LGBTQ community remembers lesbian activist Ivy Bottini
The LGBTQ community has come together to remember iconic lesbian activist and feminist Ivy Bottini, who recently died at the age of 94 on Thursday, February 25.
Ivy died in Florida where she had been receiving hospice care at home. She is survived by her daughters Lisa and Laura, and a grandson, Jason.
A remembrance of Ivy Bottini
Many remembered Ivy, ranging from the LGBTQ community as well as those in West Hollywood, where she had spent 22 years.
Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said that with the passing of Ivy, “our community lost a tireless activist and queer community shero.”
Ivy had briefly served as the Center’s director of women’s programs in the 1970s.
Jean further said Ivy “never hesitated to express her opinion and never ceased her efforts to make the world a better place for LGBT people.”
Likewise, West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath paid tribute to Ivy on Instagram: “Today, we lost a titan in our queer and feminist communities.”
The transformation of a life
Born Ivy Gaffney on 15 August 1926, she grew up in Malverne, New York on Long Island. Her father was a cab driver and amateur boxer who taught Ivy how to box.
When her father died in an accident, Ivy and her mother were left poor. Fortunately, the Pratt Institute of Art and Design gave Ivy a full scholarship in 1944 to study advertising, graphic design, and illustration.
She went on to work in art and advertising agencies in New York City and became an art director and illustrator for Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.
In 1952, she married Eddie Bottini, a neighbor, and they had two daughters. They lived in Levittown, Long Island and owned and operated three art galleries. But even before, Ivy was already questioning her sexuality.
Her first step towards her true self was in 1966, when she attended a meeting with Betty Friedan, the author of the iconic book on feminism, “The Feminist Mystique.”
Ivy Bottini as an activist
Ivy helped the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) when it was founded in New York City, where she served two terms as president. She also served three years on their national board.
In an interview with WEHOville, she said, “I felt passionate to spread the feminist consciousness raising because it so changed women’s lives.”
In 1968, she accepted the fact that she was a lesbian. She later revealed this on TV after during a NYC NOW press conference.
Because of this, she made lesbianism a feminist issue. During a protest march, she helped other members distribute purple armbands to support lesbians.
She was voted out as president in a move orchestrated by Friedan to kick out lesbians from NOW.
Ivy recalled that, “They wanted to keep lesbianism out of feminism. And there were a lot of closeted lesbians in NOW.”
Becoming a lesbian finally
In 1972, Ivy divorced her husband and moved to Los Angeles to focus on acting and comedy. At that time, she was also involved in the gay liberation movement.
After taking off time from the LA LGBT Center, she worked as the Southern California deputy director for the “No on Proposition 6” campaign.
She was later appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown as the first out lesbian person to the California Commission on Aging.
In the 1980s, she co-founded the co-founded the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board, the AIDS Network LA (the first AIDS organization), and the AIDS Project LA (now APLA Health).
She also pushed for the creation of Triangle Square apartment complex for LGBT people 62 and older. She also co-founded the non-profit Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing in 1993.
In 1999, she was appointed to the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board.
A life well- and fully-lived
She suffered from Grave’s Disease, a thyroid condition, in 1974. She moved back to New York so her mother could take care of her. She intended to stay in New York but something else happened.
During a NOW conference in San Francisco on April 1975, she met and fell in love with Dottie Wine. She returned to California and the two moved in together.
The couple had an on-again-off-again relationship for 45 years, and even during the times they weren’t together, they remained close friends.
Ivy also continued her passion for art, performing a lesbian feminist one-woman show, “The Many Faces of Woman,” in the 1970s throughout the country.
She also had one-woman art shows as well as being part of group shows in Hollywood, Pasadena, and West Hollywood.
In 2019, her health was declining so she moved to Sebring, Florida to live with her daughter Lisa and her wife Beth Perron.
When Ivy died, she was “at home surrounded by her daughters with her minister beside her reading the latest news in LGBTQ rights,” tweeted newly-elected West Hollywood City Councilperson Sepi Shyne.