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Catalano, Theresa Mary, 1959-1999



  • Existence: 1959 - 1999


Human rights activist and singer-songwriter Theresa Mary "Tess" Catalano, who was active in organizations such as the Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) and Common Lives/Lesbian Lives that supported feminists and lesbians, was born in Athens, Ohio, in 1959 to Cosmo and Josephine (Smith) Catalano. She was the youngest of three children. The Catalano family moved to Iowa City in 1966 when Cosmo Catalano, a theater professor, was hired by the University of Iowa. Tess Catalano attended Lincoln Elementary, Central Junior High, and West High in Iowa City, from which she graduated in 1977. She attended Allegheny College, (the alma mater of her parents), for one year, then returned to Iowa City and completed a BA at the University of Iowa in 1985.

Catalano's political activities made her "somewhat of a campus legend" at the University of Iowa, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. She served on organizing committees for events such as Take Back the Night rallies and Pride week. She also protested South Africa's apartheid policies and the University of Iowa's economic investment in the government of South Africa. As a singer-songwriter, Catalano frequently sang at benefits on behalf of the causes she supported. Catalano supported herself during her undergraduate years by driving city and school buses, and working at the University of Iowa accounting and maintenance departments.

Catalano became a certified massage therapist after completing training at the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1994. She returned to Iowa City where she practiced massage until she and her partner, Rebecca Teasdale, moved to Oregon in 1997. After a year in Portland, the couple moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Tess Catalano died suddenly in 1999. Memorial services were held in both Eugene and Iowa City as hundreds of people mourned her passing and remembered her contributions to their communities.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Tess Catalano papers

Identifier: IWA0527

Human rights activist, singer and song writer.

Dates: 1959-2002