It was a remarkable day of sunshine to walk across the campus. Fortunately, Dale Danley, my husband and collaborator for my talk, is a UC Berkeley graduate (Masters, Public Health). He easily maneuvered our way from the BART station to campus, then along Strawberry Creek paths to the Faculty Club. The building (more information here) is an architectural treasure of the Craftsman tradition. Architects Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard saw the building’s completion in 1902. From the Faculty Club website: “The carved beams, the fireplaces, the stained glass windows all reflect Maybeck’s awareness of a special northern California aesthetic that still arouses a warm response in visitors and members alike.”
The Lewis-Latimer Room seats about 30 people at a long table. The talks begin at noon, and many regular members and visitors bring their cafeteria or home-made lunch for the occasion. The room was packed. They were a Berkeley audience of returning attendees – interested, engaged, and knowledgeable. One of the best audiences an author can hope for.
In the talk I described Marie Equi’s life story and then shifted to how I overcame the seeming lack of primary sources. What I found in my research was that troves of materials actually did exist; they simply required dogged efforts and more than a few serendipitous discoveries. I relied on dozens of archives with documents appearing in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Indiana, and, the furthest afield, at the National Library of Ireland. All these established Equi’s considerable historical voice and footprint.
Archives at the Bancroft Library helped me confirm Equi’s one-year attendance in 1900 at the University of California San Francisco and provided me with background information about the relief efforts in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. (Equi was the only woman doctor who volunteered as part of an Oregon Doctor Train to rush relief to the Bay Area). Bancroft’s holdings also helped me see Equi through the eyes of her contemporaries: the poet Sara Bard Field (an oral history) and the radical Charlotte Anita Whitney (newspaper clippings).
Questions for the audience were terrific: “Did Equi or her contemporaries use the word “lesbian”? (Not in the first two decades of the 20th century). “Did I search through tax records?” (No but I searched real estate documents in Oregon and Massachusetts, voting registrations, church records, and directory listings). “Was I a member of Biographers International Organization (BIO)?” (Not yet, but my good friend and author Dona Munker urged me several times to do so). “Was I able to establish a meeting between Emma Goldman and Equi?” (UC Berkeley houses the amazing Emma Goldman Papers) “No, but I’m sure they met in Portland during one of Goldman’s annual lecture stops."
Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions, Michael Helquist, 2015, Oregon State University Press. Available at bookstores and online.