COMMUNITY • VISIBILITY • ACTION
July 28 – 31, 2011
LaQuinta Inn & Suites
One More for the Record Books:
2011 Pacific Northwest Regional Gathering
By Margaret Purcell, 1951; Mary Henry, 1939; Gloria Stancich, 1933; and Deidre Knowles, 1947
Wow! What an incredible weekend, one many, many Old Lesbians will never forget.
The Gathering officially kicked into gear with personal welcomes from the mayor of Tacoma, Marilyn Strickland, and out-Lesbian state legislator Laurie Jinkins bearing a message from the Governor, as well as from herself. We were humbled to be welcomed to the land of the First Nations by Irene Fruzzetti of the Comanche Tribe.
Thursday was a night of welcome and of honoring the founding mothers of OLOC who were present, Vera Martin, Ruth Silver, and Rosemary Hathaway, and honoring the oldest amongst us. There were more than 30 Lesbians in attendance who were 75 years and older, and each was recognized. The evening also offered an original piece written and presented by Elana Dykewoman. Under the direction of Marcia Perlstein, a group from Puget Sound OLOC performed a dramatic reading of stories from the lives of Lesbians who have shared their life stories with the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project. The drama was completed with “This is Your Life, Arden Eversmeyer,” a surprise gift to her from the readers and director.
After a moving start to a challenging and inspiring weekend, Lillian Faderman delivered an impressive keynote address that had everyone asking if there was any way to get a copy (DVD or printed text) of her speech. From there, the weekend was filled with many, many highlights, too many to enumerate. Of course, a few boundaries were pushed and barriers broken, making this Gathering a strengthening opportunity for all involved. The weekend was brought to a close by two powerful and inspiring contributions. Dr. Malka Golden-Wolfe helped us all understand the magnitude of what we had just accomplished by sharing in the Gathering, and we were sent away energized by the amazing women of Sista Drum. We won’t pretend it was perfect, but we know, without a doubt, it was successful. We wish you all could have been there!
As we had anticipated, whenever the need was there, dozens of Lesbians pitched in to help the local team throughout the event, which only goes to prove what we suspected all along: OLOCers are incredibly generous.
It was a 50/50 weekend: Roughly half of the Lesbians attending came from the Pacific Northwest and roughly half had never been to an OLOC Gathering. The unofficial count was that 201 Lesbians participated in the 2011 Pacific Northwest Regional Gathering. Since we ran out of registration forms at the door and didn’t have time to print out more, our guess is that there were at least a dozen more. But those are just numbers. The feeling of sharing three days in the company of so many Old Lesbians who care deeply about our community and are passionately working toward changes that will improve our lives and the lives of others was truly indescribable.
July 28 – July 31, 2011
By Tita Caldwell, 1931
About 20 San Francisco Bay Area Old Lesbians found their way to Tacoma, Washington to attend the Regional OLOC Gathering, produced and hosted by the Puget Sound OLOC members. The Gathering, which tripled in numbers from the original estimate, wound up with an attendance of over 200!
“The Gang of Four” planned and ran this marvelous weekend with the help of more than 30 volunteers. They showed great vision, daring, and flexibility as well as warmth and friendliness as they coordinated a program, rides, special needs, and all the other details that were involved in producing this event.
This was my second trip to Tacoma and I was delighted to see how well our local community blended in with the Pacific Northwest women. I saw many of the women who had been to Tacoma at our picnic this August and asked each one what she had liked best about the Gathering: Lynn really liked the entertainment, especially the “Crabby Chicks;” Ginny enjoyed Lucy Blue Tremblay’s concert; I was thrilled by Jacque Larrainzar, a “Mexican; born Basque Lebanese Lesbian” in her early 40s who sang songs familiar to me from my childhood as well as a variety of other music; Rita loved the dancing, as did Natalie, especially finally getting to dance with Ruth Silver, who at 93, was the “oldest of the old,” and one of the founders of OLOC.
The keynote speaker, Lillian Faderman, was a big hit with our Bay Area contingent, as were the panels. Simi was “totally in awe with how the program was laid out,” starting with Lillian who talked about how Lesbian writers were made invisible not only by society, but by archivists; followed by “Intersecting Oppressions,” which talked about other oppressions in ways that everyone could identify with. The program culminated on Sunday morning with “Sparking Action.”
Devon was really happy to see the Mother Tongue performance of the disability script which was presented by five Bay Area women; Pnina enjoyed the caucus on the 1970s, and Maggie particularly liked the caucus on class. Sandy Tate was so happy that women were urged to stop addressing each other as “you guys.” Pacifica liked the demonstration at the detention center, and meeting the women from NOW.
We all seemed to enjoy meeting new women, seeing old friends; Rachel saw friends from Cleveland and Seattle; Pat said she enjoyed the informal times, such as breakfast where several of us gravitated to the same table each morning; Rose enjoyed the hospitality room, which was popular with all of us, especially late in the evening where we were warmly welcomed and offered snacks by Ruth Debra from National OLOC and her partner Sherry. The swimming pool was also a place enjoyed by several of us.
Susan C. loved the number of the oldest Lesbians, saying it made her realize that “no matter what, I can have an interesting and meaningful old life;” I was also very happy to see so many Lesbians my age and older. Women over 75 were honored by having their names read out and picture taken. There was a panel of women 80 and over at which I was the youngest, which I can barely remember experiencing. I was glad to get to spend some time with two of the other founders who were there: Vera Martin, who is a real whiz on ageism, and Rosemary Hathaway, formerly from the Bay Area.
I had thought a lot about age before going to Tacoma, knowing that the Pacific Northwest chapter/group is different from National OLOC, in that it allows women to self-define as old. Although I did witness a couple of incidents where younger women corrected Old Lesbians or addressed them in an insensitive way, I felt mostly comfortable with everybody there and rarely aware of the age differences. I came to a personal conclusion: having a Gathering where our oldest members feel welcome and visible is more important to my happiness than adhering to a strict age barrier.