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COLLECTION Identifier: 81-M32--90-M1

Records of Coyote, 1962-1989


Correspondence, position papers, photographs, etc., of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), an organization advocating the decriminalization of prostitution.


  • Creation: 1962-1989

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. The collection has been screened and sensitive material has been removed and closed. Researchers must sign a special permission form that restricts the use of the names of prostitutes, prisoners, and people who wrote privately to COYOTE, the National Task Force on Prostitution, Margo St. James, or Priscilla Alexander concerning such sensitive matters as their financial, mental, sexual, or legal situations.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records of COYOTE created by COYOTE and its officers is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


20.46 linear feet (19 cartons, 3+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio box, 2 folio folders, 4 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 8 audiotapes, 5 videotapes, 5 reels of microfilm (M-143)

Series I, Margo St. James (#1-18), consists of resumes and other biographical material, letters from her mother and other family members, and records from her work as a private investigator, which are closed for 60 years after the date of the most recent document in the respective folder.

Series II, Historical and organizational (#19-48), includes photographs of St. James and some material documenting her interest in running; resumes of Priscilla Alexander and other National Task Force on Prostitution staff; statements of purpose, position papers, and information sheets issued by COYOTE and National Task Force on Prostitution; articles and interviews by St. James and Priscilla Alexander; and audio and video recordings of interviews with St. James.

Series III, Correspondence (#49-250f+), is arranged in three sections reflecting the filing system maintained by COYOTE: alphabetical, chronological (primarily incoming), and chronological (primarily carbon copies of outgoing mail). Portions are closed to protect the privacy of correspondents and the identities of COYOTE members.

Series IV, Publicity (#251-258), consists of COYOTE Howls and other publications (COYOTE Calls, COYOTE Growls, International COYOTE Howls, and National Task Force on Prostitution News), and publications, flyers, news releases, and articles about COYOTE issued on COYOTE stationery and used for publicity.

Series V, Clippings and articles re: COYOTE, National Task Force on Prostitution, St. James, etc. (#259-281ao) is available only on microfilm (M-143). Most of the originals were discarded after filming.

Series VI, Calendars (#282-292), consists of appointment books kept by Margo St. James and others. Blank pages were discarded; only titles that refer to women are noted in the finding aid.

Series VII, Phone logs (#293-324), record names, phone numbers and dates of conversations. Most concern organizational work, with some intra-office communication and some lists of things to do. There are also notes of conversations with prostitutes that include their names and addresses. This series is closed for 60 years after the date of the most recent document in the respective folder.

Series VIII, Mailing and contact lists (#325-365), consists of completed membership forms, computer printouts of a database containing COYOTE's mailing list, and photocopies of card files containing contact and member names and addresses. The original card files were discarded. In 1979 COYOTE began using a coded database in which W=Women's Group, X=Press, L=Lawyers, and D=Doctors; A may have meant Foreign. The lists of women's groups, press, lawyers, and doctors are open. Additions and lists that are mixed are closed for 60 years after the date a list was generated or additions were collected.

Series IX, Events sponsored by COYOTE (#366-425o), consists of correspondence, publicity, budgets and financial documents, etc., concerning balls, conventions, film festivals, and other events. Often planning for two or more events was simultaneous and correspondence regarding one event may therefore appear in the files of another.

Series X, Sister organizations, related projects and groups (#426-558), consists of two parts: newsletters, correspondence, flyers, clippings, etc., of sister organizations in the U.S. and abroad; and material concerning related projects and organizations. The latter consists first of those projects in which COYOTE or COYOTE staff were involved, followed by projects and organizations that seem to have had less connection to COYOTE or its staff. Some files may have been kept by Priscilla Alexander or St. James as part of her own work, separate from COYOTE; the issues tend to overlap however.

Series XI, Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation (#559-597), includes incorporation papers; minutes; correspondence; ledgers, bank statements, payroll documents and other financial material; and documents used in preparation for a legal dispute with Seen Sal regarding the 1979 ball. Some of the material is useful in sorting out the relationships among Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation, COYOTE, and National Task Force on Prostitution.

