Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook

By Jennifer Scanlon | Go to book overview

ELLEN WILLIS
(1941-)

Deborah J. Gepner Salvaggio

Journalist, professor, author, activist, rock critic, social commentator, and selfdescribed radical feminist, Ellen Willis has been called "one of the primary architects of the women's liberation movement" ( Hess 1981). Through her writing and active participation, Willis helped frame the discussions and define the terms of debate that allowed women to recognize their own oppression and work toward freedom during what has now been dubbed the "second wave of feminism."

Born into a working-class family in New York City, Willis was educated in the New York City public school system. She earned a scholarship to Barnard College and earned a B.A. in English in 1962. Willis describes her parents (Melvin, a New York City police officer, and Miriam, a housewife) as "collegeeducated, literary-minded, and politically liberal" ( 1981a, 263). Despite this description, Willis terms her class origins as "lower middle-class" and cites the discrepancy between the values instilled by her upbringing and those she was exposed to during her years at Barnard as the basis of her sensitivity to the inherent class differences within the women's liberation movement. Ever the skeptic, Willis' keen understanding of the diversity of experience, particularly in terms of class differential, informed her understanding of the position of women within U.S. society.

After graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, Willis returned to New York City and began her career as a journalist, a career that includes editorial positions at Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Ms., and New Yorker magazines, as well as freelance writer, reviewer, and reporter for numerous other publications, including Newsday and The New York Times Book Review.

In 1968, Willis joined New York Radical Women, a group established primarily by women involved in leftist politics. From that association, Willis went on to form, with Shulamith Firestone, the Redstockings, a radical feminist organization that separated itself from male-centered, leftist politics and focused on the situation of women in patriarchal society. For the next few years, the

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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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