In Honor Of Bonnie Bullough
by Gerald Larue
The following article is from Free
Inquiry magazine, Volume 16, Number 3.
Bonnie Bullough, a longtime friend of and contributor to Free Inquiry, died April 12, 1996,
in Northridge, California. The following tribute is adapted from remarks by Gerald A.
Larue at a commemoration ceremony on April 21, 1996.
Bonnie Bullough was born in Delta, Utah, to a seventeen-year-old mother. Her father
left almost immediately and Bonnie never met him or knew him. Her first years were spent
with her grandmother, and, although she had been named Louise, "Bonnie" reflects
the name her Scottish great-grandfather used when he dandled her on his knees. When she
was three and one-half years old she was horribly burned, and it was not until the
Crippled Children's Act was passed in 1935 that she received the needed surgery to cope
with her injuries. Between the ages of eight and twelve she spent every summer in the
hospital. When she was fourteen her mother disappeared, and she was officially adopted by
her uncle, Clyde Uckerman, although her mother's second husband expressed a willingness to
take her. Uckerman was only fourteen years older than Bonnie and a master sergeant in the
U. S. Army fighting in the Pacific theater. She was cared for by her grandmother, using
the dependency allotment of her bachelor adopted father to support her. It should not be
assumed that Bonnie was raised without love and affection - this was not so - but at a
very early age she was pushed into relying on herself.
Bonnie was fifteen years old when she met Vern. They were both members of a student
debate group. It is important to note that Vern did not come from an affluent family. They
were, in Vern's words, a working-class family. Vern joined the army in 1946, and on August
7, 1947, he and Bonnie were married. The story of their wedding is one for the books - it
involved the determination to avoid the three-day waiting period required by the state of
California by traveling by bus to Reno. They were wed by an aged minister, to whom they
were introduced by a taxi driver who got a cut of the wedding fee. After a bus trip back
to Santa Rosa, arriving at 2 A.M., they walked a mile to their tiny converted one-car
garage apartment and collapsed out of fatigue. Talk about bravado!
Most of us recognize Bonnie as an outstanding scholar. She wrote, co-wrote with Vern,
and edited more than thirty books. Presently, she has two books in press and another to be
sent to press. She wrote and co-authored more than 160 refereed articles plus more than
fifty other articles and over twenty chapters in a variety of books. She gave nearly 100
Bonnie's college education began in Utah when she received a Diploma in Nursing from
the Salt Lake General Hospital and the University of Utah in 1947. From 1947 to 1951 she
served as a head nurse in the operating room. With Vern she moved to Chicago in 1951,
where he earned his Ph.D. in 1954. She was, for a year, a nurse in the operating room in
the University of Chicago Clinics before she joined the City of Chicago Health Department
as a Public Health Nurse. As an added extra to her busy career, she became a mother and
bore her first son, David, in 1954.
Her B.S. degree in Nursing was earned in 1957 in Youngstown, Ohio, where Vern had a
University appointment as an Associate Professor at Youngstown University. Bonnie became a
part-time instructor in Nursing at the same institution. Here she bore their second son,
James, in 1956. In 1958, their son Steve, who was at that time in Florence Crittendon
Center, became the first adopted member of the family.
When Vern got an appointment in California in 1959, Bonnie became a part-time nurse at
Northridge Hospital and a student at the University of California at Los Angeles. Can you
imagine this dynamic woman ever getting less than A's in her graduate studies? But it did
happen in 1961 when she was working on her master's degree in nursing at UCLA. She was
required to take an undergraduate course in psychology, which she resented because, as
Vern puts it, she knew the subject backward and forward. This was the week when Susan -
the first and only girl adopted into the expanding Bullough family - came into their
lives. Bonnie was up all night before the examination, and she fell asleep during it,
awakening when there were just 10 minutes left to complete it. She did a hurried job and
received her first and only C grade. In 1962, Bonnie earned her Master of Science degree
in Nursing followed by an M.A. in Sociology in 1965 and a Ph.D. in Sociology in 1968. And
as if that was not enough, she earned a Certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner from
UCLA shortly afterward.
