Rebecca Louise Logan (Becky), born January 23, 1945, in Rushville, Illinois, died at 68 of ovarian cancer on July 19, 2013, in Seattle, Washington, where she had lived since 1991.
"A passionate intellect digging for the roots of things in order to change them," is how Becky's friend Aurora Levins Morales described her. She dug for the roots of stories and of people, and she took pleasure in making unexpected connections. With a genius for effective listening, she dug gently into people, understanding them deeply and, without judgment, mentoring them toward achieving their life purposes.
She also saw comic possibilities in life and death, delighting, for instance, in her son-in-law Jerry Landi's indie film "Krackoon," a horror comedy in which citizens and nature resist corrupt developers and politicians.
Music was always a very important part of Becky's being. Throughout her life she participated in various choral groups, starting with her family; all three of her siblings cherish memories of singing "The Messiah" together "with Dad playing the piano and Becky singing a strong alto."
Becky was a lifelong activist. In 1965, while a student at Michigan State University, she participated in the Civil Rights group Student Education Project in Mississippi. In 1967-69, with her husband at the time, Tom Fowler, she served as a teacher in the Peace Corps in Colombia. After returning to the States she moved to Ithaca, New York, where from 1970-74 she taught a weekly seminar at Cornell on poverty and social welfare. From 1970-76 she served as co-director of Storefront, a welfare rights organization. From 1982-91 she served as coordinator of employment, education, and training programs at the Displaced Homemakers Center. In her spare time she co-founded Women for Nonsexist Education, co-organized and administered Labyris: A School for Women, and organized in-service education for elementary school teachers on racism, sexism, and poverty. And as if that weren't enough, she co-organized an alternative school for her children.
Becky and Tom and the kids lived at Elm Street, a communal household in Ithaca where, among other adventures, over time she discovered herself as a lesbian. Her mainstay in rearing Geoffrey and Kristen was Shad Reinstein, briefly her partner and ever after a friend of her heart and sister dyke. A mother of great devotion and determination, Becky struggled to protect and to create opportunities for her two children, her surrogate daughter Jennifer King, and many other children who came her way. She challenged the children to think for themselves, and even when there was little money, Becky could be resourceful in conjuring up exciting projects and experiments, such as the time they visited a scientist's lab at Cornell as a birthday present for Kristen.
Always passionate about education for girls and women, she earned a masters in adult education and women's studies at Vermont College in 1988. Later in life she focused on researching the lives of ordinary people, exploring which stories get told, how, and by whom. An inspired and meticulous researcher and connector of historical dots, she wrested fascinating stories from sparse records. Her 2001 PhD dissertation (for Union Institute), "Witches and Poisoners in the Colonial Chesapeake," examined how issues of gender, class, and race played out in the fates of five women accused of harming neighbors or slaveholders via witchcraft or the allied crime of poisoning. She deeply loved working as an independent historian and genealogist, and as Aurora has recognized, turning genealogy into "familial social history."
In the last three years of her life Becky participated in New Legacy Puget Sound, a Seattle group in which descendants of enslaved African-Americans and descendants of slaveholders come together for interpersonal and societal healing from the legacy of American slavery.
She was preceded in death by her granddaughter Fiona Landi. She leaves behind her loving partner of 18 years, Ruth Hooper; her son Geoffrey Fowler of Carey, North Carolina; her daughter Kristen Landi (Jerry) of Bronx, New York; grandchildren Anya Landi and Nicholas Fowler; siblings Mary Jo Siders, Robert Logan, Kathryn Logan, and many nieces and nephews. Also grieving her loss are Sarah Allen, Shad Reinstein, Jody Laine, Jennifer King, Kathy Rodgers, Mary White, Aurora Levins Morales, Joanne Ward, her cats Spider and Bee, and many beloved friends.
Memorial services will be held in the fall in Seattle and Ithaca. Tributes maybe made to the Rosenberg Fund for Children, 116 Pleasant St., Ste. 348, Easthampton, MA 01027, www.rfc.org, designated "in memory of Becky (Rebecca) Logan."
Published in The Seattle Times from July 26 to July 27, 2013