Elly Anderson

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building
Social Service

Honored By

Honored by: First Friday
Date submitted: December 19, 2007
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Elly's early years were typical: she went to college and earned a degree in journalism which led to a position at an advertising agency. There, she met her future husband, Curt. And, as typical couples do in the 1950's, they had children. Elly left her job to concentrate on raising a family. Several years went by, and Elly began to miss her professional life, and pondered how to use her 'smarts' while staying involved in her children's lives. A typical move was to volunteer, and she found satisfaction in working on political campaigns for candidates and issues. Eventually, Elly ran for the local school board. She lost, but soon after, Curt was asked to take a job in Tucson, Arizona. So, they packed up their young family and started a new life in 1971 in a very different environment.

And that is where a young woman's typical life quickly became uncommon. Over the next 35 years, usually by her own initiative, and sometimes by forces outside of her control, Elly fostered important changes in the lives of women and people suffering from mental illnesses.

Starting with a volunteer position at Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona in 1971, Elly soon became employed there, working for 20 years before retiring as its Director of Development. As her professional career grew, she continued to dedicate her free time to volunteering, developing her knowledge of the political scene and campaigning for countless local and regional candidates - primarily women; and issues affecting women.

Also in 1971 the National Women's Political Caucus was formed, and Elly took the lead to make this 'political arm of the women's movement' a force to deal with in Arizona. She considers 'the Caucus' the focus of her community life and the source of her most enduring friendships.

Elly was a founding member of the Tucson Women's Commission, established in 1976, and served as its Interim Director in 1996. In 1979, Elly established the Tucson office of the National Abortion Rights Action League - Arizona Right to Choose. She grew Tucson's activist women's network by organizing nearly 200 pro-choice 'house parties.'

When her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1984, Elly and Curt became founding board members of the Alliance of the Mentally Ill of Southern Arizona. Erasing the cultural stigma of mental illness and providing more services to the mentally ill became another major focus of Elly's long history of voluntarism and activism.

Throughout the years, Elly both volunteered and professionally managed many campaigns in Arizona. In 1998, Elly managed the Southern Arizona campaign of Janet Napolitano, who was making her first run for Attorney General of Arizona. This turn of events spurred a second career for Elly, who came out of retirement in 2003 to work for Governor Napolitano as the Community Outreach Officer in the Southern Arizona office. Elly retired (again) in 2007 with special recognition from the Governor.

Elly continues to volunteer for women running for political office, and has no plans of stopping any time soon!