Setting the house on fire
Inspired by the Still Sane exhibit, Barbara Kuhne, editor at the feminist publisher Press Gang, insisted that it be turned into a book. A collective came together to raise funds to pay the printers’ bill and assemble articles to accompany Persimmon and Sheila’s images and stories. Sheila and Persimmon described their collaboration and what it took to put together the show. Lesbian activist Nym Hughes contributed a chapter on psychiatry’s role as a agent of social control and called on lesbians to organize against this oppression. Writer Nora D. Randall examined current-day encounters of women with psychiatry, concluding that little had changed since Sheila was incarcerated.
Sheila told us that Press Gang was known for its community spirit and boldness. “Press Gang was always, for a small shoestring press, really brave about printing the things that people might not like, or might think was too controversial,” she noted. The book was released in paperback in November of 1985. Read Still Sane.
Persimmon shared a folder stuffed with passionate reviews of the art show and the book. “Still Sane sets the house on fire,” wrote Annette Hurtig in Out of Line when the book came out, “It isn’t pretty. It makes you angry.” “Persimmon and Sheila have provided us with a reminder of how vulnerable those of us without money and power really are,” Sima Elizabeth Shefrin proclaimed in Kinesis, the paper published by the Vancouver Status of Women. “Sheila’s story is scary because it could happen to anyone. But the show is also a reminder that individually and especially collectively we can look after ourselves, and change for the better the world in which we live.”