The Consciousness-Raising Document, Feminist Anthologies, and Black Women in Sisterhood Is Powerful

By Norman, Brian | Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies, September 2006 | Go to article overview

The Consciousness-Raising Document, Feminist Anthologies, and Black Women in Sisterhood Is Powerful


Norman, Brian, Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies


When Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with television executives in 1973, the New York Times described it as a "curious 'consciousness-raising' session." That same week, Kathie Sarachild, Redstockings member and probable originator of the phrase sisterhood is powerful, outlined the "weapon" of consciousness-raising (CR) to the Conference of Stewardesses for Women's Rights. Sarachild cited the Times's remark as testimony to the successes and pitfalls of the women's liberation movement (c. 1967-1975) (1) as its CR model entered national parlance and the highest pantheons of male-dominated institutions. (2) Indeed, the CR group is a hallmark in the rise of the modern feminist movement. Social historians now recognize the widespread influence of CR in American society and political theory, and CR was a central tool for fostering women's collectivity during the Second Wave. CR groups generated an important body of writing--often in the form of the CR document--that played a key role in the movement's print culture, which in turn contributed to its goal of sisterhood.

This article examines one CR document by the Black Women's Liberation Group of Mount Vernon and its placement in a key women's liberation anthology, Sisterhood Is Powerful (1970), to illustrate two crucial aspects of women's liberation. First, I will demonstrate that some black feminists demanded race-conscious sisterhood in the Second Wave, and this group drew on the CR document as a tool to articulate that demand. (3) Second, considering the document's appearance in Sisterhood, I examine the implications for race-consciousness in the movement at large and what women's liberation anthologies and print culture could and could not do for race-conscious collectivity. CR documents joined other ephemeral forms such as position statements, manifestoes, and field reports and more literary forms such as personal essays, short stories, and poems in influential anthologies like Notes from the First Year (1968), (4) Notes from the Second Year (1969), (5) The Black Woman (1970), (6) Voices from Women's Liberation (1971), (7) and Woman in Sexist Society (1972), (8) in addition to Sisterhood. (9) These collections testify to how anthologies create a print-based collective space. As CR documents circulated, women's liberation groups reported to each other, thereby enacting the collectivity for which they called. My thesis is that black feminists used the CR document to position their call for race-conscious collectivity in dialogue with the universalist project of sisterhood but without necessarily excluding other groups--including black men--engaged in anti-racist projects; in turn, the feminist anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful aspired to heed their call but was only partially successful in doing so.

This article joins efforts to re-conceive or re-view the Second Wave, especially regarding race-consciousness. Veteran activists and feminist historians are recognizing more fully the presence and impact of women of color in the early Second Wave. They are rewriting its history with documentary and memoir collections that better capture the spirit, internal debates, and importance of women's liberation. (10) The dominant story of women's liberation has been that the movement fostered women's collectivity by erasing, deemphasizing, or in some way abnegating difference into a sisterhood that inevitably placed white women and their experiences at the center. In this vein, the CR group is painted as a phenomenon largely exclusive to small groups of privileged women who may not be interested in addressing difference. For instance, to introduce young women to feminism in Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards note that the CR group was a revolutionary new model to connect politics to women's experiences and to show that women had more in common than not, "but over time CR became marginalized; these exchanges among women happened mostly in their own homes and women-only spaces. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Consciousness-Raising Document, Feminist Anthologies, and Black Women in Sisterhood Is Powerful
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.