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.
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
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.
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.
politically active, working for the John Kerry campaign in
2004. Fenceroy was diagnosed with cancer in June of this
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 https://goodbyaleta.blogspot.com/.