OUTstanding Virginians 2009

Beth Marschak

Richmond activist, author, and historian

Beth Marschak, Author and Activist: Romayne Elizabeth Marschak was born into a conservative, Southern Baptist family in Pennsylvania in 1951, and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. Known as Beth, she would be the first woman in her family with a college education, earning a BA in political science in 1972 from Westhampton College, University of Richmond. She came out in the early 1970’s, and openly identified as a lesbian in her civil rights and human rights activism. Beth has been an active historian since the 1980’s, when she was asked by the YWCA to write a brief overview of the women’s movement of the 1970’s. Ever since, she’s been collecting papers and memorabilia pertinent to the women’s movement, as well as researching Virginia’s LGBT history. In 1975, Beth co-founded Richmond Lesbian-Feminists, which continues as an active group today. She was instrumental in organizing a number of feminist and LGBT coalitions and activities. In 1978, Marschak was an openly-lesbian delegate for Flora Crater’s U.S. Senate campaign. The same year, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the International Women’s Year Continuing Committee. And, in 1988, as a Jesse Jackson Delegate, she served as the first “out” Virginia delegate to a national presidential convention. Most notably, Beth Marschak’s work and advocacy garnered the Richmond Human Rights Coalition Human Rights Award in 1983, and the Richmond YWCA Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in Human Relations in 1990. The Richmond Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition recognized Beth with awards in 1990, 1993 and 1999. In 2008, Marschak co-authored the book titled “Lesbian and Gay Richmond.” And on November 1, 2008, she conducted the first-ever bus tour featuring the history of the LGBT community for the Valentine Richmond History Center.