originally published in Savage Henry Independent Times
Sadie Schweitzer (1899-1968) had her daughter, Lisa, in 1924. Now 89 years old, Lisa Schweitzer graciously sat down with me to discuss having such a prominent mother and how she continues the legacy.
SH: Sadie Schweitzer famously died in 1968, engulfed in flames intended for bras and other feminine products. Upon her death several leading feminists declared her a martyr, stating her death was an intentional act of defiance à la a famous Vietnamese monk. When did you realize you had such an important mother?
LS: I’d see her come home very very early in the morning, her slacks all covered in grass stains and dirt like she’d spent her night crawling around outside, hiding under a bush somewhere. I didn’t know. I was so young. My father always said, “Oh, she’s too important to pack her own daughter a lunch!” ––– “Oh, she’s too important to sit down with her family for dinner!” She’d wear a dress around the house, but only at father’s insistence.
SH: Your mother wasn’t much of a feminist. In fact, she tried her hardest to be perceived as a man. Would you say your mother was a trailblazing transgender?
LS: She was always very calculated. Anytime she thought she had just been too dainty she’d –––ZOOP–––change face completely. She’d start to spit and holler and drink beer, or if we didn’t have any beer she’d go out to buy some, and come back in the next day or two. It was only so many years later that I put this all together. But no I don’t think she ever wanted a penis.
SH: Do you ever resent your mother? She forsook quality time with you to be with lovers and conspirators. She never publicly acknowledged you–––never.
LS: I didn’t know, I was a kid! It wasn’t until after she died that I sat down with some of the women who were at the protest with her that I found out about her originating the lesbian traveling orgy or inventing anonymous sex. The way they explained it made me feel proud, and then I thought about it some more–––
SH: You’re shivering. Would you like my coat? No?
LS: But I never resented her. She had her image to uphold. If they knew she was married with a kid, they would have never let her hang out in her old haunts, strip clubs and car dealerships.
SH: Would you say she was obsessed with her image?
LS: She always dressed just so. If she had been at the printing press, self publishing her pamphlets then she made sure you knew. Ink stains here. Ink stains there. The one time she brought somebody home she said her guest was there to check to see if the ink leached through her clothes.
SH: How would you say you best carry on the legacy?
LS: Well. Let me think about it. [She tilted her head thoughtfully] My breasts are very small, too small, you know, to warrant a bra.