Days of Celebration and Resistance: The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band, 1970-1973

by Naomi Weisstein (1996) — In Chicago, one cold and sunny day in March of 1970, I decided to organize a feminist rock band. I was lying on the sofa listening to the radio -- a rare bit of free time in those early days of the women's movement. Perhaps a meeting had been canceled.

by Naomi Weisstein

(Editors Note: Naomi played keyboards for the CWLU affiliated Rock Band. She is currently living with Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. This memoir also appeared in The Feminist Memoir Project edited by DuPlessis and Snitow. The photo shows Naomi at a band rehearsal circa 1972.)

In Chicago, one cold and sunny day in March of 1970, I decided to organize a feminist rock band. I was lying on the sofa listening to the radio -- a rare bit of free time in those early days of the women's movement. Perhaps a meeting had been canceled. The trendy station that had just switched to all-rock was playing a medley of hits. First, Mick Jagger crowed that his once feisty girlfriend was now "under his thumb." Then Janis Joplin moaned with thrilled resignation that love was like "a ball and chain." Then The Band, a self-consciously left-wing group, sang:

Jemima surrender.
I'm gonna give it to you.
Ain't no pretender,
That's what I'm gonna do."

I somersaulted off the sofa, leapt up into the air, and came down howling at the radio: "every fourteen-year-old girl in this city listens to rock! Rock is the insurgent culture of the era! How criminal to make the subjugation and suffering of women so sexy! We've got to do something about this! We'll... We'll organize our own rock band!"

Of course there was more to my desire to organize a rock band than this small epiphany on a cold sunny afternoon in Chicago. I wanted to form a rock band because I was dissatisfied with the low state of feminist consciousness in the Chicago Women's movement and, in particular, in the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU), the magnificent city-wide umbrella organization that we had created, which nonetheless often placed its version of socialism ahead of feminism. Much of the leadership in Chicago was still trammeled by the dictates of a New Left whose misogyny meshed with its insistence on the primacy of class analysis, and I thought a rock band might help turn things around. Looking back from today, it may sound odd to bemoan the low state of feminism in the early women's movement. But the culture's enormous hatred of women and our own misogyny made it difficult for us to be steadfast in our feminism, to put feminism first. My primary goal for the rock band was always to reach out to sectors of the female population that the CWLU was not getting to; but a strong secondary goal was to try to make the CWLU more feminist.

A research neuroscientist then teaching at Loyola University, I had been organizing women's liberation in Chicago since 1966. That summer, Heather Booth and I had taught one of the first courses in feminism at a radical organizers' summer school for which the University of Chicago had grudgingly provided space. Then, I had been a founding member of the Chicago Westside Group, the first independent group of radical women in the country (1967-1969) and we couldn't talk about the oppression of women without getting a peculiarly guilty look on our faces. We were always switching to how-are-we-gonna-help-our-brothers-organize-draft- resistance.

Then in 1969 we formed the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (1969-1977) to pick up all the women's projects left stranded by the breakup of Students for a Democratic Society and to provide structure and leadership for the exploding feminist changes going on at that time. In many respects things were going quite well for feminism in Chicago. We early organizers had developed an empirical, pluralist, open politics which functioned wonderfully in maintaining unity through the bitter waves of sectarianism that had begun crashing through the New Left and the feminism that arose from the New Left. We had projects, demonstrations, meetings. Our influence was growing.

But, while there were many ardent feminists, and many exciting feminist projects that had started up -- I'm thinking for instance of "Jane," the underground abortion service -- low feminist consciousness and deference to the Left were still plaguing us. The week before my epiphany, for instance, a returnee from one of the Venceremos Brigades that went to Cuba to harvest sugar had described at a CWLU meeting how she preferred to cut cane with the Cuban men because the Cuban women were so "politically undeveloped." When I queried her preference, another CWLU'er whipped out her little red book and started quoting Mao Tse-Tung. Some women at the meeting sighed with relief to see the problem so easily resolved. Watching this scenario unfold, I thought I was hallucinating.

Clearly, our sense of our own profound oppression was also "undeveloped." Indeed, for many women, it was fast asleep. I wanted to awaken that sense and shake that sense; to dislodge the notion that men are where it's at, to instill a deep urgency about our own feminist revolution; to put forth a vision of a just, generous and egalitarian feminist society. But how to do it? We already had consciousness- raising, a spectacular wave of writings and ongoing projects. That Sunday afternoon I asked myself why we didn't try to turn to our own advantage the techniques used by the wider culture to keep us in our place. Why not see what would happen if we created visionary, feminist rock?

The idea of direct cultural intervention in order to change consciousness was held in low esteem by most of the CWLU leadership at that time. This was due to another assumption we had inherited from the New Left. This was that if we change the structures which maintain our oppression (such as if we won equal pay for equal work) consciousness would follow. I had started to disagree. Structural change is absolutely necessary if we are to overthrow our oppression, but it is not sufficient; we also need to change our consciousness. Structure is the tip of the patriarchal iceberg. Subjugation and submission gets inside our heads, and it takes direct confrontation with culture to extirpate them. We had to go through the culture, both mainstream and Left, with a fine tooth comb, confronting every thing from why we thought that a working-class revolution -- indeed any revolution -- was more important than a feminist revolution, all the way to why we believed, along with the mainstream culture, that male domination and a little bit of cruelty would always turn us on.

"What about Rock?" I said to myself as my epiphany boiled over. Rock, with its drive, power and energy, its insistent erotic rhythms, its big bright major triads, it's take-no-prisoners chord progressions, was surely the kind of transforming medium that could help to alter the culture in which we lived, and thus help us to change our consciousness.

Besides, not only did every fourteen-year-old girl in the city listen to rock, but also every CWLU'er did. We all identified with the counter culture; rock was considered "Our Music": dangerous, sexy and our harbinger of the social changes to come. No matter that rock assaulted women more savagely than anything in popular culture before it: "Under my Thumb," "Jemima Surrender," as well as Bob Dylan's "It ain't me, Babe," Grateful Dead's "Hello Little Schoolgirl," and a host of similar lyrics. Many of us lived cocooned in rock's sound, oblivious to, or even worse, delighting in the message.

The task would be to change the politics while retaining the impact. In subsequent weeks, while I was looking around for musicians for the band, many people told me, some with huge sneers, that it couldn't be done. Rock was its own thing, they said, and you couldn't mess with it. "Art and politics don't mix," they said. I dismissed this.

Rock was the pre-eminent theater of sexual politics; in this sense, rock was already deeply political. Moreover, as a Red Diaper baby and the daughter of a musician, I had grown up on political art: not simply agitprop, or socialist realism, but frontier art. I loved Bertoldt Brecht's and Kurt Weill's classic "Threepenny Opera"; Kurt Weill's moving and eye-opening "Lost in the Stars," about race relations in South Africa; and, a decade later, Lenny Bruce's morally outraged pre-feminist anti-authoritarian, brilliant stand-up comedy. Coming from such a background, while I loved all sorts of art and music, I thought that constructing a new kind of political art -- if you could pull off both the art and the politics-- was a most worthy project. It was a thrill to contemplate trying to make feminist rock.

And so I organized the Chicago Woman's Liberation Rock Band. My goals were much too ambitious -- a common problem at the time -- but the band turned out to be remarkably successful in achieving many of the goals. For starters, we actually got an effective band together. After the first shake-down months (at our first performance in Grant Park in August of 1970, we had thirteen singers all bellowing happily to their individual muses), we grew into a distinctive group of hip, even talented if inexperienced musicians.

High school dropout Sherry Jenkins was our resident rock genius with her wonderful alto whiskey voice and lyrical lead guitar. There was no rhythm that our hippy rhythm guitarist Pat Miller couldn't master. She was also wildly comical. In the middle of our drop-dead Kinks number, she broke in with a stone-perfect slob macho rendition of "Alouie, Louie," which drove the audience into the rafters. Bass guitarist Susan Abod was steeped in rock, if just starting out on the fret board. Both her bass line and her song lines were lyrical and inventive. Fania Montalvo and Susanne Prescott provided a double drumming rhythm. As for myself, I had seven years of classical training on the piano plus an additional 2 years of jazz piano. But my more important function as a performer in the band was to provide and direct theater and comedy, two areas in which I had some experience.

We were explicitly, self consciously political about our performances, while avoiding leaden sloganeering. To combat the fascism of the typical rock performance where the performers disdain audiences and the sound is turned up beyond human endurance, we were extremely interactive with our audiences, rapping with them and asking them which songs they liked and keeping the sound level at a reasonable roar. We were playful, theatrical and comical, always attentive to performance. We sang "Papa don't lay that shit on me," to the tune of the old-time dirty song, "Keep on Truckin', Mama," in carnival fashion with slide whistles and whoops of derision, the audience laughing and singing along:

Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
It just don't compensate.
Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
I can't accommodate.
You bring me down,
It makes you cool.
You think I like it?
You're a goddamn fool.
Poppa don't lay that shit on me,
It just don't compensate.

"Don't Fuck Around with Love" offered a parodic voice-over above a sentimental 'fifties doo-wop chorus: "Love is wonderful / Love is peace / Love moves the mountains / Love cuts the grease." Then we'd sing "Ain't gonna marry" and "Secretary" ("Sister I believe you when you say you hate / Sister can you hear me, better break your date.") But at all times we wanted our politics to be artful: revolutionary poetry, as in "Mountain Moving Day" (lyrics above).

We were an image of feminist solidarity, resistance and power, and audiences loved us. Just the fact that we were all women standing up on the stage playing our heavy duty instruments into our heavy duty amplifiers was enough to turn many women on, but we received a wildly enthusiastic response not only from women in the movement but also from a wide range of different groups including the crowd at the Second Annual Third World Transvestite Ball, and the fourteen-year-old black girls at a summer camp for inner-city children.

At Cornell University, where we played with the New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band (organized by my close friend, Virginia Balled), women stripped to the waist and danced together in undulating circles. (Outside the room, angry fraternity boys were threatening to jump us. "Put your clothes back on," we sang, "We're in a hostile situation." The women kept dancing. "No we won't," they sang back. "We're free. We are... FREE.") At the inner-city camp, the girls made us play "VD Blues" six times before they would let us pack our bags and go home:

I went to the preacher, said preacher can you help me please.
... He looked at me and said, girl, get on your knees.
I went to the doctor and said doctor can you help me please.
... He looked at me cross-eyed and said,

Everywhere we went, we would be mobbed at the end of a performance, with the audience hugging the band and other members of the audience. And the band hugging the audience. And all of our faces wet with tears of joy.

"Secretary" and "Mountain Moving Day" were our strongest songs, as Kim observed; and sometimes, when we were really on, they transformed our performance. A gig we played at the University of Pittsburgh in April of 1971 is etched in my memory. The room we played in was large and bright, with the mixed male and female audience sitting in tiers as if in a science auditorium from which the chairs had been removed. In front of the shallow stage was a sizable dance floor.

We were on stage and at our instruments before the audience showed up. This was a rule with us. In accord with our subversive resolve to be audience-friendly -- unheard of with male rockers -- we tried always to be on time for a performance. There is nothing worse than sitting someplace for forty-five minutes waiting for an arrogant band to show up.

When the room was filled, Tanya did a cracking drum intro and Susie sang, "I don't need no doctor cause I know what's ailing me." Then I went to the mike, and assuming the sneering voice of your average low-life male sexist, said, "A women's liberation rock band. Farrrr Out! Farrrrr fucking out. Hey, I'd like to see you chicks in your gold lame short shorts and feathers on your tits." I went on to imitate Mick Jagger sing "Under My Thumb," "There is a squirrelly dog, who once had her way..." I ended with, "and do you know what he says then? he says, "it's alright.' Well, it's not alright, Mick Jagger, and IT'S NEVER GOING TO BE ALRIGHT AGAIN. [CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE] IT'S NEVER GOING TO BE ALRIGHT AGAIN!"

Then another cracking drum intro from Tanya, and Pat, Susie and Sherry began their sweet harmony opening "Secretary":

Get up/ Downtown. Don't you wish you could get out of this.
No trust/Big bust. Doesn't all those mumbles ever bother you.
Men's eyes/Fantasize. Memorizing thighs and getting off on you.
Elevators/See ya laters. Don't you think it's time you had a change of life.

Two bars of piano and bass and then Sherry launches into an acid lead guitar solo that is meant to signify a monumental head changing in the protagonist. The band members all improvise their solos which sometimes leads to very bad results. But this time Sherry just takes off and flies. Using a blues scale she plays syncopated cascades of fourths and fifths mixed with single stretched notes. It sounded as weird as she wanted it to be. Also it was lovely. After a caesura that followed her solo, she spoke:

Sister I believe you when you say you hate
Sister I could be you but it's too late
Sister can you hear me, better break your date
Stop it right now it's already too late

Then my solo came up. I was so high from listening to Sherry's that I just copied it with my right hand while my left hand provided a second voice of triads and sixths. Sherry decided to play with me, and the audience started clapping. "Rain forest" is how we described the sound later on: lush and dense. At the end, Sherry spoke the protagonist's final head change:

Get up/Downtown. Think I'll talk to Alice she may understand
And Susie and Pat joined in a cappella:
No trust/Big bust. Wonder if the new girl lives alone
Men's eyes/Fantasize. Jodi wants to tell the boss to fuck off
Elevators/See you laters. Tell all the girls noon in the lunchroom
Then the entire band spoke the last line in a sing-song:
And maybe we'll all wear pants tomorrow!

The audience didn't stop screaming for five minutes.

Susie and Pat's adaptation of my setting and additional verse for Japanese feminist Yosano Akiko's "Mountain Moving Day" (1913) was our final song. I played a soft sixteen-bar piano intro in dorian mode (like the "Greensleeves" scale), and Susie joined with a descending sixteenth note bass and then began to sing:

The mountain moving day is coming
I say so yet others doubt it
Only a while the mountain sleeps
In the past all mountains moved in fire
Yet you may not believe it
O man, this alone believe

Pat and Sherry's true harmonies amplified the last line:

All sleeping women now awake and move
All sleeping women now awake and move

Suzanne, who formerly played in a marching band, then did a haunting martial snare drum roll, as if to call legions of women to battle.

Susie resumed:

Can you hear the river
I can see the canyons as they stretch out for miles
But if you listen you can hear it below
Grinding stones into sand
Yet you may not hear it
O man, this alone hear
The waters now will tear the canyons down
The waters now will tear the canyons down

Again, folks in the audience began to scream and sing with us. Sherry and I always did a fugal coda to bring the excitement down at that point. But it was no use. The audience shouted and wept and rushed up on the stage and hugged our instruments and hugged us, and surely, we felt, we had produced a new world that would never go away, that would never fail us.

Driving back to Chicago, we had a flat tire and pulled off into a rest stop surrounded by tall trees. Amid the band's standard jokiness after a performance -- "tire's flat like your voice, Susie." "Fuck you, Pat." "This car is a piece of shit, Tanya." "It's a bright new shiny red Ford, so fuck you Sherry" -- we changed the tire. It had rained in the morning, and new huge blurry clouds were racing northwards. The trees, probably wild cherry, were just beginning to sprout little lavender buds. Tiny bird tracks across the wide blurred sky. We became silent and stood against the car. It was April of 1971, and we were getting good, and we were making history.

Every weekend, we crisscrossed the Chicago area, flew or drove to Colorado Springs, Bloomington, Madison, Pittsburg, Lewisburg, Toronto, Ithaca, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Boston, and so on. (Professor of Psychology aside, I flew as "Susan Young" at youth fare.) Audiences invited us back, and by the second visit knew half our lyrics. A cult began to form. We flew east to Boston to make a record for Rounder Records (1972), which became an underground classic for many feminists. This is when that congeries of styles and songs called Women's Music began. Years later, in 1994, Chicago New City music editor Ben Kim said of our record, "the band displays more than a fair amount of musicianship and spirit..." Calling Sherry Jenkins' "Secretary" "wonderfully angry," and my "Mountain Moving Day" "stirring,"Kim goes on to say:

....though "Mountain Moving [Day]" doesn't rock hard by conventional standards, its strong convictions lends it considerable weight. In a sense, it's the mother of Riot Grrrl, Foxcore, any rock by women who ask no quarter.

Ultimately we did fail. The band lasted three years and broke up in an agony of hatred and hidden agendas. This fact is not unusual; it even happened to the Beatles. But the way our band broke up reflected all the conflicts that were at the same time devastating the radical women's movement, and hence it is worth exploring in some depth. In a sense the band was a microcosm of what was happening all over the country: we were losing our women's movement and we didn't have much guidance on how to stop the dissolution.

There are many reasons for the band's failure. Some were external. With the radical feminist and radical movements of the preceding decade fast receding, our solidarity broke up as a result. But many of the reasons for our failure were internal: conflicts that once seemed easy to resolve, such as those of lesbians versus straights, now seemed almost insurmountable, and we began arguing too much and rehearsing too little. But there were two conflicts in particular which finished us. These conflicts lay at the millenarian heart of the prefigurative politics of the women's liberation movement.

