Women and the Politics of Empowerment

By Ann Bookman; Sandra Morgen | Go to book overview

6
The Edison School Struggle: The Reshaping of Working-Class Education and Women's Consciousness

Wendy Luttrell

This article examines the interweavings of gender, class, and race consciousness among white working-class women activists who were involved in a community struggle for quality desegregated education. The Edison School campaign is an example of how one community successfully challenged a city's neglect of working-class education. It also allows us to explore how the texture of working-class women's lives, relationships, and self-awareness shaped their participation and leadership in grassroots organization. Although the events and activities of the Coalition for a New High School can be told in a distinct chronology, the development of these women's consciousness cannot. It is a story of personal change filled with unevenness and inconsistencies.

This article is based on interviews with five white working-class women leaders of the coalition and their shared sensibilities about their political activity. I explore the women's leadership as it is fueled by their current roles and activities as working-class mothers, as well as their past experiences as workingclass students. I argue that the women's gender, race, and class consciousness is not fixed or in rigid categories, but changes as they participate in a community struggle.

Then, I argue that there is no single relationship between the dominant social structure and its ideology and working-class consciousness. Instead, the women's perceptions are layered with both compliant and antagonistic responses and adaptations to the dominant culture.

Although the women I interviewed shared certain perceptions about their experiences, they had varied work, family, community, and political backgrounds and attitudes. As a result, it is impossible to characterize one single kind

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