Jean Ward knows Gender Studies. She co-founded the Gender Studies Program at Lewis & Clark College and held several administrative posts from 1964 to 2006. She specializes in the history of Pacific Northwest Women. She raves about MARIE EQUI: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions – “superb biography,” “a riveting page-turner” “firmly grounded in rigorous and meticulous research,” and a “must read for scholars and general readers alike.”
Marie Equi is available at Oregon State University Press with 25% off discount through December 31; enter promotion code 16HOLIDAY at checkout. Also available at bookstores, Amazon, and other online outlets.
Here’s Jean Ward’s full review in Western Historical Review, May 2016.
Michael Helquist’s superb biography of Dr. Marie Equi (1872–1952) is a riveting page-turner that keeps on giving. This is the far-reaching story of a Pacific Northwest woman who fearlessly challenged conventions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a woman who openly risked becoming an outcast because of her lesbianism and radical activism in pursuit of social and economic justice.
Firmly grounded in Helquist’s rigorous and meticulous research, and seamlessly enriched by his attention to time and place, this long-awaited biography of Equi—the first—never disappoints. Undaunted by the loss of many of Equi’s personal papers after her death, Helquist located a wealth of information in oral histories, newspapers, and archives, including an extensive file compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice prior to Equi’s sedition trial and imprisonment in San Quentin State Prison.
Equi’s life in the West began at age nineteen when she left her family and the textile mills of New Bedford, Massachusetts, to join her first longtime woman companion on a homestead near The Dalles, Oregon. Because the school superintendent refused to pay the teaching salary owed to her companion, Equi characteristically took matters into her own hands and publicly horsewhipped him. Over time, Equi was involved in a number of lesbian relationships; she lived for fifteen years with the niece of the founder of the Olympia Brewing Company, and the two women raised their adopted daughter.
Equi shared such markers as notoriety and controversy with friends such as Margaret Sanger, the birth control advocate with whom she spent a night in jail, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the “Rebel Girl” of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who described Equi as a “stormy petrel of the Northwest.” As one of Oregon’s early women physicians, Equi focused her successful Portland practice on the health and reproductive rights of women, including birth control and abortion, with special concern for the needs of working-class women. As a Progressive Era activist, she worked tirelessly for workers’ rights, woman suffrage, and justice for prisoners. In 1913, after a violent confrontation with police during a cannery strike, Equi declared herself an anarchist and aligned herself with the IWW. Five years later, she was convicted under the Sedition Act for her antiwar rhetoric and dubbed by some as “Queen of the Bolsheviks,” a title she rather enjoyed.
Marie Equi is a must read for scholars and general readers alike. Moreover, it will hold an enduring place in collections for American studies and civil liberties, women’s history, radical history, gender and sexuality, LGBTQ studies, medical history, and the history of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Do not miss this exceptionally fine book!