Freethought Heroine Award

Kristin Lems – 1996

Singer and songwriter Kristin Lems received the "Charline Kotula Freethought Heroine Memorial Award," accepting her award in person at the 1996 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin.

The versatile composer, songwriter, folksinger, and performing artist has 20 years of professional experience. Born to an acclaimed concert pianist mother and musical Dutch immigrant father, she was raised in Evanston, Illinois, and studied music from an early age. Her early talent in writing and academics won her many awards, including a first place writing award from Scholastic Magazines, a National Merit Scholarship, and a Hopwood Award from University of Michigan.

As a teenager, Kristin picked up the guitar and wholeheartedly joined the movement for a better world. With guitar in arms, she brought her stirring singing voice and engaging stage presence to nationwide public events for the ERA and women's rights, safe energy, peace, racial equality, and other pressing causes. She has shared the stage with two First Ladies, Maya Angelou, Captain Jacques Cousteau, Gloria Steinem, Greg Palast, and Alan Alda, among others. Musicians include Pete Seeger, Gil Scot-Heron, Malvina Reynolds, Holly Near, Dan Fogelberg, Koko Taylor, Peter Paul and Mary, Michele Shocked, the BoDeans, Simon Townshend, and many others.

New Yorker magazine called Kristin "a charmer in the most literal and least artificial sense of the word." Gloria Steinem referred to her as "a one woman argument against the notion that the women's movement doesn't have a sense of humor."

Kristin joined Freedom From Religion Foundation musician Dan Barker in singing and providing songs for the Foundation's first music cassette, "My Thoughts Are Free" (1987). Kristin suggested including the German freethought anthem, "Die Gedenken Sind Frei," which has since become a staple at Foundation conventions, Joe Hill's classic parody, "The Preacher and the Slave," Malvina Reynold's "This World," Phil Ochs' "When I'm Gone," and her own inimitable "Days of the Theocracy."

Her other awards include "Woman of Illinois Repute" Award of the Illinois Women's Agenda, the President's Award of Illinois NOW, the Humanist Heroine Award of the American Humanist Association, and the "Founder's Award" of the Women in the Arts Foundation, for founding the National Women's Music Festival. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar.

Read the lyrics to "Days of the Theocracy"

Photo by Brent Nicastro

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