Helene Swanson shares her experience walking across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment

Tag: #walk4ERA

Next steps… the ERA March and Rally to the US Capitol

Dearest Friends,

Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC

On Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2015, Bishop Joe Morris Doss celebrates the Eucharist at the Blessing of the ERA Walkers at St. Stephen and The Incarnation, Washington DC.  Photo Credit: Everett Barnes

I was deeply moved by the commitment of those whom made the August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day – Blessing, March, and Rally a smashing success, for photo’s Click Here. I was touched by all the lovely tokens of affection, gifts, and awards bestowed on me.  I simply did not expect that.  When I heard US Senator Cardin’s and US Representative Speier’s statements I was moved to tears.  It went to the core of why I have walked so many miles.  So my prepared speech went right out the window and the story of my father whom I have rarely spoken of and how he was treated as a coloured man in this country and called a “nigger” a word I own not with pride but with a sad and heavy heart. And what I felt called to speak to is a country so divided by classism, racism, and sexism, a country whose people would so greatly benefit by passage of the Equal Rights Amendment into the US Constitution.

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the US Capitol

Equal Rights Amendment Rally at the Upper Senate Park Area 2 at the US Capitol. From left to right William Van Horn (Staffer Senator Cardin’s Office) Charles Clymer, Joz Wang, Sarah Kurtz, Taylor Neuville, Helene de Boissiere-Swanson, Dr. E. Faye Williams, Molly Fishmen (Staffer Representative Speier) Ellen Davis, Alli McCracken, and Cathy.

Stories I heard all my life swirling about in my head; instructions to never saying anything about my father being black; how I became my mother’s memory after a red brick fell nine stories landing smack in the center of her head; and then as a child of 12 going out to work selling newspapers door to door in Las Vegas to put food on the table, all those stories and more swelled up from deep within as I listened to one impassioned speaker after another.  And I whom spent a lifetime having been instructed to never cry in public and “keep a stiff upper lip” cried. I cried thinking of Katrina and the trust she put in me, and her stories, stories that she too had kept to herself. And I thought of my beloved husband William too. And I called upon a black woman who served several years in a federal penitentiary to read the Presiding Bishop’s Statement.

Many of you have asked what’s next? First off I will not be taking a break I am only going to come on stronger now.  The pilgrimage is a benchmark in the ministry of Katrina’s Dream to promote th passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And just like many doubted that I would make it all the way across the US and many have doubted that the Equal Rights Amendment hasn’t a chance in their lifetime – I know just like I knew that I would make it to DC, I know we are not that long off from the ratification of three more states. Ladies and Gents we are going to come on stronger than ever. The Time in NOW!

Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge them to move it out of committee

Helene Swanson heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirkson Bldg at the US Capitol to urge them to move it out of committee.

So another part of what I have planned next is contacting each and every single US legislator and asking that they co-sponsor S.J. Res. 15 and H.J. Res 51 over the weeks ahead targeting the chair of the Judiciary and several other senators of key importance.  And those that have co-sponsored ask that put on their website  under Women’s Issues  that they have co-sponsored the “ERA Three State Resolution” to demonstrate their support for women’s rights.

This coming September 13th @ 9pm EST Tammy and Cathy are holding their monthly ERA Action National Call and I am hoping that many of you will call in so that we can go over the strategy for the upcoming weekly calls out to our legislators. The call in number is (605) 562-3140 and meeting code number is 787085#

And many of you have asked if I will be writing a book… the answer is yes. The book will be one of my spiritual journey and the difficult decisions I faced in the waked of my late husbands passing and how a simple statements less than two days after my husband’s death at the local church we attended “Don’t worry you find another man, you are young yet”, to surviving a 60 mph sand storm by hiding in a drain ditch brought me closer to the beauty of our earth, and how connecting with a large number of women and human rights activists across the country with each lovingly embracing me in my darkest moments, uplifting me, guiding me, every step of the way.  And praying, indeed praying to God every day to help me walk through aches, pain, and fever; and thirst and hunger when my money ran out months ago, having left with only $200 to my name as I would not – could not – go back to living the life as an oppressed woman in these United States.


Next the herstoric March to the US Capitol has morphed into an annual event. Yes that is correct – the pilgrimage which ended in an amazing march with a dedicated core group of human rights activists and rally to the US Capitol has turned into an annual event to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  So please continue to invite your friends to our Facebook event page…

Finally and most importantly, I want to thank all of you for making this amazing journey with me.  The love and care shown was emboldening and while most would think I might be tired and want a break I am more energized than ever.  So let’s do this… let’s pass the ERA!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson


Prayers, the police, and the pilgrimage

I have been on a journey for many moons.  Each passing moment brings me closer to God.  But like the waxing and waning of the moon my faith comes and goes.  Yesterday as I walked the beautiful backroads of Virginia enroute to Richmond where I will be staying with new found friends I found myself struggling with praying.  I have always had problems with the Our Father since childhood, why am I praying to a male God I would think, when it is my mother who takes cares of me.  And then their was the part “on earth as it is heaven” was I confirming that our present day to day affairs our manifesting themselves in the same form in the heavens?  So having gone to Roman Catholic private school out comes the Hail Mary’s.  Now I like Hail Mary‘s and Hail Holy Queen and I can say the rosary lickity split for I have always loved pray and rote prayers or chants like my mantra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”, having been a practicing Buddist really helps take one to the spiritual plane.

Traveling towards Emporia, Virginia along Route 301

Traveling towards Emporia, Virginia along Route 301

But yesterday was not doing it for me.  My thoughts were on my late husband William, everywhere I go I see him, for I spend a lot of time imaging that he is walking with me.  I have pretend conversations about what is going on.  I ask him for his input on what to do next or when I have un- Christian thoughts about folks who are particularly irksome ask for his strength, his patience, his upbeat way of taking everything in stride, and most of all his gratitude for this life.  But yesterday was difficult, I was hot, I was sticky and those pesty scabbies were having their way with me so I hadn’t slept much the night before.

Miraculously a gracious officer came by as I was fumbling with my iphone to make sure that I was on the correct path checked up on me.  He offered me to bottles of Gatorade and was on his way.  I gave him my postcard.  Later that night he called me ask if I need some food and if I was safe.

I posted the picture of the good officer and many responded with likes.  And many responded with stories of wrongdoings. But I can’t tell that I have always had good moments with the law.  I harassed by the local Sausalito police after my husband died.  We run an homeless meal program/outdoor church at it has not been well received by all in the community.  I really had to push buttons to get it going calling in my friends from the ACLU and attorneys I had worked with over the years.  This was their opportunity and they took full advantage.  One day I’ll write about that but I don’t like focusing on the negative.  I like putting my energy towards connecting with the positive so…. Thank you Sheriff Ronnie McCoy Pearce, Jr. for “making my day!”

Officer Ronnie Pearce gives Helene Swanson Gatorade.

Officer Ronnie Pearce gives Helene Swanson Gatorade.

Now again I find myself exhausted.  My heels are achy, the bones on the tops of me feet hurt like heck, itchy as can be, and stinky to boot. The truck stop I camped out in front of as there is nothing out here told me to move on.   It was raining.  Thankfully the rain stopped.  It will be pouring down later and I should be walking but I wanted to share life is full of ups and downs, each more wonderful than next.  I pray for strength as I prep myself for the events in DC were we many will come to demand the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The music playing in the background where I am enjoying a cup of joe inspires my writing.  I am so very thankful for the sun dogs that peak through the clouds.  I am so very thankful for the rain that saves me from showering, I am so very thankful for the time I had with William.

I am so very thankful for the ministry of Katrina’s Dream and the opportunity to demonstrate that everyone counts and every person can be an instrument of change.  One person at a time. One person joined by many in spirit, all joining together for humanity.

Hold The Date! Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the US Capitol – August 26, 2015

July 12, 2015

Dearest Family and Friends,

The last month has been a whirlwind. I am on my second excursion since leaving San Francisco last year on March 8, 2014, on my pilgrimage to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. On this excursion I will have made three stops.

The first leg of this excursion was to attend the 2015 national annual conference for the National Organization for Women in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I met a number of empowered women who are making a difference. I ask that you take a moment to check out the videos of a few of the women that I met. They are truly inspiring!

