Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blog format updated

Stormy Petrel now features a current Blogger template, and posts have been labeled to help readers find the topics of interest. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Marie is everywhere...this time in NYT

Just a few months after the Marie Equi poster by Icky A. showed up in the background of a San Francisco Chronicle photo, the New York Times has published a photo showing the same poster. This photo accompanies an article by Lynette Clemetson headlined, "Off to College on Their Own, Shadowed by Mental Illness." In the photo, a young woman named Jean smiles in her bedroom in Nashville. On the wall are 10 posters, and the story explains that Jean, 17, has singled out the items that she will take with her to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington: "her sewing machine, her coffee maker, the social justice posters that covered her wall."

The Equi poster is top and center. Other posters depict the Haymarket; Paul Robeson, Elisee Reclus; Judi Bari, Fred Hampton, and Little Big Horn.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

1,000 visitors: thank you!

According to my ClustrMap, sometime in the last few days Stormy Petrel reached 1,000 visitors. Thanks for visiting. I'm honored by your presence!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Animal Factory (San Quentin Prison)

Edward Bunker (1933-2005) served 18 years time at San Quentin state prison and other California correctional institutions. and wrote The Animal Factory, published in 1977, a novel loosely based on his experiences. I just finished the book, which provides a rare window on life at the prison.

Animal Factory was also a film in 2000 with Edward Furlong (as Ron Decker, the young dope dealer serving his first prison time) and Willem Dafoe (as Earl Copen, the long-term prisoner with deep ties to the white supremacists and prison guards).

Given the lack of literature about prison experiences, it is tempting to try to learn something from Bunker's experience at San Quentin to apply to Marie Equi's experience there. But the 1950s were so different from the 1920; and Bunker's story is mainly about race wars, the threat of homosexual rape, drug dealing in prison, and trying to escape. Also, women prisoners during Equi's stay were strictly isolated from men - so that they never even saw each other. Women were removed from San Quentin altogether in 1933 after the Tehachapi prison opened.

Still, some physical descriptions remain:
Monday began as a typical San Quentin day, so overcast that all light was gray, and even without clouds it took until mid-morning for the sun to climb over the buildings. By noon it would be bright, and by twilight it would be glorious, but by then the convicts would be in their cages unable to enjoy it.
Earl settled down on the hospital's psychiatric ward, an isolated sanctuary behind a barred gate on the third floor. Guards could enter only to count and if called on in an emergency. The freeman nurse came in to pass out medication, but otherwise convict attendants were in charge...
All during the afternoon and evening Earl heard security bars being raised and cell doors being unlocked, and then the dull sound of blows and falling bodies...

SP Protest of the Month: Catholic Priest Jane Via

In San Diego yesterday, 58-year old Jane Via celebrated mass yesterday as a Catholic Priest. The Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community gathered in a rented church building with 100 worshipers, and received communion from Via, a woman.

Via was ordained in Switzerland in june by Roman Catholic Womenpriests. She is a married mother of two and a deputy district attorney for San Diego County. Since leaders of the Catholic church have excluded women from the priesthood, she risks excommunication for her protest.
Note: A protest doesn't have to be against something. The second definition of protest is: to affirm or avow formally or solemnly.
Other women priests are saying mass in Northern California, as reported in the newspaper of San Jose State University.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lucca, Italy & bicycles

For our research trip to Tuscany, we may set up our base in Lucca, not far from Barga, the homeland of the Equi tribe. The New York Times featured "The Riches of Lucca" in Travel this past Sunday. A sidebar by Pableaux Johnson described both the practicality and charm of getting around Lucca by bicycle. Le Mura di Lucca is a medieval battlement that rises 40 feet and creates a 2.5 mile belt around the town's center. It is well-preserved and has become an elevated promenade and "workaday velodrome."

Flickr photo from Max'78.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Portland research trip

The Portland Building
Originally uploaded by waukeshamostly.
Michael is in Portland OR this week, visiting libraries and archives (like OHS and SPARC) to gather information for the biography project. Pablo and I miss you and hope you have a productive and safe trip.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Anarchy in the UK

A meeting called "Anarchism and Sexuality: Ethics, Relationships and Power" happens in November at the University of Leeds. Two talks look at historical perspectives:

Influential Antecedents: Sexual Dissidence in the First Wave Anarchist Movement, and its Subsequent Narratives
Jenny Alexander, Department of Media and Film at the University of Sussex

Dynamiters and Degenerates: Homosexuals and Anarchists at the Fin de Siècle.
Judy Greenway, Cultural Studies at the University of East London

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hilda Bernstein: woman activist (obituary)

An obituary in the New York Times today recorded the death of Hilda Bernstein, an anti-apartheid activist.

