Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement

By Linda Gordon; Rosalyn Baxandall | Go to book overview

1
A Movement Arises

The source of the women's liberation movement, sometimes called second-wave feminism, was the civil rights movements, just as the antislavery gave birth to the first-wave women's rights movement in the 1840s. In the 1950s and 1960s. thousands of feminist foremothers from all over the United States participated in the civil rights movements in the South, helping to register voters, working in Freedom Schools, and participating in campaigns to desegregate public facilities. From an understanding of racism and the struggle against it, a new generation of feminists learned organizing skills and eventually became a core group new women's movement. What they learned about racism helped them elaborate and analysis of sexism and institutionalized male dominance.

In 1964 Mary King wrote a paper for a conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the most militant interracial civil rights group of the time, on "how my growing perception of myself as a woman might affect the structure of program of SNCC," and Casey Hayden cosigned it. The two women had been reading Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex (a pioneering work of feminist theory published first in French and then in English in 1953) and the fiction of then-feminist and Leftist Doris Lessing, and had been discussing them with other women in SNCC. The paper received an overwhelmingly negative at the conference. Nevertheless, a year later Hayden and King coauthored a second document and mailed it to forty civil and anti-Vietnam War women activists; it was subsequently published in Liberation, a pacifist magazine. This memo came to be regarded as the first expression of the need for a women's liberation movement, although the authors could not have imagined such a movement developing-a mere three year before it took off like wild fire.

Casey Hayden (formerly Sandra Cason, then married to Tom Hayden, an early leader of Students for a Democratic Society, a militant student anti-Vietnam War group) and Mary King (the product of six generations of ministers) came to political activism from southern white Protestant interracial activities, an important source of early feminism. Young women civil rights participants benefited from the leadership of older activists such as Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Unita Blackwell. But at the same time were largely confined to secondary positions in the civil rights organizations and found themselves doing the "shit work-typing, mimeographing, cleaning, and running errands-while men made the decisions and talked to the press. Soon some women, black and white, became alienated because of SNCC's shift away from nonviolence and toward an ideological, centralized, black nationalism, just as some in the white New Left were draw to ultra-revolutionary rhetoric.


Sex and Caste
CASEY HAYDEN AND MARY KING 1965A Kind of Memo from Casey Hayden and Mary King to a number of other women in the peace and freedom movements.
Sex and caste : There seem to be many parallels that can be crawn between treatment of Negroes and treatment of women in our society as a whole. But in particular, women we've talked to who work in the movement seem to be caught up in a common-law caste system that operates, sometimes subtly, forcing them to work around or outside hierarchical structures of power which may exclude them. Women seem to be placed in the same position of assumed

