San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and the St. James Infirmary, named for its most storied founder Margo St. James, announced that St. Valentine’s Day in San Francisco is now officially, Margo St. James Day.
St. James, who founded the prostitutes’ rights organization, COYOTE, (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), and later, the St. James Infirmary, was honored by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at its January 26, 2021 Board Meeting. “I am thrilled to honor Margo in this way. She was a tireless activist, and with a broad smile and sharp wit, exposed hypocrisy in public policy. What better way to honor a great sex worker than to name St. Valentine’s Day for her,” said Mandelman.
Link to Supervisor Mandelman’s legislation, declaring St. James Day in San Francisco https://sfgov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9169059&GUID=2180FB80-5F05-4E53-91F1-139334F73203
Veronica Vera, writer and former member of P.O.N.Y. (Prostitutes of New York) said of San Francisco’ Re-Naming of Valentine’s Day, “Margo turned St. Valentine’s Day into a celebration of women’s liberty. She used the joy of the Day to draw back the curtain on laws that marginalized mainly women. It’s taken all these years but look at what the New York State Legislature finally did – they repealed a law that sanctioned arresting people for standing on the street. Margo championed the disparity in bad laws starting Mother’s Day, 1973 when she founded COYOTE.”
Anita O’Shea, Operations Director for the St. James Infirmary also announced that a Celebration of Margo’s life is planned for May 1, 2021. O’Shea said of the event, “As Margo would say, ‘We want everyone to come.’” The online event will begin at 11 AM Pacific time on May 1, 2021. More details will appear on the St. James Infirmary website, at www.stjamesinfirmary.org
The St. James Infirmary, the first of its kind occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers in the US was founded in 1999 by St. James, Johanna Breyer and Dawn Passar, both of the Exotic Dancer’s Alliance, and with the help of Margo’s former campaign manager, in collaboration with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The St. James Infirmary was designed originally by Priscilla Alexander, who headed COYOTE with Gloria Lockett, now retired, but who for over 30 years, was the Executive Director of CAL-PEP, (California Prostitutes Education Project) of Oakland, CA. Alexander developed a model for a peer-based health care clinic while working at the World Health Organization in Geneva, at the height of the AIDS pandemic.
Management at the St. James Infirmary come from the very same population served. In every way, the provision of health care is non-judgmental, informative, and has become a model for providing peer-based health care. Over the last twenty years, volunteers and staff have received PhD’s, become health educators, and collaborated with doctors at UCSF on studies, presented at the World Health Organization, and have found their own positions in health care, including contact tracing in this new global pandemic.
St. James Infirmary’s first Executive Director Johanna Breyer said of St. James, “She was a life force, a total BOSS and a friend and mentor to us all. Her memory, generosity, and kindness along with her fierce advocacy and unforgettable laughter are not just worth celebrating but honoring by passing on her legacy to the next generation of radical women.”
The announcement for the May 1, 2021 Celebration is attached, and was designed by Hoshi Hana, a member of the Art Tarts, part of the Margo St. James Memorial Collective.
Donations toward memorial organizing can be made here.