Ms. Bernstein moved from London to South Africa in 1932 at the age of 17. She was "a fiery orator" and was elected to office from 1943 to 1946. According to a website by her son, Rusty Bernstein, she was arrested and convicted in 1946 for assisting an illegal strike of black mineworkers. She lived in exile after the Rivonia Trial in 1964. She returned home to South Africa after then 1994 democractic elections, when the Government of National Unity (GNU) began.

Ms. Bernstein was the author of The World that was Ours. She was also an artist, represented by the Guernica Gallery of Graphic Arts in Santa Barbara, CA.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Stormy Petrel Protest of the Month: Peruvian farmers protest Yanacocha Gold Mine

For the August Protest of the Month, Stormy Petrel recognizes the Peruvian farmers who blocked the roads to the Yanacocha mine, shutting down work at the largest gold mine in Latin America on Friday, August 25.

The picture is from the galleries of Grufides, an environmental and social justice organization in the area that has documented the impacts of the mine on the local environment.

In the weeks before the mine was shut down, tempers had been short, in part due to the death of Isidro Llanos on August 2. Llanos died when he and about 100 other protesters entered the mine area and clashed with police and mine employees. But conflict has a long history in the region, and the unrest at Yanacocha was not a surprise to the owner of the mine - Denver's Newmont Mining Corp. Newmont's 2005 annual report (PDF) even has a 1-page "focus" on the issue.

Google Earth users can search for "Cajamarca, Peru" and then see the large pit mine about 9 miles north of that town.

As the shutdown of the mine dragged on over the weekend and into this week, Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez (whose father was a political prisoner in Peru in the fifties) took heat from business interests for not using force to get the protesters out of the way. Negotiations between the protesters and Newmont were mediated by the government of Peru and have led to an agreement, reported Wednesday in the Houston Chronicle.

Stormy Petrel Protest of the Month is a reflection on the phenomenon of protest in current history. Stormy Petrel puts the spotlight on protests to pay tribute to Marie Equi's protests, which are the main reason that we know about her life today. Protest of the Month began with a look at the strike by the National Education Workers' Union in Oaxaca - a protest that led to unrest that continues today, according to MarketPlace Radio. Your nominations for Protest of the Month are welcome.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Notes: Sticking to the Union (Julia Ruuttila)

I finished reading Sticking to the Union: An Oral History of the Life and Times of Julia Ruuttila, by Sandy Polishuk. Julia Ruuttila lived from 1907 to 1991 and was fiercely devoted to labor activism throughout her life. She lived much of her life in Portland, OR. She recalled some anecdotes of Dr. Equi's involvement in disseminating information about birth control and in progressive politics.

As an oral history, the book mainly employs Julia's own voice to tell her story. There are also notes that provide background to the times and issues. I learned a lot about US history - in particular about the Centralia Tragedy of 1919. Fifteen years later, one of the IWW men who was wrongfully convicted in the case was still in prison. Julia led a Free Ray Becker Committee, traveled around the area as an investigator to take testimony from the surviving witnesses. On September 20, 1939, the Governor Clarence Martin commuted Ray Becker's sentence to time served (18 years, 3 months).

Throughout the book Julia Ruuttila speaks with a clear voice of reason, intelligence, and hope. She was a hard-working reporter for the labor press and a poet and novelist on top of that. She tells the story of the men in her life and the difficult circumstances that she faced.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Benemann's work on Early American History

Tonight at Harvey Milk Library, author William Benemann read from Male-Male Intimacy in Early America and answered questions from an enthusiastic audience.

Mr. Benemann described some of the positive reviews of his book. One was in East Bay Express and he delighted in the slacker language found therein. I looked it up - it's in the July 25 issue, written by Jason Shamai. Here's part:
If you were around during our nation's wonder years, and you were a dude, and you liked other dudes, life sucked for you. Actually, most of us knew this already. What you might not have known, and what this UC Berkeley archivist has sweated over tons of primary sources to show you, are the various ways in which it sucked and, more interestingly, how that suckitude affected the way early Americans communicated.
Benemann's work sounded like an important contribution to a difficult area of study.

Gay Games 7 Opening Ceremonies

Here's a video with highlights of Gay Games 7 Opening Ceremonies (well - with the exception of the chorus!) from Kevin, a Chicago videoblogger.

And here's one of my shots from the evening!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Help needed for humanitarian voyage to Guatemala

I am leaving on a humanitarian aid journey to Guatemala in a week. I am writing you to ask for your help.

