Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook

By Jennifer Scanlon | Go to book overview

ALICE WALKER
(1944- )

Angela Cotten

Born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, Alice Malsenior Walker was the eighth child of two sharecroppers, Minnie Tallulah Grant and Willie Lee Walker. Moving from one farm to the next, Walker grew up witnessing how the women of an economically exploited race not only mustered strength to survive but developed an untouchable spiritual interior to resist being consumed by an alienating culture. Walker remembers that her mother's art of cultivating flowers and her grandmother's quilting operated as aesthetics of resistance to the dehumanizing structures of a racist patriarchal society ( Walker 1983, 241).

Walker began her education at Spelman College but later transferred to Sarah Lawrence after traveling to Africa in 1964. She discovered that she was pregnant during her senior year, and, unable to confide in her parents and receiving no sympathy from her siblings, she became deeply depressed and contemplated suicide. With the help of a friend, however, Walker emerged from the depths of despair to choose life and the attendant struggles that are involved in any black woman's attempt to objectify her desire into creative art forms. After graduating from college, Walker worked on a number of civil rights projects in Georgia and Mississippi, published her first short story, "To Hell with Dying" ( 1965), and wrote a number of poems for her first volume of poetry, Once: Poems ( 1968).

Partly out of her frustration of not having heard "one word about early black women writers" in college and partly due to her feminist ethics, Walker developed and taught the first courses on black women writers at Wellesley College and the University of Massachusetts-Boston in the early 1970s ( Walker 1983, 9). Continuing on a prolific track for the next two decades, Walker became a contributing editor to Ms. magazine and published five novels, two short story collections, the first Zora Neale Hurston reader, two collections of essays, and five volumes of poetry. While writing in a variety of genres, Walker presents a wide spectrum of black women characters and the complex social network of their oppression. One of her greatest gifts to contemporary feminist and black

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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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