The movement's utopianism included the ideas that: 1) any woman should be able to do anything as well as any other woman; and 2) there should be no leaders. We soon learned these ideas were untenable, but we persisted in thinking that if we were good enough feminists, we could abolish inequality of skills, and we could function without leaders; the contradictions between what we knew to be true, versus what we pretended was true, destroyed us. In our band, the first conflict expressed itself as a tension between expertise on the one hand and, on the other, enthusiasm-in-place-of-expertise (or "militant amateurism"). Our early women's movement said that any woman could do anything, if given the right social context and sufficient social support. (I said something like this myself in the early days).

I think this principle worked at the beginning, while our rock band was the first of its kind and women even appreciated its amateur qualities. After all, the band's amateurism conveyed the message that the audience itself could do things formerly considered taboo for women. But we owed it to our audience to be the best musicians we could. Some members of the band were willing to take up this challenge, but others were not. Feeling that the band needed a sharper beat, one day I suggested to one of our drummers that she take some lessons. She replied somewhat contemptuously, "I'm good enough for this band." The telling thing about this exchange was that nobody followed up. The myth about equality in skills was so strong that not one of us had the temerity to say, "You're not good enough for this band. Get better, or quit."

The second, and related conflict that did us in involved the question of leadership. This question was to rend the women's movement from coast to coast. Committed, as I have said, to what turned out to be a myth of equal skills, the movement applied the same kind of thinking to leadership, declaring that there should be none. For instance, in another area, after my reputation as a public speaker had increased and speaking invitations for me multiplied, the CWLU decided that I should refuse further invitations, lest I emerge as a "heavy." I willingly went along with this. (Instead, I organized intensive speaker training sessions, where I taught inexperienced women the skills that I had picked up.) But no matter what leaders did to abnegate and equalize, it was not enough. The utopian vision became cannibalism, and the movement ate its leaders: in city after city, they went down.

Here is how the leadership conflict played out in the band. We built the group painstakingly, and through much interpersonal struggle, to be an egalitarian collective. Thus, for instance, every member wrote songs, and these were accepted by the band as a whole with few questions asked, although friendly adaptations and amendments were usually received enthusiastically. But, amidst the appearance of structurelessness and leaderlessness, I was nonetheless clearly the theatrical director, theoretician, healer of wounds, spiritual leader and, if only by dint of a slight chronological advantage, "mother" to the band. Totally committed as I was to a deeply utopian egalitarianism, I was the de facto leader of the band anyway.

When the women's movement started trashing its leaders, the band turned on me for all the roles I had played. Its solidarity split open, and I came under attack. After I wrote (with Virginia Blaisdell) and published in Ms. a piece on the band's strengths and triumphs, I was attacked by the band for egotism: "Why did you sign your name to the article?" some members asked. Interestingly, nobody questioned the importance of the article, just that I should take credit for it.

The band needed my experience and skills, but they did not want to admit this. A gig we played at Bucknell University in 1972 made this clear to me. The audience was ferociously hostile, riled by an earlier speaker and angered by the fact that only half the band showed up. (In pre-performance confusion, they had taken the wrong plane.) Huge fraternity boys were roaring and piloerecting in the middle of the floor. At one point, Sherry put an empty coke bottle on my piano and grabbed an empty microphone stand because she thought they were going to rush the stage.

I sought to calm the audience with a stand-up comedy introduction. Concerned about my leadership role, the band refused to let me do this. Instead, another band member, inexperienced in such situations, made a stumbling presentation which further enraged the audience. At this point I came out, delivered the stand-up I had intended to present, and the hostile vibes from the audience turned to warmth and enthusiasm. The band was enraged at me for my success in turning the mood around.

After we got back from Bucknell, one of the band members -- the lead trasher -- suggested that we cut the band's repertoire to exclude the songs I had written: "I've been hearing that the sisters don't like your stuff, Naomi." I said that I agreed with the general principle that we should play what women want to hear. "So why don't we take a poll at our next gig?" My songs came out very popular and so she dropped that line of attack.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, these unhappy disputes all have their unique quirks and kinks, and it is beyond the scope of this paper to dwell on them. I should point out, however, that by talking about "the band" I don't mean to imply a monolithic consensus about trashing me. As these dynamics go, one person started the attack -- as it turned out, when I left the band she attacked the leader who took my place. The rest of the band, in varying degrees was reluctant to join the confrontation she had set up, but their silence gave the trashing the appearance of unanimity.

The reluctance of some of the other band members to stand up for me stem from the ideology and culture that had so recently infected the women's movement. Band members were just plain scared to oppose the new dogmatism. They didn't want to appear politically stupid. After all, hadn't the CWLU decreed that I should stay silent? Maybe, reasoned some of the band members, I shouldn't be performing at all.

