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Judith Arcana  

Writer, Poet & Reproductive Rights Advocate

Born and raised in the Great Lakes region, living now in the Pacific Northwest, Judith Arcana is a writer of poems, stories, essays and books. Praised by writers and readers, reviewers and community leaders, Arcana’s work appears in collections and journals, online and on paper.

Arcana is a Jane, a member of the Chicago underground service that helped thousands of women and girls get safe illegal abortions before the US Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in January of 1973.

She's a skilled performer/presenter who has worked with audiences in the US, Britain and Canada, often visiting campus and community groups to talk about reproductive justice and perform her powerful writing. Arcana is in some documentary films, including the 1995 Jane: An Abortion Service (dir. Kate Kirtz/Nell Lundy), the 2014 She's Beautiful When She's Angry (dir. Mary Dore), the 2019 OUR BODIES OUR DOCTORS (dir. Jan Haaken), and 2022’s THE JANES, created by the producer/director team Daniel Arcana, Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin.

A longtime teacher of literature, writing and women’s studies, Arcana has a PhD in Literature, an MA in Women's Studies, an Urban Preceptorship in Preventive Medicine and a BA in English. She’s taught in high schools, colleges, libraries, living rooms, a state prison and a county jail.

Her first and last teaching jobs were for students at Niles Township High School in Illinois (in the beautiful old building that was her own alma mater), and Union Graduate School, an experimental national university-without-walls that has since become a conventional online program. For Niles, Arcana taught English, Creative Writing and Humanities, the latter as part of a team of students and teachers. For Union, where she served as a dean, Arcana advised doctoral candidates, led residential seminars, and was founding director of the Union’s Center for Women in Washington DC.

Her writing has been supported by the Puffin Foundation, Rockefeller Archive Center, Institute for Anarchist Studies, NW Oregon's Regional Arts and Culture Council, Celebration Foundation, Union's doctoral faculty, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and Oregon Literary Arts – and fostered by residencies at Soapstone and MilePost5 in Oregon, the Montana Artists Refuge, Ragdale in Illinois, the Mesa Refuge in California and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in New Mexico.

Arcana’s poems, stories and essays have been published widely for more than fifty years, on paper and online in literary journals; political, cultural and medical magazines; newspapers; academic journals; anthologies; and textbooks. Her fiction and poetry have won chapbook awards from Minerva Rising Press and Turtle Island Quarterly.

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