Equi remained in New Bedford until she was 20 years old. She attended Middle Street Grammar School in the city’s new West End neighborhood. She contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Florida with family friends to recover, returning to begin studies at New Bedford High School. After one year of high school, Equi’s parents insisted that she drop out and work in the city’s textile mills to help support the family. She joined 1900 other teenage girls and women in the city’s gritty factories at a time when laborers benefited from few workplace protections.
After two years of mind-numbing, exhausting mill work, Equi escaped with the help of an older girlfriend, Bessie Holcomb, from a wealthy family. Holcomb financed a year of study for Equi at a highly regarded girls’ school in north central Massachusetts. A few years later both women left New Bedford to become to settle on land – as homesteaders – in Oregon along the Columbia River.
In Oregon and in the West, Marie Equi embarked on a life of fierce independence, political activism, and personal notoriety.
Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions
Oregon State University Press, September 2015
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