Lesbian Activist Sally Miller Gearhart’s Cause of Death
Longtime LGBTQ rights advocate, educator, and author Sally Miller Gearhart’s cause of death has not been revealed yet after she passed away Wednesday on July 14 at the age of 90.
The great woman’s death news was confirmed by one of her close friends Jean Crosby who sent out a heartbreaking email to notify her others friends. May she rest in peace.
Sally Miller was a Virginia native and worked for several years at San Francisco State University. In 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she formed one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the country; also she was an unforgettable author of feminist science fiction.
She campaigned against California’s Proposition 6iIn 1978, a ballot measure that would have barred gays and lesbians from schooling in the state’s public schools. It was called the Briggs Initiative for its author, state Sen. John Briggs. She entered Harvey Milk in answering Briggs; a clip of the debate was included in the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Voters ended up rejecting the initiative.
“Harvey Milk and I did wonderful things together. We looked like mom and pop,” she said in the 2018 short documentary A Great Ride, from filmmakers Deborah Craig and Veronica Deliz. The film focused on the all-female community, Women’s Land, that Gearhart created in Willits.
What was Activist Sally Miller Gearhart’s Cause of Death?
Although there is no report about activist Sally Miller Gearhart’s cause of death, according to sources, she had been in poor health for years and had recently relocated from her home in Willits, Calif., to a care facility in nearby Ukiah.
Gearhart appeared in another doc, 1993’s Last Call at Maud’s, about a famed San Francisco lesbian bar, and a feature-length documentary centering on her is in production. Craig who is the director of Sally, recently got a California Humanities grant.
“Hopefully we can make a great American story of transformation,” Craig explained. “She was this small-town Southern girl and becomes a character and leader and icon. A lot of people, women especially, felt she hasn’t gotten her due. She was written out of the Milk film [the 2008 narrative film starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk]. I try not to pass judgment, but that is what happened.”
Gearhart had been in bad health condition for several years and had recently moved from her home in Willits, Calif., to a care facility in nearby Ukiah.
She was portrayed in another dramatized project, the 2017 TV miniseries When We Rise, in which she was played by Carrie Preston.
Among her other activities, in the 1970s Gearhart was co-chair of the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, which educated people about LGBTQ+ issues in Judeo-Christian faiths. In 2016 she was honored for her achievements with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s Heritage of Pride, Pride Freedom Award.
“Losing Sally is like a huge tree falling,” her friend Ruth Mahaney said in a post on the GLBT Historical Society’s Facebook page. “She was very tall, and she was so important in the world.”
“Sally’s contributions to LGBTQ history and culture were immeasurable,” GLBT Historical Society Executive Director Terry Beswick said in the same post. “She was a courageous fighter for equality at a time when it made an indelible difference then and now. So many people do not know her story, and I’m so glad that there is a documentary in the works to honor this unsung hero.”