By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Write
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Anyda Marchant, 94, a retired lawyer who published 14 novels under the pen name Sarah Aldridge and co-founded two small but influential feminist/lesbian publishing companies, died Jan. 11 of congestive heart failure at her home in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Ms. Marchant, a resident of the Washington area for 50 years, was central to the creation of Naiad Press in 1972 and A&M Books in 1995 to give lesbian and feminist authors vehicles to publish their work. Naiad Press was founded to publish Ms. Marchant's first novel, "The Latecomer" (1974), and she, like most lesbian writers of the 1970s, used a pseudonym.
A co-founder of both companies and Ms. Marchant's partner of 57 years, Muriel Crawford, said Ms. Marchant wanted to make sure that female writers were published. "She used to tell me it was all about having a chance to tell our stories," Crawford said.
"She was a strong-willed, principled person -- first and foremost a feminist spirit," Crawford said. "She really believed that women needed to band together to help each other."
Ms. Marchant was born Anne Nelson Yarborough De Armond Marchant in Rio de Janeiro and moved with her family to Washington at 6. She called herself Anyda, using the initials from her long name. She graduated and received a law degree in 1936 from the old National University law school, now part of George Washington University.
In a 1992 article in USA Today, she recalled as a young girl seeing women in the suffragist movement "being arrested in Lafayette Park and bundled into paddy wagons."
Later, as a law student, she served for a year as assistant to women's rights pioneer Alice Paul, who was then doing research for an Equal Rights Amendment and whom she deemed "among the very greatest of the feminists."
In 1940, Ms. Marchant was appointed assistant in the Law Library of Congress. When the male manager of the section was drafted during World War II, Ms. Marchant replaced him and served until his return in 1945. She refused the offer of a lesser position and returned to Brazil to work, with a brief stint as a translator at the 1948 Pan American Union conference in Bogota, Colombia.
In 1948, she came back to Washington as one of the first female attorneys for the law firm now known as Covington & Burling. In the early 1950s, she worked briefly with the Commerce Department and in private practice before joining the legal department at the World Bank. She worked at the World Bank for 18 years until retiring in 1972.
In 1974, Ms. Marchant incorporated Naiad and was joined by Barbara Grier and Donna McBride, who had a lengthy mailing list that helped in distributing Ms. Marchant's first book. Naiad became a venue for the publication of other feminist and lesbian literature, and Ms. Marchant served as Naiad president from its inception until the mid-1990s.
In 1995, Ms. Marchant and Crawford left Naiad, based then with Grier and McBride in Tallahassee, Fla., after a publishing dispute. Naiad closed in 1997. Ms. Marchant and Crawford began their own publishing company, A&M Books, in Rehoboth Beach. A&M published the last three Sarah Aldridge novels, along with the book "As I Lay Frying: A Rehoboth Beach Memoir" (2004) by Fay Jacobs and "Celebrating Hotchclaw" (2005) by Ann Allen Shockley.
Of Ms. Marchant's writing, one reviewer once called her "one of the beloved of lesbian authors." In a 1997 review of Ms. Marchant's last Sarah Aldridge novel, "Nina in the Wilderness," Andreas L.T. Peterson wrote that "Nina is classic Aldridge. It evidences the careful attention to detail readers have come to expect, the complex emotional challenges Aldridge's characters are consistently confronted with, and the kind of pure romance that is almost unique to Aldridge among lesbian novelists."
Among her many activities, Ms. Marchant organized Delaware's first National Organization for Women chapter, in Rehoboth Beach.
Survivors include her partner.