Lori Nairne, women’s, queer rights and anti-racist campaigner, nurse and homeopath, died of natural causes on Saturday, Aug. 19, aged 65. She was a founding member of Wages Due Lesbians (now Queer Strike) and the Wages for Housework Campaign/SF (WFH) and joint coordinator of the Global Women’s Strike (GWS) Bay Area. A member of the California Nurses Association, she worked for over 25 years for Kaiser Permanente, retiring last year.
Daughter of Andrew and Lois Mae Nairne, Lori was born on Oct. 23, 1951, and grew up in Stockton, California. She made her way to Berkeley and later to what she considered the “Independent Republic of San Francisco.” She was part of the movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, starting with student organizing and the election of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, and the protests following his murder. In 1973, after moving to SF, she met Selma James, who was on a speaking tour for what became the Wages for Housework Campaign (WFH) and embraced that political perspective, to which she dedicated herself for the rest of her life.
Lori became an RN. Selma James recalls: “There was a massive women’s movement for reproductive rights and holistic health. Like many others, Lori wanted a day job that wouldn’t contradict her movement principles. She felt that as a woman, nursing was as close as she could get to humane and caring work.”
In the 1980s she co-coordinated the campaign, initiated by nurses in WFH, which won an upgrade program for Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) who could use on-the-job training as credit towards becoming a higher paid RN. Many benefitted from this program, particularly women of color. She also coordinated an initiative to send medical equipment to the Global South at low cost.
Lori studied at the Pacific Academy of Homeopathic Medicine to become a licensed homeopath. She was appalled at big pharma’s capitalistic domination of healthcare, which she was forced to impose – what she called “Western medicine.” She loved homeopathy’s holistic approach, based on strengthening each individual’s “vital force.” She often did homeopathic consultations for free or low-cost, including via skype in Ireland, Peru, Spain and U.K.
In 2011 she spent a month in Guyana training grassroots women in the Global Women’s Strike network who were interested in learning how to use homeopathy at their women’s center in Georgetown. Her patients remarked that she never rushed you and was eager to learn the details of your health that only you could know (homeopathy depends on this information to find the right remedy). Many cite her caring and her kindness, and what a cheerful temperament she had.
Lori’s impact was profound. In the early days of the LGBTQ movement, before it was generally accepted that lesbian women were and had a right to be mothers, she and others in Wages Due Lesbians/SF organized the first Lesbian Mothers Contingent to Gay Pride. Out of it grew an annual Mothers’ Day in the Park, where lesbian women and their children gathered to picnic and to defend lesbian mothers’ right to custody of their children, which at that time was under threat. She and others in her organization had a close working relationship with Tom Ammiano, gay SF supervisor and California assemblyman, one of the few politicians accountable to the movement.
As coordinator of Legal Action for Women in SF, she co-ran the Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemobile (an English-style double-decker bus) that brought a free legal service to low-income people in different neighborhoods for several years. With Rachel West of US PROStitutes Collective and Margaret Prescod of Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders in LA, she supported the victims of serial rapist and attempted murderer Jack Bokin.
The police and DA had dismissed their brutal attacks because they were mostly sex workers, enabling Bokin to continue raping and attacking. She coordinated a daily court monitoring of his trial and protested on the steps of the court, letting the judicial authorities know that they were being monitored. Bokin was convicted and sentenced to 231 years to life.
In 2015, again with US PROS, the International Prostitutes Collective, formerly incarcerated people (FIPs) and others, she helped win key changes in the way sex workers are seen by the public, treated by the police, and considered by the California Victims Compensation program. Sex workers and most FIPs who are victims of rape or other violent crimes now have the legal right to compensation.
Representing Queer Strike and along with Payday, an international network of men with the GWS, Lori helped spearhead the successful “Grand Marshall, Not Court Martial” campaign for trans military-whistleblower Chelsea Manning to be named Grand Marshall of the 2014 SF Pride March, in which military recruiters were also banned and the pro-corporate Pride board was removed. She was instrumental in getting a member of the campaign on the Pride board.
She did consistent support work for the Haiti Action Committee, the voice of the Haitian grassroots movement in the Bay Area.
She also more recently contributed to the formation of the Omni Collective in Oakland. Lori was a very gifted speaker. On March 8, 2017, she gave a rousing speech, opening the International Women’s Strike event in Oakland; the strike, the first of its kind, took place in over 50 countries.
Lori was involved in two organizing efforts to press Rainbow Grocery Cooperative to remove Israeli goods from their shelves in support of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the murderous apartheid policies of the Israeli government.
Lori was part of WFH delegations to the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, the U.N. Decade for Women in Nairobi in 1985 and its follow up in Beijing in 1995, the World Social Forum in Caracas in 2006, and international conferences in the U.K.
Lori helped raise and continued to be close with Julie, Vicki and Eliot Treece, as well Daniel Chimowitz and Katlian Salley. She would often drive to Oregon to visit her father, stopping at Mount Shasta, where she found spiritual nourishment.
She is survived by her father and her brother Kenneth.
Lori’s reach was national and international. She will be sorely missed by her many friends and close colleagues in several countries and U.S. cities.
A celebration of Lori Nairne’s life will be held at the Omni Collective on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, contact Rachel West, at email@example.com.
Funeral home: Pacific Interment, 1094 Yerba Buena Ave., Emeryville 94608