Feminist Kathy Freeperson dies
April 2001

Kathy Freeperson, a published poet, feminist and community activist, died March 26 at Shands due to complications from diabetes. She was 53.

Her writings have been widely published and anthologized nationally and internationally in university literary journals, international anthologies and the feminist press. She was on the National Steering Committee of the Feminist Writers Guild for two years.

She was a founding member of Citizens Against the Death Penalty and the Gainesville Chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. She served on the Human Relations Advisory Board and the Gainesville Commission on the Status of Women.

She was a founding member of Tampa NOW, STOP RAPE and the Tampa FeministTheatre.

She helped set up the State of Floridas first anti-rape, anti-battering services in the Tampa Womens Center. She was instrumental in having gender designations removed from the want ads in The St. Petersburg Times and The Orlando Tribune and she was successful in an employment discrimination lawsuit against a major Tampa corporation that brought women and people of color many gains on radio and TV in Tampa.

She held a bachelor's degree from New York State University at Oneonta and a master's degree from Catholic University in Washington D.C.

At an April 7 memorial celebrating her life, organizers played a tape from 1977 in which Kathy read her poetry, and invited the audience to attend her divorce, which was to be the following day. "After 2 1/2 years living apart from this man the courts have decided I can be my own person," she said. She mentioned that she would be her own lawyer. Talking about the direction of the feminist movement at the time, she commented, "Don't let them lie to you, the radicals are the ones who did everything."

Coworkers in the Tampa Feminist Guerilla Theatre and in the Lutz Liberation Army, a group of feminists who lived in the Tampa suburb during the '70's, remembered direct actions they took, many of which Kathy was the ringleader. At the memorial a co-conspirator in the Lutz Liberation Army joked that she wanted to mention to the FBI "We were just kidding!"

Another friend recalled how, when she retreated into professionalism she would see Kathy on TV at demonstrations. "Kathy, I was scared," she said, and talked about Kathy's courage.

Other friends recalled that Kathy encouraged them in their poetry, and remembered her generosity, her sense of humor, and her ability to blend politics and art.

Friends also recalled her last weeks in the hospital. During that time, Freeperson underwent a surgical amputation of her leg. She asked if she could have the leg, because she said she wanted to send it to George W. Bush, with a note, "This is to kick your ass with."

Survivors include two sisters, Marie De Christo of Vancouver, Wash., and Sandra Gearhart of New York City; a nephew, Jeremy De Christo of Vancouver; her community of friends and her beloved doggettes, Red and Raven. Donations in her memory may be made to the Judy Levy Chapter of NOW or to local animal shelters.

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