Marie Equi
Marie Diana Equi was an American medical doctor
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 and anarchist
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

. Her father was Italian and her mother of Irish parentage.


In 1893, she moved to The Dalles, Oregon
The Dalles, Oregon
The Dalles is the largest city and county seat of Wasco County, Oregon, United States. The name of the city comes from the French word dalle The Dalles is the largest city and county seat of Wasco County, Oregon, United States. The name of the city comes from the French word dalle The Dalles is...

 with her friend Bess Holcomb, who had been offered work as a teacher. The two lived together quietly in what has been called a "Boston marriage
Boston marriage
Boston marriage as a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man. The term was little known until the debut in 2000 of the David Mamet play of the...

". On 21 July 1893, Equi was the subject of an article in "The Dalles Times-Mountaineer", the local newspaper. According to the article, which referred to Equi as "Miss Aqua", Holcomb's employer, Reverend Orson D. Taylor, refused to pay Holcomb a promised $100, and in response Equi threatened to publicly horsewhip
Crop (implement)
A crop, sometimes called a riding crop or hunting crop, is a short type of whip without a lash, used in horse riding, part of the family of tools known as horse whips.-Types and uses:...

 him. Although Equi was able to carry out her threat, Holcomb ultimately did not receive the $100. However, the community were very supportive of Equi's actions. The whip became the subject of a raffle
A raffle is a competition in which people obtain numbered tickets, each ticket having the chance of winning a prize. At a set time, the winners are drawn from a container holding a copy of every number...

, and the proceeds, exceeding $100, were granted to the two women.

A few years later, the pair moved to San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

, where Equi began studying medicine. She completed her degree in 1903 at the University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

 in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

, one of the first classes to admit women
Women in medicine
Historically and in many parts of the world, women's participation in the profession of medicine has been significantly restricted, although women's practice of medicine, informally, in the role of caregivers, or in the allied health professions, has been widespread...

. In the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
1906 San Francisco earthquake
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was a major earthquake that struck San Francisco, California, and the coast of Northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. The most widely accepted estimate for the magnitude of the earthquake is a moment magnitude of 7.9; however, other...

, she organized a group of doctors and nurses to provide humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid
Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian crises including natural disaster and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity...

 in the wake of the disaster, earning her a special commendation from the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. Soon after, she met Harriet Speckart, who worked as her assistant. The two began a relationship, sharing residence in various locations in Portland. Speckart, the niece of Olympia Brewing Company
Olympia Brewing Company
The Olympia Brewing Company was a brewery in Tumwater, Washington which existed from 1896 until 2003.-History:Leopold Schmidt, a German immigrant from Montana founded The Capital Brewing Company at Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River in the town of Tumwater, near the south end of Puget Sound...

 founder Leo Schmidt, did not abandon the relationship despite various attempts by her family, including the threat to revoke her inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...


Equi was one of several doctors in Portland who performed abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

s, and did so without regard for social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 or status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

. She was active in the movement to provide access and information about birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

. She also knew Margaret Sanger
Margaret Sanger
Margaret Higgins Sanger was an American sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist. Sanger coined the term birth control, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established Planned Parenthood...

, and may have had a relationship with her -- archivist Judith Schwartz described Equi's letters to Sanger as "love letters". Equi was active in the women's suffrage movement in Oregon, which achieved success in 1912 when the state granted women the right to vote.

In 1913, she visited the site of a strike by women cherry sorters at the Oregon Packing Company, during a strike action
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 supported by the Industrial Workers of the World
Industrial Workers of the World
The Industrial Workers of the World is an international union. At its peak in 1923, the organization claimed some 100,000 members in good standing, and could marshal the support of perhaps 300,000 workers. Its membership declined dramatically after a 1924 split brought on by internal conflict...

 among others. While attending to an injured worker, she was attacked by the police, whose brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

 in attempting to end the strike led Equi to denounce capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and become an anarchist.

In 1915, Equi adopted an infant girl, Mary, because Speckart wanted to raise a child. Mary later came to prominence herself, when at age 16 she became the youngest woman in the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

 to fly an airplane solo. Mary referred to Speckart as her "ma" and Equi as her "da".

In 1916, Equi joined the American Union Against Militarism
American Union Against Militarism
The American Union Against Militarism was an American pacifist organization active established in response to World War I. The organization attempted to keep the United States out of the European conflict through mass demonstrations, public lectures, and the printed word...

. During a war-preparedness rally in downtown Portland, she unfurled a banner reading "PREPARE TO DIE, WORKINGMEN, J.P. MORGAN & CO. WANT PREPAREDNESS FOR PROFIT", which set off a minor riot and led to her arrest. On 31 December 1918 she was convicted of sedition
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent to lawful authority. Sedition may include any...

 under the newly-revised Espionage Act for a speech made at the IWW hall opposing World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

Her lawyers were unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn her conviction, and her daughter later recalled how she and her mother were spat upon in the streets during this period. For this reason, Speckart took Mary to Seaside, Oregon. Equi and Speckart never lived together again. In October 1920 Equi began her 3-year sentence at San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin State Prison is a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison for men in unincorporated San Quentin, Marin County, California, United States. Opened in July 1852, it is the oldest prison in the state. California's only death row for male inmates, the largest...

, which was later reduced to a year and a half. In prison, she wrote letters to friends, one of which expressed anxiety and doubt about her "queerness," to which her friend reassured her. Although Equi's friends supported her they were unable to secure her pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...


Some time after her release, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World . Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and a visible proponent of women's rights, birth control, and women's suffrage...

 came to live with Equi, and the two women lived together for ten years.

Speckart lived in Seaside, Oregon
Seaside, Oregon
Seaside is a city in Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. The name Seaside is derived from Seaside House, a historic summer resort built in the 1870s by railroad magnate Ben Holladay. The city's population was 6,457 at the 2010 census.-History:...

, until her death from a brain tumor at the age of 44 on 15 May, 1927, after which Mary came to live with her "da" in Portland. On 13 July, 1952, Equi died in Portland at Fairlawn Hospital.

External links

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