Remembering Priscilla Alexander

Kaytlin Bailey read these remarks at Priscilla Alexander’s funeral on Monday November 20, 2023. A copy was buried with Priscilla, as requested by the Rabbi. 

I met Priscilla Alexander because Melissa Broudo brought me to meet her at her home. She was surrounded by books, sculptures from her travels, and art that she and her mother had made. Over the next few years I sought Priscilla’s guidance and opinion many times, becoming one of many advocates that she inspired and mentored over the years. But it is only in the last few weeks that I have come to understand the scope and breadth of her impact. 

Instead of reading you a biography of her many achievements, I’m going to read a sample of the dozens and dozens of messages Priscilla received from some of the most important and influential people in the sex worker rights movement. 

Veronica Monet writes, “I want to thank you for helping to shape my activism. For giving me the words I needed for the fire that burned in my heart.” 

Jo Wheldon said that Priscilla, “Was a true ally who both listened to us and spoke up for us.”

Melissa Hope Ditmore wrote, “Priscilla’s book, Sex Work, changed the landscape… She inspired many, including me.”

Professor Samantha Majic — “When I taught at Cornell, I assigned her book Sex Work: Writings By Women in the Sex Industry, which was a pathbreaking collection. Priscilla was a brilliant force for good.”

The Stepping Stone Association of Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is the second oldest sex work support organization in Canada, sends their love and gratitude to Priscilla for all she has done.

Cocoa Costales, a sex worker, sends this message: “Even though I do not know you, thank you for the decades of work you did to lay the path for those like me. Because of pioneers and activists like you, we now have growing power, research, data, language, frameworks and networks necessary to continue this fight, expand our reach… The organizing and advocacy happening today is because of people like Priscilla, who dedicated their life to this cause.”

Samantha Miller, an advocate in the late 1980s and 90s who knew Priscilla, sends her love and appreciation. She writes, “I would not have been able to be out as a sex worker and do the political work I did without Priscilla. My son who I named Dodson after Betty Dodson is 29 now and is proud of me being a sex worker. Because of your work I have always been able to talk openly to him. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Tracy Quan, Annie Sprinkle, Veronica Vera, Dolores French, Norma Jean Almadovar, and more people than I can name send their love, their gratitude, and their admiration to Priscilla. 

Judy Walkowitz, Professor of History, writes that she will remember Priscilla’s, “Dry wit, political engagement, fierce intelligence, courage and originality. She was at the  intellectual heart of the prostitute rights movement, translating political sentiments into legal and academic arguments around labor and rights that still animate activist discussions today. And a real mensch.” 

Dame Catherine Healy remembers meeting Priscilla in Manila at a WHO consultation on sex work in 1992. She was intimidated by Priscilla’s massive reputation and remembers her being extremely kind and supportive. She writes that Priscilla, “Made our way as sex workers in that world a lot smoother.” She wrote this from a hotel room in Bangkok, where yet another meeting is occurring with the good folk from the UN. Priscilla’s name will live on.

Juliana Piccolo writes that Priscilla’s work, “Has meant so much to me both personally and professionally. It helped me understand my own experience and history and informed my activism and filmmaking so much. I’m so grateful for her pioneering scholarship. Her work laid tracks for our movement and we are all so indebted to her for it.”

Brian Malika, sends love and gratitude from comrades in Kenya.

Carol Stuart remembers being nervous and excited to meet the woman whose shoes she filled when she went to work in the California State Legislature for Senator Marks. She writes that, “Priscilla was by that time, a legend. It was assumed I would work with NOW, and follow her lead. Instead, I figured out a way to work with Priscilla!” Stuart continues, “The St. James Infirmary was Priscilla’s brilliant idea, and an extraordinary social experiment. I am grateful to you. Over the past decades, people who never had the opportunity to meet her spoke your name with reverence. At the 20th Anniversary event, a doctor from the San Francisco Health Department took the stage to say that the St. James Infirmary became San Francisco’s model for providing healthcare to both under-served communities and marginalized populations. Priscilla’s work changed the world. Priscilla’s courage will continue to inspire people we will never know.”

Andrew Sorfleet from Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) is, “So grateful for all Priscilla’s years and years of service to the cause that is dear to both of our hearts. She has been a real inspiration for me, and my memories of our meetings so long ago still influence my efforts. Thank you for all of your decades of contributions to NTFP, WhoreNet and NSWP. Thank you for your work with COYOTE and then the Global Programme on AIDS. Thank you for your support and encouragement for the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto and later the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver. Thank you for your books.” 

Susie Bright sends her warm love and appreciation for their, “Years in the thick of it — we certainly felt like a cadre of lovers and activists.”

Continuing to Remember Pricilla Alexander — We are working to preserve Pricilla Alexander’s legacy at Old Pros. Please reach out to us if you’d like to be involved in this continued effort: