Last night I had the privilege to host a talk by Kathleen A. O'Shea, a former nun, who is a social worker, teacher, writer, and human rights advocate. I am the chair of the Queen's University Association of Queer Employees (QUAQE) and one of our members invited her to speak on her work as an advocate for women on death row in the United States.
In the winter of 2006, Ms. O'Shea was the first scholar to be hosted by the Women's Studies Department at Queen's in their new Visitor's Program. Her work with women on death row was profiled on Women's Television Network last spring. In addition to several magazine and journal articles, she has published three books, Female Offenders: An Annotated Bibliography (1997), Women and the Death Penalty in the United States: 1900-1998, and Women On The Row: Revelations from Both Sides of the Bars (2000), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her memoir of the beginnings of her religious life, To All the Nuns I've Loved Before, is trying to find a publisher and she is working on a novel, Adios Comparera: A Chilean Memoir, loosely based on her years in Chile (1965-1973). Kathleen currently lives and works with mentally challenged adults.
About 30 of us assembled for a pot-luck dinner at the beautiful Victorian era house of the Faculty Women's Club, and then we gathered in the cozy living room to listen to Kathleen's compelling story of her path from a convent to Chile and back to America, where she somewhat accidentally became a tireless crusader for women on death row. It was moving, compelling, and a testament to the power of one to make a real difference. I feel that I've finally met a real hero.