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 2015 Annual Conference for the National Organization for Women. Photo Credit: Eleanor Smeal

Then I headed off to the 79th General Convention where I learnt that many having been following my pilgrimage and the growing ministry of Katrina’s Dream. I had the pleasure of chatting with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Episcopal Women’s Caucus Breakfast where the article I wrote about my pilgrimage was the centerpiece of their special edition of Rauch for General Convention. I was blessed to be present volunteering as a page when the House of Deputies when Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry was confirmed. Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina is the first African American to be elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Then a day later I was again blessed with the opportunity to discuss my pilgrimage with Bishop Curry and ask for his support.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church and Helene Swanson, Founder of Katrina’s Dream at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo Credit: Katrina’s Dream supporter.

I am currently in Phoenix to compete in the Pundit Competition at the Netroots Nation Summit. On that note, everyone please pray for me as I hope to inspire others to join us in getting the word out on the Women’s Equality Day – ERA March to the Capitol event.

Immediately following this conference, I will return to the Carolina to continue walking to the US Capitol to promote the passage of the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the ERA.

Graphic of Women’s Right Organization’s across the United States who are actively working on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and support Helene Swanson’s Pilgrimage across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment.

This ERA March & Rally will culminate my one-year+ pilgrimage covering the 15 states that have yet to ratify the ERA. I left from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 8th 2014 – in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of passing the ERA, and to unite many individual factions to make the ERA a reality.   I began my trek in honor of my late mother-in-law, the Rev. Katrina Martha Van Alstyne Welles Swanson, an impassioned ERA promoter who was one of the Philadelphia Eleven – the first group of women “irregularly” ordained as Episcopal priests. It was her dream to see women in America receive equal protections under the law, a dream so many Americans of all faiths and backgrounds share.

The Equal Rights Amendment will empower women and provide protection for the LBGTQ community!

The March on August 26, 2015 – Women’s Equality Day will start at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington D.C. following a 8 a.m. blessing of the walkers. Many will accompany me for the final four miles of this 7,000-mile spiritual pilgrimage to the U.S. Capitol to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The four-mile route passing the White House and on to the National Mall where top feminists and human rights activists will hold a press conference, and then speakers will rally for the ERA.

Those walking in solidarity represent a number of organizations from across the country including: Equal Rights Alliance, ERA Action, ERA Coalition, ERA Minnesota, Katrina’s Dream, National NOW, Unite Women, We Are Woman US, Women-Matter and many more. They have nourished me as I made my way across the U.S. Along this journey I stopped to meet with dozens of congressional district offices, and leaders from these organizations above joined me via conference call to senators and representatives, asking that they co-sponsor the “The 3-State Strategy” joint resolutions in Congress (SJRes.15/HJRes51)

In addition to the blessing, march, press conference & rally that day, there are several satellite events planned in other locations in the United States and around the world through our new Sisters in Solidarity program.

I ask you to please help to build a national and global presence in support of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by:

  • Joining the Facebook Online Event to demonstrate your support, Inviting your friends, and sharing the event everywhere; and
  • Forwarding this email to all your friends and asking them to join in spirit; and
  • Holding a Sister in Solidarity satellite

Most importantly it is your prayers and support that make possible the ministry of Katrina’s Dream. Thank you so much. Good luck, Good Health, and God Bless Always!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson

Miracles Happen After Hard Work by Mother Alla (Philadelphia Eleven)

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

Mother Alla at Bear Haven in Rosa Mystica.

As I was en route to Springfield, IL, to call upon the Illinois General Assembly to Vote YES so that Illinois could be the first state in the 21st Century to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, dearest Mother Alla, the Rev. Alla Bozarth sent me this beautiful poem she wrote to be share will all of you.

Knowing that Rep. Lou Lang will be pushing it forward this coming 2015 Legislative Session.  We shall not give up, we shall not give in.  United We Stand… All coming to the table… One Nation Indivisible.

Check out her blog from time to time

Miracles Happen After Hard Work

Miracles happen—

the French took charge and cast out the Nazis

from the City of Lights, when the Occupying Germans feared

the approach of the Allies and tried to force a 9pm curfew

on the citizens of Paris.