Series XII, Grant proposals (598-629), consists of correspondence, budgets, etc., concerning efforts to secure funding for COYOTE and National Task Force on Prostitution, as well as proposals for projects that may have been related to COYOTE or COYOTE staff or may have been used by COYOTE staff in preparation of their own proposals. Also included are proposals from Priscilla Alexander as part of her attempt to find another position.

Series XIII, Financial (#630-719), consists of receipts and other supporting material for Margo St. James's income tax returns; bills, receipts, calculator tapes, bank statements, check registers, ledgers, etc., of COYOTE and COYOTE Howls including the sale of t-shirts and other COYOTE memorabilia; and the financial and legal records of the Masquerade Corporation. In most cases, only a sample of receipts and bills was retained; often the calculator tapes provide a summary. See Series XI for additional financial material.

Series XIV, Conferences attended by St. James or Priscilla Alexander (#720-775), includes programs, handouts, schedules, press kits, etc., from national and regional conferences on women and the law, the IWY conferences in Houston and Copenhagen; the International Feminist Network Against the Traffic in Women: Organizing Against Female Sexual Slavery conference in Rotterdam; and others. The year from which the material dates is indicated only if it is different from the year in which the conference took place.

Series XV, Creative works (#776-852o), includes television and theater scripts, short stories and other fiction, poetry, reviews, drawings, and photographs, as well as non-fiction, clippings, correspondence, notes, and other supporting material. Almost all works are about prostitution, many are about Margo St. James or COYOTE, and many were sent to St. James for her review. This series also includes material about Margo St. James's television appearances.

Series XVI, Court cases and legislation (#853-922), includes legal documents (motions, briefs, etc.), bills and drafts of legislation, reports, and some correspondence. Most documents pertain to people charged with prostitution or to bills regulating prostitution. Other issues represented are AIDS, pornography, and police procedures. Most was collected by COYOTE as background material, but a few folders indicate COYOTE involvement.

Series XVII, Research papers and publications, 1974-1985 (#923-986), consists of unpublished student, conference, and other papers; published journal articles, chapters, and pamphlets; a few grant proposals and questionnaires; a few accompanying letters; and a book. A photocopy of the subject, author, and title index COYOTE created is in #923; many of the articles in this index do not appear here. This series is arranged alphabetically by author or, if no author was evident, title. Questionnaires are filed under "Q." Most material is by Americans, and documents prostitution, rape, women in prison, and other topics with which COYOTE was concerned; there is little about COYOTE (see works by Beath, Haft, Rocha, and Thomas). Some of the material is from feminist organizations, such as NOW, or other prostitutes' unions, such as the English Collective of Prostitutes or WHISPER. A few articles from readily available publications were discarded.

Series XVIII, Clippings, articles re: prostitution (#966-986), is available only on microfilm (M-143). Most of the originals were discarded after filming.

Photocopied originals of material other than clippings have also been discarded.

Headings are those of COYOTE; information in brackets was added by the processors. Multiple terms related to sex work are found throughout the collection. Terms include prostitute, hooker, whore, harlot, and sex worker. St. James and fellow activists used all of these descriptors, choosing to reclaim terminology that others might interpret as anachronistic or derogatory.


Margaret Jean (Margo) St. James was born in 1937 in Bellingham, Washington, and graduated from Mount Baker High School in Deming, Washington, in 1955. She worked on her father's dairy farm, married, and had one son. She was later divorced and in 1959 moved to San Francisco, where she worked as a waitress, process server, gardener, carpenter's assistant, and dance instructor, and was founder of Margo's Miracle Maids, a domestic service. Following her conviction for prostitution, St. Jamesstudied law at Lincoln University in San Francisco (1963-1964) and succeeded in getting her conviction overturned. In 1976 St. James was licensed as a private investigator in California.

Seeing a need for a dialogue between feminists and prostitutes, St. James organized WHOM (Whores, Housewives, and Other Mothers) in 1971 to bring together "straight" women and prostitutes to identify and work toward common goals. Although WHOM met only a few times, it became the forerunner of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), which Margo St. James founded on Mother's Day in 1973. A civil rights organization for prostitutes, COYOTE called for the decriminalization of prostitution and sought to provide legal and medical services for prostitutes. It also offered employment, health, and financial counseling, and worked to educate the public about prostitution through publications, speeches, and seminars.