-21-

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Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • A Note on the Text IX
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Origins 19
  • 1 - A Movement Arises 21
  • Sex and Caste 21
  • We Don't Need the Men 23
  • An Appeal to Mothers, Black and White 24
  • Burial of Weeping Womanhood 25
  • What Concrete Steps Can Be Taken to Further the Homophile Movement 26
  • Lesbianism and Feminism 27
  • To the Women of the Left 28
  • Principles 34
  • Outreach Leaflet 35
  • Angry Notes from a Black Feminist 37
  • 2 - The New Left 41
  • Underground Woman 42
  • Women Unite! Free the Panthers! 44
  • Declaration of Women's Independence 45
  • Women Shake Up SDS Session 48
  • Letter to the Left 51
  • Sisters in Struggle 1970 52
  • Goodbye to All That 53
  • Unite to Win: - Chicago Women's Graphics Collective 58
  • Pissed Off About the War in Cambodia 1970 59
  • WUNTRAC 61
  • Cartoon and Letter Criticizing Sexist Cartoon 63
  • Platform 64
  • Statement 65
  • 3 - New Organization Forms 67
  • The Small Group Process 67
  • Gainesville Women's Liberation 1970 70
  • Analysis of Chicago Women's Liberation School 82
  • 4 - Feminist Theory 84
  • What Is a Woman? 84
  • Are Men Really the Enemy? 88
  • Manifesto 90
  • A Historical and Critical Essay for Black Women 93
  • Socialist Feminism 96
  • On Separatism 111
  • I Am What I Am 112
  • II - Bodies 115
  • 5 - Health 117
  • 5 - Health 118
  • She Loves Rape 118
  • Wonder Woman 123
  • Self-Help Clinic 124
  • Brochure 126
  • Using a Natural Sponge 1976 127
  • Breastfeeding Successfully in Spite of Doctors and Hospitals 128
  • HR 1504 130
  • Breathing Life into Ourselves: The Evolution of the National Black Women's Health Project 131
  • 6 - Reproductive Rights 134
  • Women Must Control the Means of Reproduction 134
  • Poor Black Women 135
  • Off the Pill 136
  • On Abortion and Abortion Law 140
  • Hernia: A Satire on Abortion Law Repeal 144
  • Women Learn to Perform Abortions 145
  • Who Needs a Shepherd? 147
  • Friends of the Fetus 148
  • An African American Woman Speaks Out for Abortion Rights 149
  • Sterilization: Rights and Abuse of Rights 150
  • Posters Against Sterilization Abuse 1973 152
  • Starting Over 154
  • 7 - Sexuality 155
  • Venus Observed 155
  • The Happiest Day of My Life 163
  • Workshop Resolutions 166
  • Smash Phallic Imperialism 169
  • HIRE (Hooking Is Real Employment) 173
  • 8 - Objectification, Harassment, Violence 175
  • Death in the Spectacle 175
  • Body Odor and Social Order 181
  • No More Miss America 184
  • Excerpt from a Critique of the Miss America Protest 185
  • Antes de hacer dieta . . . 189
  • Fat Liberation Manifesto 191
  • Little Rapes 192
  • Rape: The All American Crime 195
  • The Case of Inez Garcia 201
  • The Sexual Abuse of Children 204
  • Women's Martial Arts Demonstrations 206
  • Karate as Self-Defense for Women 207
  • La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos - [The Virgin of Guadalupe Defending the Rights of Chicanos] 209
  • III - Institutions 211
  • 9 - Family 213
  • For Sadie and Maud 213
  • What's in a Name? 216
  • Machismo 217
  • Communal Living 221
  • The Five of Us (With a Little Help from Our Friends) 222
  • Hippie Communes 225
  • The Single Mother Experience 229
  • Lesbian Mothers and Their Children 233
  • Why Day Care? 234
  • 10 - Education 237
  • 10 - Education 237
  • Consciousness Razors 237
  • What Every Young Girl Should Ask! 242
  • Testimony of a High School Pitcher 243
  • Courses, Spring 1973 246
  • Library Sit-in for Women's History 249
  • Dear Sisters 250
  • 11 - Work 254
  • The Politics of Housework 255
  • Wages for Housework 258
  • Wages Against Housework 259
  • Margaret F. Stewart, Our Lady of Guadalupe 261
  • Luring Women into the Armed Forces 262
  • AFT Resolution on Women's Rights 1970 263
  • Learning Auto Repair 264
  • Open Letter to Local #1299 265
  • The Era of Tokenism and the Role Model Trap 267
  • Women Unionize Office Jobs 270
  • TWA Stewardesses on Strike 273
  • Sexual Harassment: Working Women's Dilemma 274
  • Every Mother a Working Mother 278
  • Welfare Is a Women's Issue 279
  • 12 - Culture 282
  • At Home in San José 282
  • Samplers: One of the Lesser American Arts 283
  • How to Name Baby 285
  • Anatomy Is Destiny or . . . Just Like Daddy 286
  • Pregnant Woman in a Ball of Yarn 291
  • Linen Closet 292
  • "There Was a Young Woman Who Swallowed a Lie . . . ," 293
  • Breaking Out 295
  • Witch 296
  • Medusa 297
  • The Young Warrior 298
  • Mountain-Moving Day 299
  • Women Invade The Boston Globe 300
  • I've Been in Her Shoes 302
  • Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe 309
  • Among the Things That Use to Be 310
  • In the Beauty Parlor 311
  • Sources 313
  • Further Reading 318
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Index of Contributors 321
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