Partner Silvia Dobson, Vashte Doublex

Queer Places:
Choices Bookstore & Coffeehouse, 901 De La Vina St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Elizabeth (Betty) Shoemaker (July 7, 1918 - July 16, 2002) was a member of the first ad hoc committee of the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC), which met in San Diego,1989. Betty served on the OLOC Steering Committee for over a year.

Elizabeth Shoemaker was born in Philadelphia on July 7, 1918. Her life path took her from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Santa Fe and finally to Santa Barbara, where she lived her last twenty years. Along the way, this adventurous, courageous woman worked as a taxi driver during World War II, as an exhibition dancer for Arthur Murray, as a sardine packer, and eventually as an administrator at French Hospital in San Francisco. She staunchly supported human rights, donating her time and resources to support the Black civil rights movement; feminism; the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered people; recognition of the old; and the movement for world peace. Throughout the 1980s she provided an alcohol-free gathering place for lesbian events in her home, Starshadows. Betty owned and operated Choices bookstore, offering feminist, lesbian and gay literature to the community. As a member of OLOC, she worked tirelessly. For her last five years, she co-hosted, with Vashte, a weekly lesbian salon in their home, providing a forum for personal and political discussion and a welcoming environment for newcomers to the lesbian community.

Betty Shoemaker (left) and Silvia Dobson in 1987

Silvia Dobson was a schoolteacher and a close friend and lover of the modernist and imagist poet Hilda Doolittle. Dobson spent the last years of her life active in California’s lesbian scene. From 1982 to her death in 1993, Dobson and her last partner, Betty Shoemaker’s ran their home, called “StarShadows,” as “an experiment in collective living,” inviting other lesbians to live with them and build community. They also owned a feminist bookstore, Choices, in downtown Santa Barbara.

In 1984 and 1990 Shoemaker was nominated as Woman of the Year and received the Liberty Award. In 2000 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gay and Lesbian Business Association. Her courage showed in her eagerness to take a cruise down the Mexican Coast in June, when her health was failing. She and Vashte took the opportunity to get in the water and be kissed by a dolphin. She, who hated cold water, was in heaven--and how she enjoyed the gourmet food, as well as traveling on the ocean. Just nine days before her death, Betty celebrated her 84th birthday, looking beautiful and serene, surrounded by many devoted friends and family members.

Betty Shoemaker died from pancreatic cancer at home in Santa Barbara in the arms of her loving partner, Vashte, on July 16, 2002. Betty was survived by her life partner, Vashte Doublex, of Santa Barbara.

My published books:

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