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Aug 6, 2008 11:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Billie Ann Taulman

Aug 6, 2008 11:58 AM

Billie Ann Taulman of Sag Harbor died on August 3 at Southampton Hospital after a long illness. She was 78.

Born in Placer County, California, on October 6, 1929, she was a descendent of Mary Ball Washington—George Washington’s mother—on her mother’s side. The family resemblance to her distant cousin George, especially in Billie’s later years, was said to be unmistakable.

After earning a Regents scholarship to the University of Southern California, she began her artistic and activist career in Berkeley in the late 1940s. During that same time, she was also an active member of the famed Berkeley Circle Players and prominent on the Committee to Elect Actress-Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas to the United States Senate. According to her life partner in the arts for 54 years, Annselm Morpurgo, also known as Artemis Smith, Ms. Taulman was being groomed to run for congress herself, but fell prey to the Nixon character assassination campaign leveled against Ms. Douglas. After being blacklisted along with her cohorts, Ms. Morpurgo said, Ms. Taulman suffered a mental breakdown and dropped out of school.

In December of 1954, after meeting Ms. Morpurgo—at the time known by the pen name Diana Carleton Rhodes—she returned from a European tour paid for by her friends from Berkeley and decided to settle in New York City to form a feminist alliance, both politically and in the arts.

Ms. Taulman became art director at Roy Garn Advertising, where Ms. Morpurgo was already established as creative director and head of new business. Later the two went on to work for Save the Children Federation and for Print Magazine. The Taulman-Morpurgo partnership, Artemis Associates, was active both in advertising and activism on behalf of the many human rights movements in the 1950s.

In 1957, she was interviewed by Eleanor Roosevelt for a position as a special assistant at the United Nations, to work on the Bill of Universal Human Rights and also as part of grooming for a run for the U.S. Senate. Ms. Morpurgo said in a statement this week that a security check that followed, and “what may have been some very dirty tricks” on the part of J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, led to a second mental breakdown from which Ms. Taulman never fully recovered.

But Ms. Morpurgo never gave up on Ms. Taulman and eventually took her to Sag Harbor where she was allowed to follow whatever path she chose. For a greater part of her life, she remained medication free under the care and protection of Ms. Morpurgo and the Savant Garde Institute, and was able to find her niche in the arts.

Addicted to tobacco, survivors recalled, she became known in Sag Harbor as “The Cigarette Lady” who sat on a bench on Main Street each day for more than 30 years entertaining admirers with tall tales from her vast imagination. Ms. Morpurgo noted that everyone knew they were being told fantasies, but they loved to listen to her anyway because of the valuable insights her stories contained about issues great and small.

Ms. Taulman was known as a poet, Ms. Morpurgo said, but she was also was seen by some as a prophet and holy woman; many brought loving gifts in admiration of what they knew she could have become if given half a chance when young.

In addition to Ms. Morpurgo, Ms. Taulman is survived by two younger sisters, Lillie Brown and Elsie Taulman, both of California.

A graveside memorial service will be held on Sunday, August 10, at 2 p.m. at Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor. Anyone wishing to leave written remembrances can do so at Annselm Morpurgo’s website,, where they will find a blogging memoir of Ms. Taulman’s contributions to her own artistic endeavors and a link to some of her drawings.

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