(circa 1969) A description of the various women's groups who participated in one of the first national women's liberation conferences. A good introduction to the diversity of 2nd Wave feminism. (circa 1969)
(Editors Note: This is a description of the various groups who attended an early national women's liberation conference. We believe that it was the one held at the University of Washington on January 31 to February 1, 1969. Here is a link to a flyer from the same conference: Women's Liberation Conference flyer, January 31-February 1, 1969
Flyer for Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 1969 conference on Women's Liberation, sponsored by the Women's Liberation Committee of SDS at UW. Digitized with permission from the personal collection of Joe Felsenstein.)
WELCOME TO THE WOMEN'S LIBERATION CONFERENCE
Many people, especially those new to the women's movement, have asked for a pre-conference summary of the basic issues and positions that have already developed in various groups so that they will be prepared to participate and know what the "old hands" mean with their jargon and sly comments! Basically, we hope that the first day and the mimeographed descriptions of what groups are doing will provide this context for all.
We have also been asked for a report of what happened at the Sandy Springs conference in August, 1968, a report that has never been written. So, in response to both these requests, we have mimeographed the agenda outline of the basic issues discussed at Sandy Springs. While this is mot a full report of the meeting, it should give an idea what was discussed there and help introduce new people to what were at that point seen as important issues in the movement. This conference should fill everyone in on the rest.
Sandy Springs Agenda Issues:
I. What is each group doing? etc. .........
II. What are the common threads among groups? ... through What is a Liberated woman? What is it we would like to be?
III. Goals and priorities in building a women's movement.
IV. What are our political and ideological assumptions? .....
V. Where can we work together?
VI. Who are our constituents?
VII. How do we relate to the rest of the Movement? etc. ...
VIII. How are we reaching out now??????etc.
IX. Ideas and suggestions for specific projects....
We hope that this list and the following descriptions of what different groups are doing will help provide a common background for all. (Please note that the descriptions do not by any means include all the groups, but may be considered as representational.)
Womens Liberation Group Gainesville, Florida
The Women's Liberation Group from Gainesville, Florida consists of women who all intend to become "organizers" for our movement. At this point we conceive of ourselves as a small consciousness-raising cell. We meet as an all-female group; we take action only when there is group consensus through consciousness-raising planning; that is, we ask of ourselves: how does this issue make me feel about myself as a woman; when we've answered questions such as these, we feel more certain that any public action we take will communicate better to other women because we designed it in accord with the feelings and experiences of our group as women, not as new leftists' SDS'ers, etc.
We discourage "academic" discussions of books, etc. In each meeting we address ourselves to specifically women topics such as vaginal orgasms, money (where we get it, where it goes), marriage, masturbation, and relate our personal experiences as political expressions to our own racism, to the capitalist system, to the way we view other women. We are self-conscious about the fact that vie are trying to arrive at the correct analysis of our condition; we speak "pain to recall pain", and we examine the personal data of each meeting in order to understand its political implications for women. We view the male domination system as the core of our oppression, and we see war, racism, capitalism, etc. as impediments to be cleared away en route to our liberation.
We think that there is no personal solution to a long history of oppression. Consequently, we explore the ways in which we "shuffle'. through our jobs, marriages, etc., and at the same time attempt to avoid shuffling among ourselves. The only solution we accept is through a liberation movement of women.
We have no leaders and pass around the "shit work." Our Group consists of students, several professionals, a welfare recipient, several waitresses and some of us have children. At this point we are an all-white group, and we are expecting to expand with a race and class analysis. While many of our members put in their time with civil rights or SDS type organizations, for some this is their first participation in a group which considers itself "radical" and intends a basic reorientation of the cultural and economic systems.
Women's Group -New Orleans, La.
About ten of us have been functioning as Women Strike for Peace pickets and draft counseling. Whenever we got together and weren't talking about action plans, we talked about how dreadful men are... What a few of us would like to see our group turn into is an action group -completely women; that is more or less drop out of activities with men unless acting as a women's unit. -And women's liberation as just a part of the meetings. Others who are radical in thought though not action, prefer just discussion ... we will see what happens.