How much the band actually relied on me was to be sadly revealed when I left Chicago. Struggling against the male power structure in science, I leapt at the chance when Bell Labs in New Jersey made me a scientific offer I couldn't refuse. In January of 1973 I took a six-month leave of absence from the band, in part because the group's attacks on me as leader had become intolerable.

Three months later, I read in my copy of the CWLU newsletter that the band had dissolved. The group described its dissolution as the outcome of natural, organic processes: "women's music lives and grows." But the reality was that the band had died. Women's music doesn't necessarily live and grow (although from the 'seventies to the 'nineties, many wonderful kinds of women's music did, but not the kind played by the CWLRB: bust-out bad-ass visionary political poetry.)

The band dissolved not because of spiritual, organic processes, but because we were not honest about the skills we needed to develop. The good musicians in the band resented the tenured-for-life members who refused to learn their instruments, and the inept members of the band -- to my surprise -- resented the good musicians even more fiercely. And, perhaps more important, the band collapsed because trashing had replaced compromise and negotiation as the dominant political modus operandi of the radical women's movement.

Recently, I heard the audio portion of a video tape of a CWLRB performance that took place shortly after I left Chicago. It's labeled "last concert," and I hear Susie on the tape announcing this to the audience. Jesse, who has seen the tape, tells me that it is grainy, fragmentary, black-and-white. It makes me nostalgic, bringing back both the conflicts and the euphoria of the period. For the rest of my life, I'll always be obsessed with the conflict between the band's ecstatic side and its amateurish side.

Through the poor tape, we nonetheless see Susie (a natural performer) working like mad to keep a lively tempo for the band. Sherry's deadpan voice shouts out, "Keep on truckin, everybody... there's plenty of space back there to truck." And Pat Miller's slide whistles and banjo-rhythmed guitar makes an old-time honky tonk festival out of the song. The audience is delirious, cheering like crazy.

Why is the audience cheering so hard? Many of the other songs are done quite poorly, revealing -- at least to someone familiar with the band's previous performances -- the extent to which the band has disintegrated. In another step in the de-skilling of the band, one of the drummers is now singing, "Ain't Gonna Marry," tunelessly and without rhythm. Sherry has omitted her lovely modal solos in "Mountain Moving Day." Even precise Susie loses the bass line in "Don't Fuck Around with Love," the key to which cannot be discerned. And the drumming has shifted from a rock beat to a polka. The demoralization that the band members are feeling as the drummer looses the beat and the singers can't stay in tune is palpable.

And yet, in the grainy shadows of that last tape, the audience is ecstatic. Why?

Beyond the CWLRB's flaws, beyond the disintegration of the last performance, the band nonetheless conveys movingly celebration and resistance. Its performance deliberately sets up a pre-figurative politics of strong, defiant women, absolute democracy, and an intense desire for audience participation. Through the intensity of the medium, through our bad-ass revolutionary poetry, it shouts the news: we can have a new world, a just and generous world, a world without female suffering or degradation. It is an irony that the utopianism that had destroyed us was the same ingredient that made our performance so powerful.

After the death of the CWLRB, I played with the more durable and musically more proficient New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band, whose dominant forces were Virginia Blaisdell and Jennifer Abod. (Blaisdell was a professional musician who could play trumpet, french horn, drums, piano and even electric bass, and directed the beginner musicians into a tight ensemble sound. Jennifer Abod -- Susan's sister -- had the family's stunning dramatic presence, and a deep blue voice she could have taken to Hollywood.)

Later, when I became Professor of Psychology at SUNY, Buffalo, I sat in with a South Buffalo lesbian band. But it was never the same. I mourned the band, and the radical women's movement that fell apart in that same period; for years, I mourned it. The Women's Liberation Rock Band was, in Chelsea Dreher's words, "Like a lover who abruptly walked out on you and never did tell you why."

Yet you might not believe this.
Oh man, this alone believe:
All sleeping women now awake and move

Yosano Akiko, 1913
Adapted and performed by
The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band

-- For Susie, Sherry and Pat: time sharpens the intensity.

Jo Freeman collected some memorabilia related to Naomi and was kind enough to share them with the Herstory Project. You may view them Here (will open a new window)

 Naomi Weisstein can be reached at:

890 West End Avenue, 8b

NY NY 10025

phone: (212) 222-6649;fax (212) 222-1624