Sandy Boucher, MA, a writer, editor, and teacher, has been active for 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Author of nine books and numerous nonfiction articles in anthologies and magazines, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature in 1979.
In 2006, Sandy was selected by an international committee of scholars and practitioners as an Outstanding Woman in Buddhism at the United Nations headquarters in Bangkok. She leads retreats such as “Dharma and Writing” in Seattle, “A Celebration of the Feminine Divine” at various venues, “Meditation and Creativity” retreats in the San Francisco Bay Area, and, with her life-partner Martha Boesing, the New Year’s Women’s Retreat at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. And she offers private writing consultation.
Her latest book is She Appears! Encounters with Kwan Yin Goddess of Compassion. Her Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism is a groundbreaking overview of women’s participation in Buddhist practice. Her other Dharma books include Discovering Kwan Yin: Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, Hidden Spring: A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer, Dancing in the Dharma: The Life and Teachings of Ruth Denison, and Opening the Lotus, A Woman’s Guide to Buddhism.
Sandy Boucher was born Marilyn Sandra Early. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and remains to this day a Midwesterner at heart. However, having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades, she has become a true Californian, grateful for the gifts of ocean and mountain, redwoods and beaches, as well as the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Oakland, where she lives, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sandy’s first published article appeared in the Columbus Dispatch when she was 17 years old. She was inspired by the story of a house on the Ohio River that had become a stop on the Underground Railroad, a haven for fleeing slaves escaping their Southern masters. (The Ohio River was part of a boundary—the Mason-Dixon Line—between the slave-holding South and free-state Ohio.)
While completing a B.A. in English Literature at Ohio State University, Sandy won a place as a College Guest Editor at Mademoiselle Magazine in New York; after her stint as a guest editor there, she secured a job at Mademoiselle as assistant to the Arts/Entertainment editor, where she worked for a year.
The following summer Sandy traveled to Europe to cycle through Germany, Austria, Italy and France, where she met Jerry Boucher, a student from California. They married in Nice, France and moved to Barcelona, Spain, where they lived for a year, teaching English as a second language at the USIS-sponsored Instituto de Estudios Norteamericanos. On their return to the United States, they moved into an apartment on Haight Street in San Francisco. Here they participated in the counterculture excitement, political activism and mind-opening substances prevalent in the Haight-Ashbury district in the sixties.
THE TRANSFORMATION: WORKING FOR CHANGE
In the seventies Sandy entered wholeheartedly into the Women’s Liberation Movement, leaving her marriage and going to live in a women’s liberation collective. The collective participated in collaborative child-raising with their two young children. They also co-wrote and published a feminist newspaper called Mother Lode, organized demonstrations for equal opportunity, and offered protection to women in abusive or violent situations. In this setting Sandy became a Lesbian, settling happily into her new lifestyle. In 1975 her first book of stories, titled Assaults & Rituals, was published.
Through her participation in the Women’s Liberation and anti-nuclear movements Sandy developed a healthy regard for social activism, and in the early eighties went to jail several times to protest the production and testing of nuclear weapons. She continues to support social justice, antiwar and environmental movements such as those against sex trafficking, unjust incarceration of African-American men, and global warming.
Sandy began teaching writing and working as an editor/writing consultant in 1980. In 1982 she published two books: Heartwomen: An Urban Feminist’s Odyssey Home, about women in the Midwest, and The Notebooks of Leni Clare, a book of stories. Her independent Writing Workshops for Women drew enthusiastic response from the women’s and lesbian communities, as she encouraged women to tell their stories, empowering them to speak strongly from their unique perspectives.
Sandy began to practice and study Buddhism in 1980, connecting with the pioneer Theravada/Vipassana teacher Ruth Denison, who became her root teacher. In 1988 she brought together her writing, her feminism and her Buddhism by publishing Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism, an exploration of the issues facing American women within the male supremacist tradition of Buddhism. This book was the first comprehensive examination of Western women’s participation in Buddhist practice and institutions; its unflinching look at sexual power abuse in Zen centers, its expression of women’s discomfort in male-dominated settings, and its scholarly delineation of the traditional biases against women in Buddhism made it a powerful portrait of contemporary female spiritual experience. Subsequent books examined various aspects of women’s spiritual journey.
In the late eighties Sandy earned a Masters Degree in the History and Phenomenology of Religion from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, studying through the Unitarian Seminary, Starr King School for the Ministry.
She has traveled in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia and Mongolia, speaking at the conferences of Sakyadhita, the International Association of Buddhist Women, and living for a short time as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka.
Sandy lives in Oakland, California, with Martha Boesing, and feels held in their family of three children, the children’s spouses, and four grandchildren, as well as the extensive Feminist and Buddhist communities of the Bay Area.