Blazing Star Newspaper

Lesbians faced discrimination not only from the larger society, but even from within the women's movement. The CWLU's lesbian organizing focused on both forms of discrimination. The Lesbian Group (formerly the Gay Group) came to be known as "Blazing Star", after the name of their popular newsletter.

by Elaine Wessel

Lesbian organizing began in the CWLU somewhat informally before evolving into a workgroup called the Gay Group. The Gay Group was reorganized into the Lesbian Group, which was usually called "Blazing Star" from the name of the very successful newsletter it produced.

Beginning very early in CWLU's history, there were lesbian groupings within the organization, and connections between CWLU lesbian members and other organizations in Chicago's lesbian and gay communities. The modern gay liberation movement (which began with the Stonewall riots against the New York police in June 1969) began almost simultaneously with the women's liberation movement, of which CWLU was a part.

There were gay liberation groups which began in Chicago in the winter of 1969-70, around the same time that CWLU began, including a Women's Caucus (which eventually broke away from the male-dominated gay organizations, and became Chicago Lesbian Liberation). In summer and fall of 1970, there were discussions between CWLU women and the Gay Women's Caucus, including the involvement of some CWLU members in the regular weekly meetings of the Caucus, and a CWLU citywide meeting on the subject of gay liberation in November 1970.

Several months later, in the spring of 1971, Liberation School offered a class entitled (half-jokingly) "Women's Liberation is a Lesbian Plot." The meetings and classes created a set of informal networks in which lesbian and bi-sexual CWLU members could get acquainted with each other, and also meant that CWLU staff and activists knew who to call on for speaking and writing assignments on lesbian issues, but there was no formal lesbian presence in CWLU's structure or governance, such as Steering Committee.

This situation changed early in 1972, when a "Gay Group" (as it was then called) was formed as a CWLU work group with regular meetings and a Steering Committee representative. One of the reasons for starting the Gay Group at that point was that CWLU was discussing the possibility of revising the statement of Political Principles, particularly with a view towards including a pro-gay principle (the original statement, written in the winter of 1969-70, did not include anything about gay liberation because that movement was only just getting started).

The Gay Group of 1972 was very instrumental in revising the statement of principles, and in writing and speaking in support of this change, which took place at the CWLU annual conference in November 1972. In advance of the conference, the Gay Group put together a set of documents (including an original article, Lesbianism and Socialist Feminism) and organized one of the pre-conference meetings on the subject of gay liberation.

Although the Gay Group continued to meet sporadically after the conference, into the winter of 1972-73, the group had less of a focus and eventually stopped meeting with any regularity (without formally disbanding). The former members of the group remained friends and often did other political work together; various women from the group were often called on to write or speak on lesbian issues for CWLU.

The group re-formed in 1974, using the name Lesbian Group, and continued in existence through the end of CWLU (and beyond). One reason for re-creating the group at that time was the feeling that CWLU's commitment to lesbian issues was not as clear as it had been in previous years (for example, at the March 1974 International Women's Day demonstration, there was not a clear lesbian presence, although all other CWLU work groups were represented).

As it happened, the period from 1974 to about 1976 was also a time when CWLU and similar organizations around the country were under pressure from other leftist organizations, some of which were quite anti-gay. As a result, CWLU members who were active in the Lesbian Group were very involved in a lot of these disputes. But the Lesbian Group of the mid-1970's was not only involved in internal CWLU activities, but also played a very active role in the lesbian and gay communities in Chicago.

The CWLU Lesbian Group began publishing a small newsletter (called Blazing Star) which continued in existence until the early 1980's. The Lesbian Group was also involved with various lesbian and women's sports groups, and also played an active role in the creation of the Lesbian and Gay Coalition of Metropolitan Chicago. Several women from the CWLU Lesbian Group also became active in other lesbian and gay organizations, most notably, the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force (formerly the Illinois Gay Rights Task Force) , which was one of the major forces behind the passage of Chicago's Human Rights Ordinance (eventually passed in the 1980's).

The Lesbian Group, which began publishing Blazing Star in 1975, was often referred to as "Blazing Star." In 1977, after CWLU disbanded, some women from CWLU (both lesbian and straight) formed an all-women's chapter of New American Movement, using the name "Blazing Star" for the group, and continued to publish Blazing Star as a newspaper, in addition to doing other feminist and lesbian organizing.

Elaine Wessel is active in the CWLU Herstory Website Committee and was a member of the Lesbian Group. Her photographs of CWLU activities may be seen throughout our site and in our Gallery section. She is presently working as an audio-visual specialist in the education field.

Secret Storm Newspaper

Outreach/Secret Storm organized women in Chicago's working class high schools, community colleges and neighborhoods. They are probably best remembered for their struggle to end the Chicago Park District's bias against women's sports. by the CWLU Herstory Committee

The CWLU believed that longterm patient organizing was the key to success for the women's liberation movement. In 1972, the Outreach workgroup began an ambitious program of organizing in Chicago's white working class neighborhoods. They started first on the Northwest Side and later expanded to the Southwest side. In 1975, they changed their name to Secret Storm, taken from a popular soap opera of the time.

Working closely with Rising Up Angry, a Northside radical group also dedicated to organizing in white working class neighborhoods, Outreach made contacts at high schools and community colleges. They arranged speaking engagements, help set up classes, organized rap groups, and provided support for students trying to set up their own feminist organizations.

