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Florynce R. "Flo" Kennedy, the flamboyant feminist who lead a "pee-in" at Harvard to protest the lack of women's bathrooms on campus, died last month at 83.
A lawyer, activist and founder of the Feminist Party, Kennedy was for a time one of most well known--and controversial--black political figures in America.
It was near the height of her fame in 1973 that Kennedy led a mass urination outside Lowell Hall to protest the lack of women's restrooms at
Harvard and throughout the country. On May 24, 1973 Kennedy and a small group of fellow protesters marched though the Yard, around the Design School and Memorial Hall to Lowell Hall, which they identified because it lacked a single woman's bathroom.
"To pee or not to pee, that is the question...pee on Harvard Yard," Kennedy chanted for the benefit of a crowd of onlookers lured by a brief story on the bottom of the front page of that day's Crimson.
Discretely, historians have not noted whether or not the protesters followed through on their threat, though newspaper accounts suggest that may have done so.
The protesters also rallied against pay toilets, reading a poem written for the occasion by Mage Piercy entitled "To the Pay Toilet." ("You strop my anger especially when I find you in a restaurant or bar.")
"If God had meant to have pay toilets, we would have been born with exact change," one of the protester's posters read.
In a news brief on the event, the official Harvard Alumni Bulletin was quick to note that Harvard has "few (if any)" pay toilets.
Kennedy was in town for a convention of the Feminist Party, which included quotations and the performance of a satirical "Cinderella."
Though her only pee-in, the Harvard protest was not Kennedy's only foray into urinary politics: She was involved in planning the "Hollywood Toilet Bowl" festival, a protest of the treatment of women in the media, which also took place in 1973.
And in her autobiography, she recalls a protest she attended in the '60s in which her colleague Kate Millett set up a toilet stool outside the Colgate-Palmolive building in New York City and covered it with Colgate products.
As Ellen Frankfort wrote in the Village Voice, Kennedy tried to use "illogic to prod into consciousness the undercover connections between the wastes of the body and the stench of the body politic."
Kennedy knew that lot of people thought she was off her rocker.
"A lot of people think I'm crazy," she is quoted as saying in Sydney Stern's biography of Gloria Steinem. "Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I'm not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren't like me."
Born the second of five daughters to a Pullman Porter in segregated Kansas City, Kennedy worked in a hat shop that she opened with her sisters before she left for New York at age 26.
There, she attended Columbia Law School, where she gained admittance after threatening an anti-discrimination suit.
Shortly after her graduation, she opened her own law firm, which blossomed. She became involved in representing radical and feminist groups, and, quickly, as a leader of the groups themselves.
"I think we should all be kicking ass fairly regularly," she wrote of her activism in her autobiography. "I don't think we should continue to permit the Establishment to feed us only what they think we should have."
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