In Memoriam: Peggy Luhrs, 1945-2022 | In Memoriam | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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In Memoriam: Peggy Luhrs, 1945-2022 

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I met Peggy Luhrs in the early 1970s. Except for her son Justin and her former husband, I knew her the longest amount of time of her Vermont friends. With all the controversies in which she roiled with us, Peggy was a huge voice in Burlington, in Vermont and, at the end of her life, in the world.

I first met Peggy when we were young mothers. We were married to decent and supportive husbands, and all of us were watching with astonishment as the civil rights and anti-war movements shook our consciousness and conscience and, along with the musician Marvin Gaye, made us ask “What’s Going On”?

Peggy was then, and remained throughout her life, willing to ask the tough questions and look for real answers, no matter how uncomfortable they turned out to be. I remember her as a rebel intellectual — the tough girl who was, in the language of the day, a “beatnik.” She was a poet like the Beats were, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and she read books. She read the newspapers, too, even the then-right-wing Burlington Free Press.

As the world exploded in rebellions and protests, Peggy and many of the women and men of that era sought to understand our history, our consciousness, our bodies, ourselves, our purpose.

In the early '70s, Peggy and some of us formed a group of women seeking to develop, from our own experiences as girls and women, a political understanding of what was going on for females and why male-supremacist institutions — the church, the family, the state — had, from the dawn of history to the present, oppressed and controlled the lives of girls and women everywhere. Feminism and the women’s liberation movement burst into history.

That consciousness-raising group changed us. And Peggy was a key consciousness raiser. Together we read journals like Notes From the First, Second and Third Year; No More Fun and Games; The Woman-Identified Woman; and Ms. Magazine. We read Our Bodies, Ourselves, and we attended women's conferences and dances; we also read and discussed Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir, and Greek lesbian poets like Sappho. We explored the condition of women and girls of all races in the world, not just in the West but in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We learned about sexual pleasure, soul music, jazz, literature and poetry. We learned how to think critically, and we came to feminist understandings. We learned how to argue and engaged in fierce debates: Should a feminist sleep with men in a woman-centered world? We had fun together and gave riotous parties. For, as Emma Goldman asserted, “What was a revolution if you could not dance?”

Peggy contributed to the creation of feminist institutions: the Vermont Women's Health Center, Women Against Rape, Women Helping Battered Women, the Burlington Women's Council, Gay Pride Day. In those years, Peggy came out as a lesbian and devoted herself to the love of women — a love from which she never wavered.

To the end of her life, Peggy fought in Vermont for the key feminist truth: to create and maintain a world of peace, equality, truth and beauty. Women — our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, colleagues and friends — must be respected and trusted to take their rightful places as equals to men in the shaping of a brave new world. That message is as powerful and true today as it was when Peggy was with us.

—Sandy Baird

P.S. Seven Days stated that I thought of Peggy as a “compatriot.” I never would have associated Peggy with that word, which comes from patriarchy. To many of us, I said she was a “comrade.”
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