September 20, 1946 - July 2, 2022
September 20, 1946 – 07-02-2022
Portland Peace Activist, Folk Singer Yvonne Simmons dies at 75
Yvonne’s commitment to ending war and violence against women began early. Born in London and raised by a loving mother, Yvonne often recalled playing as a child in “bombed out buildings,” dropping out of school and running away from home at 13 to escape sexual abuse, and sleeping under bridges as a teenage runaway with older, protective anti-nuke, “ban the bomb” street kids.
Still in her teens, Yvonne fled violence and sexual exploitation in London to Fregene, a seaside resort outside Rome, where she found work dancing and singing—often accompanied by her dog Blaquino—at a piano bar frequented by Fellini and luminaries of the international film scene.
Yvonne hitchhiked across the Middle East and crewed a sailboat across the Atlantic, landing in Portland in the 1970s. There, she married David Losh. Yvonne became inseparable from her mother-in-law, Pat Hollingsworth a fierce feminist. Pat and Yvonne organized for decades with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Pat and David both died in 2010.
Yvonne was a founding member of Portland Peace and Justice Works in 1992. In addition to producing her own shows on cable access in the 1980s and 1990s, she filmed and produced videos as a member of the Flying Focus Video Collective from 1991 until her health began to fail in 2012. She also occasionally contributed to the Portland Alliance newspaper.
Together with her dog Mischief (aka Peace Dog), and later Cholito, she was a perennial presence at Portland peace actions and helped organize some of the largest peace demonstrations in Portland history. Yvonne worked in the US and internationally to support the well-being of animals.
Yvonne was named the Oregonian’s Woman of the Year for bringing aid to women and children under siege in Sarajevo in the 1990s. Suffering a brain injury as she was medically evacuated from Sarajevo in 1999, Yvonne had to learn to walk and talk again. She did so, beating the medical odds. Yvonne’s name is etched into the “Walk of Heroines” at Portland State University, near Hoffman Hall.
Yvonne brought the national Clothesline Project to Portland, which enabled survivors of sexual abuse to affirm their strength and sometimes confront their abusers through art. She organized regular vigils in Portland for the international movement Women in Black, and was active also with Code Pink and the Council for Prostitution Alternatives.
Yvonne launched and coordinated a neighborhood level peace camp for children in NE Portland and worked also with families eking out a living on a garbage dump outside Lima, Peru. Throughout her life, she helped raise and mentored several children into adulthood.
Yvonne performed and recorded with activist and WILPF member Mary Rose as “Simmons-Rose. She sang also with General Strike and the Raging Grannies, and routinely burst into song in the middle of conversations.
Yvonne spent her final years in the care of the hard-working staff of Emerson House, to whom we extend our heart-felt thanks.
If you want to make a donation to honor Yvonne’s memory, donate to organizations which:
–support women’s empowerment and/or work to end violence against women
–promote adoption and/or spaying/neutering of animals
–work for peace and/or the delivery of humanitarian aid
–give youth opportunity to create art, music and/or peace initiatives
–use grassroots reporting to get the word out about any of the above.
Many organizations have an “in memory of” checkbox where you can say the money is to honor Yvonne Simmons.