Occupation, if it is benign, is one thing, but a curfew is an outrage.

The police took over a building opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame

and then the women and children came out and started hurling their rocks

and the men shot tanks with small guns, and de Gaulle begged Eisenhower

to bring in the Allies, which he had formerly refused to do.


Impressed with the suddenly aggressive valor of the French,

the General agreed to follow a band of French troops into Paris,

and when they arrived, a Victory Parade was already underway

as the Liberation of Paris had officially happened the day before.


A distant humming reached the ears of the Americans,

a strange sound rising to a low murmur as they came nearer,

then erupting into an overwhelming roar of jubilation.

The people of Paris rushed on foot to greet them, women kissed them,

some offered wine to the soldiers, they climbed up onto the tanks,

hailing the Liberation of the City of Lights in the summer of 1944.


On the same day, August 26, twenty-four years before,

the Women’s Suffrage Amendment was written into the Constitution

of the United States, a victory for humanity created by the relentless

courage, effort and suffering of American women for generations.


By virtue of those heroic Suffragists, on June 4, 1919,

the Nineteenth Amendment had been passed by both

the House and Senate of Congress,

but it needed to be ratified by state legislatures.


Over a year later, on August 18th the deciding state

was Tennessee, the 36th state to cast its vote in favor,

and the deciding vote was cast by Harry Burn,

at twenty-four the youngest state legislator.


Mother Alla celebrates Mass.

Mother Alla celebrates Mass.


That morning he’d opened his mail and read a letter

from his mother, in which she said she’d been watching

to see him declare his inclination toward Suffrage for Women,

but so far she saw nothing. She ended her message,

“Don’t forget to be a good boy . . .  and vote for suffrage.”


Supporters of suffrage wore yellow roses and filled the balcony

while opponents wore red roses on the main floor.

Harry Burn walked in wearing red, but when he voted,

he said “Aye.”


All the women in the balcony threw down

their flowers, and on that day,

there was a beautiful storm of yellow roses

raining all over the representatives

of the state of Tennessee.


Alla Renée Bozarth


From Purgatory Papers, copyright 2014.

All rights reserved.

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women's Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! - Mother Alla

Immediately after the Philadelphia Ordinations, this picture was taken with the red doors of the Church of the Advocate opened wide to welcome and host the historic event. The Rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, understood that the risks were great, both to himself and to the church, which at the time was dependent on diocesan funding to meet its expenses. Counter-clockwise from upper right are my husband and priest presenter, the Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell, Dorothy Huyck, naturalist, feminist and historian, and her daughter Heather Huyck, who was writing her University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral dissertation on the History of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church. I, deacon of the Diocese of Oregon since September 8, 1971 and, as of that day on the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, July 29, 1974 in hot Philadelphia, priest as well, though I had transferred to the Diocese of Minnesota for the years I served there. I do not know the identity of the woman on my left who was so gloriously harmonious with the colors of the occasion. She was observing the process, and I pulled her into the picture. I am sorry not to know her name. If anyone recognizes her, please let me know about her! – Mother Alla




From the Welles-Swanson Family to Yours – Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

16186_10151117525046517_1384929001_nGo to the below link for the Welles-SwansonThanksgiving Stuffing Recipe Message

“Hello I’m Elisabeth Earhart… I was raped”

Elisabeth Earhart

It is not often that I am awestruck. But I just had my socks blown off by a quiet spoken woman. We met over a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s on Main Street here in Joplin, MO. I had engaged her as she had a bright red T-shirt, which had caught my eye. There was an immediate connection. But somehow I think Elisabeth connects with a lot of folks she is a woman on a mission, she believes that prayer is a choice and that the concept of quiet time at school as a time to pray or reflect if one does not want to pray.

Whether you agree with Elisabeth on quiet time as reflection for prayer is neither here nor there. After all life has put on her table she is still a loving and compassionate Christian. I invite you to watch this video where she shares her life and how being raped affected her and the family discord that ensued. Please see

A Cloud of Witnesses

So here I am in Salt Lake City, capital of the third non-ERA ratifying state of the 15 non-ratifiers I’ll pass through before I reach Washington, D.C., next March 8, 2015, on my coast-to-coast pilgrimage to press for full equality for women. My heart leaped up at the warmth of the reception I received in Nevada and Arizona before I got here. Women in those states are on the move along with the men who support them. And outposts of my beloved Episcopal Church in Nevada and Arizona were, for the most part, incredibly supportive.

