Scroll To Top

Net activist
Aleta Fenceroy dies

Net activist
Aleta Fenceroy dies

Aleta Fenceroy, a pioneering Internet activist who for eight years operated the Fenceberry LGBT newswire with her partner, Jean Mayberry, died September 23 of cancer at their home in Omaha. She was 57.

Fenceroy was a musician by avocation but a computer programmer by trade. Starting in the mid 1990s, she and Mayberry operated the informal Fenceberry e-mail news service, which distributed articles--sometimes dozens per day--to hundreds of subscribers worldwide on such issues as the Matthew Shepard killing.

"There wasn't access to the many newsgroups and endless search capabilities that now exist on the Internet," John Selig wrote on Fenceroy's online condolence book. "You...were the lifeblood of information within the gay community."

Every day for eight years, they would cull the Internet for gay-related news items, format the clips into e-mails, and send them to more than 1,000 activists and journalists who came to depend on the service to stay informed. As coverage of gay issues proliferated, Fenceberry's output expanded from one or two e-mails a day to as many as 10, sometimes including more than 50 stories. The two never received payment for their work.

"It was a way to be an activist without ever leaving my home," Fenceroy told The Advocate in 2004.

The two women, partners for 15 years, first published a small local print newsletter from their home in Iowa City, Iowa, according to San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter. When fellow Iowan Bill Stosine, who founded the electronic newswire in 1993, announced that he would no longer continue, Fenceroy and Mayberry stepped in, acquired his subscriber list, and renamed the newswire using a mash-up of their last names.

"She was dogged in her pursuit of answers," Mayberry told the Reporter. "Aleta was determined to hunt down the story, to get the news out, to defend her community, and to right the wrongs to the best of her ability."

The day the Massachusetts supreme judicial court opened the door to marriage equality, Fenceroy told the Southern Voice in 2004, she stayed home from work so her readers could be the first to hear the news.

The couple discontinued Fenceberry in July 2004, in part because AOL stopped allowing them to send out mass e-mail but mostly because the project had taken over their lives.

They stayed politically active, working for the John Kerry campaign in 2004. Fenceroy was diagnosed with cancer in June of this year.

A memorial celebration of Fenceroy's life is being planned. Donations in her memory may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union. A book of remembrance--online, as is fitting--is at

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff