Remembering Judy Freespirit and her chapbook Daddy’s Girl

One of the things we saved from the storage unit was a stack of chapbooks titled Daddy’s Girl by Judy Freespirit. Judy Freespirit was a beloved member of the Oakland, California community; she was an important lesbian-feminist activist and an architect of the fat liberation movement. Judy died on September 10, 2010, shortly after I started editing Sinister Wisdom. Susan Levinkind and Elana Dykewomon were friends with Judy. A stash of some of her physical possessions, in addition to Daddy’s Girl, landed in the Sinister Wisdom storage unit.

Cover of the chapbook Daddy’s Girl by Judy Freespirit
Cover of the chapbook Daddy’s Girl by Judy Freespirit

Daddy’s Girl is a haunting story about incest and child sexual abuse. When Freespirit was fifteen years old, she learned that she was not the only victim of incest in the world; in Daddy’s Girl, she courageously shares her own story of incest to give hope to other victims (and survivors) of incest. Freespirit’s writing in the chapbook is honest documenting the mixed feelings of shame, arousal, confusion, and empathy that she still experiences as a result of her upbringing. Diaspora Press, a radical lesbian separatist publishing and distribution enterprise operated by Elana Dykewomon and Dolphin Waletsky, published Daddy’s Girl in 1982.

We saved every copy of Judy’s chapbooks. They are now available on a sliding scale donation basis on the Sinister Wisdom website. Daddy’s Girl is an important read—and a wonderful artifact of the power of lesbian publishing in the early 1980s.

While I am happy that we saved the chapbooks and are now helping them find a new audience, some of Freespirit’s other artwork went into the garbage. After 2007, when Freespirit moved into The Jewish Home in San Francisco, she embraced visual art as a new form of expression. Some of her artistic creations were in the Sinister Wisdom storage facility and were thrown out in the chaotic forty-eight hours that I cleaned and moved the Sinister Wisdom back issues.

I still think about that action: throwing out the creations of a lesbian. It haunts me. Yes, we cannot keep everything. We all have limits of space, time, and attention. Yet, there is also a commitment that I have that things made by lesbians should be treasured, preserved, cherished. That value shapes much of my work at Sinister Wisdom, both in the creation of new issues and also in the preservation of the past and legacies of Sinister Wisdom. That action is one of the regrets I carry.

For now, though, I invite readers to consider Judy Freespirit’s chapbook, Daddy’s Girl. Published in 1982, Daddy’s Girl is brave retelling of the abuse that Freespirit experienced as a child. Raw and emotional, the chapbook is an important document of lesbian history. The copies available for purchase are limited. Consider sharing it with someone who needs to read Freespirit’s words or ordering it for a library or archive where it might be a small beacon of light to others in some future we do not yet know or imagine.

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