Betsy Bell

Betsy Bell

Betsy Bell, mother, grandmother, and businesswoman, is a longtime justice activist. She has written a memoir titled Open Borders: A Personal Story of Love, Loss and Anti-war Activism, published by Epicenter Press, October 2018. Her publications include poems in various chapbooks and magazines; a memoir piece, Goodbye to Eleanor Johnson, in The Oklahoma Review, Spring issue, 2012; a non-fiction piece, Sex, Death and Line Dancing, in Stratus, the Journal of Arts and Writing, UW Continuum College, summer 2016; an opinion piece exploring where one lives in one’s old age in the Seattle Times. in the Seattle Time; and a piece in Readers Write, The Sun Magazine, January 2019. Bell completed a BA and MA in Spanish at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, and Literary Fiction Writing I and Memoir Writing in Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Washington 2016 and 2018.

Bell is working on a novel, Removed, inspired by an episode of the radio program, This American Life. The story investigates the way families and society raises our daughters to be more or less vulnerable to sexual predation.

Personal history

Betsy Bell, born before WWII in New York City, spent her formative years in the Jim Crow town of Muskogee, Oklahoma. As a Girl Scout, she began her social justice advocacy working with a bi-racial team to plan desegregation after the 1954 Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools. Graduating from Bryn Mawr College with a BA in 1959 and an MA in 1963, she began an academic career in Lawrence, Kansas where her husband taught. In Lawrence, she advocated for reproductive rights with Planned Parenthood. She lives in Seattle where she has held several career positions, interrupted by long residential stays in England and South Africa where her husband’s academic work took him. Twice widowed, Betsy keeps in touch with eight adult children and stepchildren and sixteen grandchildren.


For the past fourteen years, Betsy has worked with the Seattle area faith communities toward economic justice through the Jubilee USA Network. She has traveled extensively in many parts of the world, with her two deceased husbands, one or more of her sixteen grandchildren, four daughters or four step-children. She has maintained a direct selling health-related business for the past thirty-five years.

Author’s statement

I’ve been a writer all my life. Writing has been my way of making sense of vivid moments that made little sense at the time. Shame and joy framed cinematographic incidents that flash on the screen of memory: river-tooth moments, markers along the trajectory of my life. As I have scoured each iconic moment for its particular meaning, I have learned about the person I have become and felt a bond with women over the last several hundred years. To thrive, I’ve had to navigate the patriarchy. It is not enough to ruminate on the changes in the last century. I feel a sense of urgency to create stories from these moments that may satisfy other’s need to make sense of the confusing world we inhabit.

Writing these stories is one of the most pleasurable activities I have ever pursued.