Women's rights activist

Date of Birth: January 21, 1929
Date of Death: January 13, 1988
Place of Birth: El Paso, Texas
Arrival in Las Vegas: 1952
Work/Contribution: education, equal rights amendment
Cynthia Cunningham was born January 21, 1929 in El Paso, Texas. She studied English as an undergraduate at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces in 1949 and later earned a Master’s of Arts. in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1968. She was an English instructor at UNLV from 1968-1971.

Cunningham served on the State Board of Education from 1971-1979. She unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for the District 8 seat in the Nevada State Assembly in 1976. Cunningham was active in numerous organizations including the American Association of University Women, Nevadans for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada. She volunteered at the Red Cross and was a sustaining member of the Junior League of Las Vegas. Cunningham was a founder of Young Audiences, Inc. of Las Vegas and served as president from 1962-1964. She was also a member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Cunningham was devoted to women’s rights, as evidenced through her work with the Equal Rights Amendment campaign and the committee to end sexism in schools. In the early 1970s, she and Renee Diamond headed the southern Nevada campaign for the ERA. In April 1975, Cunningham was part of an eight-member committee, recognized by the Nevada State Board of Education, charged with studying sexism in schools and determining remedies to the problem, including development of a guideline for the textbook commission. However, by October of the same year, the committee had been disbanded, and the task was given to Senator Jim Gibbons and a Legislative Counsel Bureau staffer.

After living in Las Vegas for thirty-four years, Cunningham and her husband relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986. Cynthia Cunningham died in Albuquerque, New Mexico on January 13, 1988.

For more biographical information: Cynthia Cunningham papers. Nevada Women’s Archive. Special Collections, UNLV. Collection number 87-03