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Patricia Lucille Nelson was born in Montreal in 1953. Although her mother was from Alberta and her father from British Columbia, Nelson and her four siblings grew up in Laval West and St-Eustache (Québec). She studied the humanities and languages at Vanier College in Saint-Laurent, printing at Ahuntsic College in Montreal and worked at Classic Books before moving to British Columbia in 1974.
Nelson quickly settled in Vancouver and started working in a screen printing shop in Burnaby. She lived in a coop house and, in 1975, she joined Press Gang. Here she worked on a voluntary basis and became a press operator. This is also the time when she came out as a lesbian and decided to informally change her name to Lou, a shortened version of her middle name, in honor of the occasion. It is also when she became involved more actively in the feminist, socialist and unionist movement that prevailed in Vancouver in those years. For example, she joined the NDP in September 1974. The following year, she participated in the occupation of the Vancouver Canada Manpower Centre Office to pressure the Canadian Government to make real changes regarding women and work. She worked at and supported Press Gang by involving herself in numerous fundraising activities and helped organize the 1979 Conference on Women and Work. “In order to sustain herself”, she ran Simon Fraser University Student Society’s print shop for four years. While working at SFU, she also got involved with the feminist union Service Office and Retail Workers Union (SORWUC).
In 1983, she moved back to Montreal where she entered the Translation Program at Concordia University. During her studies there, she worked part time at Concordia’s student society print shop. She graduated in 1987 and became a freelance translator. Still loyal to her feminist beliefs in this new profession, she translated works from Anne-Marie Alonzo, Nicole Brossard, Louise Dupré and Monique Bégin.
Nelson’s love of words goes a long way back. For instance, she kept diaries for years. In 1978, she even wrote in one of them that she would like to become a fiction writer by age 35. Part of her diary was also published in the anthology Our lives, Lesbian Personal Writings (Second Story Press, 1991). She was actively involved with an organization called Women and Words throughout the 1980’s.
Lou Nelson left her last lesbian partner in 1989. She now lives with her husband in southern Québec and works as a freelance translator, with plans to retire in 2022.
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- Press Gang Printers (Subject)