Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Weekend Planner: Talk

Putting down her “Recollections of Florence People” in the 1930s, Florence resident Anna Friedrich devoted several pages to Octavia Damon Atkins, one of the founders of the utopian community known as the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, mentioning in passing a man who came to care for Atkins in her dotage: “After her health failed her she had a colored man, by the name of Marion Turner to look after her wants. He served her as cook, attendant, companion and nurse, and was very devoted to her. ... When Marion Turner first came to work for Mrs. Atkins, he was dressed as a woman, and dressed that way for some time, and was spoken of as she. Then he appeared one day dressed as a man and dressed that way for some time. Then he would alternate going back to women’s clothes. He kept everyone guessing was he a man or a woman, much to his own amusement. Finally he wore men’s clothes all the time, saying it was easier to do his work, as he had the care of the horse, the lawn and his household duties besides. He was patient, kind and very good to Mrs. Atkins.”

On Sunday Bet Power of the Northampton-based Sexual Minorities Archives and with Smith College senior Ollie Schwartz will give a presentation on Turner and his relationship with Atkins, with whom he lived from 1898 to 1903 at 115 Pine St. in Florence. “Marion Turner may have been a living embodiment of Florence free-thinking which rejected gender roles and racial bigotry, yet it remains to be decided whether utopia was available equally to Turner as it was to white community members of the town in the early 1900s,” Power says.

7 p.m. in the Carroll Room at the Smith College Campus Center at 100 Elm Street. Donation requested to benefit the archives: $10 general; $5 students (ages 18 and under free).

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