Claudia Ellquist prepared well for a lifetime of activism while she attended the University of Arizona -- and well before that, as well. Her organizing activism has included church, social, political, legislative, and peace activities.
As a student, she was active in many peace activities. She interrupted her undergraduate years for a two-year church mission, working in poor urban communities in San Francisco. At the University of Arizona, Claudia earned a degree in education and a law degree. Her law class had the first large number of female students – about one-third. The next previous class was 8% female. So, from the beginning, she was used to bucking the odds.
Her law practice consisted of arbitration, dispute resolution, and women’s divorce cases. During the mid-1970s, Ms. Ellquist began visiting other states to work on their passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. That activity led to her involvement with the activities of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Over time, she held NOW positions at the local, state, and national level, including a term on the national board of directors.
Ms. Ellquist has spent a large amount of her time organizing abolition of the death penalty. She has made statements before state clemency boards, marched in rallies, organized book-signing fairs for abolitionist authors, written newsletters, sent out thousands of mailings, and done all the other time-consuming activities associated with the movement. She also ran for Pima County Attorney four times in order to make elimination of the death penalty an item for political discussion.
Ms. Ellquist has organized a number of successful voter initiatives. She spearheaded the only successful county-wide recall of an elected official in Arizona history. She spearheaded two passages of the Healthy Arizona Initiative, which brought health care for the first time to all Arizonans living in poverty. She worked on an initiative to bring clean elections to Arizona and later served as a founding member of its Commission.
Ms. Ellquist was one the founding members of the Pima County Green Party. She has run for County Attorney on that ticket. Her runs for office gave ballot status to the local Green Party, which was partially her reason for running for office. She has chaired the county and the state party, and she has organized a national convention held in Tucson.
Ms. Ellquist has never wavered, throughout the years, in staying active in church activities. She has organized ecumenical women’s groups to support many activities on numerous occasions. Within her own church, she has been an elder, deacon, kitchen cook, and served on or chaired numerous committees. She has taken church missions to witness civil war and poverty in Chiapas, and attended many women’s study retreats.
Ms. Ellquist always worked unwaveringly in opposition to the death penalty. Additionally, she continued to work for universal health care for all, and she continued to work for more Green Party candidates running for office.
Claudia received many awards over the years honoring her work. She has been awarded the Church Women United Valiant Woman recognition from the state group and the local chapter. She has received the YWCA Women On The Move award. She has received the Tucson NOW Woman of Courage award. She has been given Certificates of Appreciation awards from various organizations too numerous to mention. She received a cash award for a grief memoir submission to the Tucson Festival of Books.
Claudia worked until her death on her commitment to community and her fellow citizens. She continued to bring her full effort to the issues and values that promote women and their rights in our society.