I am going to Guatemala with Rainbow World Fund (RWF), a world relief agency based in the LGBT community. Some of RWF’s recent activities include: building a water delivery system in rural Honduras, raising funds for hurricane survivors, helping save the next generation of young Africans through HIV/AIDS education, helping tsunami survivors, and delivering $700,000 in aid to help people in need around the world this past year. A great feature on RWF just appeared in the Bay Area Reporter - click here to read.

Over the course of the trip RWF will be visiting orphanages, day care centers, hospitals, and workers’ collectives. RWF will also be meeting with human rights advocates and the mothers of children who disappeared during the civil war. In addition to having an opportunity to dialogue with the Mayan and Ladino people, RWF is delivering much-needed medical and school supplies.

Photo: Courtesy Jeffrey Cotter, executive director of Rainbow World Fund.

You can help in any of three ways:

1. I am collecting medical supplies and school supplies (pencils, pens, calculators…) for RWF. Medical supplies, in particular are in great need: we can use anything from band-aids, rubber gloves, hospital supplies, antibiotics and medications. Our goal is to deliver 1500 pounds of supplies - that means 50-100 pounds for each of us and I still have a ways to go!!

Please email me at, and let me know if you can provide some supplies. I’ll visit you to pick them up.

2. I am also raising money for RWF, to help Guatemala’s poorest children. I am collecting funds to help an orphanage, a school, and a medical clinic. RWF also funds a Guatemalan LGBT service project. 100% of your donation will be given to programs that serve those most in need. You may donate online, in any amount, using a credit card, just fill out the form and let them know you are making a donation on behalf of me. Your donation is tax deductible. To DONATE:

3. Consider joining me on this journey. We have a couple of spaces left. Learn more about the trip at:

Thank you. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 10, 2006

New support for LGBT studies in Oregon

In a May 29 post to his blog, Thomas Kraemer of Corvallis OR wrote that he has signed an agreement to provide financial support to Oregon State University, in the form of a "OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund." After his death, Kraemer's entire estate will go to the fund.

Kraemer's post includes the text of his agreement with the University, which includes examples of research to be funded and not to be funded. Those provisions are important and shows that Kraemer understands that LGBT freedom isn't to be taken for granted.

Kraemer's blog also includes copies of historical articles - especially from the sixties and seventies in Corvallis - with commentary. Recent history like this is easy to lose.

Thomas Kraemer, Thank you!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Word of the Day is...Stormy Petrel

Marie Equi garnered this nickname "Stormy Petrel" because of its second definition: One who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble. From I've learned that on June 1, 2006, made "Stormy Petrel" its Word of the Day.

The entry is impressive and includes references to others who have also been labeled "stormy petrel": Maxim Gorky, Paracelcus and Lenin. It also quotes Lytton Strachey, who used the term in Eminent Victorians.

An actual Stormy Petrel from at Lhoon at Flickr.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Stormy Petrel Protest of the Month: Teachers in Oaxaca

This post inaugurates a new feature: Stormy Petrel Protest of the Month.

Protest of the Month is a chance to reflect on the phenomenon of protest in current history, and to pay some tribute to Marie Equi's protests. Marie protested throughout her life - sometimes for political reasons and sometimes for personal reasons; sometimes on her own and sometimes in solidarity with others; sometimes getting arrested and sometimes peacefully. If she hadn't protested, she wouldn't have been in the newspaper, and we wouldn't know much about her today. As the t-shirt says, "Women who behave themselves don't make history."

The protest of the month for July 2006 is the Strike by the National Education Workers’ Union in Oaxaca.
Photo by Tonx at Flickr.

This movement began in May as a strike for better pay for teachers. As teachers camped on city streets and public squares on May 15 - the date of an annual teachers action - they were attacked before dawn by 1,700 state police officers on the orders of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz.

The union has rebounded, gaining support of more segments of the community. The ongoing campaign could affect the Mexican Presidential Election on July 2, perhaps giving an edge to the leftist candidate,
Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Coverage of the strike and of the election in the US is scant; try, or some of the English-language columnists at the El Universal/The Mexico Herald site.

Please let me know what you think of the new feature and suggest candidates for Stormy Petrel Protest of the Month!

GLBT Historical Society now on YouTube

The GLBT Historical Society, located here in San Francisco, has started a YouTube Channel called glbthistory.

Sign up - there are already 13 of us! This is free and within minutes you can be watching a vintage Super8 video of the 1975 San Francisco Pride Parade.

"Doctor Train" Video in the OHSU Library

A videotape of Michael's "Oregon Doctor Train" lecture is now officially part of the OHSU library collection. Call # WZ70.AO7 H484k 2006, didn't you know?

