in 1970 and was widely reprinted and passed around the Movement and beyond in the next several years.I didn’t know just how much it had gotten around until I did a Google search and found it being discussed in many different languages.editors Shulie Firestone and Anne Koedt after Kathie Sarachild brought it to their attention as a possible paper to be printed in that early collection.
The radical movements of Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War, and Old and New Left groups from which many of us sprang were male dominated and very nervous about women’s liberation in general, but especially the spectre of the mushrooming independent women’s liberation movement, of which I was a staunch advocate.
Arriving in New York City after ten months in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, I had found SCEF to be one of the more mature and better progressive groups around.
It had a good record of racial, economic and political justice work since New Deal days, and I joined its staff in 1966 as its New York office manager.
SCEF allowed New York Radical Women to meet in its New York office, where I worked, and at my request agreed to explore setting up a women’s liberation project in the South.
However, many on the SCEF staff, both men and women, ended up joining the criticism of women getting together in consciousness-raising groups to discuss their own oppression as “naval-gazing” and “personal therapy”—and certainly “not political.” They could sometimes admit that women were oppressed (but only by “the system”) and said that we should have equal pay for equal work, and some other “rights.” But they belittled us no end for trying to bring our so-called “personal problems” into the public arena—especially “all those body issues” like sex, appearance, and abortion.
Our demands that men share the housework and childcare were likewise deemed a personal problem between a woman and her individual man.The opposition claimed if women would just “stand up for themselves” and take more responsibility for their own lives, they wouldn’t need to have an independent movement for women’s liberation.The paper actually began as a memo that I wrote in February of 1969 while in Gainesville, Florida.It was sent to the women’s caucus of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) a group for whom I was a subsistence-paid organizer doing exploratory work for establishing a women’s liberation project in the South.The memo was originally titled, “Some Thoughts in Response to Dottie’s Thoughts on a Women’s Liberation Movement,” and was written in reply to a memo by another staff member, Dottie Zellner, who contended that consciousness-raising was just therapy and questioned whether the new independent WLM was really “political.” This was not an unusual reaction to radical feminist ideas in early 1969.WLM groups had been springing up all over the country—and the world.