In 1966 she became a Fulbright lecturer in Cairo, Egypt, and it was that year while the
family was in Jerusalem that David was killed. The story of their efforts to have this
twelve-year-old child buried in the American Cemetery in Jerusalem reeks of religious
bigotry by the fundamentalist Christian minister who was in charge of the burial ground.
It is enough to say that the Bulloughs persevered and were successful in surmounting this
man's stalling efforts.
For the next year Bonnie was a part-time instructor in Sociology at Cal State
Northridge. In 1968 she became an Assistant Professor of Nursing at UCLA. This was the
year the Bulloughs adopted two-year-old Michael. Four years later Bonnie became an UCLA
Associate Professor and Chair of the Primary Care Section. In 1975 she joined the staff at
Cal State Long Beach as a Professor of Nursing and Coordinator of the Graduate Program.
Bonnie was a pioneer in the Nurse Practitioners Movement, which was designed to relieve
doctors of tasks that could just as well be performed by trained nurses, establishing the
first degree courses in California and probably in the country. As a result training
centers were developed nationwide.
Bonnie decided she wanted to become a dean. When she sent out her resumi, four schools
responded. Bonnie chose Buffalo, and in 1979 she became Dean of Nursing at the State
University of New York at Buffalo. Vern tagged along. After all, he points out, Bonnie had
been following him around from school to school and city to city - now it was his turn to
follow her. In 1993 they both returned to Southern California and became professors at the
University of Southern California.
There is one more important dimension to Bonnie's life. She was born into a Mormon
family, but soon became disaffected. In 1946, while in nursing school, she and Vern came
under the influence of the great Unitarian minister, Ed Wilson, one of the pioneers in the
humanist movement. Through him they discovered their identity as humanists and together
have made endless contributions to the growth of humanism in America and elsewhere in the
world. Bonnie's humanistic concerns led her to embrace a wide variety of friends without
regard to race, religion, color, or lifestyle. Her interests were humanistic,
humanitarian, professional, and inclusive.
Obviously, she never lost her commitment to nursing. Throughout her professional life
she wrote and acted on behalf of the nursing profession, including studies of the career
ladders in nursing, evaluation of student attitudes, research in nursing practice law,
three volumes on the history of nursing, and two books on community health and preventive
health care. She wrote about alienation and discrimination, including discrimination in
the health care delivery system, as well as about poverty and ethnicity, and about
discrimination against African-American applicants to nursing school. She wrote about
women's health in articles ranging from concern with providing emotional support for women
with breast cancer to Kegel exercises for stress incontinence to issues of poverty,
ethnicity, and community health as they relate to women and children.
Both she and Vern were were actively engaged in studies pertaining to human sexuality.
They wrote about the history of prostitution, about homosexuality and lesbianism, about
cross-dressing and other transgender behavior, about contraception, family planning,
abortion, and population.
Every study, every research, every article, every book expressed humanistic concern.
Each publication was more than a statistical study, but represented feelings and
commitments that welled up from the heart and from commitment to life, to living, and to
loving and helping others.
Characteristically, Bonnie, the multi-gifted wife, mother, scholar, and educator, was
her efficient self right up to the end of her life. Even as she was suffering from the
interstitial lung disease that she knew would soon end her life, she won a bridge game and
then she left Vern with a list of jobs to do - including the final preparation of a book
she was completing.
Many of her published writings also bear Vern's name. These two were a team, tightly
bound together, appreciative of and so in love with each other and with life that they
were free to reach out and embrace life. Their combined efforts have never been simply
theoretical; they have been socially practical, influencing humanity and the lives and
well-being of others. Her life has affected society and helped make the world a better
place in which to live. We are grateful that Bonnie Bullough has been and still is a part
of our lives. Her influence endures in the wonderful humanistic and humanitarian
consequences that flow from her character and her acts. Who she was and what she stood for
endures in our thoughts and words and acts. We will remember Bonnie as a living presence
and that memory will bring refreshment to our hearts and strengthen us in times of trial.
We have shared some of the reflections of her presence among us and we can treasure these
for in this troubled world there can never be too much of the warm, friendly, helpful
loving outreach that Bonnie represented.