It's also still viewable online from the OHSU History of Medicine Society.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

SFBG on 1959 Sedition Trial

A historical tale of wrongful prosecution for sedition is told in this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian. The reporter, Robert Speer, is the nephew of John W. Powell, the man charged.

Powell's trial took place in 1959 at the federal courthouse on Seventh street, where Marie Equi also faced sedition charges in 1918. Powell's case ended in mistrial. With documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Powell vindicated himself by writing articles published in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that showed his reporting to be accurate.

Courthouse Photo by Seth Gaines from Flickr.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Herb Mills of ILWU at Modern Times

Modern Times bookstore (888 Valencia Street, San Francisco) has announced this program, part of LaborFest 2006, for Saturday, July 8, at 2 pm. Here is the announcement from Modern Times:

"Hear writer and ILWU Local 10 retired Secretary Treasurer Herb Mills discuss the history of internationalism and solidarity in the ILWU. Mills has been instrumental in international solidarity movements, helping to build direct labor support for El Salvdoran workers and working with longshoremen to help prevent the execution of Korean dissident Kim Dae Jung. This event is part of Laborfest 2006, which Modern Times proudly hosts. For a complete schedule of Laborfest events, look online at"

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pride Post: John Fryer Award

It's Pride Weekend in San Francisco! Thousands of women are in the streets for the Dyke March even as I write this. To connect today's struggle for LGBT equality to the vastly different circumstances of past eras, I want to share comments from Dan Karasic, a local psychiatrist serving as President of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.

Dr. Karasic writes,
This past year, AGLP successfully raised the money to endow the [American Psychiatric Association's] newest honor, the John Fryer Award. The John Fryer Award was named after “Dr. Anonymous,” the first psychiatrist to speak at an APA panel on being a gay psychiatrist. At that time, just 34 years ago, one could lose one’s job and even one’s medical license for being gay, so Dr. Fryer appeared in a Nixon mask and fright wig, and had his voice electronically altered. Dr. Fryer was recruited for this appearance by two pioneering activists, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, who had been working to convince the APA to remove homosexuality from the DSM. The work of Fryer, Kameny, and Gittings, among others, was critical to raising the issue of removing homosexuality for the DSM.

At the APA’s Institute for Psychiatric Services this October, Gittings and Kameny will be the recipients of the APA’s first annual John Fryer Award, for their contributions to LGBT mental health...
It's difficult to compare John Fryer's predicament 34 years ago with what Marie Equi would have faced graduating from medical school in Portland OR over 100 years ago. Just for starters, speaking up at that time meant speaking in extremely coded language. And she would have also put her medical license at risk, just as doctors were at risk in the Seventies. Dr. Equi kept her license even through all of her arrests and imprisonment.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Googleplex goes upriver to The Dalles

The Columbia River town of The Dalles, OR - where Marie Equi lived with Bessie Holcombe on a homestead in the 1890s - has a new 30-acre development to house Google's servers. Although confidentiality agreements prevent local officials from saying much, the New York Times today gave an overview of the complex, located near cheap and reliable hydroelectric power sources.

The growth of these server farms serves the growing worldwide demand for Web services, like...blogs! Apparently, more servers, closer to users, increases our speed, leading to more satisfied customers and thereby, market domination. Microsoft is also in the race and by some forecasts will increase its servers from 200,000 to 800,000 over the next five years. So look for a server farm to pop up in a town near you.

The town of the Dalles still has just 12,000 people, more than over 150 years after its first non-native settlement. Here are a few pictures Michael took during his visit there. Can you picture Bessie and Marie walking these streets in the 1890s, greeting the parents of the students that Bessie taught at the town's private school, buying provisions to cart back to their homestead on the bluff at the outskirts of town?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Is there a "Green Scare" today?

This is the International Weekend of Resistance Against the Green Scare. On their website at, organizers state that:
"Right now there are more than a dozen people sitting in American jails (or on strict bail release) accused of Earth/Animal Liberation Front actions. Six people were originally arrested. These arrests were based almost entirely on the testimony of one police informant, Jacob Ferguson. Bill Rodgers - accused of multiple arsons - took his own life in a jail cell. Unfortunately, several of those arrested are now cooperating with the state."
The weekend's activities began today in Amsterdam: here is a photo of the action reported by IndyMedia. The sheet bears the name of Jeffrey "Free" Luers, who has served 6 years for allegedly burning S.U.V.'s at a car dealership in Eugene. It's intriguing that Luers is in Oregon, which, during Marie Equi's time, had political unrest and outspoken citizens (like Marie) who embraced protest (in the broadest definition of the word) and were unafraid of arrest.

