Jody Aliesan Photograph Collection, circa 1950s-2000s  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Aliesan, Jody
Jody Aliesan Photograph Collection
circa 1950s-2000s (inclusive)
.88 cubic feet (3 boxes)
Collection Number
Jody Aliesen photographs, slides, negatives and personal correspondence
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Jody Aliesan, born JoAnne Armstrong in 1943, was a poet, writer, and activist in the Pacific Northwest from 1970 until her death in 2012. She published eleven books of poetry and countless poems in regional, national, and international publications. Aliesan was active in numerous political and social movements, including the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the second wave feminist movement in the 1970s, and the peace movement from the 1960s to the 2000s. She was an active supporter of equal rights for all and advocated for environmental preservation and sustainability, both in the Pacific Northwest and on a global scale.

Born in Missouri, as a youth Aliesan moved with her family to Kansas, Texas, and El Segundo, California, where she completed high school. While in high school, she studied as an American Field Service exchange student in Flensburg, Germany. Following her graduation from El Segundo High School in 1961, she attended Occidental College in Los Angeles where she received a Bachelor’s degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies in 1965. While at Occidental, she returned to Germany through an International Fellowship to the North Frisian Islands in 1964. After completing her Master’s Degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1968, she moved to Alabama, where she spent a year teaching at Miles College. After short forays to Washington, D.C. and Chicago to work for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, Aliesan moved to Seattle in 1970.

In Seattle, Aliesan became involved with the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) Women’s Commission and the Young Women’s Christian Association of the University of Washington (UW YWCA). In her words, she and other ”early second-wave feminists took over the UW YWCA and turned it into a women’s center, where a number of organizations got their start -- like the Lesbian Resource Center, Rape Relief, and Aradia Clinic.” Aliesan’s official role at ASUW was as a writer and researcher, but she considered herself “an outside agitator.” She wrote two reports for that organization (“A Report on the status of women at the University of Washington”) -- one focusing on faculty and staff, the other on students -- that resulted in a class action suit and breakthrough changes for women at the university. In 1971, Aliesan was appointed to Seattle’s first Women’s Commission, from which she resigned after a year of discord and controversy among the commission. Aliesan also served as a consultant for the University of Washington Office of Equal Opportunity.

Aliesan’s first decade in Seattle was a time of enormous personal growth. She changed her last name to Aliesan, an Old English word meaning “free.” She released an album of original songs titled “You’ll Be Hearing More From Me” in 1972 and gave musical performances from time to time, although she did not consider herself a musician. She decided to find work that allowed her more time to devote to her poetry, and consequently began working for Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC), an organization with which she was associated for the next three decades. In 1977 and 1978, Aliesan was able to devote all of her working time to her writing as a result of a National Endowment for the Arts literary fellowship, a King County Arts Commission Work-in-Progress grant, and the Snohomish County Poetry in the Cities award.

In 1978, Aliesan was a member of the steering committee for the Citizens to Retain Fair Employment, an organization formed to defeat Initiative 13 which would have allowed employers in Seattle to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1979, Aliesan was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to educate the public in environmental sustainability and conservation techniques. This project, dubbed Urban Homestead, entailed Aliesan hosting four public open houses at her home and writing a regular column in the Seattle Times about her techniques and environmental ethos.

During the 1980s, Aliesan purchased a plot of land on Waldron Island, a remote, rustic location in the San Juan Islands that has no commercial businesses, public utilities, or paved roads. She designed and built a cabin on the land, using it as a writing retreat, and was welcomed into the small, reclusive community. She was active in the fight to curtail logging on the island and to preserve the land as part of the San Juan Preservation Trust.

In 1984, during her tenure at the University of Washington Continuing Education department, she worked as the Coordinator for the Braille Project, which used new software to convert conventional text into Grade II Braille. A Braille version of one of Aliesan’s books, Desire, is included in this collection. She also taught continuing education classes on poetry and writing, as well as poetry workshops, during this period.

In 1999, Aliesan co-founded the PCC Farmland Fund (now the PCC Farmland Trust), a nonprofit group that works to save threatened Washington farmland. She served as President of the Fund from 1999 until 2005, when she emigrated to Canada. Her decision to emigrate came after the onset of the 2003 Iraq War, and she was able to attain full Canadian citizenship before her death in 2012.

Although she had many interests, causes, and places of employment, Aliesan’s focus was always her writing. From 1975 to 2006, Aliesan published eleven books of poetry with local independent presses. Countless poems of Aliesan’s were accepted for publication in local, national, and international journals and magazines. She also wrote a large nonfiction historical manuscript on the Great Irish Famine, which was not published in her lifetime. Her papers also include many files devoted to research for future projects, clippings she found interesting, and jotted ideas for poems on scraps of paper. These files, along with the drafts that show how she developed a poem over time, provide the researcher with a complete sense of Aliesan’s creative process.

Aliesan was unmarried at the end of her life, and never had children. Her legacy is defined by her poems and writing, her activism and advocacy for numerous political and social causes, her fight to save farmland and natural preserves in the Pacific Northwest, and her close personal relationships with friends and family.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs relating to Jody Aliesan and her work including poetry workshops, music and the cabin she designed and built on Waldron Island.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Status of creator's copyrights is unknown for much of the collection; restrictions may exist on copying, quotation, or publication. Users are responsible for researching copyright status before use. Contact University of Washington Libraries Special Collections for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


PhotographsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Wren House Photo Album
circa 2003
Mostly portraits of Aliesan
circa 1971-1998
Correspondence containing photos, O'Craig
Photos from correspondence
Waldron House
Photos enclosed with correspondence, personal Bodeen, Jim
Teaching, High School Poetry Workshop, Yakima, WA.
circa 2000

Slides and NegativesReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Slides and negatives
Subjects include North Frisian Islands, Sierras, Ireland, tattoo and other assorted

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographic prints