Susan Reed was born in the midwest to a family with deep farming roots. She grew up participating in 4H and other nature and agriculture-based activities. She attended college in Berkley, California where she bore witness to student activist and military and police violence against students and civilians. She lived in California in the San Francisco Bay area where she worked for Berkley Neighborhood Legal Services, providing support to women getting divorces and restraining orders. In the 1980s Susan and 3 other women decided they wanted to find women-owned land and went to tour women owned properties, which is how she came across the Oregon Women's Land Trust (OWL). She met her partner Sage at OWL, and the two eventually left together because monogamous relationships were against the rules. They moved back to the Bay Area where they lived in Susan's VW bus and inherited an autobody shop from a friend. For 6 months they worked at their shop during the day and slept in their bus at night. Susan was the only woman mechanic at the time to work for the San Francisco BART. Susan and Sage participated in a marriage ceremony before gay marriage was legal, which was officiated by a former catholic priest. They moved to Maine with the intention to go "back to the land," and ended up instead settling in Portland, where Susan now owns an acupuncture practice. They were involved in some of the early pride marches in Portland, as well as feminist and spiritual groups.
In this follow up interview conducted by Dr. Wendy Chapkis, Susan Reed discusses the role of Women’s Music in 1970s lesbian feminism, gay activism in California in the 1970s including the political rise and then assassination of Harvey Milk and the Briggs initiative/Proposition 6 (targeting teachers). The interview also provides more detail about her family including her mother and her mother’s brother who was gay. In the interview she explains that her mother modeled a life of service to others that Susan Reed herself has followed in her career as an acupuncturist. She describes the National Acupuncture Detox Association protocol that she used in relieving trauma among survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She also describes her work with classical Five Element acupuncture. In this follow up interview, Susan also talks more about her 40 year relationship with her partner Sage. She ends the interview urging young people to be careful, to be brave, and to be yourself.
Please cite as: Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.
For more information about the Querying the Past: Maine LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact Dr. Wendy Chapkis.
University of Southern Maine
Family of origin, LGBTQ bars, California, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkley, Midwest, farming, 4H, business, employment, activism, protests, relationships, gay marraige, women's land, Oregon Women's Land Trust, Maine, religion/spirituality.
History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies
Chapkis, Wendy, "Reed, Susan" (2019). Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection. 50.
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