West Chesterfield, NH - Ann Richardson Stokes, 85, of West Chesterfield, N.H. Died Nov. 20 at her home of cancer. She was known locally for her kind and enthusiastic support of this community and, more widely, for her passionate interest in politics, women's issues, and environmental and world affairs.
In May, 1977, Ann was jailed for two weeks with several other women from Putney Friends Meeting, and hundreds of others, for protesting the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant on the New Hampshire coast. Her proud mother rushed from New Jersey to visit her daughter in the Exeter jail. Later, during a protest at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, she was told she could not tour the facility because women would be distracting to the men who were working. She did anyway.
Ann was an avid tennis player and sportswoman and, as with everything, played to win. She did not win, however, when she ran for Sheriff in West Chesterfield, in the 1970s, but she did get 44 votes. That ended her own political career, but not her intense interest and support of others. Long before the words "progressive populist" were invented, Ann invited Fred Harris, a Senator from Oklahoma, to her lovely Finnish-style home in New Hampshire for a gala fundraiser, supporting his presidential bid in 1976.
She always kept the faith, supporting her favorite candidates, local and national, whom she felt could make life better for all. Even to the end, which may have been hastened by Hillary Clinton's loss. Ann was well-known to editors in New York, Washington, D.C., and locally for her smart, passionate, and thoughtful letters, written with pen and ink on paper.
Ann was born in Moorestown, N.J., on June 9, 1931, the daughter of Dr. Emlen Stokes and Lydia Babbott Stokes. She was the great-grand-daughter of Brooklyn's Charles Pratt. Ann graduated from Moorestown Friends School and later Goddard College in Plainfield. She later served as a trustee at Goddard, and had great affection and loyalty to the school.
She had a great love of nature, having vacationed most summers of her life with family and friends in St. Huberts in the Adirondacks. In 1959, she chose to make her home in West Chesterfield, atop Welcome Hill, just down from Roger Welcome's beautiful farm.
Ann gave some fabled parties, bringing in the likes of Nina Simone, Odetta, and many others to delight her guests. The entire Arthur Hall African-American Dance Troupe from North Philadelphia, shopping in downtown Brattleboro the day after a party at Ann's, was more unusual in the 1960s than it might be today.
Ann is known to many for the gift of the land on Gulf Road known as Madame Sherrie's. A favorite hiking trail, the Ann Stokes Loop, winds up to Indian Pond at the foot of Mount Wantastiquet. The legend and lore of Madame Sherrie continues to fascinate.
And to many, Ann is a legend as well. She was known as a talented poet, painter, writer, and thespian. She stole the show in the 2006 production of "Gay and Grey" at the Sandglass Theatre in Putney, which featured improvised personal stories of older gay men and lesbians.
But Ann will likely best be remembered for her laughter, outspoken deep convictions and loyalties, and for the creation of an exquisite retreat for women artists on her Welcome Hill property. Known to women in many parts of the country as the Welcome Hill Studios, three in all, they were created by Ann and women friends in the 1970s.
These studios and their serenity have helped and inspired countless women over the nearly 40 years in existence, and will continue to do so in perpetuity.
"A Studio Of One's Own," published by Naiad Press in 1985, is an account of the all-woman-built first studio on the Hill. "Women weren't building houses much then, or at all," said Ann Goldsmith, a friend involved in the early feminist project. A local artist said "Ann has a wonderful legacy. She had moxie, was a lot of fun, and made so many people's lives better."
Stokes was a lifelong Quaker and longtime vital member of Putney Friends Meeting. She was respected for her spiritual depth, as well as bringing a fierce advocacy for civil rights in all realms and, in our times in particular, support and outreach for marriage and gender equality and assistance for people with AIDS.
Ann is survived by her adoring cat, Jack, daughter Patricia Prudence Hill of Philadelphia, nephews Thomas Willits of Northampton, Mass. and Roy Willits of Clarksburg, N.J., nieces Nancy Deren of Gainesville, Fla., Thalia Venerable of Santa Fe, N.M., as well as the legions of people who knew and loved her. Ann was predeceased by her brother, Samuel Stokes of Alstead, N.H., sisters Sally Venerable of Santa Fe, N.M., and Lydia Willits of Durham, N.H.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 10:30 a.m., at The Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vt. Donations in Ann's memory may be made to Welcome Hill Studios, Box 84, West Chesterfield, NH, 03466.
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