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San Francisco Honors Oregon Doctor and Activist Marie Equi

September 17, 2019

In August this year Rainbow Honor Walk, a non-profit, all-volunteer group in San Francisco, installed a sidewalk plaque that recognizes Marie Equi as an LGBTQ individual whose life story represents groundbreaking achievement. The 3 by 3 foot bronze square was embedded along Market Street, one of San Francisco’s main thoroughfares, near the Castro Street neighborhood. An image of Equi and her signature accompany this inscription: “Marie Equi (1872—1952) American physician and political radical who fought for peace, an eight-hour workday, women’s suffrage and their right to birth control.”

OSU Press author Michael Helquist, the biographer of Marie Equi, assisted with the unveiling of the plaque. He commented, “All along I hoped my biography of Equi would reach a large number of people with her remarkable story of fierce independence and commitment to economic and social justice.” He added that his other motivation was to highlight LGBTQ history on the West Coast before World War II, since relatively little has been uncovered. Helquist makes the case in his book that Equi is the first publicly known lesbian in the Pacific Northwest and in Northern California. The American Library Association named Marie Equi a Stonewall Honor Book. Helquist noted, “The installation was quick but exciting and deeply gratifying.”

Since Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions was published by the Press in 2015, Equi has been recognized as a Notable Oregonian by the Oregon Secretary of State and has been honored by the National Park Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland for Pride Month. Equi has also been honored in New Bedford, MA, her hometown, as a significant suffragist in preparations for the 2020 centennial of women obtaining the vote.

In San Francisco, the Rainbow Honor Walk has embedded sidewalk tributes for fifty-two individuals since 2014. Honorees include artists, scientists, political activists, and writers such as Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, Alvin Ailey, US Representative Barbara Jordan, Josephine Baker, Freddy Mercury, transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, and astronaut Sally Ride. The plaque for Marie Equi is located outside the building at 2282 Market Street near Noe Street. For more information, see marieequi.com or, regarding the plaque, rainbowhonorwalk.org. Michael Helquist can be found at michaelhelquist.com.

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