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Well-known wordsmith highlights Conversation

Judith Arcana brings decades of activism, writing


by: COURTESY PHOTO - Judith Arcana has received awards, grants, fellowships and residencies from institutions across the country, including the Rockefeller Archive Center, the Puffin Foundation and the Montana Artists Refuge.Two experiences in the early 1970s made Judith Arcana a public person.

She was accused of unorthodox methods and attitudes and fired from her high school teaching job.

Two years later, she was arrested by police as one of seven “Janes,” members of the Chicago underground service — which helped more than 11,000 women and girls obtain safe but illegal abortions — prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Arcana's actions were drops in a larger wave of protest in the years following the civil rights movement — a wave that challenged tradition and law in the streets and in institutions across the country.

No longer a teacher, Arcana began giving talks about what she calls “reproductive justice.” As she became a mother and learned how to raise a child in a post-modern society, she added other women’s health issues to her concerns: sexuality, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, abortion and adoption.

Today, as a longtime teacher of literature, writing and women’s studies, Arcana's work and writing continue to reflect a personal journey influenced by powerful social movements and people struggling for liberation and justice.

She will speak March 25 at Hillsboro's monthly “Conversations with Writers” group.

“I write, I publish what I write, and I perform what I write,” writes Arcana, whose performance venues have included the Washington County Jail. She has a doctorate in literature, a master’s degree in women's studies, an “urban preceptorship” in preventive medicine and a bachelor’s degree in English.

She has received numerous grants and awards and her books include “4th Period English,” “What If Your Mother,” “Every Mother’s Son” and “The Parachute Jump Effect,” her latest poetry collection.

“I work in the theater of writing, wanting my words to rise from page and screen with the music of spoken language,” Arcana wrote on her website. “At the same time, I’ve gotten fiercely committed to the relationship between art and action, the connection of poetry to politics.”



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