ⓘ Joann Aalfs


ⓘ Joann Aalfs

Joann Aalfs was born in 1923 in St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Bennington College in 1945, before studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. There, she served alongside her then husband in various Presbyterian ministries, in areas such as Salem, New York and Kasur, Pakistan in 1951–1952. Aalfs began, in 1963, organizing political rallies and social events with women in New Bedford, Massachusetts. At a local YWCA they founded the Womens Awareness Group, alongside a newsletter called Rough Draft, which told the stories of the women within the organization. She would proceed to work with the New Bedford Womens Center in 1972, Women and Violence from 1976 to 1977, and the Southeastern Massachusetts University Womens Center from 1972 to 1978.

In 1980, Aalfs left her abusive marriage and sought shelter at the Battered Womens Shelter in Springfield, Massachusetts. She has four children, including activist Janet Aalfs.


1. Today

By 2004, Aalfs had come out of the closet as a lesbian and had begun organising to help other lesbians in New Bedford, Massachusetts and Northampton, Massachusetts. Her personal archives are in the collection of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.

Aalfs personal papers are held in the collection of Smith College.