabilitation, the Fargo Chapter of the League of Women Voters, Church Women United, and was the director of the Community Action Agency.
  Aloha Eagles' final term in the legislature concluded in 1985. Widowed in 1980, Eagles died in Virginia Beach, Virginia on February 22, 1992 at age seventy-five and was survived by both of her sons. A burial location for her is unknown at this time.

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