HUDSON, Wis.-The family of Arvonne Fraser has planned an Aug. 30 gathering to celebrate the life of the longtime Minnesota advocate for women's rights.
Fraser, who was the wife of former Minneapolis Mayor and U.S. Rep. Don Fraser, died Aug. 7 at her home on the St. Croix River near Hudson, Wis. She was 92.
Fraser was one of the founders of Minnesota, national and international feminism, her career running from Minneapolis, where she was involved in Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party politics, through Washington, where she served as director of the International Women's Rights Action Watch and ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
Along the way, she worked with virtually every women's organization and encountered most of the important women of the past five decades.
"Some people in politics are all heart and some are all policy and numbers," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., wrote on Twitter after Fraser's death. "Arvonne Fraser understood both. She was my neighbor and friend and pushed so many women to go into the fray and do good."
After graduating from high school in Lamberton, Minn., in 1943, the former Arvonne Skelton headed to the Twin Cities, where she attended the University of Minnesota and landed a job in the office of Hubert Humphrey's U.S. Senate campaign.
There, she met Don Fraser, who would become her second husband in 1950.
She became his campaign manager, guiding his elections to the Minnesota Senate (1954-1962), to the U.S. House of Representatives (1963-1979) and as the longest-serving mayor of Minneapolis (1980-1993).
The couple had six children, and in a 2007 memoir titled "She's No Lady," Fraser wrote about the pain of losing one young daughter in a car accident and another to suicide.
Children were no hindrance to Fraser and other activist Minneapolis women who worked on political campaigns. They just set up play areas for the kids, sometimes ignoring how many sweets the little ones ate.
"Campaigns are social as well as political affairs," Fraser wrote in her memoir. "Common interests, friendships ... sitting around my dining room table afternoons, stuffing envelopes with newsletters or fundraising appeals, we'd also discuss books we were reading, an issue we cared passionately about, or the latest news. ..."
During her early years in Washington, Fraser refused the traditional role of political wives who wore white gloves to endless lunches. In 1969, she hosted a luncheon for like-minded women at which the guests were asked to talk about what they thought and felt, and they were not allowed to say, "My husband is. ..."
In 1986, St. Paul Mayor George Latimer selected Fraser as his running mate in an unsuccessful primary election challenge to incumbent DFL Gov. Rudy Perpich.
Fraser also served as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she co-founded its Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy.
In addition to her husband, Fraser is survived by her sons Tom and John; two daughters, Mary Fraser and Jean Fraser; a sister, Bonnie Skelton; and seven grandchildren.
"If you want to honor Arvonne, please don't send flowers or cards," her family wrote in announcing her memorial service. "Instead, go out and organize for a cause, donate to and volunteer for candidates, read the news and talk to your family, friends, neighbors and elected officials about important issues."
The celebration of her life will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion, 40 Power St., in Minneapolis.