San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandleman this week introduced a resolution to commemoratively name an alley Sister Vish-Knew Way in honor of the founder of the famed Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Sister Vish-Knew, also known as Ken Bunch when not in the drag habit, co-founded the group in 1979 when he and two friends decided to walk the streets of San Francisco dressed as nuns. The group became an instant sensation and the organization he helped found has since expanded into a worldwide activist nonprofit group.
“When Sister Vish-Knew donned a nun’s habit in San Francisco on Easter weekend in 1979, she launched a spiritual movement dedicated to queer community service, activism, and art that has spread across the globe,” Mandelman said in a statement. “As the co-founder of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and through her decades of service to the organization and to San Francisco, Sister Vish-Knew has made a huge impact on the lives of countless LGBTQ+ people. I am glad we have the opportunity to honor her by adding “Sister Vish-Knew Way” to a street in her longtime neighborhood.”
Originally known as Sister Vicious Punk Ass B*tch, Bunch and his alter ego have grown the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence into a worldwide organization that uses its platform for advocacy and activism. The group claims to have produced the first safer sex pamphlet during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis when it was still known as the gay cancer. Bunch also helped organize one of the first HIV/AIDS fundraisers with a charity dog show in 1982.
The proposed Sister Vish-Knew Way is currently the 000 block of Alert Alley in the Mission Dolores neighborhood near the long-time home of Bunch. It’s also one block from the location where the Sisters made their grand appearance on that fateful Easter weekend.
Mission Dolores near the proposed Sister Vish-Knew Way (Media News Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)
“I brought the Sisters first five Catholic nun’s habits to San Francisco from my drag troupe in Iowa (‘The Sugar Plum Fairies’),” Vish-Knew explains on the Sisters’ website. “We acquired the habits from the local Catholic convent. We said we were doing a performance of the Sound of Music but really used them for a drag show. One bored Easter weekend in 1979 my roommate and I donned the habits to have some fun, and it turned into a worldwide spiritual, community service, activist, performance, and artist organization of Sisters.”
“As one of the founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and someone who has remained an active member since our inception, Sister Vish-Knew created and nurtured a worldwide volunteer human rights activist and fundraising organization,” said Sister Roma, also a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “I am thrilled to see her being honored for her decades of dedication and service as well as being recognized as a hero in LGBTQ history.”
“Being a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence has been my life-work,” said Sister Vish-Knew.