Join us for an exciting evening with BALA, the Bay Area Lesbian Archives, and Michael Helquist, the award-winning author of Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions. Marie Equi (1872-1952) was a fiercely independent, out lesbian who was a leader in the social and political movements in San Francisco and Portland beginning in the late 1800s. She was an anarchist, doctor, union organizer, suffragist and anti-war activist who was jailed for opposing US participation in World War I.
Born of Italian-Irish parents in 1872, Equi endured childhood labor in a gritty Massachusetts textile mill before fleeing to an Oregon homestead with her first longtime woman companion, who described her as impulsive, earnest, and kind-hearted. These traits, along with courage, stubborn resolve, and a passion for justice, propelled Equi through an unparalleled life journey.
Equi self-studied her way into a San Francisco medical school and then obtained her license in Portland to become one of the first practicing woman physicians in the Pacific Northwest. She was devoted to providing care to working-class and poor patients. She regularly provided birth control information and abortions at a time when both were illegal. She mounted soapboxes, fought with police and was regularly featured in the media for her political activities.
Equi battled for economic justice at every turn and protested the U.S. entry into World War I, leading to a conviction for sedition and a three-year sentence in San Quentin.
While she was well known as a radical activist, feminist and lesbian in her lifetime, that history was buried. The silence about her sexual orientation ended in 1983 when historian Nancy Krieger, a University of Washington grad student, uncovered documents at the National Archives that revealed Equi’s long-term love affair with Portland resident Harriet Speckart.
Michael Helquist, activist and author, will talk about Marie Equi’s amazing life and his extensive search for primary sources that led him to archives around the country and overseas.
Michael Helquist is an award-winning author, historian and activist who has written for several publications including Coming Up!, Ms. Magazine, The Journal of Homosexuality, The Advocate, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and The Oregon Historical Quarterly. He was one of the early HIV/AIDS journalists, and one of the first to write about Women and AIDS. Helquist lives in San Francisco with his husband.
Raised Catholic in a working-class Portland neighborhood, Helquist became an activist in the 1960s, responding to the Vietnam War and the economic justice movements of the times. He came out as a gay man in the mid-1970s to “a strong, boisterous community.” As a journalist and columnist during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, he worked ten years to effect change in health services and medical and behavioral research, and pushed for greater justice in public health policy.
Helquist says he wrote the biography of Marie Equi “because I was drawn to her passion for justice, her status as an outsider (she was working class and a lesbian), and her determination to live independently.” For more on Marie Equi and Michael Helquist, go to his website at: www.MichaelHelquist.com.