CONWAY, Mass. (AP) — About 40 bumper stickers decorate the back of Mary McClintock’s Hyundai.
They consist of messages such as “I’LL BE POST-FEMINIST IN THE POST-PATRIARCHY,” “Support Organic Farmers” and “Boycott Bottled Water.” But there is another saying, which does not appear on her hatchback, that speaks to her.
Poet Alice Walker is credited with saying something along the lines of, “Activism is my rent for living on the planet.”
These words serve as an adage for how McClintock has lived much of her life.
The Conway resident has been an activist “since forever,” advocating for the LGBTQ community, volunteering to feed the hungry, organizing women’s rallies, helping inmates transition back into society, protesting for peace and connecting people with public resources.
McClintock, who grew up in northern California and attended kindergarten and first grade in Hawaii, is employed at Community Action Pioneer Valley, where she works as a community collaboration coordinator. She also works with the Franklin County Resource Network, a group representing more than 60 social and human service agencies. She is proud to say about 600 people receive its newsletter and about 50 attend its monthly meetings. McClintock co-chair’s the resource network’s Franklin County Hunger, Franklin County Transition from Jail to Community, and Public Policy task forces.
As part of her work with Community Action Pioneer Valley, McClintock helped establish the Look4Help Public Resource Directory, a free, web-based public information service that connects people with nearly 1,000 agencies, programs or services at more than 450 locations. The website is look4help.org.
“It’s a great resource for everybody,” she said, adding that it’s “better than randomly Googling around.”
Being true to herself
McClintock, 62, lives a life of activism by living her life. She realized her homosexuality in 1975, as an 18-year-old student at Mount Holyoke College, though fear of repercussions prevented her from telling anyone for a year.
She was living in San Francisco for six months in 1978 when the Briggs Initiative came up for a vote in that state. Officially called California Proposition 6, the failed ballot initiative sought to ban gays and lesbians from working in the state’s public schools. It is named after its sponsor, conservative former state legislator John Briggs. McClintock said she “did phone banking and envelope stuffing” to help defeat the measure and worked to put “a human face to this human issue.” She said gay icon City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual elected official in California history, was instrumental in the initiative’s defeat.
McClintock eventually settled in Conway and rented out part of a two-family household. She recalled a time in the late 1990s or early 2000s when teenagers drove by shouting homophobic remarks at her two tenants. This proved to McClintock that more education was necessary and she got involved in LGBTQ community organizing.
She has organized several performances by lesbian playwright/actor Carolyn Gage, as well as a concert by a lesbian band from Arkansas. She also helps organize potlucks and other events for lesbians and recently helped organize an intergenerational lesbian event. Though she is not involved in Franklin County Pride, she has attended the marches and rallies, carrying a sign that on one side says “Still lesbian after all these years” and on the other side “Someone was brave before me, I walk in her path.”
She tells a story of a college friend who never returned to school after being withdrawn and admitted to a mental hospital on suspicion of being a lesbian.
But, she said, the 1970s were a much different time. This was before the internet — and it was difficult for people questioning their sexual orientation to find books and other materials to help them cope. She is nostalgic for the community spaces in the area that served as safe havens and gathering spots for members of the LGBTQ community, though she is pleased gays and lesbians feel more comfortable in the world.
Fighting for peace
The 1970s and ‘80s were a long way away from widespread public support for gay adoption of children, same-sex marriage and the legislation that repealed the U.S. military’s policy of barring homosexuals from serving openly. McClintock is relieved people can live their lives with more choice, though having more people sent to war was never one of her goals.
McClintock and friend Susan Dorazio were going to a peace vigil in Amherst every week and decided to start their own at the Greenfield Common in September 2002, about six months before the start of the war in Iraq. She said she and Dorazio were walking up to the common from the west on their way to the first Greenfield vigil when they, by coincidence, were met by two other women, armed with signs, who were walking up from the east for the exact same protest at the exact same time.
Vigils have been held at the common every Saturday since, with a recent focus on stopping a war with Iran.
“Sometimes it’s a few people,” she said, “and sometimes it’s a lot of people.”