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 Also, he read Sandy Polishuk’s unpublished manuscript on Equi’s politics, which is at the Oregon Historical Society.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

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