In October 1974 COYOTE sponsored its first Hookers' Masquerade Ball in San Francisco, a fund-raising event that was billed as "the social event of the year for heterosexuals, bisexuals, trisexuals, nonsexuals, homosexuals, and other minorities who feel discriminated against." A film entitled Hookers documented the ball, which became an annual event in San Francisco for a number of years and inspired similar functions in other cities.

Although it was widely perceived to be a prostitutes' union, in 1975 only 60 of COYOTE's 8500 members admitted to being prostitutes; most members were educated, white, middle-class women. Within two years of its founding, two sister chapters were formed: ASP (Association of Seattle Prostitutes) and PONY (Prostitutes of New York); by 1979 there were nearly twenty sister organizations in the United States and abroad. A newspaper entitled COYOTE Howls appeared irregularly between 1974 and 1979.

In 1976 feminist Florynce Kennedy founded the Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit corporation. Margo St. James served as its executive director and Priscilla Alexander became chair of one of the Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation's ad hoc committees, the National Task Force on Prostitution. Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation was "designed to be a funding tool for decriminalization of prostitution and related issues: violence, rape, incest, abortion, child care, welfare, etc." With COYOTE as the lobbying arm and National Task Force on Prostitution charged with establishing international networks, Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation set up Masquerade Corporation to produce balls and other fund-raising events.

After a fire destroyed the COYOTE headquarters in August 1978, many of its functions were absorbed by the National Task Force on Prostitution. A national network of prostitutes' rights advocacy organizations, the National Task Force on Prostitution worked for the decriminalization of prostitution and "the removal of stigmas associated with female sexuality." It sought to influence state policy makers, conducted research and compiled statistics, and prepared position papers on topics related to prostitution. The Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation achieved non-governmental organization status at the United Nations late in 1979, and in October 1980 the National Task Force on Prostitution was adopted as a project by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. In 1984 the National Task Force on Prostitution held its first national convention in San Francisco, coinciding with the Democratic National Convention. Most active chapter members were prostitutes or ex-prostitutes, although some non-prostitute advocates also participated. A similar network in Canada, CORP (Canadians Organized for the Rights of Prostitutes), worked with the National Task Force on Prostitution on a variety of projects.

In 1985 St. James and Gail Pheterson formed the International Committee for Prostitute's Rights (ICPR), based in Amsterdam. The National Task Force on Prostitution and its affiliates were members of the International Committee for Prostitute's Rights, which sponsored the World Whores' Congress in Amsterdam in 1985 and in Brussels in 1986. Margo St. James moved to Europe in 1986 to continue her work. Priscilla Alexander, a former schoolteacher who had worked with Margo St. James in various capacities since 1976, and Gloria Lockett, a former prostitute who joined the organization in 1982, continued the work of the National Task Force on Prostitution in San Francisco as co-directors.

Reflecting a growing concern about AIDS during the 1980s, members of COYOTE formed CAL-PEP (California Prostitutes Education Project) in 1985 "to provide public education on prostitution, and to provide education and counseling to prostitutes, ex-prostitutes, and sex workers within the San Francisco Bay Area." Its first project, funded by the State of California Department of Health, United States Centers for Disease Control, and Project AWARE, was an AIDS-prevention project that culminated in the publication of Prostitutes Prevent AIDS: A Manual for Health Education in 1988 (see #508-514).

In the late 1980s Priscilla Alexander left the National Task Force on Prostitution to work with the World Health Organization in Geneva. In the mid 1990s Margo St. James returned to San Francisco, where she continued her work as a member of the city's task force on prostitution and the mayor's drug advisory board.