Simon Fraser University- Women's Caucus Vancouver, CANADA
We began as a caucus of Students for a Democratic University, a radical student group, but our interests quickly became much broader. We have used campus issues, such as the establishment of a birth control center on campus and women's place in the student power movement, as organizing issues. We are now an autonomous organization and have concentrated mainly on building broad university strength. our membership is somewhere between thirty and forty and includes undergraduates, graduate students, wives and faculty. We have tried to build membership on radical principles rather than broad appeal. Our goal is to form a politically conscious, militant force of women to participate in the radical movement here. The group is about six months old and has been active, meeting once a week at least, since inception.
We are working on campus now primarily through classes. Simon Fraser U. has the system of two hour tutorials in the social science courses--these are small discussion groups and we are invited now to many of these to discuss our position. We usually send a team of two; as a method of building speaking ability and confidence it is excellent. We are helping and encouraging newer groups on other B.C. college campuses and just beginning to try to organize high school groups. One abortive. attempt was made in the summer to try to make contact with office workers in Vancouver; we are hoping that our next try will be more successful. It will be made soon.
The Feminists: Oceanside, New York group
We are an offshoot of the N.Y. radical women. We have only five members and a few transient members who meet regularly are putting together a newsletter, discussing strategy, planning action, and having general discussion.
We have been meeting together for several months. We occasionally have weekend meetings which are divided between group discussion on a specific topic, putting together a magazine, deciding strategy or what form action should take, and reading papers we have written. Our main focus other than the magazine, has been strategy and we find that good, solid plans aren't formulated overnight.
Northside Radical Women's Group -Chicago, Illinois
First and still number one on the north side of Chicago is the North Side Radical Women's Group. Our Group, pure theorists, is seeking to find in literature and movies, etc. the ideal woman --for reasons obvious to all. We are seeking the one cultural heroine who will be able to bridge class distinctions, to unify ethnic groups, to destroy regional differences. The woman who combines intellect with action, finesse with fortitude, strength with subtlety. The woman who will heal our cities, smile on the harvest of our farmers, leap tall buildings with a single bound. The New American Woman. THE NEW AMERICA. Yours Truly,
Katherine Hepburn Acting Secretary
The New York Consciousness Awakening Women's Liberation Group -NYC
Our group is focused around awakening the latent consciousness that we and all women have about our oppression. Our "therapy sessions," as they have been badly misnamed are aimed at searching out those things in our lives which we share by being born women. We have blamed ourselves for the unhappiness in our lives. We have believed that these were our "personal problems."
The "bitch sessions: as we like to call them because we affirm bitching as a resistance tactic of powerless women in the past) help us to see our oppression as women as social problems that must become social issues and fought together-rather than with individual personal solutions. Through bitching together and searching for common ground, we also gain the feeling of unity -sisterhood-that is so necessary to our struggle. We began to see we need each other, even to think. We begin to really like women.
An analysis of our oppression, therefore, must come from the concrete reality of our own experiences. From this reality comes our theory. Action will flow from that theory. An example of this was the Miss America Protest. From our consciousness that every day of a woman's life is a walking Miss America Contest came the idea for the action. To plan the protest, we went around the room and each woman told how she felt about the Pageant, recalling the pains it had brought her. From this discussion we decided to crown a docile sheep Miss America and to auction off a replica Miss America to the highest bidder.
We use the going around the room technique with questions which Tie think will raise but consciousness. Some questions: Which do you prefer to have, a boy or a girl and why? Who did you prefer, your father or mother and why? What does it do to your relationship with your man if he makes more money than you? If you make more money than he?
We believe that the seeds of the new society are in women's consciousness.
SPEAK PAINS TO RECALL PAINS -The Chinese Revolution
TELL IT LIKE IT IS ----------The Black Revolution
BITCH, SISTERS, BITCH --------The Final Revolution
Our first action was the burial of Traditional Womanhood at the Jeanette Rankin Brigade Peace March in Washington, D.C., in January, 1960. A, complete description and the Funeral Oration appears in NOTES, which we consider our next major action. The 36 page publication was put out in June, 1968, as a public statement of what the group had been thinking and talking about for the past several months. We distributed about 1,000 copies and have requests for several hundred more.
