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Finding Aid for the Judy Freespirit papers, 1971-1983
1956  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Judy Freespirit was born Judith Louise Berkowitz in 1936 in inner city Detroit, Michigan to a working class Jewish family of Eastern European descent. She often points to her early life as formative for her political and activist work later as well as crediting theatre and dancing as positive outlets for frustration. An incest survivor who was pressured to diet beginning at age eight, she developed a love of the stage and a well defined sense of humor. Judy Freespirit was a lifelong activist and advocate for Jewish, lesbian and fat rights. With a background in radical therapeutic theory and practice as well as a community organizational ethic, she formed the Fat Underground in 1976, an organization devoted to both informing and mobilizing the public. Freespirit was also a writer and performer, lending her talents to a traveling Anti Briggs Initiative show and continuing to perform in both group and individual contexts. She continued to perform, educate, and counsel up until her death in 2008. This collection includes materials with her married name, Judith Ackerman because she continued to use it for legal purposes after her marriage. It contains written and published materials by Judy Freespirit, as well as other materials that are part of her personal collection of political writings and community information. The bulk of the writings in this collection are focused on Freespirit's fat activism, specifically through her involvement with both Radical Therapy practices and the Fat Underground.
Background
Judy Freespirit was born Judith Louise Berkowitz in 1936 in inner city Detroit, Michigan to a working class Jewish family of Eastern European descent. She often points to her early life as formative for her political and activist work later as well as crediting theatre and dancing as positive outlets for frustration. An incest survivor who was pressured to diet beginning at age eight, she developed a love of the stage and a well defined sense of humor. She attended Michigan State University for two years and majored in drama before marrying. She moved to Japan with her husband after he was drafted, giving birth to her son Joe abroad. She, Joe and her husband moved to Los Angeles in 1960 where she finally finished college and began her work in the psychiatric field, finishing her Master's Degree at the age of 35. Through her discovery of the Women's Liberation Movement in Los Angeles and her professional background, Judy developed and began to share her Radical Therapy skills with the feminist community in small group settings. During this period she came out as a lesbian and left her husband. Along with four others, Judy founded the Fat Underground in 1976. When she moved up to the Bay Area she also founded the Fat Lip Reader's Theatre, a collective of fat women writing and performing comedic, dramatic and musical theatre. In 1978, Judy became involved in working to stop the Briggs Initiative and travelled around California raising awareness and funds for its defeat. After its defeat, she moved to the Berkeley/Oakland area and Judy began to become more focused on her Jewish identity, involving herself in a Jewish Lesbian Writer's group in 1982 and going on to perform and participate at the Jewish Feminist Conference in San Francisco. After suffering from a struggle with asthma and the discovery of severe allergies, Judy became active in the disability movement, working with the World Institute on Disabilities. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Judy wrote and performed prolifically, creating one woman shows dealing with her life as a fat, Jewish, lesbian incest survivor with disabilities. She published in journals, spoke at health conferences, provided counseling and made people laugh. Up until her death she remained an advocate, calling for more visibility of the gay and lesbian community in elder care housing, specifically in San Francisco's The Jewish Home where she passed away in 2008.
Extent
1 box (.5 linear ft.)
Restrictions
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Availability
Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.