More than ten years ago, I burrowed into a trove of tax records, real estate maps, water service accounts, and voter registrations to reconstruct the history of houses and their occupants in San Francisco's North Panhandle neighborhood, an up-and-coming district featured in the New York Times. First published in the newsletter of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, a dozen house profiles will be presented here over the coming months. The first of the series can be read here.
The Oregon Historical Quarterly Spring 2015 issue with my lead article “Criminal Operations”: The First Fifty Years of Abortion Trials in Portland, Oregon.”
I’m pleased and honored to be included in this peer-reviewed, public history journal that has been published continuously since 1900 by the Oregon Historical Society. With a circulation of 3500, the OHQ attracts both general and scholarly readers with its dedication to presenting the history of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
How did this published article come to be? I worked more than a year developing it from one format to another. Initially the research reflected my biographical study of Dr. Marie Equi. One chapter of the book focuses on her commitment to providing abortion services to her patients and other women referred by her medical colleagues. Then I presented my early research last year at the Pacific Northwest History Conference held in Vancouver, Washington, convened by the Washington State Historical Society. At that point Eliza Canty-Jones, the remarkable editor of OHQ, invited me to submit a manuscript for consideration.
Two scholarly and anonymous reviewers greeted my initial submission with interest and substantial recommendations for greater focus and analysis. I expanded the data set to include a fifty-year period from 1870-1920, and that yielded a sharper, more grounded thesis. A second round of reviews proposed additional changes. A big thanks to both reviewers for their excellent guidance.
At home, my data-driven husband and home-based editor, Dale Danley, developed the four-page Table of doctors and other practitioners charged with abortion. Comprehensive fact-checking and copy-editing by OHQ staff led to greater accuracy and polish, followed by image selection.
Today here it is. Please take a look at the article – with an OHQ subscription, purchase of the individual issue, or through Jstor.org (available through many university and public libraries). Read the first page here.
How do you research someone’s past when the spelling of her name keeps changing? Historians sometimes search and ponder for hours and hours while tracing the family line of their protagonists, sometimes to no avail. This was an early difficulty I encountered with researching my biography – MARIE EQUI Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions.
The problem first appeared in New Bedford, Massachusetts where Equi family members settled in the mid-1840s. Equi’s father – Giovanni, later John – arrived in the old whaling city as a teenager in May 1853, leaving behind his parents in Fornaci di Barga, a small town near the walled city of Lucca in Tuscany. Three of his brothers immigrated to America as well, and they retained the family name. But, at some point, John Equi changed his to Aque, reportedly as a good-will measure to match how locals pronounced it. With that piece of information, I was able to trace Marie’s parents and siblings throughout the Northeast and the West.
Official documents usually recorded Equi’s father as John Aque, although different spellings still occurred depending, probably, on a clerk’s diligence. Real estate transactions, church and court records, and even gravestones carried Aque. When Marie Equi first arrived in The Dalles, Oregon to begin her homestead adventure in 1892, the Times-Mountaineer newspaper announced her as “Miss Aque of New Bedford.” By the time she studied medicine in Portland, Oregon, however, she had adopted the original spelling.
Coming Soon: Marie Equi – How do you pronounce that?
From books, newspapers, and journals to online posts and tweets, we craft a sense of place and an understanding of our history and our present day. We become a connected community, both local and global, for better or worse. We appreciate the struggles of the past and apply their lessons to guide our strategies for the present. We find inspiration and motivation and sometimes a break from the demands of our days. With this blog, I hope to continue this tradition.
I’m excited to announce the forthcoming publication of MARIE EQUI Radical Politics & Outlaw Passions. Researching and writing this biography has been my own particular passion for a great many years. The research found me poring through musty boxes pulled out of storage at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts to discover the wedding date of Equi’s parents and the birth and baptisms of Equi and her siblings.
Those finds led me to the county courthouse to determine the relocations of Equi’s family from her childhood home near the New Bedford waterfront to the outer neighborhood just beyond the grand whaling-era mansions. I located assessments by her grade school and high school teachers.
“I became deeply interested in her for she was an excellent scholar. In those days she lacked self-control and we had many long earnest talks out of school hours.” Marie E. Austin, teacher, New Bedford High School, 1889.”
To commemorate Marie Equi’s birthday on April 7, Politics & Passions will present a visitor’s view of her hometown, New Bedford, Massachusetts. In October 2004 Michael Helquist and Dale Danley researched Equi’s early years – from her birth in 1872 until her departure in 1892 for an Oregon homestead outside The Dalles. Many of the buildings familiar to her childhood and teenage years still stand and reflect the distinction of this historic southeast Massachusetts city.
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