After the Columbia Strike, Roz Baxendall went to the Columbia Strike Liberation School at the request of a friend with plans for a Women's Liberation Class. A struggle ensued to get the course recognition and to keep men out of the class. Some militants from the Strike Committee tried to keep women from coming to the class. The Committee later admitted that the Women's Liberation Class lasted longer than any other course and had the largest and most consistent attendance.
Out of our bitch sessions came the idea for the Miss America Protest. All the New York groups joined together for this action and women from Washington,D.C., New Jersey and Florida participated. We crowned a live sheep Miss America, held an action of an All American Girl replica, threw objects of our torture into the freedom trash can, picketed, and talked to women spectators. At night, we hung a Women's Liberation banner from the balcony and shouted "Freedom for women -No more Miss America" until the cops forced us out. Peggy Dobbins was arrested and charged with spraying a "noxious element" on the Pageant floor. (See the paper "What Can Be Learned a critique of our actions.")
We asked to have a speaker at the International Revolutionary Student's Conference at Columbia because the women's struggle was not represented Anne Forer got up to give the speech amid boos and jeers and was only allowed to speak after a hassle.
As the result of our actions, especially the Miss America protest, we were invited to appear on several radio and television talk shows. We made several appearances on Barry Farber. Roz Baxendall and Kate Millet went on the David Susskind Show with two other women who at that time were affiliated with NOW. Listener-owned WBAI radio has given us time in addition to interviews and news stories. These programs have brought new women into our groups.
PARTICIPATION IN OTHER ACTIONS
In addition to our own actions, we joined several planned by other groups. Shulie Firestone gave a speech at an abortion rally sponsored by Parents Aid and a number of our group marched and picketed (see NOTES). Some of our group attended a support rally for Bill Baird and Pope and the Pill rally. Some joined NOW in its protests against unfair employment practices by Colgate Palmolive and against the New York Times for segregated want-ads. Some of us joined the WITCH action on Halloween in memory of the nine million witches (feminists) who had been murdered during the Middle Ages. The WITCH hexed Wall Street, a men only bar, some nudie shows, and a few other places.
We are planning to open a storefront on the Lower East Side which would serve both as out office and a place where neighborhood women could come and rap.
We plan to put stickers which say "Women's Liberation" and our address on advertisements that are anti-woman. We see this action as a way to raise consciousness and a way -to put us in contact with other interested women.
Cleveland Women's Groups
There have been sporadic discussions and meetings of women in Cleveland over the past year, but without forming any basic groups until this fall -'68. At present, there are two kinds of groups, both just beginning to develop.
Case Western Reserve University University Women's Liberation
Related primarily to campus SDS. Some campus women have met a few times to work on specific projects around women's liberation issues on campus. This has included so far: A Guerilla theater action and leafleting during a slave auction held by Angelflite, the women's auxiliary to ROTC; A counter-homecoming queen, .fashioned somewhat after the Miss America skit; and a drive to eliminate all dorm hours for women, including efforts to persuade women that they do NOT need the "protection" of dorm hours (this is still in process.).
City-Wide Radical Woman's Discussion Group. A varied group of women from different parts of the city -from West-Side workers (poor white area), Movement for Democratic Society, Radicals in the Professions, Peace Action groups, graduate and undergraduates, etc. have just begun. weekly meetings. This group plans to discuss the women's movement as it relates to Cleveland together first and then develop other project and constituency groups as seems appropriate to our analysis of needs and possibilities here. So far, its discussions have been general exploratory ones.
In addition, there are plans being made for a free university course and/or a series of forums on women's liberation, including both history of women and discussions of our present situation. These will be for-people both on the campus and off-campus and will begin next semester, probably February.
New women's group-- New York City.
We have barely gotten off the ground as we'd just had a first meeting when the NYC teachers' strike hit us --most of us have kids and thus spent the next month keeping our schools open, organizing for community control and organizing support for Ocean-Hill Brownsville.
We are 16 very political women of middle-class & working-class origin in our mid-20's to early 40's, who have all been active in the union, peace & civil rights movements, and all consider our primary goal the destruction of capitalism. We have come together as women to do this and intend to focus on the limited role of women as producers (built-in job discrimination) and on raising the political issue of society's responsibility for children, from birth,
Regarding the so-called "personal" aspects of womanhood --the particular problems and forms of brainwashing to which we are subject --we don't believe they can be solved through discussion alone --but only through group action, and especially as it involves working-class and poor women.