Disclaimer: I know little of the facts of the cases. I include this information here to explore perspectives on the Red Scare because Marie Equi was a victim of a Red Scare in 1918. (Some might argue about when "the Red Scare" happened; it seems to me that they have existed in the US at different times and in different forms. Speaking of which - WOW - check out RED SCARE, an image database about the period in US history following World War I).

A history and definition of the term Green Scare is provided at
The term Green Scare, "alluding to the Red Scare of the 1940s-50s...seems to have been coined in a 2002 edition of...Spirit of Freedom. The publication defined the Green Scare as 'the tactics that the US government and all their tentacles (FBI, IRS, BATF, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, local police, the court system) are using to attack the ELF/ALF (Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front) and specifically those who publicly support them.' "

Socialist female physician visits White House

Michelle Bachelet, the President of Chile, visited the White House yesterday. President Bachelet is the first woman President of Chile. She is the second socialist physician to be president of Chile - the first being Salvador Allende, who was elected in 1970 and ousted by a coup in 1973.

President Bachelet is of interest here because Marie Equi was also a socialist physician. It is somewhat complicated to call Equi a "socialist" but Marie herself said in 1914,
"I am a member of the International Collegiate Socialist society of New York...I think I might term myself a radical socialist, although I did not become a convert till the summer of 1913. Previous to that time I was a Progressive..."
Preparing this post led to finding a very stiff 2-minute exchange of the US President meeting on June 9 with President Bachelet, available via webcast and by transcript. Coverage of the Bachelet visit has been scant, though the Chicago Tribune reported on a dinner - at the Ritz-Carlton, not at the White House - to promote the work of The White House Project to promote women in political leadership (Geena Davis was there). AAH - here's something more interesting: Roger Burbach in The Guardian wrote that "The Chilean president was impressive in defying US pressure to oppose Venezuela's security council bid." That's more like it!

Bachelet has left Washington for her next stop, meeting in Jamaica with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's first elected woman head of state and a member of the People's National Party.

Quoted in the New York Times, Bachelet offered a vision for socialism in the 21st Century:
"We believe strongly in a democracy that has a strong social tint, with social justice and solidarity. The state is important, but I also aspire to a warmer, more human society in which people help each other and struggle against all forms of inequality."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bush is losing again

Moderate Republicans are expected to join Democrats in rejecting the "Marriage Protection Amendment" this week, sending the measure down the tube again, just like in 2004.

White House Press secretary Tony Snow (see the transcript of today's briefing) said the president was not calling senators to persuade them to pass the amendment. "I'm not sure this is a big driver among voters," he said.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

"Walk of the Heroines" to include Equi

Barbara Fealy, Matsu Ito, and Emma Fofanah are some of the women in a Portland project called "Walk of the Heroines" that will create "a special place to honor the women who have illuminated our lives." We've learned the project will also include Marie Equi!

Current project status is described in a recent article in the Oregonian. Public support is needed: consider making a gift.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jill Liddington: Interview

Rebel Girls, a new work by Jill Liddington, tells stories of the Suffragettes in Britain. The women profiled in these stories were part of a broad political movement. Liddington goes beyond the better-known suffragettes who were mainly middle and upper-class women to put the movement's story back "where it sprang from: the everyday experiences of ordinary women."

During the political struggle, safe houses were established to shelter fugitive suffragettes. British women achieved voting rights in 1928.

Friday, May 26, 2006

New Bedford in "36 Hours"

Today's NYT feature on New Bedford (Marie Equi's hometown on the southern shore of Massachusetts) caught my attention. In describing activities to occupy a civilized Times reader for "36 Hours," Times writer Paul Schneider suggests readers visit New Bedford's library (pictured) to view artworks, including some by Albert Bierstadt. Readers are directed to contact librarian Paul Cyr for access to the room. Mr. Cyr, Curator of Special Collections at the New Bedford Free Public Library and one of New Bedford's cultural resources, was a huge help to Michael and me during our 2004 visit. Since Michael was in contact with local historians before our trip, we knew that Mr. Cyr was the person to connect with when we arrived. I am wondering if he is ready for an onslaught of culture vultures - the main library in downtown New Bedford is already a pretty busy place.

The article also mentions both Freestone's City Grill in central New Bedford, and Margaret's, just across Buzzard's Bay from New Bedford in Fairhaven. These were both places where we ate during our trip - not just once, but we even came back a second time.

