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Feminist Lesbian Icon Ivy Bottini Reflects on an Awesome Legacy

Jon Viscott

Bottini helped establish NOW and cared for gay men dying of AIDS, but she won't be put out to pasture.

Legendary feminist and lesbian activist Ivy Bottini, spoke at a WeHo Reads event last week celebrating her new memoir, The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism.


The 92-year old actor, artist, and advocate -- who fought for equality in New York before becoming a Los Angeles activist in 1971 -- is still highly engaged with the resistance and hasn't lost an ounce of her stage presence. Biographer Judith V. Branzberg and Bottini had a spirited discussion about her life that spurred the audience to laughter as she recounted the outrageous undertaking "liberating" the Statue of Liberty. She also recalled her involvement in historic moments like stopping the Briggs initiative, and The La Rouche initiative, being one of the founding members of the first ever chapter of the National Organization for Women, and designing the NOW logo, still in use today.

Their conversation took a personal turn as she remembered her overwhelming feelings for women since a young age, and the pain that came along with not knowing if she was the only one in the world who felt that way. She shared how her attraction to women quite literally led her to activism when, one day, a co-worker she had a crush on frentetically told her to sign a piece of paper. She did. "I would have signed anything for her," Bottini joked on stage.


That paper was a membership form for the National Organization for Women. The year was 1966. After that day, she stepped to center stage of the group and led one of the first ever conversations about lesbian inclusion, a consciousness raising forum called, "Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?" The open inclusion of lesbians at the outset of the organization was rocky, but despite being ousted from the New York chapter in a "lesbian purge," her powerful presence had already set the tides turning. By the time she arrived at NOW's 1971 national conference in California, the leadership had passed a motion to welcome all lesbians officially. She was personally welcomed to that conference with thunderous applause.

Watch our interview with Bottini below in which she reflects on the feminist movement now, how lesbians don't get enough credit for helping gay men during the AIDS crisis, and how she plans to bring her resistance spirit to her new home in Florida.

Order your copy of The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism and check out more WeHo Reads events.

The event was produced by the City of West Hollywood. Video interview conducted by Neal Broverman, filmed and edited by Allison Tate.

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