Margo St. James is considered the mother of the American sex worker rights movement. In 1973, she founded Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics (COYOTE) to push for the decriminalization of prostitution and the destigmatization of sex work. The San Francisco–based group became known for its annual "Hooker's Ball" fundraiser, for spawning spinoff groups around the country, and for putting sex worker–led activism on the U.S. map.
COYOTE and St. James fought for sex workers at a time when the mainstream U.S. feminist movement was hostile to them and leftist organizers mostly wanted to portray them as victims. Lacking those allies, St. James still helped position the sex worker rights movement as a broad and classical liberal battle for civil rights, sexual freedom, economic liberty, and bodily autonomy, while advancing the idea that decriminalization would be good for women and good for sex worker safety.
In May, a group of COYOTE's 21st century descendants released a video memorial to St. James, who died in January 2021. Celebration of Life for Margo St. James features archival footage, photos, and interviews plus new commentary on and paeans to her life and work from an international and intergenerational squad of admirers. You can find the whole thing at margostjames.com.