Update on Ruth Christenson

I am revising the post on Ruth Christenson and will be posting a new version soon.

Thanks to Moonlight and a few other researchers, another article about Ruth Christenson was uncovered at the Star Tribune. It is from December 14, 1990.

Christenson died of apparent suicide on December 6, 1990, as a conflagration engulfed her Minneapolis apartment. Two brief excerpts:

In the 6 1/2 years since she stepped inside a downtown Minneapolis bookstore, poured gasoline over her head and set herself afire, Christenson knew a lot of anguish, they said.

There had been seven painful skin-graft operations after the 1984 protest, which came during a bitter and protracted City Council debate on pornography. She had third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body, and her face was badly disfigured.

A full year passed before she dared to look at herself in a mirror.

Larry Cloud-Morgan, who operates a Minneapolis shelter for American Indian women, said Christenson often stopped by to talk. “She talked about my people,” he said. “She knew them on the street, and she loved them. We talked about justice and a woman’s world and compassion.”

The last time they talked, he said, she was worried about the possibility of war in the Persian Gulf. “She said, ‘I’m afraid that the women and children there may someday have to look like me.’”

Christenson stood, burning, for about half a minute, then staggered and collapsed. She continued to burn for perhaps another 30 seconds as clerks and customers used fire extinguishers and carpets to put out the fire, which had spread to stacks of newspapers and other material.

A sheaf of hand-lettered leaflets — “Stop Porn Now” — fell from her backpack. She also had firecrackers and .22-caliber bullets in the backpack.

Despite her burns, Christenson remained conscious. She said nothing and didn’t cry out.She had mailed letters to city officials, describing her hatred of pornography and announcing that she would commit suicide to protest the degradation of women. The letters arrived after her protest.

People involved in the antipornography movement stood vigil at the hospital where she was treated. Fearing duplicate demonstrations, the Pornography Resource Center issued a statement: “We don’t want women to harm themselves. We need women to stay alive and intact for the struggle.”

Also, the suicide letter she wrote to the Star Tribune in 1984:

“Sexism has shattered my life — psychologically, economically and spiritually. Because of this, I have chosen to take my life and to destroy the persons who have destroyed me. I don’t know if any of this will have any impact on your civil rights legislation, but at least someone will have done something about this nightmare of racism and sexism that most pornography involves.”