Veteran Feminists of America



Born in Milwaukee in 1948, I am not really a pioneer feminist but it does win me the possibility of knowing, friending, sharing with many who have more than earned such a lofty title. Aside from fasting for the ERA in 1982, the second most thrilling component in my feminist life is the repeated saving, rescuing, informing that the American Women's Movement has given me.

NOW tenets are basically a list of the pillars of my life. From lesbian rights to reproductive freedom, I am always the beneficiary of NOW. I have had two abortions, stood against Sarah Palin, lobbied against DADT (Don't ask, don't tell) celebrated body images, worked for the ERA, identified as straight, lesbian and bi, marched for equality in race, sex and gender. While I was not in that famous 1966 picture with my idols sitting with crossed ankles on folding chairs, the National Organization for Women has filled my daily life for over 35 years.

One experience that rises to the surface is how the Veteran Feminists of America gave me the courage to open the front door, leave the house and face life after a full year of not being able to even turn the door knob or start the car. The fear of going out of the house began in the mid-1990's. I fell into a depression which I would attribute to losing heart, losing intention, living without being of service to anyone The VFA and the women of the Second Wave reached right into my life and called me back to a life of activism

In Spring, 2003, I received a questionnaire via email. It was from a woman whose work I had read 25 years before, Barbara Love. Her book, written with Sydney Abbott, Sappho was a Right-On Woman, was one of the most important in my feminist journey. Barbara was just beginning a great treasure hunt to collect information by and about the women & men of the Second Wave. Her dream was to create a directory of pioneer feminists complete with their bios, education, stats and, when possible, information would be first hand.

The day it arrived, I filled it out and attached this little note ~

June 6, 2003

Dearest Barbara,

I am every so grateful for your work. Over the years, as I pass through bookstores, I can never resist searching feminist history books for my name - for the work on the Equal Rights Amendment (which the Illinois Assembly passed recently!!). Of course, I find nothing. I find a bit on Sanger, on Anthony, on my foremothers - but the 60's, 70's and 80's - so many wonderful women go unnoticed.

I see that you are in Danbury. I hope you are going to consider including my most beloved friend, Laura Nyro. She died in her home on Zinn Road in Danbury in April 1997. I was visiting with her in March & April. She was a true feminist woman and artist. If you need any information about her, I am in her service. She was my closest friend.

If I can be of assistance - it will be my privilege to do so. Please ask me for anything,

Zoe Nicholson

I heard back from Barbara in just a few days. She asked me if I would like to help her transform Questionaires into biographies. On June 18, 2003, she emailed me four completed bios to illustrate how the process would work; Marie C. Wilson, Gloria Steinem, Virginia Carter and Deborah Rogow. I was hooked. And one week later I got my first Q - it was from the woman who founded the first woman-owned art gallery in SOHO.

One by one the Q's began to arrive; the first women studies program, the first abortion clinic, the first self-help group, the first to start a NOW chapter, AAUW, NWPC, on and on and on. Their lives were thrilling, one more inspiring than the next. Sit-ins, marches, and protests. Publishing and music and art. Academics and politics. And ministers and rabbis. Reading their own answers was intimate and felt almost holy; certainly a sacred trust. In the course of two years I was sent over 100 Qs and translated them into short bios. And one day I got an email from Barbara that said - here is your Q - Surprise! And I got to write my own biography for Feminists Who Changed America 1963 - 1975.

Zoe Nicholson

Proud member of the Veteran Feminists of America and life-long member of NOW, Zoe was born in Milwaukee, WI, and earning a M.A. in Ethics & Religion, Nicholson life's focus has been feminism and spirituality. Beginning with Catholic Church reform and teaching, she has worked for women's equality. In 1975, she opened and operated The Magic Speller Bookstore, a women's bookstore in Newport Beach, CA. In 1982, she joined six women in Springfield, IL, in a public and political fast for 37 days in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her memoir is The Hungry Heart ~ A Women's Fast for Justice, Lune Soleil Press 2004.

Sitting in the dark of night and the dark of personal self-imposed isolation, it felt as though these daring, courageous women were speaking to me, whispering to me, allowing me to meet with them. I would pour over the 22 answers and unfold them into paragraphs, hoping to do them justice. Their lives were so brave, so creative, so insightful that my heart and soul caught on fire again. They made me remember how much I had loved chapter meetings, standing on a corner with a sign, conferring with feminists. There was no more taking it for granted or thinking it was all in the past. It was 2005 and there was work to be done, women and girls to serve and this book to promote. I looked for the nearest NOW chapter, gathered the courage to leave the house and take a chance with my life again.

So while everyone else who picks up this astounding book, Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975 teeming with bios of feminist change makers, I see a personal liberation that broke the chains of my agoraphobia and healed a broken heart. The Second Wave has carried me body and soul to liberation again and again and I am so grateful.

Today, at 62, I still have not peaked as there is so much to do. A few years ago it became loudly apparent to me that all social justice movements are seeking the same thing; the end of the oppressor/oppressed paradigm. Age, religion, class, sex, gender and race are all intertwined and the advancement of one or another will never be complete until all categories have full civil rights. With that epiphany, I changed my business card from Feminist to Equality Activist. That shifted everything in my life; everything.

There is no disparity requiring reconciliation between my work in the queer movement, the women's movement, reproductive justice, immigration, ageism, etc. What had felt like too many things, too much going on, became all one rushing river of justice.

I am the founder and president of Pacific Shore NOW and was the National NOW liaison to the 2009 National Equality March. I am the founder of "ERA Once and For All". I am the NWPC National ERA Liaison. I serve on the Board of the Veteran Feminists of America and am their advisor on the ERA campaign.

However, at this time I am proud to be speaking in conjunction with the documentary, "March On." Being featured in this movie has given me to opportunity to speak about the oppressor/oppressed paradigm in the context of the LGBTQAI Movement. This branch on the tree of liberation is on fire right now due to the roar about Marriage Equality, the promise of repealing DADT, the passing of I-ENDA and the repeal of DOMA.

The Queer Movement has taught me the power of coming out - coming out everyday as life offers the question. I am bisexual. I am a feminist. I have had two abortions. I am Buddhist. I love my life. Maybe Oprah would call it standing in your truth but I call it coming out. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

As I have heard Gloria Steinem say and have experienced directly, the Equality Movement breathes. It catches on in one vein while languishing in another but, in reality, it is all one body of truth - the longing for EQUALITY. All six are matched in longing, all six are inextricably intertwined but each will lurch on its own ~ offering the contagion of success. I am asked on a weekly basis how to sustain hope, how to manage burnout, how to manage it all. It is easy because it is all the same because no one is equal until everyone is equal.

Zoe holds a B.A. in Theology, Quincy University, 1969 and a M.A. in Ethics, USC, 1975. She began her professional life teaching high school for five years. In 1976, she opened and operated The Magic Speller Bookstore, a women's bookstore in Newport Beach, CA. In 1982, she joined six women in Springfield, Illinois, in a public and political fast for 37 days in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her memoir is The Hungry Heart ~ A Women's Fast for Justice, from Lune Soleil Press.

With the close of her independent bookstore, she served for a year as Director of the Orange County Free Clinic. In 1985, she completed the professional computer program at Computer Learning Center and worked in hi tech, software development and recruiting for fifteen years. Since 2001, she is founding partner and manages Eclipse Data Systems and Eclipse Global. She is a member of the ERA Roundtable, a life-long member of NOW and proud member of the Veteran Feminists of America

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