Queer Heroes NW 2012
Dr. Marie Equi
In 1903, Mari Equi graduated from the University of Oregon, becoming one of a very few women physicians in the state.
She was a fearless advocate for woman’s suffrage, labor rights, free speech, an eight-hour workday, state support for higher education, and prison reform. Her protests against imperialism and war gave her a reputation in Portland as one of the most outspoken agitators in town. Never content with protest alone, Equi obtained food and shelter for the unemployed, distributed birth control information, and provided abortions to both poor and upper-class women.
With courage unusual for her time, Equi openly enjoyed associations with other women that would readily be called “lesbian relationships” today. She and her companion adopted an infant girl whom the two women raised.
Equi opposed American preparations for World War I, believing that profiteering capitalists had engineered a conflict that left young men dead on the battlefields of Europe. In 1918, the federal government charged her with sedition for her anti-war speeches. She was convicted and served for ten months in San Quentin Prison.
Equi lived a quieter life after her release from prison in 1921. She gave up her medical practice in 1930 due to ill health. She provided for her daughter, Mary, who, in turn, cared for her through her final days in Portland. Equi died in Portland in 1952.
(condensed from an article by Michael Helquist in
The Oregon Encyclopedia)
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