Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Free Clinic: Interview with Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson

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Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Free Clinic: Interview with Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson


lesbian, Tucson, activism, history, feminists, 1970s, collectives, media


Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Free Clinic: Interview with Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson 12:07

Southwest Feminists Reunite celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Southwest Feminist Festival Retreat held north of Tucson. That powerful experience in March 1973 and the dynamic creativity and political action that followed sparked feminists and lesbian feminists to reinvent their lives and organize for change over the next four decades. This collection consists of oral histories and digital scans of photographs from the past 40 years.


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives
Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer


MiniDV tapes recorded on Panasonic DVX-100A digital video camera


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives


16 March 2013


Southwest Feminists Reunite, Lavina Tomer, and Deborah Dobson


Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives


Southwest Feminists Reunite


H.264 300Kbps streaming QuickTime movie, 320 x 240

Free Clinic: 12:06 and 26.2MB





Alternative Title

Interview with Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson

Date Available

6 January 2014

Date Created

16 March 2013

Rights Holder

Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives
Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Jamie A. Lee


Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson


Transcription by Courtney Martinez

All right so I’m gonna have you both introduce yourselves to the camera and then go ahead and tell me about the free clinic.

Sandra Anderson:
Okay, I’m Sandra Anderson and uhm…I am now retired and I live in Tucson. I came to Tucson to…and I was teaching at the college of nursing, nursing is a whole part of my life story and is part of my connection with the free clinic.

Debby Hamolsky:
I’m Debby Hamolsky and I came from…you know…I kept coming west but the time before Tucson was in Cleveland and I was very involved with free clinics there and then I did this Sojourn in my van traveling around the country looking alternative healthcare delivery. Three weeks at Frontier nursing service etc. And…uhm…when I landed in Tucson, my first job in this city was doing this health care survey, the health department right and learning my way around the city through having this joyous thing of walking into peoples homes and taking surveys. Anyway so I was involved in free clinics then...uhm...became connected to the Tucson clinic...uhm...and the director of the free clinic was a woman by the name of Colleen Eligante whose…wasn’t able to come this week and she was the one missing member of the avenue group right…so…uhm...and Colleen had a lot of really great organizational skills…right?

Sandra Anderson: Yes, she did…

Debby Hamolsky: She was a real….

Sandra Anderson: It’s nice to remember her…

Debby Hamolsky:
….good organization person with a lot of passion and commitment to doing it. Uhm…and we li..we were in a little small place and then we moved to this very big fancy house on Franklin Street and I can remember having a very class based conversation with Colleen…where…you know…I come from a middle to upper middle class family and Colleen came from a poor family. And I was horrified that we were going to move into some fancy big place and spend money that way. And she was totally committed to having this beautiful place for people that didn’t have other resources and she won that argument and I think it was great that she did.

Sandra Anderson:
And that must have been 1974/75/76 maybe…those are the years I remember because, it’s very connected to the women’s clinic starting as an off chute to the free clinic…

Debby Hamolsky: That’s right…

Sandra Anderson: And I think the free clinic was located on Scott street wasn’t it?

Debby Hamolsky:
Uh-huh, originally, I think so, I’m not good at remembering names…

Sandra Anderson:
Scott or 6th Avenue…I’m not sure, I kinda have a picture of it…I wasn’t very involved with them…but then the women decided that they wanted to have their own clinic and it was…it’s all kinda vague to me…the part that I remember the most is above the pre-natal clinic…and we….

Debby Hamolsky: Cause that’s what you do…

Sandra Anderson:
That’s what I do, I was having babies and I had one and it was in the hospital and it wasn’t a good experience and the doctor did everything I asked them not to do. So I really had this experience of women not having a choice. I’d explained my position so well, I was so ready and the doctor just glared at me and said, “Well, I’ll decide that.” And I thought, “Well, you won’t with my next baby,” (laughs) and so I had a personal motivation and investment in the pre-natal part of this also. And I can remember people coming to our hou-to my house and we would meet at that new house that you grew to like…or at individual houses, cause I had a baby, I think that was part of people coming to my house. And I remember everybody sitting on the floor and we had these protocols and we were trying to….do out. Uhm…clinic charges, so the patient had ownership of this chart. That was like a really radical idea….

Debby Hamolsky: Revolutionary idea then…

Sandra Anderson:
…that somehow this information belonged to that woman and they would, they would keep their own chart…and Oh I, we…just…every line had so much discussion to it (laughs). Oh my goodness, yeah…so that’s, that’s part of what I remember. Uhm.. about the free clinic. And my memories are mostly…so did the free clinic continue and then the women’s clinic continued or did the free clinic move to that big house also?

