Clinic founder leaves legacy

Dido Hasper, considered by many to be the mother of the self-help women’s health movement in Butte County, died suddenly July 15. She was 56.

Hasper helped start and for many years ran the Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center, now called Women’s Health Specialists.

“Dido really sought to provide the type of health care that she would like to receive—woman-to-woman,” said Eileen Schnitger, development director of the clinic, who had known Hasper for 27 years.

The nonprofit center was founded in 1974, the brainchild of Hasper and several other women who saw a need for an affordable, women-controlled clinic.

“At that time in Chico you couldn’t get birth control unless you were married,” Schnitger said. “Women needing abortions had to travel to the Bay Area.”

Besides birth control and abortions, the health center offered adoption advice, fertility information, gynecological exams and midwifery services—at a time when OB/GYNs didn’t accept Medi-Cal and pregnancy tests and vaginal and bladder infection treatments weren’t available in drug stores.

“She grew up seeing the injustice of oppression and women not being able to get the information that they needed. She was a visionary. She could see a world where people help each other,” Schnitger said.

The nonprofit grew to include clinics in Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Redding that collectively serve 36,000 people a year. Over the years, the centers have been targeted by anti-abortion protesters and arson fires.

Remembered as a tireless problem-solver, Hasper took her advocacy a step further and traveled to developing countries to teach women there about their bodies and lobby for reproductive rights. She co-authored books on women’s health and was appointed to several state commissions.

She was still closely involved in the center as founding director at the time of her death.

Maureen Pierce, one of Hasper’s longtime friends, said her advocacy came naturally because she held the same sense of justice and caring in her personal relationships. “It’s just who she was—the most nonjudgmental person you would ever meet in your whole life and probably the most compassionate person,” she said. “She gave of herself fully and completely.”

A press release stated that Hasper apparently died from complications from cellulitis, a serious bacterial infection of the skin. She had two children, daughter Carmen Duckworth, 24, and son Joe Hasper, 16. A memorial service, followed by a reception, will take place at 3 p.m. July 22 at the Lakeside Pavilion at California Park.