Daisy Kouzel, first on the right, in Georgia with fellow abolitionists in 1994. Photo provided by the Kouzel family.
Our mother, Daisy, was a death penalty abolitionist since she was a child. She could not explain why she had acquired this particular passion at so early an age. She had no personal connection with anyone who had been affected by capital punishment, either victim or defendant. Our father, Alfred, had a theory that perhaps in a previous life, Daisy had had a son or daughter who was executed. But however it began, Daisy, with the help of Alfred and us kids, worked tirelessly for the cause.
Throughout our childhood, we were taken to rallies, protests, and marches of the abolition movement. We went door-to-door with flyers. We worked on every political campaign to elect the politicians who would help the cause. Daisy gave seminars on the death penalty, followed by lively Q & A sessions, at City Tech where she worked as well as other venues in the New York area. She gave her time, money, sweat, and often tears for the cause until the end of her life.
As outspoken as she was, Daisy stirred controversy within the movement. She felt that certain practices undermined our credibility. For example, she was afraid that if our people did not look well groomed and dressed at our events, the public would not take us seriously. Sometimes her opinions would rub folks the wrong way, but to her, it was not personal; it was all about the cause.
The cause was part of her everyday life. Daisy had a rubber stamp that she had made that said “ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY.” She imprinted this message on every check she wrote and every envelope that she mailed. On one hand, it seemed weird; but on the other hand, this was what Daisy did: provoked thought, stirred up debate, sparked a fire. She took every opportunity to bring up the subject of the death penalty to hopefully change one more mind.
Daisy wrote an essay and kept adding to it. It was originally called “Twelve Arguments Against the Death Penalty.” She kept rewriting it until it got up to eighteen arguments. You can read it here.
We are so thankful to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for publicizing our mother’s story and work. Even though she is no longer with us in this world, her work lives on in these pages. If you are touched by my mother’s story, please join the movement or give a financial contribution in her memory.
Miriam Kouzel Billington and Margarita Kouzel live in Santa Monica, California. They are the daughters of Daisy and Alfred Kouzel who left a generous bequest for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in her will. Daisy Fornacca Kouzel was the Chairwoman of Foreign Languages in the Humanities Department of the New York City Technical College in Brooklyn. She was also a lecturer, translator, poet, book reviewer, Barnard alumna, world traveler, avid bridge player, and opera lover.
If you would like to learn more about joining the Legacy Society of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty through a legacy gift, please contact the development office at email@example.com or (202)331-4090.
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