Utah is Mormon country, and top officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the church is formally known) are vigorously opposed to admitting women to the priesthood, a role to which virtually all male Mormon adults are ordained. In fact, the church recently publicly excommunicated a woman, a lifelong and dedicated Mormon who urged them to reexamine the policy. Whether that second-classing of women spills over into Utah’s secular politics remains to be seen. I will be seeing Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior senator, a Republican, at his office here next Tuesday, the 40th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Eleven. I’ll be pressing him to support the ERA amendment in the U.S. Senate. We’ll see how it goes.

On a side note, my iPhone was stolen five days ago, forcing me to learn just how dependent I’ve become on this kind of link to the wider world. Hey, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews didn’t need an iPhone to feel awe-struck at how great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us as we move through this pilgrimage of life. I need to remind myself of that. The cloud of witnesses surrounds me too, whether I can phone them up or not.

This post was penned by William R. MacKaye, fellow Board Member of

“See Ya Tomorrow!”

When I embarked on this Pilgrimage for the ERA I knew it would be difficult.  Difficult is an understatement!  As I slowly make my way from the Golden Gate bridge to Washington D.C.  I pray for those whom I care for and those I have met in the course of day to day affairs.  My dear friend, the Rev. Kathryn Piccard, has taught me to pray for those who have harmed me in some way, shape or form.She advises me to pray honestly, even explicitly, for these people, every time I think of them, for up to two weeks. But if others around, I have to do it silently! And it helps.


This pilgrimage is testing every aspect of my being and my faith in God.  And it is affirming my faith in God as well.  As a person who believes in the law of attraction I put my focus on accentuating the positive in all my relationships. My time in Arizona is a testament to my beliefs and my evolving relationship with God and her people.  I had always believed that I understood and had compassion for those who live alternative lifestyles, in particular, the causation of those who live outdoors un-housed.  My time in Phoenix has given me the gift of walking in the shoes of the economically disadvantaged and sharing the pain of my Hispanic friends who are treated differently because of the color of their skin.


I thought that it would be easy when I arrived in Phoenix. Easy like it was when I was going through Nevada.  It wasn’t.  I arrived late Sunday afternoon and made my way over to the Cathedral just in time for Compline. I was deeply moved by the service and thought I would wait ’til the following day to reach out to folks at the diocese. A big mistake, most of the folks at the Diocese of Arizona were leaving on vacation since it was the week of July 4th, 2014, so I was left in a lurch. Fortunately, a young man with some mental health challenges befriended me. He showed me around and suggested that I go to Grace Lutheran Church for clothing and food. So I did. I wound up sticking around and volunteering all week. I grew close to community of the Respite Cooling Center. I came in every morning around 7:30 am and helped out all day until 5:00pm. It was a deeply moving experience. I observed first hand in a way I had not done before, as a homeless person with no place to go and insufficient monies due to budget constraints to get a hotel room or a decent bite to eat. It was humbling. The volunteers and those they serve at the center became “family” taking me in.


