Women and Social Protest

Women and Social Protest

Women and Social Protest

Women and Social Protest


Bringing together eighteen thought-provoking articles--most of them written especially for this volume-- Women and Social Protest addresses a long-neglected area in social history and politics, showing how in recent years feminist social scientists have begun to reexamine women's involvement in social protest, the innovative forms this protest takes, and the impact of activism on women's lives. This timely and comprehensive anthology provides a much-needed forum for discussion of these topics, and shows how the sociological and political literature has long ignored, masked, or distorted the political activities of women, thus creating the stereotype of the "apolitical woman." Drawing on the work of sociologists, political scientists, historians, and experts in women's studies, Women and Social Protest explores four types of social protest--economic; racial, ethnic, and nationalistic; social nurturing and humanistic; and women's rights--considering a wealth of data from different eras and case studies from around the world. An introductory chapter provides a theoretical framework for the essays and helpful introductions to each section identify and elaborate general themes. In addition, a comprehensive bibliography offers the most extensive, up-to-date list of readings available. One of the first books to examine this important topic in detail, Women and Social Protest is a valuable contribution to the expanding field of social political theory.


The idea for this book had its origin in our experiences as activists, teachers, researchers, and writers about protest who were confronted with a dearth of material on women and politics. The contradiction of our lives as political women and the information available in the sociological literature sparked our desire to examine why such data were so scarce. It became clear that women's participation in social protest was an arena that begged for analysis, especially from a feminist perspective.

A workshop on women and political action at the National Women's Studies Association Conference in 1984 provided the catalyst for us to commit ourselves to this project as co-editors. At first we hoped to conduct a review of the literature and write a book that synthesized existing research. It soon became apparent that the material was so scattered that there was no way to adequately review it. Consequently, we decided to put out a "call for papers" as a means of bringing together a selection of articles on women and social protest. Establishing this as our broad core concept, we tapped the sociologi; cal and political science disciplines and networks for relevant research. The intended literature review was incorporated, selectively, into an introductory theoretical chapter.

We purposely did not specify a common theoretical or methodological framework in our call for papers. We hoped for diversity and we got it. Clearly, a common framework might have made for a more integrated vol; ume. However, we both felt that setting hard-and-fast boundaries on a re; search topic that was in the early stages of development would be less than useful, and might even be detrimental to our better understanding of women's involvement in social protest.

Among the articles submitted, several authors focused on women's strug; gles for their own rights and those of other women. Other authors dealt with women's participation in a variety of movements throughout the world and in different eras. We then sought a few specific articles to strengthen and balance the manuscript, while recognizing the impossibility of being holistic or all-inclusive. Although we have referred to (in Chapter 1) such diverse protests as those of Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, of black and white women in the South African anti-apartheid movement, and of Indian women in the Chipko tree movement, we have not dealt with women activ; ists and revolutionaries in other places, such as the Philippines, Northern Ireland, the favelas in Brazil, Australia, the Soviet Union, or Eastern Europe.

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