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Guide to the Jo-Ann Mayer Mullen Papers
1977-2005
 MS 3209

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Lia Warner

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 26, 2022
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Biographical / Historical

Jo-Ann Mayer Mullen (1929-2019) was born in New York City, NY, to Frances Silberstein and Edgar Mayer. She attended Cornell University and graduated with her bachelors degree circa 1950. She continued her education at Syracuse University and completed two years of graduate study in Sculpture before marrying Earle Mullen in 1954. She and her family moved to Schenectady in 1973. During her period in Syracuse in which she raised three children, Mullen became politically active, primarily through organizations such as the League of Women Voters (LWV) and the National Organization for Women (NOW). She remained an active member of these organizations throughout her lifetime and her politics continued to replicate their concerns.

Mullen can be understood as a member of the second-wave feminist movement, as her primary political work began in the 1960s and continued to center around issues of gender equality, reproduction, rape and domestic violence, and other moral and legal issues that emphasized women's positions within the state and society. Interestingly, Mullen's political and professional work sustained through the turbulent reshaping of the mainstream feminist movement in the United States during the 1980s-1990s; she remained committed to her struggle for resources and rights for women, particularly victims of domestic abuse and rape, which she sought through legalistic means.

As a member of the Schenectady Human Rights Commission Committee on Domestic Violence, Mullen worked with local and state organizations and government agencies to advocate for research, training, and resources to adequately address the needs of domestic violence victims. She also sought preventative solutions that intervened upon potential abusers and women and children in vulnerable situations. She performed similar advocacy at the state level, first on then-Governor Mario Cuomo's Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence, then with the New York State Committee Against Violence Against Women and the New York State Coaltion Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV), as well as regional taskforces. These efforts were primarily centered around lobbying for research and legislation on domestic violence issues, particularly marital rape, law enforcement response, and transitional housing.

Mullen worked as a YWCA Services Coordinator circa 1982-1987. There, she worked as a legal advocate for women and children seeking services. She also liaised with legal experts, law enforcement, and local government to explore policy reforms. She produced reports and policy handbooks on how to navigate the legal system as a victim while also advocating for police reforms and trainings.

Mullen also explored the issues of violence against women through art and creative writing. She wrote poetry, songs, and speculative fiction about the issues of rape and doemstic violence in order to raise the consciousness of other women and provide support. Her play, The Wide-Eyed Bride, was performed as part of a lobbying action by the League of Women Voters.