“Shorty,” a Latino born and raised in Tuscon shared his story with me. Reared by his grandparents and uncle, he took to becoming a young gangster by the age of eight, dropping out of school. At the age of 11 he married a young Mexican girl he snuck across the border. By 15 he was a father of three. At 19 he killed a man in a bar room brawl in self-defense. He fled the country to live in Mexico but being a devout Roman Catholic came back and turned himself in. The judge who sentenced him said had he not fled he would only be giving him seven years but he was to be an example, so he got the maximum: 25 years. He served the full 25 years, day by day.  While in prison he was cornered in the bathroom where his jaw was broken and he subsequently lost all his teeth. Upon release, not having a proper education and being illiterate and a convicted felon he was unable to find gainful employment. He has lived the last 15 years on the streets of Phoenix. He never developed a relationship with his children although his daughter lived in the area. Shorty took me in. He shared his campsite with me. At the end of each day we headed over to the public library where I worked on reaching out to various organizations in anticipation of my meeting with Senator McCain. Shorty worked on word puzzles attempting to sound out the words he was searching for to increase his vocabulary, a hobby he picked up in prison. Shorty is also known as “Pa” by a number of the younger folks who go to the Grace Lutheran Summer Respite Cooling Center. One young couple who stayed at Shorty camp during the dust and rain storms of monsoon season is expecting their first child together. The young lady grew up in foster care having been taken away from her mother as one of her mothers many boyfriends had molested her.  Her foster mother saw her as “Cinderella” and she was put to work taking care of the other foster kids who the woman was receiving a good amount of money from the state to house. She said she would clean up after everyone and each night go out to wander the streets.  As long as she was back by morning no one cared that she was gone all night. Her partner arrived in Phoenix a few months ago from the Midwest. He deals with his childhood traumas by doing a drug called spice, an easily acquired street drug in the same family of bath salts. One night he begged her to hit him over and over again, claiming that would teach him a lesson. That it would help him to not to spend the little money they had on drugs. It was a difficult night for all. Shorty would shake his head, the young man begging over and over to be hit, and the young woman complying with her punches. I prayed for this family, my Phoenix Street family. I was quickly bought into the fold and asked to volunteer being a friend of Shorty. Each day the program director gathered us together to go over what we needed to concentrate on. We discuss what went wrong the day before and how to best prevent it from happening again. Occasionally, when there was a problem such as someone being too intoxicated or being too argumentative Carlos, the program director would address the issue immediately. He would clearly state that they would have to leave, but only for the day. Always saying, “See ya tomorrow.” At the end of each day when it was time to clean-up the bathrooms, wipe off the table and chairs, vacumn, we all pitched in, and no one had to ask to do anything. We all just worked together in quiet. And when we were done putting things up, again Carlos would say, “See ya tomorrow!”

1044721_10204022357149669_9137618215313784476_n I met the other volunteers. One husband and wife came in every day. He ran the movies while she prepared the food. He also fixes everyone’s electronic gadgets, being a retired computer programmer for a banking institution and former professional baseball player. Their tireless dedication was truly an inspiration. Another took her day off from the local military base to serve in the kitchen, and yet another came to lead the prayer service. And even more to staff the clothing room.


I could see myself serving this community for the rest of my life. It was hard leaving them to prepare for my meeting at Senator McCain’s office with other concerned Arizona voters organizing for the ERA. But I had to move on. I will carry the promise of another day to serve God and her people as we say at Grace Lutheran “See ya Tomorrow.”

“Lady of Walsingham, I lift up Godfather Bob”

Lady of Wallingsham_2Helene Swanson and the Rev. Robert T. Coolidge at the Chapel of the Lady of Walsingham, Trinity Church Seneca Falls, NY on July 29, 2012 on her first pilgrimage to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment following morning prayer lead by Rev. Coolidge.  Photo Credit: William Swanson

Dearest Family and Friends,

It was on the 10th anniversary of the blessing of my marriage to my beloved William G. Swanson that I learnt that Godfather Bob, former archivist of The Monticello Association and Katrina’s Dream board member, co-founder and LBGTQ Liason, was in the hospital with a broken hip, not serious as things go but definitely difficult on an older gent. His support was instrumental in the founding of Integrity.  

Godfather Bob is more commonly known as the Rev. Robert T. Coolidge. I cannot express adequately how much he means to me personally. He was always there for my late husband and was one of the few that stepped up to the plate to support me in those early days of widowhood. It was his kind words and the time we spent together at Squam Lake watching the PBS documentary  series “The American Experience – The Abolitionists” that encouraged me to take up this pilgrimage and continue with the ministry of Katrina’s Dream.

An Important Message video  –

It is believed that he is also the first person to serve a woman priest in the roadside service following the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven.  I invite you to watch the above video of William and Godfather Bob at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.  Godfather Bob has done many things to support a number of causes.  He is a wonderful human being. Godfather Bob has a special place in my heart and I ask everyone to pray for his well being. Thank you all so much, Love and Light in Christ, Hélène de Boissière-Swanson

Prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham

O blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon us, our parish, our country, our homes, and our families, and upon all who greatly hope and trust in your prayers, (especially…The Rev. Robert T. Coolidge) By you it was that Jesus, our Savior and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we all may be made worthy to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home. Amen.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.

