Veteran Feminists of America



I was born Ivy Gaffney on August 15,1926 in Lynbrook, Long Island, NY, the only child of  Archie and Ivy Gaffney.   I remember my mother as an unhappy housewife.  My father drove a cab.  I attended Malvern schools. I was an avid athlete who participated in many sports and was very interested in art.  My early school years were spent illustrating book reports, creating maps for geography class, designing posters for school activities and painting for my own enjoyment.  Life was good until age 18 when my father was killed in  a tragic accident  while driving his cab. Our income was severely limited after his death and it seemed my plans for continuing Art School were gone.   But thankfully the Pratt Institute of Art and Design gave me a full scholarship to continue my studies in advertising, graphic design and illustration.

After graduation I worked in several art and advertising agencies in New York City.  In 1952 I married the young man who lived across the street, Eddie Bottini. We had two daughters, Laura and Lisa. In 1966 my life changed again.  

I was working  as Art Director and illustrator at Newsday, the major Long Island newspaper. One day Dolores Alexander,  a reporter at Newsday, told me about an  interview she’d had with this amazing woman, Betty Friedan, whose book The Feminine Mystique was all the rage. Dolores insisted I go with her to a meeting, and soon I  was  helping to found the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) which was located in New York City. I was also with national NOW, where I served on the board for three years. 

In 1968 I accepted that I was a Lesbian and as I accepted this, my life changed considerably. I was elected president of the New York chapter of NOW and was president for two terms.  In 1969 I introduced the struggle for lesbian rights into the women’s movement through a panel entitled, “Is Lesbianism A Feminist Issue?” and created feminist consciousness raising within the  chapter . It was later used by NOW chapters throughout the country. In 1969 I also designed the national NOW logo at the request of Aileen Hernandez, the President of the National Organization for Women. 

I was president during the 1970 Strike for Equality, and, along with Debra Biele, Betty Berry  and others I helped produce  the now classic NOW YORK TIMES, with “All the  news that would give The Times fits .” Our STRIKE COMMITTEE   helped organize radical feminists and NOW members  to plan  demonstrations around the city. On August 10, 1970, my New York Chapter took over the Statue of Liberty.  A committee, led by Pat Lawrence, with help from NYNOW and about 100 NOW and radical feminists,  raided Liberty Island, took over the Ms Liberty and hung a 40 ft banner,  WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE  on its top balcony. The photo of the takeover went around the world.

On August 26, 1970, I led my New York Chapter in the first Women's Equality March down Fifth Avenue. Many of us who were organizing for the March did not know how many would turn out. When I rounded the corner on Fifth Avenue I was stunned by the multitude that stretched as far as I could see. The reported number of marchers was over fifty thousand.

In 1971, after my second term as president, I left NOW and decided to spend my time and energy on my other loves -- acting, comedy and the growing gay rights movement. I moved to Los Angeles, studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute and later toured the country for several years performing  my  lesbian feminist one-woman show, “The Many Faces of Woman.”   In 1972 my husband and I divorced. In March, 1974 I took part in a series of NOW feminist theater presentations called Women for Women, at Town Hall in Manhattan. In 1976, I was hired as the Women’s Program Director at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center.   Also, with long-time activist Morris Kight, I founded and organized the Coalition for Human Rights, joined by other Lesbian/Gay community leaders. It’s purpose was to organize southern California to fight the onslaught of California State Senator John Briggs attack on lesbian and gay teachers in California. The attack was fueled by an Anita Bryant-led campaign against gay men in Florida. An Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians and their supporters from being employed in California's public schools, became known as the “Briggs Initiative/No on Proposition 6”. It was on the ballot for November 1978. I took  a leave of absence from the LA Center and served as the Southern California Deputy Director in the No on 6 Initiative campaign, which we overwhelmingly defeated in November 1978.

Following the Briggs Initiative victory, Governor Jerry Brown appointed me  Commissioner for the “California Commission on Aging”. I was the first “out” lesbian or gay person to be appointed to a California board or commission.

I was co-founder of the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board in the early 1980s.  In 1983 I founded the first AIDS organization, AIDS Network LA, in Los Angeles, which served as a clearing house for collecting and disseminating information in the early days of the epidemic.  In 1984 I was one of the founders of AIDS Project LA which served those who had been diagnosed with AIDS and provided information to the community on prevention.

In 1986, I co-chaired the grassroots effort to fight another vicious Initiative, “No on LaRouche /Proposition 64.” Lyndon LaRouche from Virginia proposed that AIDS be added to California's List of Communicable Diseases. The Proposition advocated quarantining men all gay men in concentration camps. Sponsored by his "Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee" (PANIC), the proposition qualified for the California ballot. We defeated it. Throughout the 1980s I organized numerous gay-rights marches, protests and "die-ins" and fought to get funding and services for the sick and dying during the AIDS epidemic.

In the 1990's I received the Drama-Logue “Best Performance” award for my role in the play, “Against the Rising Sea". I have served on the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board for the city of West Hollywood from 1999 to Present day. I co-chaired the board for the first ten years. I spearheaded work on bringing attention to partner abuse in the LGBT community, increased focus on "Crystal Meth" addiction, and supported the annual Dyke March.  

I conceived the idea of providing affordable housing for Gay & Lesbian Seniors, the first of its kind in the Country. Many years of hard work culminated in the founding of the non-profit Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing, Inc. in 2005. I’d laid the groundwork by organizing the community  and provided the leadership that resulted in obtaining a grant from the State to move forward with the housing project. This first project, Triangle Square, contains 104 units in the first assistive living, affordable income apartment complex in the country which addresses the needs of LGBT elders 62 and over, located in Hollywood, CA, and open for occupancy in 2007. 

During all this time I continued  painting, drawing and interpreting the human form.  Many of my early works are included in collections on the east coast, where I began my art career. On the west coast I had one- woman shows and   participated in group shows in Pasadena, West Hollywood and Hollywood . I’ve always wanted to paint realistic portraits, so when I discovered the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, in San Fernando Valley, I studied portraiture and figure painting over a period of years.  I gravitated to creating political statement paintings and large-bodied, nude women celebrating the joy of life. As fate would have it, after having macular degeneration for nearly 20 years, my central vision is almost gone and I can no longer see to paint facial detail. So I began to explore other ways to bring life to my Creativity.  All my available art work can be viewed in the gallery section of my webpage,

My current work with the city of West Hollywood, Ca to create The Lesbian Center has been successful.  We now have a building and the center will open in a year or so. On a more personal note, northern California Playwright, Alan Schnupp, and his collaborator, Ellyn Lerner, are writing a play about my life as a lesbian activist.  The play is due to open in 2014 in Los Angeles. I will soon have my own TV show on Public Access entitled Conversation:  Raw , which will deal with issues pertinent to women In all their diversity. I’m also working on two projects; establishing an LGBT Museum and Cultural Center, The Lavender Effect, in Los Angeles and I have just begun preparation for my new one woman show. I’m also working on my autobiography.


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