Long-time Reston resident Marion Stillson was recognized earlier this month as a pioneer woman advocate for equal rights, civil rights and disability rights by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) at the national convention.
Stillson, who currently serves as vice president of the Reston Citizens Association, was given the Virginia award at a regional caucus at the national convention.
“AAUW has been a fantastic medium for me, in being supportive and responsive to me as a person with a disability, and in allowing me to serve the community,” said Stillson.
Much of her efforts have been local. As a young mother, permanently disabled, Stillson could not enter several places in Reston. Because of her efforts, two ramps were voluntarily installed at the Reston Association, then the Reston Home Owners Association, office and at Safeway in the Hunters Woods Center.
SHE TESTIFIED at the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission, and wrote letters to the editor about the need for designated parking spaces for wheelchair users. When she returned to her car, she found the entrance to her own car was blocked by neighboring cars.
“My efforts were not without incident,” said Stillson. She described a time when she went to the U.S. Supreme Court as a second-year law student at Georgetown Law, but couldn’t find a place to park.
“A person in a wheelchair could get in, but there was no place to park,” she said.
Stillson persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court’s Parking Committee to set aside a parking space for disabled visitors. The same space remains to this day, though now it is compelled by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A Reston-Herndon branch member of AAUW, Stillson has served as president of the branch, as an appointee on several AAUW Virginia boards, as president of AAUW of VA and as a member of the AAUW’s national board of directors. She is still the only disabled member to have served on the national board.
Stillson has also led numerous workshops at AAUW state, regional and national conventions, and pressured for microphones and stages that she could access.
— Jason Hartke