Women's Caucus of the New University Conference Chicago, Illinois
Currently, the policy states that radical women and radical university women who have a commitment to women's liberation should make up the constituency of the caucus. Thus the caucus does not speak for all women Within NUC. It is the hope of the I caucus that women can be radicalized upon the basis of their exploitation position within academia and. within the Movement Our primary purpose is to contribute to NUC by recruiting and radicalizing women so that they become an important and active segment of the total movement... There is every hope that in the future the promise of women's liberation may be fulfilled. I appeal to all the Sisters, to join our effort for significant intellectual and organizing contributions to the NUC and to the total movement.
BOSTON WOMEN (Excerpts from)
All of us had been involved in the movement, we had no group where we could discuss what was going on in our personal lives--was our work satisfying, why was the movement so competitive, what was the pressure, on us
If we had families, how hard was it to participate as an equal in the movement if you were a single women and competing for the available men?
..... Our beginning talk, often dealt with how the present movement for change reflects the larger society's work ethic,competition, labeling of: people, and status seeking. When your politics are your life style, its too threatening to consider either critically What we realized as a group was that even though we wanted to continue to meet and free ourselves as women, that we could relate our liberation in two ways towards the men we knew. Either we could use it to gain power as women in a struggle with men; or we could use our freedom and knowledge, to be supportive as well as challenging to men so that we could struggle against the society oppressing all of us. For many reasons ( some good and some bad) , we committed ourselves as a group to the second course. In practice , that means we've tried to create the freeing growing atmosphere we've found in our women's group in other relationships-instead of lecturing about our "unique state" ......Being in a group where
People can express their emotional feelings openly has been very important to us....We are freed from worrying about how we appear to other people--both men and women. Because of the warmth often shared in the group., we have begun to see barriers fall inside of and between people.
We've found that we've spontaneously made connections between our lives and what somebody else has related... Thus rather than drawing connections that are abstract super "political" conclusions, we've made tentative social connection that are organic and personally important to us---that have changed the way we perceive things, and therefore changed the way we lived. This group has also changed the level of communication that we're satisfied with., Most of us are much less willing to put up with fakers or ego trips in other groups ...nobody in our group assumes that our problems as women will all disappear once we're sensitive to each other .... We do not see our present group as the nucleus of organizers for the women's liberation movement in Boston .....
Women's Liberation Front -Los Angeles Calif.
June 1968-class in the "Experimental College" (a "free university" concept offering student-originated classes without credit) at UCLA was started on Women in American Society by Alena Jech, a Philosophy senior long bothered by the "woman's problem". Participation was from 3 to 5 women all summer.
September -The Experimental College class was continued with a new name: The Feminist Rebellion and more publicity in the college paper. Alena Jech and Ann Herschfang took charge of the seminar-type class. Attendance was between 12 and 13 women, many of whom had been with the radical political groups on campus. There was a lot of introspection, definition and identification of "the problem", leading to solidarity among the participants.
October -The result was a student organization on campus: Women's Liberation Front and its counterpart which meets outside of the University one night a week. (Total of 20 members).
November -WLF is sponsoring general meetings for coeds on campus to create awareness and incite participation The group has joined in a collective effort to gather and originate related material, to type, xerox, mimeo and otherwise print relevant papers for general distribution on campus. Plans are being made to extend the same to the community. Many projects are in the planning stage, and the group is groping for a general statement of more defined goals and purposes -there are ideological and some tactical differences among individuals and an overall anxiety about ACTION.
WLF is also sponsoring an interdisciplinary class at UCLA (to be given during the Winter Quarter), for credit, through the faculty-student Committee for the Study of Education in Society (CSES), which will focus upon the problem of sexual prejudice in all human areas and will explore alternative possibilities of new life-styles. The class will be offered to both women and men students, and will consist of lectures and discussion-type ("student interchange" sessions.
Women's Group -Durham, North Carolina
A women's group has been going since late summer '68 and is doing fairly well at trying to isolate the issues affecting women in the South. In conjunction with SSOC, they hope to have a Southern Regional conference in February --for women.
Women in Madison, Wisconsin
There isn't an on-going group here, but there are workshops and free university courses on women (last spring and this summer). many women there are aware of the problems, therefore, and interested in liberation (like us all).
