Ivy Bottini, lesbian-feminist icon and activist, dies at 94

Lesbian Activist Ivy Bottini

Ivy Bottini, pictured in 2017 at a West Hollywood discussion of her book, “The Liberation of Ivy Bottini,” was been a trailblazing lesbian-feminist activist almost 50 years. Photo: Jon Viscott.

Ivy Bottini, a fierce feminist-lesbian icon who was outspoken and feisty at public meetings and spoke truth to power in Los Angeles and West Hollywood almost 50 years, was still fighting for the LGBTQ community at the very end.

On Thursday morning, Bottini was surrounded by her daughter, daughter-in-law, grandson and pastor. Bottini was advocating for better safety for LGBTQ people at the church she attended. The pastor agreed to institute those measures.

“She then gave a big smile, took her last breath, and then passed away,” said Marna Deitch, a West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory board member, who learned of Bottini’s passing from her daughter-in-law, Beth, who was at Bottini’s bedside.

“Beth said it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen,” Deitch said.

Bottini died at her daughter’s home in Sebring, Florida. She was 94.

Bottini was surrounded by her daughters and grandson and paston. She was 94.

Ivy Bottini, feminist-lesbian activist almost 50 years

Bottini moved from West Hollywood to Florida two years ago to be with her daughter, Lisa, and Beth. Bottini entered hospice early this month. 

Lesbian mentor

West Hollywood City Councilwoman Sepi Shyne said Bottini was a legend, friend, and mentor. The two women got to know each other in 2019  when Shyne first ran for City Council.

“I met her for the first time in her apartment, and we sat down at her kitchen table where she grilled me all about the West Hollywood issues she cared about; over development, the rising cost of living, women’s rights and shrinking green space,” Shyne said. “A week later she called to let me know she is endorsing me and we talked often in the following months.

“I haven’t had many lesbian mentors in my life, but she quickly become mine as well as a dear friend,” Shyne said. “I will miss her very much.”

Early years

Bottini was born Aug. 15, 1926 in New York. She began her career as an illustrator and graphic artist in New York. Bottini studied at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute School of Art, obtaining a certificate in advertising graphic design and illustration, and spent 16 years as an art director and illustrator at the newspaper Newsday. 

Her feminist and lesbian activism trace their roots to 1960s, when Bottini was a co-founder of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). In 1969, she designed the logo that the organization still uses today.

Bottini also pushed for lesbian rights, but in 1970, NWO’s president, Betty Friedan, who didn’t see lesbian activism as part of the women’s rights movement, expelled Bottini and all the other out lesbians.

Pioneering lesbian-activist Ivy Bottini named Woman of the Year

Lesbian activist, icon

Bottini relocated to Los Angeles in 1971 and jumped head first into gay and lesbian activism: co-founding the Coalition for Human Rights; the Los Angeles Lesbian/Gay Police Advisory Board; AIDS Network LA; and AIDS Project Los Angeles, which eventually changed its name to APLA Health.

  • In 1978, Bottini was the Southern California deputy director of No on 6, the campaign that defeated the Briggs Initiative, which would have outlawed gays and lesbians from teaching in California’s public schools. 
  • In 1981, Bottini was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown as Commissioner for the California Commission on Aging, making her the first out lesbian or gay person to be appointed to a state board or commission.
  • In 1986, Bottini later chaired the successful No on LaRouche and No on 64 Initiative campaign that defeated Proposition 64 also known as The LaRouche Initiative, which some people feared might have quarantined people with AIDS.
  • In 1993, Bottini co-founded the nonprofit group Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing, which, in 2007, developed Triangle Square, the first affordable housing complex for gay and lesbian senior citizens in the United States.
  • From 2000 to 2010, Bottini co-chaired the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board for the City of West Hollywood.
  • Bottini’s book, “The Liberation of Ivy Bottini: A Memoir of Love and Activism,” chronicles her life in the trenches fighting for civil rights.

Bottini is survived by her daughters, Laura and Lisa, and her daughter-in-law, Beth, and a grandson.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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