The Independent Women’s Forum mourns the death of R. Gaull Silberman. “Ricky” an IWF founder whose dignity and ladylike determination, combined with a calm and steady demeanor, launched our organization and saw us through thick and thin.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you of our beloved Ricky Silberman’s death Sunday morning,” IWF President and CEO Michelle D. Bernard said in an announcement to the staff. “As you know, IWF was Ricky’s baby. She loved our organization with all of her heart. As she was fond of saying, she was our ‘Mother Superior.’ Ricky will be sorely missed.”
IWF Board Chairman Heather Higgins praised Ricky as “wise and our inspiration.” Heather added that while Ricky “was an optimist and our source of strength” in even the hardest of times, she was also a “diplomat in difficult situations” and beloved as a woman who “put her stamp of grace, humor, irreverence and congeniality on the Board and organization.”
Ricky, who died after a long and courageous battle with cancer, was one of a small group of women who started IWF in the early 1990s. She served as president, chairman of the board of directors, and was chairman emeritus at the time of her death.
Ricky never lost faith that we could, and would, create a new order of things. And, indeed, thanks to Ricky, IWF “brought forth a big new idea –that reasonable women do not separate their own interests from the interests of men and children.” With Ricky as our guiding light, IWF exposed the fallacies and hypocrisies of radical political interest group feminism, and set the stage for rational debate on issues that matter, rather than squabbles over the unbearable unfairness of “gender.”
Ricky held a number of distinguished positions in public life, including vice chairman and commissioner of the U. S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and as the first executive director of the Office of Compliance at the EEOC. In 2001, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Ricky to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).
In September 1998, Ricky summed up the impetus for establishing IWF when she moderated a panel entitled “The Law, the Spin, the Moral Consequences,” which examined ethical issues surrounding sexual harassment and the Clinton scandals. It was televised on C-Span and included a stellar panel of IWF-minded women, Barbara Comstock, Mona Charen, the late Barbara Olson, Kate O’Beirne and Midge Decter.
“IWF was founded,” Ricky said during the panel, “in the early nineties when we first came together in support of then-Judge Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the [United States] Supreme Court. We were concerned that those who would speak for American women were neither telling the truth about Clarence Thomas, nor making sense with respect to issues of crucial importance to American women. We listened to the spin of those days– the litany that women are victims and men just don’t get it– and decided that those woebegone women did not speak for us, nor did we think that they spoke for the vast majority of American women. We concluded that the views of commonsense women needed to be heard in our nation’s policy debates.”
Ricky was loved and admired by IWF’s Board and staff. We recognized that she was both feisty and ladylike, that she was utterly fearless, and that she was always on our side. She took care to see that staff members received recognition, and we cherish the memory of her many visits and phone calls to the office. We know that IWF could not have flourished without her.
Launching IWF was an immensely creative endeavor. There was no template. Ricky’s own splendid mind and personality were our ideals. Ricky was cheerful, bright, loving, and full of grace and confidence.
A graduate of Smith College, Rosalie Gaull Silberman, 69, is survived by her beloved husband, The Honorable Laurence H. Silberman (whom she met at summer camp as a teenager), her three children and their spouses and eight grandchildren. Our condolences and sympathy go out to them.