Debby Hamolsky:
The free clinic also was in that big house…the free clinic was in the big house and it became expansive and actually I wound up, not initially, I was involved with it sort of collectively, but then I went on to taking a job for a period of time with the free clinic and I was the…what was I?....the follow up coordinator and kind of navigation I think

Sandra Anderson:
And she was so good. She says Colleen was good but this woman was wise beyond her years and a heart beyond the size of her body that was Debbie, yes.

Debby Hamolsky:
This woman was my professor in the school universe professor in the school of nursing because when I decided to go back to school we wound up moving from a friendship to her being on the faculty of the place whether I was going to be going to school right…so it…you know…I have some wonderful pictures somewhere I couldn’t find’em…from that era too…but it was this profound...uhm…again…like with almost every topic this was the health care piece, right? This was the obviously services are needed; obviously, they are under, under, they’re not done well. And I mean still true, they’re not done well and their not done in the voice of…and we had…we had a women’s clinic we also had an elderly clinic, you know…where these old people were coming because of hypertension mostly…uhm…and…they…they…they had also felt like they were just off the edge, not important anymore and they came to this wonderful, I think it was Wednesday night clinic; so there were all these parts and I lived actually in a fear for awhile cause we were trained, a bunch of us who were not in anyway licensed in health care, well before we went to nursing school. Uhm…we were trained to do breast examines and pelvic's and paps…

Sandra Anderson: Oh yes…

Debby Hamolsky: Right? By uh…a couple of the physicians….

Sandra Anderson: Yes…

Debby Hamolsky:
….that were volunteering at the clinic, right? And in the brazen way that we were doing self-help and everything else, I lived in fear that one of these was going to come back and haunt me at some point after I had a license…but it never did. It was always…

Sandra Anderson: That was in the era of women reclaiming pelvic examines too…

Debby Hamolsky: Yeah!

Sandra Anderson:
…so we always had mirrors and this was always a show and tell (laughs)…and we were sitting around in these circles and just like, “Wow your cervix is so beautiful,” (laughs) we were just really checking out everybody (laughs) it was…and then…I was…

Debby Hamolsky: And it wasn’t sexual

Sandra Anderson: No…it was

Debby Hamolsky:
I mean it wasn’t for me…ever…and I was a lesbian right, so I…it had a whole other feel about it, it was about sharing and discovery just as much as all of our yacking was…

Sandra Anderson:
And I wasn’t a lesbian and this was so totally not important and it’s not important tonight…and…but that’s the way that clinic kind of functioned it was so, really a crazy combination of people. And what I was going to say also is, we were, that was a really alternative kind of track beyond. But many people also had a foot in a very established world. I…Winston Moore was a volunteer doctor he taught at the medical school. I came…

Debby Hamolsky: Winston Moore…

Sandra Anderson: Yeah!

Debby Hamolsky: There’s a name….

Sandra Anderson:
I came as a volunteer in…in the pre-natal unit and I taught at the college of nursing and I think some of what I did in the college of nursing, I could bring…bring…to the…to the free clinic. I also brought this self-pelvic examine to the college of nursing. I made a video that’s still in the medical school…(laughs) of how you do a pelvic examine with an empowered patient and it’s…it makes me blush now to think of it...but it was so…it was so unusual then and people thought it was…wrong also. That you would, that you would have a mirror there and the woman is looking at her own self. That was somehow considered really perverse or warped or something. Anyway…it was…I…with great pride, I made the first video on self-pelvic exams with the university.

Debby Hamolsky:
Right…and it infiltrated in lots of other important ways, first of all it gave us a skill set to bring wherever we went…right?

Sandra Anderson: Uh…huh

Debby Hamolsky:
…And then it was also…I mean there were a whole group of us who became patient advocates and you know sort of connected to Planned Parenthood and then we would debate all the time about whether we were just Planned Parenthood’s best volunteers and co-opted terribly or whether we were actually infiltrating with some know…and that to me went on for ever and ever…So it was an amazing time.

Sandra Anderson: That’s cool…

I have one more that were just slightly late for but …is there any last thing that someone should know about?

Sandra Anderson:
Debbie’s great and I have such fond memories of her and of that time…it was a really special time with such special people….

Debby Hamolsky: It was a really special time…yeah…

Debby Hamolsky:
Exactly…and I stayed in your house when I was visiting Leslie when I first came through Tucson in the fall of ’72, right? But….

Sandra Anderson:
Wow, and just think all the again…the same title…generative, inspirational…in whatever little sub-topic is the theme is clearly the theme… Thank you so much.

Interviewer: Thank you.

End of Interview


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives Anastasia Freyermuth, video producer, “Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ “40th Anniversary Event” • Free Clinic: Interview with Debby Hamolsky and Sandra Anderson,” Arizona Queer Archives, accessed December 6, 2023,