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Sally Miller Gearhart

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Sally Miller Gearhart

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Full Name: Sally Miller Gearhart
Born: April 15, 1931
Pearisburg, Virginia, USA
Occupation: Writer, Teacher, Activist
Nationality: American


Gearhart attended an all-women's institution, Sweet Briar College, near Lynchburg, Virginia. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in drama and English in 1952. At Bowling Green State University, she obtained a master's degree in theater and public address in 1953. She continued on at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, getting her Ph.D. in theater in 1956, with the intent of pursuing a life of academia.

Gearhart began teaching speech and theater at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and later moved to Texas Lutheran College (now University) in Seguin, Texas. In both positions, Gearhart lived in the closet, determined to hide her true sexual identity to fit with the culture of the schools. As a professor, she was incredibly popular and sought-after, but her personal life was full of the struggles of living in the closet. This continued until she moved to San Francisco, California, in 1970.

By 1973, Gearhart was employed at San Francisco State University, where she went from teaching speech to teaching women's studies. There, she was able to develop one of the first women and gender studies programs in the United States. She continued at San Francisco State University until her retirement in 1992.

A fund was established by Carla Blumberg, one of Gearhart's former students, in Gearhart's name in January 2008 at the University of Oregon for the Sally Miller Gearhart Chair in Lesbian Studies, as a part of the women and gender studies program.

Gearhart lives north of Willits, California, and labels herself "a recovering political activist."

After Gearhart received tenure from SFS, she was able to continue her writings focused on lesbianism and related political topics, along with becoming politically active, fighting in particular for radical feminist causes.

In 1978, Gearhart fought alongside Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians in the U.S., to defeat California Proposition 6, known as the "Briggs Initiative". Gearhart famously debated John Briggs, attacking the initiative to ban homosexuals from academic positions. A clip of the debate appeared in the documentary film The Times of Harvey Milk, which also included Gearhart talking about working with Milk against Proposition 6, and reactions in San Francisco in the aftermath of Milk's assassination.

Gearhart was also featured in several documentaries, including Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, released in 1977, and "Last Call at Maud's" released in 1993.

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