DELL WILLIAMS, 1922 -2015
Dell Williams (née Zetlin; August 5, 1922 – March 11, 2015) was an American businesswoman. In 1945, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps. Decades later, she founded the first feminist sex toy business in the United States, Eve's Garden, in New York City in 1974. Eve's Garden was the first woman-owned and woman-operated sex toy business in America. As Williams put it, "Eve represented all women and the Garden was symbolic of women taking responsibility for their 'own' sexuality."
She was inspired to found the business after she took a “Body/Sex Workshop” by Betty Dodson in New York and afterwards went to buy a vibrator, but found that the salesboy at Macy's asked her nosy questions about it.
Williams was an actress for a time, and appeared in productions of The Vagina Monologues. Her most notable role may have been in a 1962 film, The Cliff Dwellers, a film which was nominated for an Academy Award. In addition to this, she was a singer, artists’ model, and writer during the 1930s and 1940s, and was later one of the first successful female advertising executives in New York City.
About Dell Williams
In 1974, inspired by Betty Dodson and my political commitment to further women's sexual liberation, I created EVE'S GARDEN, a women’s sexuality boutique and mail-order business to help women to "define, explore and celebrate" their sexuality...
I stepped into the Women's March for Equality in 1970 like a lamb and I walked out like a lion. I suddenly "got it" when I realized that growing up female in our male- dominated culture had truly limited me financially, psychologically and emotionally. It was an instant transformation. I joined the New York Chapter of NOW and another chapter in my life began at 52. Inspired in my new cause for freedom and the undaunted leadership of Jacqui Ceballos, who was the then President of NOW, I was plunged into various activities, participating in "zap" actions (which attracted the media like flies and brought our cause to the notice of the nation) to planning conference and creating many fund-raising events for the chapter.
In 1972, Judy Wenning, the then president of the chapter, handed me an outline of a sexuality conference she wanted me to coordinate for the chapter. Together with Laura Scharf and a terrific group of passionate women we launched an event which had never been done before... a forum where women could get together and talk about SEX. It was a rousing success. THE WOMEN'S SEXUALITY CONFERENCE took place in a New York City High School attended by over 1400 women. We opened with a "SPEAK OUT" with women speaking from every lifestyle, opening with Betty Dodson's declaration that masturbation was her primary sexual activity. Her forthright talk transformed women from body-shy to body-proud as w,:)men shared their different sexual lives from straight to gay and everything in between. We convened into various workshops for smaller gatherings on every subject related to sexuality which occurred over a two-day period. On Sunday Betty Dodson presented her slide show "Creating an Aesthetic for the Female Genitals", which showed the tremendous variety of shapes, forms and colors of women's genitals.
When the show ended, I thought the walls would topple from the vibrations of the thunderous applause. it was as if thousands of years of guilt, shame and sexual repression came tumbling down with the walls. Many women told me later that this conference changed their lives, and for some, their lifestyles. In 1974, inspired by Betty Dodson and my political commitment to further women's sexual liberation, I created EVE'S GARDEN, a women’s sexuality boutique and mail-order business to help women to "define, explore and celebrate" their sexuality, which was the theme of the conference. "EVE" represented all women and the "GARDEN" was symbolic of women taking responsibility for their OWN sexuality.
Presently, I am studying to be an Interfaith Minister, and, Goddess willing, look forward to creating a ministry that seeks to unite sexuality with spirituality; a ministry that honors the regenerative power of the life force which is contained in women's sacred sexual nature.
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