W.I.T.C.H. -Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy From Hell-New York Group.
We are WITCH We are WOMAN. We are LIBERATION. WE are We. The hidden history of woman's liberation began with witches and gypsies. For they are the oldest guerrillas and resistance fighters, the first practicing abortionists and distributors of contraceptive herbs.
We are the WITCHES, ex-Tuesday night group that has been meeting regularly in New York for almost one year. Our coven consists of approximately 13 heretical women. Some of us will be making contact with you at the conference.
WITCH is a total concept, a new dimension of women.
It means breaking the bond of woman as a biologically and sexually defined creature. It implies the destruction of passivity, consumerism and commodity fetishism.
WITCH is also a strategy, a medium of subversion : witchcraft.
Who is the enemy---,
Witches must name names, or rather we must name trademarks and brand names.
Recently,we formed a Witch Guerrilla Theatre. It grew out of the realization that a small group must be skilled in the use of masks and crafts. It also evolved out of two actions already taken. On Halloween, WITCH went trick or treating on Wall Street. We hexed the Corporations, damned the banks, exorcised as well as blew some minds, advised anyone who asked us about the stock market and sang the home-made tune of Up-Against -the-Wall -Street. Since then, we freaked out at a Wellesley Alumni Fund-raising Bridge party. Our short-term purpose is to become better Witches, attack where we are least expected, to possess other women with witch fever, and to reveal that the routine of daily life is the theatre of struggle.
Women's Caucus in People Against Racism -Detroit.
We see ourselves as a Women's Liberation Caucus within PAR (Detroit Chapter) We met for the first time a group of about 15 women who recently began to become interested in questions of Women's Liberation. We hope to cooperate with but remain independent from another Women's Liberation group in Detroit. Most of us are mainly concerned with questions like---How we can more effectively play a role within the home and the movement, What is femininity, What is liberation for Women, Men, Children. We all feel certain problems, however the main impetus for getting together isn't however getting that we feel PAR to be tremendously male supremacist . I suspect we will begin to feel more oppression within PAR as we begin to talk about it. Our concern with Women's Liberation is partially a national outgrowth of our concern with "New Culture" -- white identity e.g. Men and Women in PAR began planning a nursery with PAR kids long before we began talking about Women's Liberation. Most of our organizing efforts have been with Middle class liberals and high school kids.
Washington Women's Liberation Groups
Northwest Group I
We began last year as the first group here in DC after the Jeanette Rankin Brigade. Most our our members had been and still were involved in full-time movement work. We spent most of the spring and winter working out an analysis of the specific kinds of alienation we felt in our movement and our ''straight'' jobs when we had them, and tried to understand the ways in which women's work was particularly alienating under Capitalism. We spent long hours discussing what would be meaningful work and what kind of, society would have to exist for work to be useful.
Our group grew very quickly and it soon became necessary to find ways of splitting into smaller groups so more people could talk and share experiences at each meeting. Several project groups were set up. These are now on-going groups that people from all the area groups participate in. Other groups began that meet in specific areas of the city.
We are now discussing the ways that women's roles are outlined for us by this society and how that fits into the larger economy and shapes us.
Northwest Group II
We began as an experimental group consisting just of "professional women" or women who worked in the "straight" world. We've been spending much time talking about our jobs as well as the conflicting obligations women are taught to live with -- mother, wife worker...and the psychological havoc these. contradictory roles wreck on us.
We've just begun to meet and have been trying to outline the general ways each of "what women's liberation might "be" and the kinds of experiences we've felt in our lives that makes this necessary.
City Birth Alternatives Center
We are going to open a store front where birth counseling abortion information, birth control advise, etc.) will be talked about, where classes on the history of women will be given, where general. meetings will be held, etc. We are setting up a child care coop for women in our group to share the responsibility (along with men) of caring for kids so we can all work on this and other group projects.
Public Information Group
We have been working on an outline of a course of the history of women and have been working out "blitz" speeches to go around to give on campus" and to other groups about women's liberation.
We've been working on preparing a bibliography on women from references in the Library of Congress. We have, along with some women who teach at nearby colleges, amassed a 90 page bibliog. soon ready.