Volume 77 / Number 50 - May 14 - 20, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since


Cicely Nichols, writer/editor, activist, dies at 70

By Albert Amateau

Cicely Nichols, who came to the Village from her native Seattle as a dancer to join the Robert Joffrey Ballet in the mid-1950s and went on to become a writer/editor and activist, died on April 5 at Cornell Hospital at the age of 70.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago and struggled with two recurrences, said her daughter, Christy Speicher.

“Her home in the West Village was a hub for artists, writers and activists from the 1960s until just a couple of months before her death,” her daughter said.

As an editor, Cicely Nichols worked with writers and their books, including Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals;” George McGovern, “A Time of War, A Time of Peace;” Robin Morgan, “Sisterhood Is Powerful;” Bobby Seal, “A Lonely Rage;” Jeremy Rifkin, “Common Sense II,” and I. F. Stone, “In Time of Torment.”

Nichols was involved in the peace, civil rights and union movements. Active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, she also wrote and edited material for women’s support groups, authored histories of Mother Jones and of Sacco and Vanzetti, and wrote poetry and an unpublished novel about a naive young woman who came to New York and transformed herself and her world, her daughter said.

As an editor with Grove Press, she was a leader in organizing a union, efforts that resulted in her being blacklisted in the publishing industry, her daughter said. Later Cicely Nichols co-founded the Editorial Freelancers Association, which still helps freelancers. She successfully organized and ran a business producing private parties on yachts and co-founded a ferry service, her daughter said.

Born in Seattle to Cicely Mary Gallet and William Robert Nichols, she was inspired by her aunt, Mary Ann Farquharson, a progressive Washington State legislator who opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a teenager, she danced and studied with Robert Joffrey and came to New York after he did.

She was married to John Speicher, a novelist, from 1956 to 1964, divorcing when her three daughters were young.

In addition to Christy, her daughters Hilda and Jenny Speicher survive along with Tori Jan Evans, who joined the family as an adult. Her brother, Neil Nichols, her four daughters and friends held a memorial at Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow St., on May 11.

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