Charlotte Cooper

Letter to Judy, August 2010

I wrote and sent this a few weeks ago. I don’t know if Judy got to see it, I hope she did. It seems funny posting this letter here, my memories of being with her are brief for someone who was a big influence in my life. I often cite Judy’s work in my own work, and I talk about the Fat Underground whenever I can. Memory is quite an odd way for me to think about Judy because she’s so present within my worldview.

I am currently transcribing the interview I did with her and will publish it on my blog soon.

Dear Judy,

It’s been a couple of months since I saw you in San Francisco, and you may have forgotten me. I’m the British researcher-activist that Esther Rothblum brought to meet you in June. We had lunch together, you showed us around the Jewish Home, and then I interviewed you about fat activism and the Fat Underground in the art room.

Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco. In the weeks following, I went to the GLBT History Society and looked through your archives there. I found this very moving and inspiring, especially your notebooks and diaries from the early 70s and 80s. I admire and respect very much your commitment to social justice, your integrity and creativity. You produced your work whilst holding down a day job and whilst being marginalised again and again by more ‘respectable’ factions in feminism and the left. I am deeply grateful to you for your work and your vision for fat women, and your persistence within very trying circumstances. Thank you Judy!

I’ve been putting off writing until I had the transcription of your interview all ready to go. I thought that I’d have had this done by the time I went to Australia, but that was wishful thinking. I leave tomorrow for three weeks and don’t want to hold off sending you a package until I get back. So this is for now, and I’ll send the rest later.


1. Fat & Proud.
This is a book I published in 1998. It is based on my Master’s degree dissertation from the University of East London. I had big fights with the feminist publishers; they would not agree to me calling myself queer, or talking about fat women’s complicity with their own oppression, or mention trans people at all. They threatened me with non-publication unless I removed all references to Fat Girl zine, which they couldn’t support because it ‘promoted pornography.’ Sigh. So I look upon this work as being terribly flawed and painful to produce. But here it is anyway. I think the stuff on the FU is pretty sketchy because I didn’t know very much at that time.

2. Kick Out The Jams! Fat, Activism and New Ways of Thinking
I’m going to Australia tomorrow to be a visiting scholar at Macquarie University in Sydney. I’m not really sure what this means, but I’ll be doing some more research for my PhD whilst I’m there. The main reason for my trip is to deliver one of two keynote speeches at a Fat Studies conference called Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue. This is the first of its kind in Australia and it is being convened by Dr Samantha Murray, who wrote a book called The ‘Fat’ Female Body. She’s a friend of mine.

So my keynote is about why fat activism is important and shouldn’t be marginalised in Fat Studies, or anywhere really. I think of you as being one of the founding mothers of fat activism, without which Fat Studies would probably not exist, and I’m dedicating this presentation in your honour.

So these are the notes I’m using. There are some Powerpoint slides too, and I will make an audio recording of the talk. Let me know if you want copies of these.

That’s all for now. Much love to you, Judy, I hope you are okay. I’ll send the interview transcript as soon as I can.

With much love,


(ed. also see Charlotte Cooper and Judy Freespirit in conversation)

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Max Airborne
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 11:44:34

    Hey Charlotte, thanks so much for posting this. Any chance you could send along some photos from your recent visit with her?




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