Beyond these personal connections to our own brief time there, the article crams a lot of history and reminds me of what a fascinating and complex "New Beige" (?) is - even if, as Schneider writes, "Tough times and a rough reputation is how the city is generally perceived regionally."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Apuan Alps are "Tuscany's lost corner" (NYT)

With great timing, a travel article in today's New York Times fills in details about the Apuan Alps that I started learning about yesterday (see "Who were the Equis?".

Writer Timothy Egan (with photos by Chris Warde-Jones) describes the mountains: "the Apuans are Italy's anonymous Alps — a compact, cultivated clot of mountains wedged between the Ligurian Sea and the better-known Apennines."

The article also echoes the "fierce warrior" theme: "The Romans established Lucca and built roads, villas and aqueducts in the foothills. They also tried to dislodge earlier inhabitants, the Ligurian-Apuanians, who were defeated in 179 B.C. The Apuans never lost their warrior reputation..." That sounds like the portrayal of local people from Virgil's Aeneid, written in the first century B.C. (see my previous post).

There is a regional park for the Apuan Alps and the park's website shows that the park logo - like my blog - has a bird logo. The Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax erythrorhamphus - in Italian, "il gracchio corallino," - in English, the Red-Billed Chough.

I'm updating this in order to not use copyrighted images pulled from the Times website. Instead, the new photo shows a quarry in Carrara, in the Apuans, usable with attribution, from RDesai's Italy photos on Flickr.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"What every law student 'knows' is wrong"

I wrote about Montana's posthumous pardons a few weeks ago. A subsequent analysis by Adam Liptak in the New York Times titled "Sedition: It Still Rolls Off the Tongue" (5/7/2006) helped me understand that Marie Equi's conviction for sedition for expression of views during wartime could probably happen during today's time of war.

Many legal experts cite the 1969 case, Brandenburg v. Ohio, as protective of political dissent, arguing that the state may not criminalize the expression of views (including fierce anti-government views) unless the advocacy is directed to inciting imminent lawless action.

But another recent legal article by David M. Skover and Ronald KL Collins observed that earlier rulings give more power to the state. In Schenck v. United States, Justice Oliver Weldell Holmes Jr. (pictured) upheld the conviction of distributing pamphlets that caused a "hindrance" of the war effort. The ruling has never been overturned and so "what every law student 'knows' is wrong."

Marie is everywhere!

Last Thursday (May 11) on the way to Portland, I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle, and there - on the wall of a legal clinic over the shoulder of a woman facing deportation - appeared the poster of Dr. Marie Equi by Icky A. that celebrates her revolt. Posted by Picasa

Who were the Equis?

The family name “Equi” seems unique to many people today, but it has a long history. We have learned from an active network of Equi families that the Equi’s are principally from Tuscany, Italy, especially in the city of Barga.

One of the Equi family sources has written that he believes his ancestors are named in the Aeneid of Virgil, in the following citation:

Ferter Resius / rex Aequeicolus
is preimus / ius fetiale paravit
inde p(opulus) R(omanus) discipleinam excepit
Et te montosae misere in proelia Nersae
Ufens, insignem fama et felicibus armis;
horrida praecipue cui gens adsuetaque multo
venatu nemorum, duris Aequicula glaebis:
armati terram exercent semperque recentis
convectare iuvat praedas et vivere rapto.

Ferter Resius, king of the Equis
was the first to obtain the right of the feziali.
Therefore, the people of Rome had to learn to accept it.

You went to battle in the mountenous Nerse,
Proud and strong with invincible fame,
tough like your people used to the long hunts in the forests:
the Equis made of very tough soil,

who work the earth fully armed and everyday,
always find new prey, surviving through robbery.

If you search Google Earth for “Equi, Italy,” you find a remote location, high in the snow-covered Apuan Alps (which, I gather, are to the southeast of the Ligurian Alps), not far from the town of Barga. Nearby is the ancient hamlet, "Terme di Equi." The area is said to be full of ancient marble quarries – very fitting since Marie Equi’s father was a stonemason. The picture is from a website about a nearby country hotel-farm, with pictures of the "outskirtses". I know I'm ready for vacation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OHSU lecture on Dr. Equi now online

We are just 2 days back from our Portland trip, and OHSU has already made the presentation available online. RealPlayer is required to view it; if you don't have it, download it here (it's free and really quite painless). If you have RealPlayer, click here for the OHSU History of Medicine lecture series and then choose our presentation, which is at the top of the list for now: May 12, 2006 - Michael Helquist - "KAJ Mackenzie, Marie Equi, and the Oregon Doctor Train: Portland's response to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake."

Michael offers this introductory note to his OHSU lecture on Marie Equi:

This "narrative with slides" was prepared for the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) History of Medicine Lecture Series. The primary audience for the presentation was the OHSU medical community -- faculty, students, staff. Several of the volunteer doctors mentioned in this presentation were graduates or faculty of the University of Oregon Medical School (which would later become OHSU) in April of 1906. Therefore, the presentation emphasizes the contributions of these individuals, including Dr. Marie Equi.

My introductory note is that you'll briefly hear from Prof. Allan Hunter, who introduced Michael. Once Michael starts, the audio improves. It lasts about an hour. If you check it out, let us know what you think!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Aftershocker!" - Just Out covers OHSU talk

Aftershocker! is a great title for this article about our upcoming talk written by Pat Young, in Just Out, the LGBT Community newspaper/website in Portland.

The article notes howthe work of Portland researchers Sandy Polishuk and Tom Cook helped us learn about Marie's story.

The lecture starts noon May 12 at OHSU’s Old Library Auditorium, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road. We hope to see you there!

Read the article below or at

It's the 100th anniversary of the major San Francisco earthquake. Much has been said in the national news about the damage and what could happen if another quake occurred today. But what the national media didn’t mention is the little-known fact that a Portland lesbian doctor, Marie Equi, traveled to San Francisco to help the earthquake victims.

Today, it’s not unusual for doctors from the Pacific Northwest to offer their services after disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, but back in 1906 it was another story.

Michael Helquist will tell that story as part of Oregon Health & Science University’s History of Medicine Lecture Series. “Marie Equi was the only woman doctor among 40 Portland doctors and nurses who volunteered on short notice to travel to San Francisco,” he notes.

According to Helquist, Equi was “vaulted into public prominence as a result of her relief work” managing Portland nurses at the U.S. Army Presidio hospital. The governor of California and mayor of San Francisco recognized her outstanding effort with several commendations.

Helquist is writing a biography about Equi. He first learned of her after reading an article by Tom Cook, founder of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest. He quickly became intrigued about Equi. “How could you not be interested in a 20-year-old newcomer from the East Coast horsewhipping a Baptist minister in downtown The Dalles in 1893—all to defend her girlfriend’s honor and obtain a promised salary?” comments Helquist.

Equi’s escapades in The Dalles were well-documented in the local newspaper—giving Helquist plenty of material for his book. Also, he read Sandy Polishuk’s unpublished manuscript on Equi’s politics, which is at the Oregon Historical Society. Unfortunately, he adds, many of Equi’s journals and personal letters were lost in the 1962 Columbus Day storm.

Helquist refers to his presentation at OHSU as a narrative with slides. He’ll describe the drama of the disaster and the heroic efforts by Portland doctors and nurses. He says his lecture “celebrates a GLBT presence in an episode of historic significance. This is the centennial year for the San Francisco earthquake, and Portland’s role in that episode is a story seldom told.”

The lecture starts noon May 12 at OHSU’s Old Library Auditorium, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road.

—Pat Young

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pardons Granted for Sedition - New York Times

These four people were among 78 convicted of sedition during World War I by the state of Montana who will be posthumously pardoned today (photo, Montana Historical Society).

The New York Times quotes Montana governor Brian Schweitzer:
"I'm going to say what Gov. Sam Stewart should have said," Mr. Schweitzer said, referring to the man who signed the sedition legislation into law in 1918. "I'm sorry, forgive me, and God bless America, because we can criticize our government."

If those imprisoned by the states can be pardoned, can our President pardon those convicted in the federal courts, such as Marie Equi? Here in San Francisco, many people were tried for sedition in the federal courthouse. The federal judges were known to show little sympathy, especially for people of German ancestry.

Read more about the Montana pardons at

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Portland newspaper features upcoming talk

The science writer for The Oregonian in Portland featured our talk in the April 26 edition in a short blurb under "Science News and Events."

Historian to discuss Oregon doctors after 1906 quake

Michael Helquist, an historian, will speak on "K.A.J. MacKenzie, Marie Equi and the Oregon Doctor Train" at 12:15 p.m. May 12 in the Old Library Auditorium at Oregon Health & Science University.

Helquist will discuss how a group of 40 doctors and nurses went to San Francisco to help in relief efforts two days after the 1906 earthquake. He is writing a biography of Dr. Marie Equi, a graduate of Oregon's medical school and a radical activist.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the OHSU History of Medicine Society.

The blurb is at

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants (2)

And on our coast: San Francisco today.


