Ely, Polly, 1920-2008
- Existence: 1920-2008
Shirley "Polly" Mathews Ward Ely, peace and civil rights activist, was born in 1920 to Nathaniel F. and Grace Mathews Ward of Worcester, Massachusetts. After earning a degree in zoology from Mount Holyoke College in 1941 and doing graduate work at Wellesley College, she married Cedar Rapids native John M. Ely, Jr., in 1942. The couple lived in New York City before settling in Iowa. Polly Ely worked on behalf of numerous causes. She helped to found the first Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, the Iowa Medical Aid Fund, and the Iowa City chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. She protested the Vietnam War and worked with Women for Peace, was active in Iowans Against the Death Penalty and the United Nations Association, and was a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In later years she lobbied for RESULTS, an organization dedicated to ending poverty. A longtime member of Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist (UU) of Cedar Rapids, Polly Ely served in the following capacities over the years: congregation president, director of religious education, and UU church camp chaperone. She was also active in Prairie Star District, the UUA's regional organization. Polly Ely died of breast cancer in 2008.