In 1974, Outreach began to focus on women's sports. At that time sports were much more male dominated than today. Outreach came to believe that sports could build women's confidence, create a sense of team effort and help women break out of narrow constricting roles. The Chicago Park District discriminated against women's sports teams, so the battle to get a place to play became a political issue. By 1975, Outreach(then called Secret Storm) had 140 women organized into teams. There were angry confrontations with Park District bosses and sexist park users, but slowly women's sports became a fixture in Chicago's parks.

The group used their newspaper ( also called Secret Storm ) to raise issues with the women they met through their neighborhood organizing. In some ways a successor to Womankind, which had ceased publication in 1973, Secret Storm focused heavily on neighborhood and workplace struggles, but also covered a variety of other feminist issues in a straightforward easily understandable way.

Outreach/Secret Storm worked hard to link local neighborhood issues with the global struggle for women's equality, helping women to see beyond the immediate confines of their individual experience.

Voices of the WLM

MARCH 1968

 highlights of this issue include:

Chicago Women Celebrate March 8
"On the Democratic Convention and What to do about it"
"Radical Women and the Rankin Brigade"
"Call for a Spring Conference"
"Chapter Report"

JUNE 1968

highlights of this issue include:

"Sexual Service System"
"Cuban Women"
"Women's Roles & Racism"
"Dear John"
"From Chicago"


highlights of this issue include:

Plans for WLM National Convention
WLM vs Miss America
Towards Strategy
Pilgrims Progress cartoon
"Women Militant in West Germany"
"The Nitty Gritty on the Woman Question" 


highlights include:

National News

CWLU Newsletter

The CWLU News was the monthly newsletter aimed at the CWLU membership. Here one can truly sense the diversity of ideas and projects within the CWLU.

The individual issues we have online are scanned copies. We also include a brief listing of the highlights of each issue. We will be adding more issues over time, organized by the year and month.

Hightlights of 1970 include news about the Playboy action, women's liberation and the 1970 student strikes, devisivness in the women's movement, the CWLU health center and CWLU city-wide meetings.


Download PDF 4.73 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

Miss Loyola Liberated
Announcements of national womens' liberation conferences
UC Counter Curriculum
The La Dolores Center

APRIL 1970

Download PDF 4.87 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

Playboy Action
Speaker Policy
Women in Viet Nam
Importance of CWLU chapters
Report from a city-wide meeting

MAY 1970

Download PDF 4.54 Mb
Highlights of the issue include:

Campus women's liberations and the 1970 student strikes
Women's Liberation protests in the Presbyterian Church
CWLU Medical Clinic Training
Ecology Conference
City-wide CWLU Meeting

JULY 1970

Download PDF 5.76 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

Charlotte Bunch Weeks returns from Hanoi
Southside Women's Liberation Center
Emergency Anti-War Conference
Joreen's Letter of Resignation
Divisiveness and self-destruction in the women's movement


Download PDF 5.10 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

CWLU Health Center
August 26th women's strike
Legal battle against the Illinois abortion law
CWLU staff position now open
The CWLU responds to NBC
Women's radio in Chicago


Download PDF 5.81 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:


August 26th women's strike
Huey Newton on women's liberation
Employment and women
Ellen DuBois on feminism
Organizing the CWLU office
CWLU speakers bureau


Download PDF 4.45 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

The Equal Rights Amendment
The passing of Alice Hamilton
Rock band auditions
Ellen DuBois on feminism (continued)
Evaluating doctors and therapists
The Middle East
Letter to Kate Millet


Download PDF 5.92 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

CWLU Citywide meeting
CWLU student organizing
The Pill
Birth of the Women's Graphics Collective
Gay liberation
Alice Hamilton Women's Health Center: Pro and Con


Download PDF 7.50 Mb
Highlights of this issue include:

City-wide CWLU meeting
Membership and sisterhood
Women and art
Membership position paper
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Abortion Rally
Courts vs. women
Liberation school

Womankind Newspaper

Womankind was the newspaper of the CWLU from 1971-73. It was conceived as a monthly publication to reach women who were curious about the women's liberation movement, but who were not necessarily activists.

by Cheryl R. Ganz and the CWLU Herstory Editorial Committee
The Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU) designed Womankind newspaper as an outreach publication to spread the ideas of women's liberation, to reflect the political direction of the Union, and to increase awareness of CWLU projects. Published on a monthly basis from 1971-1973, Womankind was one way that people could become familiar with the CWLU

The subscription rate was $4 per year or 25¢ per issue. The publication was available at women's centers, bookstores, and women's events. It was sometimes sold on the street as well.

Copies of Womankind are available for viewing at the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University Library's Special Collections Department as well as on microfilm at the Library of Congress.

Note: A complete article index of Womankind done by Cheryl Ganz is available in Adobe Acrobat Format. Download the free Acrobat Reader here.

See also: Consciousness in the CWLU Archive for more information about Womankind.

Cheryl R. Ganz indexed and archived CWLU documents while working as a research assistant for Margaret "Peg" Strobel, a professor of Women's Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Cheryl's contribution to the CWLU Herstory Website Project has been incalculable. She is currently working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.