A Day Without Immigrants

Beautiful photo: Queens NY today

Other photos at

Single-Payer System

Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times: What would happen if Medicare was expanded to cover everyone? Let's do it!! (email me if you need help seeing this article - I'll email it to you)

It's May Day, it's my birthday, and I have much to be happy for. Here's a snap of spring ferns from my Marin bike ride today.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier

To commemorate Marie Equi’s pacifism and radicalism on May Day 2006, I offer a peace anthem from her times, available from the UCSB Cylinder Preservation and Digitization. This song expresses a British mother’s refusal to support World War I. Click to listen:

I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier (1915)
Composer/Performer: Piantadosi, Al, 1884-1955.
Composer/Performer: Clark, Helen, b. ca. 1890.

This old music is available for free, online from the UCSB Cylinder Preservation and Digitization website. Here’s the same song, sung by Carl Ely (also in 1915).
A million soldiers to the war have gone
who may never return again.

A million more must cross the strait
for the ones who died in vain.

Head fall down in sorrow,
in her lonely year
I heard a mother murmur through her tears,
I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.
I brought him up to be my pride and joy.
Who dared to place a musket on his shoulder,
o shoot some other mother’s darling boy?

…It’s time to lay the sword and turn away.
There’d be no war today
if mothers always say
I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, 908,371 British were killed and died during the war.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tom Cook's article

In 1998, Tom Cook wrote an important article about Marie Equi, in cooperation with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of the Pacific Northwest. Cook does an exceptional job of finding beauty and meaning in Marie's prison correspondence. GLAPN is on hiatus, but we still have access to Cook's article through a website hosted by Utilly (?). Read more at

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Videoblog 2: earthquake tents in SF Presidio

Here's a videoblog experiment: low-quality video I took at the Presidio, where tents were setup during the centennial of the earthquake. We get some idea of the conditions in which about 200,000 people lived after being made homeless by the 1906 earthquake and fires. Hundreds of these tents were erected just east of the US Army General Hospital, where the Lucas development now stands. Marie Equi served at the US Army General Hospital.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oregon History Project

The OHP offers a picture of Marie Equi's medical office, showing a young woman nurse attending to a well-dressed woman patient.


Highleyman's "Past Out" tells Marie's story

The column "Past Out" - carried by LGBT publications nationwide - told the story of Marie Equi this week, under the title "Who Was Marie Equi?" Past Out typically observes an anniversary, and so this month presented an opportunity to tell about Marie:

April 1906 (100 years ago this month): Lesbian doctor Marie Equi responds to San Francisco's great earthquake and fires.

Past Out appears locally in the Bay Area Reporter. The BAR included a photo of Michael presenting his talk at Harvey Milk Library last week.

Columnist Liz Highleyman is based here in the Bay Area, and was in contact with Michael while preparing the column. Michael provided some of his research information that isn't generally available.

Past Out appears in a long and short version. In the long version (click here to see it at Camp Rehoboth) Highleyman refers to our biography project:

According to Michael Helquist, who is writing a biography of Equi, she supervised nurses at the U.S. Army Hospital in the Presidio and rescued 26 mothers and their newborn infants from a raging blaze, earning widespread acclaim.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Torney descendants at the Presidio

It's one day after the exact 100-year anniversary of the SF earthquake, and tonight we attended a slide show and lecture about George H. Torney, an important figure in the SF earthquake story.

The lecture was by George Torney's great-grandson, Richard Torney (pictured here with his family after the talk - Richard has a beard and a red sweater). Richard sub-titled his talk Hygienic Catastrophy Averted, highlighting his great-grandfather's major acccomplishment: as the commander of the US Army General Hospital at the SF Presidio, Torney directed the city-wide measures that prevented any outbreaks of infectious disease among the 250,000+ refugees in SF after the earthquake. Richard's grandfather, Ned Torney, was a young man at the time, and an amateur photographer. Richard Torney shared his grandfather's earthquake photos - the first time they have had a public showing. My favorite were a series of photos of the Hotel Terminus - seen from East St (now named the Embarcadero) near the Ferry Building, which is sprayed with water pumped from the Bay as the fires menace the entire area.

Tonight's talk contained no mention of the "Oregon Doctor Train" (Marie Equi and the dozens of doctors and nurses who provided earthquake relief at the US Army Hospital and elsewhere). There was one slide, showing a memo, sent on April 21, 1906, in which SF Mayor Eugene Schmitz asks Torney to use the land and facilities at Harbor View Park for contagious disease hospital. That's the assignment that was handed down to KAJ Mackenzie, the leader of Oregon's doctor train.

After the talk, we were excited to meet two descendants of Frederick Funston, the Presidio's commanding officer at the time. Here they are with Michael: Deborah Helmken (center) and Martine Funston (right).