10437422_10203884931994126_8519895456230106258_nThe sky above the desert of Wikiup, Arizona.  Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

Listen to The Night

10460279_10203806671157654_8458505907542338961_nThe Desert Floor   Photo Credit: Helene Swanson

As I walk through Nevada on my Pilgrimage for the ERA this past May of 2014, I recall the time in my childhood when my family left Jersey City, NJ. I thought we were headed to the west coast, but somehow we wound up in Vegas. My second day there I walked the south end of The Strip to Caesar’s Palace in the midst of a heat wave looking for my parents who had not made it back to the hotel the night before. The bellhops took care of me. I will never forget how kindly they tended to my needs.

Vegas was an eye opener for a New Yorker. It was the first time I was in a predominantly white neighborhood: culture shock! The police used the blacks of North Las Vegas as target practice. You did not win there and think you could really walk away with your winnings, and the dazzlingly lights of the Strip hid the underbelly that walked the streets. It was the wild, wild, west.

I thought I had street savvy, but I had a lot to adjust to, so many learning curves! I was cornered in the gym at Garside Junior High by “mean girls” for not having a real New York accent. I worked hard on changing my enunciation since it was a matter of survival. Even now, at times, my old accent emerges during Mass. I so desperately wanted to fit in that I joined every school club so that I could appear in every yearbook shot. I started to make friends, “geeks,” and it was a grand time. I became “besties” with friends who moved onto our block we were quite the gang. One turned me on to the Beatles, of whom I’d never heard. Another turned me on Led Zepplin. I discovered the desert. I loved exploring the ravines and trying to catch the lizards. I got adept at getting them but they had their ways too: “Just lose your tail and you’re free!” I learned Nevada history, and its heritage of working for the abolition of slavery, a heritage to take pride in. I regard that as a heritage to build upon by ratifying the ERA.

My mum had another horrible accident, and poverty struck again. A classmate’s mother took me in while my mother recuperated at the hospital for the next few months. I had to give up a lot of things. I was made to feel shame and disgrace for not being like this woman’s perfect daughter. I was forced to go to a Billy Graham event. It was so much fun! Everyone was celebrating Jesus, money poured into the baskets, people bought me things to take home. And again my mind was blown away, another culture shock event. Yet, it was here that I embraced, “If ye have the faith of a mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you.” I have held on to that scripture through thick and thin: applying the concept of faith to faith in one’s self, God in one’s life. I picked up the Bible convinced there were a lot of good things in this book. Now all I had to do was figure out what they were trying to say.

So here it is many years later, I don’t forget all the good times, all the bad times, the ‘tween times. So I have learned that money is simply a tool, not to be worshiped. It is this planet we are to care for, to love. It is God that we place first and foremost and all else will fall into place.

So as ya’ all know, my journey on this pilgrimage through Nevada started off with a longing. I hung out with Jocelyn Diaz and Janette Dean of Carson City and with the help of Jeff Munson I am forever grateful for his piece covering our event. They brought all their energy and their passion to the cause of Equality for all. I made my way to Dayton then on to Fallon to enjoy Easter with the Wilson – Dolan – Viney Family of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fallon, NV. They shared who the family was, a notable family who took in a young orphaned Wavonka, a Piute Indian, who kept the prophecy of the White Buffalo alive and revived Ghost Dancing. I owe so much to Deacon Nancy Janess, who insured that my replacement shoes made it safely to Tonapah. Nancy made arrangements for me to get rest at a local motel. Shoes courtesy of Rev. Esther Gardner were shipped to Mother Joan Laliberte who is holding down the fort figuratively at St. Marks in the gold mining of Tonapah, where the idea of a woman priest is challenging to the locals. In Beatty I thought of dropping by my friends at Spicer Mining/Boiling Pot Ranch, it has been so many years, since dear old Jim passed on and my speaking with Elsie his bereaved widow, but had too much fun at Bailey’s Hot Springs and fear of a bygone era got the best of me.

