Nancy Dean: Astraea Founding Mother

Published on Oct 13, 2017

Astraea is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of one of our esteemed founding mothers, Nancy Dean.

Astraea is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of one of our esteemed founding mothers, Nancy Dean.

Dean was a professor at Hunter College, where she taught courses on Chaucer and Medieval Studies, as well as courses on women’s studies and women-centered literature. She has authored an impressive portfolio of plays, including plays that have been produced off-Broadway. In 1995, Sisters on Stage honored Dean with an award for playwriting and support for other lesbian playwrights, which became known as the Nancy Dean Distinguished Playwriting Award.

Learning that women received less than 1 percent of foundation grants, Dean co-founded Astraea in 1977 with the intention of creating a lesbian foundation for all women, especially women of color. “When I told Nancy the dismal numbers,” says her partner, Beva Eastman, “she immediately said ‘we should start our own.'” In a 2008 interview with Kelly Anderson of Smith College, Astraea’s former Executive Director Katherine Acey called Dean “the catalyst” for the founding of Astraea, which became one of the first women’s foundations to emerge during that time period, and which “came out” officially as a lesbian organization in 1990.

Remembering Dean’s legacy feels particularly poignant as we celebrate LGBT History Month and prepare to celebrate Astraea’s 40th Anniversary on November 13. Dean’s foresight and vision birthed what has grown to become a global LGBTQI foundation that provides crucial support to grassroots LGBTQI organizations in the U.S. and around the world. We feel deeply honored to carry on Dean’s vision and legacy as we move into our next 40 years.

Rest in power, Nancy.