Lois M. Dauway, Champion for Social Justice, Dies at 65

Lois M. Dauway, Champion for Social Justice, Dies at 65

Lois M. Dauway, former head of United Methodist Women’s social action section and an interim chief officer of the organization, died surrounded by family in a convalescent facility in Livingston, N.J., Feb. 4. She was 65.

Ms. Dauway was a lifelong United Methodist from Boston, Mass., with a heart for justice. Ms. Dauway served as assistant general secretary for Christian Social Relations of the Women’s Division, then the administrative and policymaking body of United Methodist Women, from 1994 to 2007. During her tenure, the section spearheaded new advocacy mission initiatives in the areas of economic justice, environmental justice, public education and immigrant rights, including:

  • A massive letter-writing campaign against the fast-track passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • United Methodist Women’s Green Team Initiative, in which regional leaders received special training and support to promote environmental protection.
  • United Methodist Women’s Campaign for Children: Phase III—Public Education, an ongoing effort in which members support public education by serving as volunteers in local schools and as advocates for public schools before legislators.
  • United Methodist Women’s Immigration Rights/Civil Rights Initiative, which promotes just immigration reform and just treatment of immigrants.

“Our sister, friend and mentor Lois Dauway carried within her a commitment to social action and racial justice that informed all of her work and shaped her work with United Methodist Women and beyond,” said Harriett Jane Olson, chief executive officer of United Methodist Women. “Her experience, from working with communities while Boston schools were being integrated, to working with Black Community Developers, to engagement in positive reinvestment in South Africa after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa enabled her to think broadly and deeply about marginalized people around the world. She never stopped learning and asking questions, and she never stopped teaching. She believed in the power of women and in the role of the church, living the Gospel as change agents in local and global arenas.

“I would be a different person today—and the organization of United Methodist Women would be different as well—if we had not been blessed by Lois' commitment, leadership and friendship.

Ms. Dauway served as interim chief executive of the Women’s Division in 2007 during the search for a permanent deputy general secretary. In that time, she wrote the monthly message from the head of Women’s Division, the Responsively Yours column in the United Methodist Women’s response magazine, and she shared the concerns of her heart. In gentle, personal but direct language, she wrote about the dangers of greed, about how peace really is possible and about women who tapped the power of God within them to “make a way out of no way.”

“My grandmother was such a woman,” she wrote in her March 2007 column. “An elegant West Indian lady from Grenada, Ethel Griffith worked as a domestic after she and my grandfather, a Methodist pastor, came to the United States. ... The family she worked for wasn’t mean to her, but I know what she put up with. She’d come home tired, but she’d tap an inner reserve of strength to care for her household. Some days that included caring for me since we lived nearby. ...

“Sundays, she gave $1.50 above her tithe for mission. That was a lot of money to me as a child. That’s still a lot of money to me when I realize she was giving from the salary of a domestic worker. ...One of my assignments was to get a clean dollar bill for her offering. My grandmother believed you didn’t give dirty money to the church. Her practice showed me how important it is to contribute to mission. And it helped me understand how important it is to give God our best.”

That lesson stayed with Ms. Dauway who was recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the United Methodist and ecumenical arenas. Prior to joining United Methodist Women’s national policymaking body staff, Ms. Dauway served as associate for inclusiveness and justice for the National Council of Churches of Christ USA and as an executive for Global Ministries Black Community Developers program. She served as a consultant for the American Baptist Churches in the USA, Operation Crossroads Africa and World Council of Churches. She addressed the Conference on Reunification of the Protestant Churches in Korea; worked with infant-formula compliance regulation in Kenya; monitored the election of Corazon Aquina in the Philippines as a member of an independent international team; and monitored human rights violations in Haiti during the Duvalier regime.

Ms. Dauway was a member of the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in New York City. A memorial service will be held at the United Methodist Church of the Village, 201 West 13th Street on Sunday, March 2, at 3:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made "in honor of Lois Dauway" to United Methodist Women, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 1503, N.Y., N.Y. 10115.

Posted or updated: 2/13/2014 11:00:00 PM