Bettina Aptheker

Narrative:78Bettina Aptheker

  • This piece was submitted to Out in the Redwoods as a narrative. Bettina Aptheker declined to be interviewed because she was in the middle of writing a memoir when this project was taking place, and felt it would interfere with that process.


I arrived in Santa Cruz in the fall of 1979 to begin my graduate studies in the History of Consciousness Program. I had two young children, and I was finalizing a divorce from my husband of thirteen years. I was also struggling to claim my lesbian identity. Brutalized by the police and FBI because of my Communist affiliation and radical activism in the 1960s and 1970s, 'coming out' for me was at once traumatic and exhilarating.

Having completed a Master's degree at San Jose State University, I had been teaching African-American and women's studies on that campus for several years. When I arrived in Santa Cruz, I was invited to teach in UCSC's Women's Studies Program. In the winter of 1980, I taught my first Introduction to Feminism class as a seminar with thirty-five students. Embraced by students in that class, and in succeeding years, I grew into my feminist consciousness and my lesbian life.

I met my life partner, Kate Miller, at a Holly Near concert at Santa Cruz's Civic Auditorium in October 1979. We came together in November, and merged households the following June, beginning a lesbian family with three children and two cats. It sounds like a 'case study' out of a sociological text, but it is exactly what happened.

With its staunch feminist organizing, large, visible lesbian community, the Santa Cruz campus and community have provided me with an extraordinary haven. To work here in such a community has been an extraordinary gift. I have worked to repay this gift by teaching in a way that welcomes all students, and that analyzes the ways in which systems of domination by gender, race, class, and sexuality are intertwined. In building upon this analysis, in speaking at events, and supporting students in their organizing efforts, I seek to contribute to our spiritual and collective wellbeing. My gratitude to my students, and to the kindness of faculty and staff with whom I have worked is overwhelming.