10322772_699206536787173_7548589466597417124_nSwanson meets up with folks at the Nye County Democratic Party Headquarters  Photo Credit: Cles Saunders

My soon to be new found friends Jannis and Cles Saunders, Margery and Robert Hanson, and Harvey Kulkin in Pahrump, beckoned me on, I had to “put a dime on it.” Folks in Pahrump were stirring the pot and had big dreams. They worked hard organizing The Rally 4 Rights Event at the Henderson Convention Center. And it was a blast, it felt like a private party, I met Chris Hyepock, a would-be contender for Govenor of Nevada and a number of other folks who were equally inspirational. Most importantly, I witnessed the beginnings of a core group dedicated to ratifying the ERA.

10329083_701740453200448_1742512088299426984_n-1Swanson speaks at the Rally 4 Rights, Henderson Convention Center  Photo Credit: Cles Saunders

In Vegas, I stayed with a woman whose pain, her suffering, her desire to break the bonds of generational dysfunction; I did not want to leave, but I spent more days than I should have. She did the best she could, all things considered, her partner drove me to Bishop Dan’ Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada office off of Eastern Blvd., where I received a blessing, which I sure could use. The weekend before she accompanied me the Rally 4 Rights sponsored by and co-organized by the Progressive Democrats of Nevada. They worked so hard to pull it all together. I was impressed: not bad for introducing a delicate subject to a state going through growing pains.

BD and Helene Swanson ERABishop Dan Edwards of the Diocese of Nevada blesses Helene Swanson  Photo Credit: Debbie Rivera

I marveled at how Vegas had grown. I joined the folks at Grace of the Desert Episcopal Church on Memorial Day weekend recalling that this church was the last place my beloved William received Holy Communion. It was a time of contemplation. Each day I walked a few miles toward The Strip taking the bus back so as to cross Vegas without costing a destitute family more than what they could afford. But it was time to move on. On my last day I had her drop me off at Ceasar’s Palace where I had walked to the day before, we hugged goodbye and I assured her little one that I would be a part of his life for years to come.

It was the 10th Anniversary of our civil marriage, which took place on my 10 minute break at the Marin County Public Defender’s Office. I knew that night as I know now that my beloved waits patiently for me to attend to affairs here, that he whispers in God’s ear from time to time and that I am loved and to be strong. I left Las Vegas, carrying on with bringing the message of Christ to the world.

PR - St. Christopher'sCoffee hour with the congregation of St. Christopher’s, Boulder City, NV  Photo Credit: Jean Zaebst

I was warmly received by the folks at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, in Boulder City, NV. I felt renewed and inspired by Father Jim’s homily, I learned to count 100 blessings before calling it a day, like my Jewish friends.

On the side of the road I met a Native American/Indian sage who instructed me to listen to the night when he and I exchanged stories. Inspired by his words I wrote the following poem.

Listen To The Night

Reaching out I listen to the night
In the darkness I find the light
My soul soars to new heights
As I listen, listen to the night

10336628_10203730839581912_5721231683729469461_nSwanson rests at Eldorado Canyon, Nevada off of Route 95  Photo Credit: Indian Sage

I passed through Searchlight en route to my lovely new friend Leah and her husband Manuel who hosted me. I recuperated from a couple of days on the desert without adequate food and water. They introduced me to their congregation who embraced me as one of their own, and invited me to participate in their parish’s vestry meeting. The Church of the Holy Spirit is the last church on the Southern boundary of the Diocese of Nevada and it’s in Bullhead City.

10450439_751285814916181_1209077369275064654_nVestry Meeting of Church of the Holy Spirit, Bullhead City, AZ.Photo Credit:

Battleborn, Nevada, I have faith in you. You have given me so much. You shaped my very being. So much so, that I have faith that you will be the state that sets the nation on fire when it comes to passing the Equal Rights Amendment. You moved the United States in the abolition of slavery. You again will move this nation forward. I have faith in your people. I love your spirit, I love your people, the folks that come far and wide in search of their dreams. I love your desert, your mountains and lakes, your past and where you will take us. Stand strong, stand bold, lead this nation, and remember you will always have a place in my heart.

10410619_10203713092778253_8305650813600272893_nHoover Dam, Boulder City, NV  Photo Credit:  Helene Swanson