When Alice Cozad and Linda Young met each other as freshmen at the University of Iowa they knew almost instantly that they would be together as a couple for the rest of their lives.
"The electricity went out in the basement of the dorm, where we lived during the 1970 fall session," said Cozad. "It was pitch-black and I grabbed onto Linda for dear life and would not let go. This was the beginning of our love story."
Since they did not know any other lesbians on campus, they read Dr. David Reuben's book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* ( *But Were Afraid to Ask ), to learn about themselves and their sexuality; in 1972, they also read Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon's book Lesbian Woman, which made them feel better about themselves.
The couple discovered that, despite having very distinct personalities and growing up in different parts of IowaCozad in Cedar Rapids and Young on farms that her great-grandparents bought in the 1800sthey shared a passion for social justice and the same political ideals.
Both were vice presidents of their counties' Young Democrats of America nonprofits while in high school. Additionally, Cozad led her first protest during her senior year in high school, right after the Kent State Massacre.
"I made hundreds of black felt armbands and got the students to walk out of class and up on 'the hill,'" said Cozad.
Right after their college graduation, Young went to work as a sports reporter for the Quad City Times working nights and weekends while Cozad taught at the prison school, Kinsman School.
"It was so easy, despite the circumstances, because I was able to use a rewards system where they got privileges outside of class for being good in class and they mostly complied," said Cozad.
Young was hired right after Title IX was enacted because the paper was looking for a woman to cover what they called "girls' sports."
"They realized, though, that I knew the difference between a baseball and a football, so I was covering everything," said Young. "I was there for almost five years."
Those early years in the Quad Cities was when Cozad resumed her activism as a member of the local National Organization for Women ( NOW ) chapter.
"NOW gave me my political start," said Cozad. "We held consciousness raising sessions to enlighten women. Linda always made fun of me that when I made out the agenda, I wrote the word lunch in all capital letters. When I would try to tell her how to be politically aware, she would say lunch to get me off my high horse."
The couple made their way to Chicago in 1979, when Young got a job with the Chicago Tribune's suburban insert section covering high school sports. Cozad arrived right after the school year ended.
Cozad was hired as a special education teacher/vocational coordinator at East Leyden High School, in Franklin Park. She said it was rough teaching there because she got no support from anyone in the building and would be chastised by the principal anytime she was not wearing a skirt or dress. She quit at the end of the second year and was never an out lesbian to anyone in the building, except for a social worker she described as "very accepting."
The couple bought a house in Brookfield in 1981 and have lived there ever since. Cozad continued to volunteer with NOW running consciousness raising groups for a number of years.
Young expanded her sports coverage and later did general news stories for the Chicago Tribune until she retired in 2008. She also supported Cozad's activism from the sidelines.
Cozad's next job was at Richards High School, in Oak Lawn. According to Cozad, the pay cut she took was worth every penny because she was happier with the more relaxed vibe and dress code at the school. She later went to work at the Community High School District 218 office as the vocational coordinator until she retired in 2013.
When Cozad discovered that GLSEN was coming to Chicago she signed up and helped grow the organization. She counts awarding scholarships to students, helping them set up GSA's, organizing the first Gay Prom held at Harold Washington Library and sitting next to the now deceased Rep. John Lewis during one of the GLSEN lunches as highlights of her tenure there.
"That was one of the best hours of my life," said Cozad. "Rep. Lewis fought for LGBT people's equality as much as he did for Black civil rights because he truly believed that we all had to have equal rights for us to be a perfect country."
Getting married was never something they talked about but when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the ban on same-sex marriages in Iowa was unconstitutional they decided to get hitched. The ceremony took place July 10, 2010.
"It was my idea to hold our ceremony in Daniels Park in Cedar Rapids across the street from Alice's childhood home," said Young. "We thought it would be a small ceremony but as we told people about our plans they said they wanted to attend. There were about 60 friends and family in attendance, including most of our nieces and nephews."
"Linda asked me to marry her and told me her Daniels Park idea and I loved it," said Cozad. "We wore tie-dye T-shirts to celebrate the fact that we should have been able to get married in the 1970s. Ten years later, we are still wearing our wedding outfits."
Among the guests were their youngest great-niece Cara Perez who was their flower girl. Their 11 year old great-nephew Nicholas Perez, who was a gymnast, walked them down the aisle on his hands while his four year old brother Sam Perez banged on cymbals in front of them.
"Alice and Linda's wedding was an occasion filled with joy," said Cozad's sister-in-law Marilyn Cozad. "One of the best memories was when Linda declared it was the happiest day in her life. It was wonderful to see their nieces and nephews take part in the ceremony and the joy that all the family and friends there shared for their union"
"My aunts have been in love since they were eighteen," said Perez who is now a 19-year-old activist. "I did not realize they were not legally married until they started talking about the ceremony. Their wedding was a beautiful, goofy representation of themselves. At the time, I was too young to understand what their wedding really meant, other than it being two people who love each other having the right to be married. I realize now that their wedding was a victory and a celebration of gay pride. My aunts, being of an older generation of gay women, have helped to pave the way for future generations and open doors for other members of the LGTBQ+ community simply by being in love with each other."
These days the couple is weathering the current COVID-19 pandemic and taking the necessary precautions due to their age. Cozad said they, and their neighbors, gather outside at 7 p.m. every night to pay tribute to the essential workers and then have dinner together while watching political shows.
Their message for everyone is "to vote so the United States can become a functioning democracy again."