Cheri Pies, trailblazer for lesbian mothers, dies at 73

Cheri Pies died in July at the age of 73.
Cheri Pies died in July at the age of 73.
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Cheri Pies, an author, educator, and trailblazer for lesbians and LGBTQ families, died on July 4 at the age of 73.

Pies’ book, Considering Parenthood: A Workbook for Lesbians,”  detailed the process of becoming a mother for myriad lesbians excited about becoming parents, but who did not know the legal process or practical issues about sperm donors and other related areas. This book became a lifeline for many lesbians, and with it, Pies carved out an important role in the LGBTQ community.

However, before she became a clinical professor and author of a life-changing book, Pies was a health educator for Planned Parenthood, where she assisted women, primarily heterosexual, with motherhood, helping them to understand the process of pregnancy, birth and recovery, and more. It was only after adopting her first child with her partner that she began to contemplate helping out other lesbians in learning about motherhood.

Born in Los Angeles, California on November 26, 1949, Pies was a pioneer in the health sphere and the LGBTQ community. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley and received a master’s degree in social work from Boston University. She later returned to UC Berkeley to receive a second master’s degree, this time in public health, as well as a doctorate in public health education. 

Pies was a clinical professor at UC Berkeley School of Public Health who researched the social factors of health and came up with varying solutions for social and economic inequities that influenced (and continue to influence) birth outcomes and public health. Berkeley Public Health has been awarding people in her honor since 2017 for “the best application of life course theory.” 

Pies also created a program to reduce infant mortality rates called the Best Babies Zone Initiative (BBZ), which fostered cooperation across different parts of a community, such as economics, education, and more. For that work, Pies was awarded the 2018 Maternal and Child Health Bureau Director’s Award from the Health Resources and Services Administration. 

In Contra Costa County, California, Pies launched the Life Course Initiative in order to reduce the inequities in birth outcomes, “improve reproductive potential,” and create change for the future health of the public and for (expecting) mothers. 

However, as a professional, Pies noted that mentoring the younger generations and the people that came after her was the most rewarding work for her. 

In an interview with UC Berkeley School of Public Health earlier this year, she stated, “For me, mentoring is the pièce de résistance of being a professional. I love mentoring my former students, friends and young people in my life.”