The collection is arranged in 18 series:

  1. I. Margo St. James (#1-18)
  2. II. Historical and organizational (#19-48)
  3. III. Correspondence (#49-250f+)
  4. IV. Publicity (#251-258)
  5. V. Clippings, articles re: COYOTE, National Task Force on Prostitution, Margo St. James, etc. (#259-281ao)
  6. VI. Calendars (#282-292)
  7. VII. Phone logs (#293-324)
  8. VIII. Mailing and contact lists (#325-365)
  9. IX. Events sponsored by COYOTE (#366-425o)
  10. X. Sister organizations, related projects and groups (#426-558)
  11. XI. Victoria C. Woodhull Memorial Foundation (#559-597)
  12. XII. Grant proposals (#598-629)
  13. XIII. Financial (#630-719)
  14. XIV. Conferences attended by Margo St. James or Priscilla Alexander (#720-775)
  15. XV. Creative works (#776-852o)
  16. XVI. Court cases and legislation (#853-922)
  17. XVII. Research papers and publications, 1974-1985 (#923-965)
  18. XVIII. Clippings, articles re: prostitution (#966-986)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 81-M32, 81-M88, 82-M113, 82-M161, 84-M188, 86-M30, 86-M49, 89-M153, 90-M1

The records of COYOTE were given to the Schlesinger Library by Margo St. James and COYOTE between February 1981 and January 1990. Portions were prepared for microfilming by Kate Hardikar in 1996 and filmed with the support of the Friends of the Schlesinger Library.


File units 259-281ao and 966-986 were microfilmed for preservation reasons. Most clippings were discarded after microfilming. Clippings not discarded after microfilming can be found in 281ao.

Many of the clippings were mounted by the processor to facilitate microfilming. Some were mounted by COYOTE.

Some clippings were difficult to film, due to such problems as discoloration caused by old tape, fading of photocopies, creased and wrinkled newsprint, and magazine illustrations and newsletters printed in color.

Some clippings are incomplete.

Some clippings were not microfilmed in their entirety, but only the page(s) by or about COYOTE or prostitution, and the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.

The film was proofread by the Schlesinger Library and corrections were made where necessary

Copies of M-143 may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

For a list of the contents of 81-M32--90-M1, see the inventory that follows. When requesting microfilmed material, please use the microfilm number (M-143) and the reel number.

  1. Folders 259-269: M-143, Reel 1
  2. Folders 270-281ao: M-143, Reel 2
  3. Folders 966-973: M-143, Reel 3
  4. Folders 974-982: M-143, Reel 4
  5. Folders 983-986: M-143, Reel 5


  1. Carton 1: Folders 1-5, 20-24, 26-39, 43-67
  2. Carton 2: Folders 68-110, 112, 116-130
  3. Carton 3: Folders 131-160
  4. Carton 4: Folders 161-188
  5. Carton 5: Folders 189-228
  6. Box 6: Folders 251, 253-274
  7. Box 7: Folders 282-292, 328, 346-347, 349
  8. Folio Box 8: Folders 330f-333f
  9. Box 7a: 351-352, 354, 356, 362-364, 366-374
  10. Carton 8a: Folders 375-391, 393-395, 398-401, 403-413, 415, 417-424, 426-427, 429-435
  11. Carton 9: Folders 436-442, 444-460, 464-467, 469-488, 490-494
  12. Carton 10: Folders 495-519, 521-532
  13. Carton 11: Folders 533-543, 545-557, 559-570, 572-574, 579-589
  14. Carton 12: Folders 590-638
  15. Carton 13: Folders 639-682, 684-705, 707-719
  16. Carton 14: Folders 720-751
  17. Carton 15: Folders 752-796
  18. Carton 16: Folders 797-823, 826-849, 853-869
  19. Carton 17: Folders 870-928v
  20. Carton 18: 929-953
  21. Box 19: 954-965
  22. Carton 20: 6-11, 13-18, 111, 113-115, 229-246, 248, 293-297
  23. Carton 21: 298-327
  24. Carton 22 (CLOSED): 329, 335-345, 348-350, 353, 355, 357-361, 365, 392, 402, 416, 428, 461-463, 468, 489, 575-578, 683, 706, 850, 873, 877, 904

Processing Information

Correspondence, position papers, photographs, etc., of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), an organization advocating the decriminalization of prostitution.

Preliminary finding aid: May 1996

By: Kim Brookes, Anne Engelhart

Genre / Form



Coyote (Organization). Records of Coyote, 1962-1989: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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