Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook

By Jennifer Scanlon | Go to book overview

BARBARA SMITH
(1946-)

Jaime M. Grant

One of the most significant founding mothers of black feminist theory and practice in the United States, Barbara Smith has spent thirty years "making a way out of no way" as a scholar, activist, and teacher. Smith came of age in the thick of the civil rights and antiwar struggles, the imprint of these movements evident in her refusal to separate writing from teaching, theory from action, and feminist struggle from antiracist and class struggle. Having developed radical ideas through right action, Smith's life work has long posed a challenge to academics and activists rooted in a rarefied or single-issue praxis.

Smith was born in the segregated North in 1946 into a thriving black community in Cleveland, Ohio. Her family had come to Cleveland amid great masses of rural, southern blacks who migrated to northern cities in search of a better life. Smith notes that her activism is steeped in the reality of those times:

What I saw (the women in my family) endure at the hands of the outside world politicized me long before I became part of any movement. My mother died at age thirty-four from a disease that might not have been fatal if she had been born middle-class and white and I learned then all that I would need to know about injustice and the poison of anger that has no useful outlet. ( Smith, July 1997 interview)

In high school in the early 1960s, Smith became active in school desegregation efforts and worked as a volunteer with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). During this period, she attended several speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and met Mississippi activist Fannie Lou Hamer on one "unforgettable night" following a civil rights rally. In 1965, she became one of a handful of black students who desegregated Mount Holyoke's campus and was swept up by the budding black power movement and antiwar activism. In 1968, she spent a year at the New School for Social Research, a pivotal year in which Dr. King and

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Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Board ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Bella Abzug (1920-1998) 1
  • Paula Gunn Allen (1939-) 8
  • Gloria AnzaldÚa (1942-) 14
  • Frances Beale (1940-) 22
  • Rita Mae Brown (1944-) 28
  • Charlotte Bunch (1944-) 36
  • Pat Califia (1954-) 44
  • Judy Chicago (1939-) 51
  • Shirley Chisholm (1924-) 55
  • Esther Ngan-Ling Chow (1943-) 60
  • Pearl Cleage (1948-) 66
  • Kate Clinton (1945- ) 73
  • Mary Daly (1928- ) 79
  • Angela Davis (1944-) 86
  • Shulamith Firestone (1945-) 98
  • Jo Freeman (1945-) 104
  • Betty Friedan (1921-) 111
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-) 118
  • Bell Hooks (1952- ) 125
  • Dolores Huerta (1930-) 133
  • June Jordan (1936-) 138
  • Evelyn Fox Keller (1936-) 145
  • Florynce Kennedy (1916-) 150
  • Audre Lorde (1934-1992) 156
  • Catharine Mackinnon (1946-) 163
  • Olga Madar (1915-1996) 174
  • Wilma Mankiller (1945-) 181
  • Del Martin (1921-) 188
  • Kate Millett (1934- ) 194
  • CherrÍe Moraga (1952- ) 201
  • Robin Morgan (1941-) 206
  • Pauli Murray (1910-1985) 213
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (1937-) 218
  • Alice Paul (1885-1977) 223
  • Anna Quindlen (1952-) 231
  • Adrienne Rich (1929-) 238
  • Faith Ringgold (1930-) 245
  • Rosemary Ruether (1936-) 251
  • Joanna Russ (1937-) 257
  • Patricia Schroeder (1940-) 264
  • Eleanor Smeal (1939-) 271
  • Barbara Smith (1946-) 279
  • Gloria Steinem (1934-) 283
  • Margo St. James (1937-) 290
  • Alice Walker (1944- ) 297
  • Rebecca Walker (1969-) 305
  • Michele Wallace (1952-) 311
  • Sarah Weddington (1945-) 317
  • Ellen Willis (1941-) 327
  • Selected Bibliography 335
  • Index 341
  • About the Editor and Contributors 355
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