Award-Winning Poet,

Activist, Speaker and Teacher


Dora E. McQuaid is descendant of traveling gypsies, Irish Golden-gloved boxers, and strong women, whose stories and the telling of them prompted her lifelong fascination with the written and spoken word. Dora continues her family tradition of using the personal story to explore memory and conjecture, culture and community, and the connections between the private and the political. Her work embodies the intersections between the arts and activism, service and empowerment.

Dora’s unique blend of art, emotion and service has earned her multiple literary and service honors and awards. To honor her activism addressing sexual and domestic violence, Dora’s image replaced that of former Penn State football coach and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky in the Inspiration Mural by artist Michael Pilato near Penn State in 2012. In 2018, Dora’s lifetime achievements were acknowledged by her induction into the Wall of Honor by the Unionville – Chadds Ford School District in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where Dora attended middle and high school. Gargoyle Literary Journal nominated Dora’s poem, Tunnel of Love, for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Dora was also honored as one of the Remarkable Women of Taos, New Mexico during the 2012 celebration of women whose lives and creative spirits have influenced the Northern New Mexico community. In 2011, Dora was awarded the New Mexico Woman Writer’s Fellowship by A Room of Her Own Foundation. Dora’s efforts also garnered a 2003 Pennsylvania Governor’s Pathfinder Award, recognition by the Pennsylvania Senate and a Vagina Warrior Award from the Penn State cast of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, all while serving as faculty at Penn State between 1999 and 2006, among other honors. She has also been awarded several Poet-In-Residence and Artist Fellowship positions with programs including The Harwood Museum of Art and The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, among others.

Dora’s groundbreaking first collection of poems, the scorched earth, and its audio companion, the scorched earth: spoken, were reissued as an Expanded, Second Edition by award-winning Baskerville Publishers in 2015, with the Foreword written by Eve Ensler, Tony Award-winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues and Founder of the international V-DAY Foundation and the One Billion Rising global event. This collection documents Dora’s journey from victimization to survivorship, through healing from a history of both sexual and domestic violence into empowerment and advocacy as an award-winning poet, activist, speaker and teacher. In the Foreword, Eve Ensler calls the scorched earth “…startling and visionary.”

Dora performs, speaks and teaches internationally in venues as varied as men’s and women’s prisons, justice and outreach programs, political rallies and community events, universities and high schools, churches and shelters, as well as television and radio programs and professional and academic conferences. She collaborates internationally with an array of other artists and activists, ranging from writers, poets and performance artists, to musicians, songwriters and visual artists working in a wide variety of mediums, including the pioneering Ekphrasis poets and artists of Taos, New Mexico.

Dora serves as a member of the Board of Directors of The Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness and The Council for Hope and Healing, which she co-founded in 2012 with a group of international artists and activists to foster community development and empowerment through the Arts, as well as on the Advisory Board of Paws for Empowerment Victim-Assistance Canine Advocacy Program with Crisis Center North, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dora also serves as consultant and expert witness in sexual violence legal cases, establishing offender liability and the short and long-term impact of violence on victims.

Dora’s work has been published in anthologies, films, plays, musical compositions, literary journals and magazines, required course readings and law enforcement training programs. The poem, Around This Table, which Dora was commissioned to write in 2001 for the 25th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, is available in poster form, which has benefitted The Memorial Fund for Women lost in domestic violence homicides since 2001. Kate Bogle’s short film, One Woman’s Voice, which documents Dora’s combined roles as poet, teacher and survivor/activist, is used nationally as a teaching and training tool in universities, prisons and outreach and judicial programs, among others.

Dora’s forthcoming collection of poems is Seven: Poems of The Interim.

To view a PDF version of DORA’S CV HIGHLIGHTS, please click here.

The above photo was taken of Dora At One Billion Rising in Taos, NM, Valentine’s Day 2013. One Billion Rising is award-winning playwright Eve Ensler’s and her V-Day Foundation’s Global Flash Mob Dance in which one billion women and girls dance together around the world in a joyful declaration of ending the violence that far too many of us have known. I wore pink because it is my mother’s favorite color and to honor her, as she is a survivor, too. Photo credit to Daphne Thomas.


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Dora’s efforts to use her voice as an means of activism and advocacy, social and political engagement and individual and collective empowerment and healing are funded, in part, by her readers. This website provides a wide array of resources to support visitors in exploring and living into their truths, and the support offered in return has allowed Dora to maintain this website as a community-driven, advertising-free space for over sixteen years. If you find that this website offers you inspiration or support, information or resources that benefit you or your community or you appreciate Dora’s voice and efforts, please consider making a contribution to keep her work and art alive. Thank you.
All peace to you.