A pioneering lesbian and feminist activist who in 1970 led a group of women to the Statue of Liberty where they hung a banner that read, “Women of the World Unite,” Ivy Bottini died at her home Thursday at age 94. She died peacefully surrounded by family in Florida, where she’d moved to be close to her daughter, according to Weho Times.
“I am sad to report that LGBTQ and feminist icon Ivy Bottini passed away this morning. She passed peacefully at home surrounded by her daughters with her minister beside her reading the latest news in LGBTQ rights,” newly elected West Hollywood City Councilperson Sepi Shyne announced on Twitter.
Born in 1926 on Long Island in New York, Bottini earned a certificate in advertising graphic design and illustration at the Pratt Institute School of Art in Brooklyn in the early ’40s. She worked in art and ad agencies in New York City before working at Newsday for 16 years, a job she left to relocate to California in 1971. Bottini’s activism was in place long before the cross-country move. Her activism kick-started when she joined a gathering of luminaries of the women’s movement that included Betty Friedan, Muriel Fox, Ti-Grace Atkinson, and Flo Kennedy.
In 1966, not only was she a cofounder of the first chapter of the National Organization for Women, she designed the logo.
It was with her chapter of NOW that Bottini and several women led the action that unfurled at the Statue of Liberty when they took a ferry to Lady Liberty with fabric stuffed under their dresses as if they were pregnant. When they connected their fragments of fabric, it became the call to action for “Women of the World Unite.”
Bottini, who had been married to a man for 16 years and had children with him, came out as a lesbian later in life, something that got her kicked out of the Women’s Movement under notorious Betty Friedan’s leadership. Friedan was a vocal opponent of elevating queer women, claiming it would threaten the movement.
“I knew I loved women all along growing up. That was clear to me. I didn't know that it could be a choice because I didn't know there were really other lesbians that felt the same way I did,” Bottini said on The Advocate’s LGBTQ&A podcast in early 2020. She added in the interview that she was in her late 40s-early 50s when she began to live openly as a lesbian.
A fierce advocate for lesbian rights within the movement, Bottini was forced out in 1970. But she went on to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. In 1978, she fought the Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools. She continued her activism through the AIDS epidemic and became chair of the campaign against Proposition 64, an initiative backed by noted homophobe Lyndon LaRouche, which opponents argued would have led to the firing and quarantining of people with HIV or AIDS.
Bottini continued activism throughout her life as a founder of the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board, a cochair of the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board for the city of West Hollywood, and a founder of the nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing.
In 2019, Bottini published her memoir, The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism.
West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath paid tribute to Bottini on Instagram.
“Today, we lost a titan in our queer and feminist communities,” West Hollywood Mayor Ivy Bottini graced us with her indefatigable spirit for the past 94 years and made her indomitable presence known wherever she called home,” Horvath wrote. “Luckily, Ivy called West Hollywood home for decades and we are forever grateful for her imprint on our city and in the fight for full equality for women and the LGBTQIA community.
“I cannot believe I was so lucky to have a personal relationship with someone who blazed trails for me and all future generations. Her artwork hangs in my home, her voice shows up in my thoughts, and her spirit will always be in my heart. We will lower the flags in West Hollywood in honor of Ivy on Monday, which is (fittingly) also the start of Women’s History Month. May she rest in power. #RIP #IvyBottini”