This Saturday, June 11, Portland, Oregon celebrates its annual floral extravaganza with the spectacular Rose Festival Parade. Portlanders and tourists will revel in the 109th observance of the pageant; the first started rolling in 1907 with decorated vehicles rolling along the 2 ½ mile route.
Among the contestants were Dr. Marie Equi and her girlfriend Harriet Speckart. Months earlier the pair’s relationship was splashed on city newspapers over an inheritance dispute between Harriet and her mother. Equi was accused of seducing the younger woman – Harriet was in her 20s – in order to plunder the family’s riches. Newspapers suggested Equi wielded a “mysterious, hypnotic power” over Speckart. The pair weathered the storm of what today would be touted an “outing” of their lesbian relationship.
Here’s an excerpt from the new biography Marie Equi: Radical Politics & Outlaw Passions, published by Oregon State University Press:
“In June 1907, with the city bedecked everywhere with roses, Equi and Speckart participated in Portland’s biggest celebration of the year: the first Rose Carnival and Fiesta. The day before the parade, local gardeners donated tens of thousands of roses to decorate floats in the official festival colors – pink, rose, and green. On Saturday June 22, a few scattering clouds gave way to sunshine for the grand floral parade.