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The radical activist Valerie Solanas & Andy Warhol

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Valerie Solanas

The radical activist Valerie Solanas & Andy Warhol

Valerie Solanas was one of the more colorful examples of lesbian history, being a radical feminist who later shot the artist Andy Warhol.

Valerie was so radically extreme that she even alienated her more militant feminist sisters, while others considered her just plain stark raving mad.

Valerie Solanas: A troubled life

Born in Ventnor City in New Jersey on April 9, 1936, Valerie had a bartender for a father (Louise Solanas) and a dental assistant for a mother (Dorothy Marie Biondo).

Valerie claimed she suffered regular sexual abuse from her father. When her parents divorced, her mother remarried but Valerie rebelled against both her mother and her new stepfather.

Because of her truant behavior, she was sent to live with her grandparents in 1949. Unfortunately, her grandfather was an alcoholic who always beat up Valerie, which forced her to run away and become homeless.

Despite this, she had a child named David, who was later adopted. She also graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in psychology, and went on to the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School of Psychology.

However, she dropped out and moved to attend Berkeley where she began to write the SCUM Manifesto.She came out as a lesbian in the 1950s.

Valelie Solanas’ hatred of men

Valerie moved to New York in the 1960s and supported herself through begging and prostitution. During this time, she wrote several pieces, once of which was the self-published work, the SCUM Manifesto.

Considered at times a scathing critique of the patriarchal culture and sometimes a parody of patriarchy and satirical work, the SCUM Manifesto recommends the formation of an organization that would overthrow society and eliminate all men.

Valerie said she was serious when she wrote this piece. This work was later published in several feminist anthologies and translated into different languages.

As the book states in its introduction: “Life in this “society” being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of “society” being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”

Likewise, Valerie described men as “walking abortions.”

Valerie Solanas & Andy Warhol

Valerie made a name for herself in relation to the avant-garde artist Andy Warhol when she shot him on June 3, 1968.

Valerie first met Warhol in 1967 when she was living in New York and she asked him to produce a play she had written.

Warhol agreed to read the manuscript she had given him but later refused to do anything with it because he found it so obscene, he thought it was a ploy by the police to trap him.

Though at first Valerie accepted his reasoning– taking on a walk on part in one of his movies for $25– this enraged her so much she went out and borrowed money so that she could buy a gun.

With this gun, she shot and critically wounded Warhol, and then turned herself in to the police. Valerie pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to prison for three years. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, Warhol was so traumatized by the event that he never fully recovered, wearing a surgical corset for the rest of his life and leaving him with both a fear of hospitals– and Valerie.

“Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or—whether I died. It’s sad,” he told the New York Times in 1968.

Warhol refused surgery for a gallstone in 1973, which later became infected. He underwent surgery on February 21, 1987 but died the next day of a heart attack.

Valerie Solanas and her legacy

Valerie’s action set off a firestorm among women’s groups, with feminists like Ti-Grace Atkinson calling her a heroine of the movement while Betty Friedan condemned her.

After Valerie’s release from prison, she continued to stalk Warhol (being arrested for it) but she also went on to promote her SCUM Manifesto and write new material.

At the age of 52, she died of pneumonia on April 25, 1988 in San Francisco. Her mother burned all of belongings posthumously, and whatever else Valerie had written disappeared from history.

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