Thursday, December 18, 2008

Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975

edited by Barbara J. Love, foreword by Nancy F. Cott (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 576 pages

From the late 1970s through the 1990s, I worked in women's history - Texas women's history, with the great, late historian Ruthe Winegarten, and a sizeable group of other women who collectively formed the Texas women's history project and its successor activities. We had a thrilling time collecting artifacts for a major museum exhibit, and data and stories enough for many articles and books (many in fact still being written). One thing that experience taught me, however, was that women have not been leaving enough documentation of their/our activities, for the historians to come.

That's one reason that a book like Feminists Who Changed America is very important. It provides a starting place for looking for who was involved in the movement, where they came from and what they accomplished. The book includes 2,250 entries, almost all of them written by the subjects themselves, but subject to the guidelines and promptings of the editors. Compiling this book was clearly a labour of love, and also one that must surely have required a vast store of patience and forebearance, in working with so many strong-willed authors to set down their own contributions to women's history, mostly in 1/3 of a page or less.

As I dip into the book at random (unfortunately, it's too large to keep on the back of the toilet), I learn more about old friends and heroines. Here's Allie Hixson, for example, who has volunteered almost full-time to try to get the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution passed (nope, it's not in there yet!). Turns out she has a doctorate in English but was denied a full-time teaching position because she was a woman. Thinking about the Equal Rights Amendment, I try looking up Sissy Farenthold, who got the Texas Equal Legal Rights Amendment finally introduced and passed in the early '70s, when she was still the only woman in the Texas House of Representatives. Probably she was too modest to write her own bio.

I have to say here, in the interests of full disclosure, that I am one of the subjects in the book, and probably one of the tardiest and hardest to work with. My biggest problem was that I was being asked to write about my own accomplishments, but almost all my accomplishments as a feminist have been co-accomplishments with other women. Barbara required me to reduce this contextualization in the interests of space and conformity, and to a degree I complied.

The internal dynamics of creating the book must have also been fairly strenuous. Besides Barbara Love as the Editor, there were 31 other women working at one or another editorial level, 3 researchers, 19 advisory board members, a 3-member outreach committe with its own chair, an indexer, ten photographers whose work is included on the cover and in a 16-page black and white photo essay, a web technician, a graphic designer, and an office administrator.

Looking in the book for the biography of its editor, I find that Barbara Joan Love was born in 1937, that she joined the US National Organization for Women (NOW) very early - in 1967. She published a book called Foremost Women in Communication in 1970, and went on to be part of the Lavender Menace and work on lesbian and gay issues. She co-authored one of my favourite early books on the lesbian feminist movement, Sappho Was a Right-On Woman (1972). She was also an early matriarchalist and futurist, and despite all this managed to be appointed by the White House as a New York delegate to the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston. The project for Feminists Who Changed America was done in collaboration with the Veteran Feminists of America.

Obviously there are various kinds of problems with this book. Despite having 2,250 entries, that is really a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers of women, surely at least in tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who made major contributions to the US feminist movement in that period alone. This is no doubt in large measure due to the subjects themselves demurring to write their histories, either from modesty or time or not knowing about the opportunity. (I don't know if there were histories left on the cutting room floor.)

Also, the introduction by Nancy Cott is quite short and slight - a few notes on the etiology of the women's movement, decribing it as "fragmenting" into many smaller groups. I would have chosen a different term - feminists who emerged during this period all owned the feminist movement in different ways and defined it for themselves, applying it at the grassroots and personal level, and not mainly in national organizations. Professor Cott is a professor of American History at Harvard and has a book out from Yale Press titled The Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987), which goes into depth on the subject of how modern feminism came to be. I expect a lot more can be written about what it became starting from the data provided in Feminists Who Changed America.

The biggest structural handicap of Feminists Who Changed America from the point of future history writers is that the index isn't really an index - just a list of the names of the women mentioned with the pages they are on, so you can't for example search by organization or newspaper name if you've forgotten who the founder or the editor was.

My best suggestion is that this is a project that was perhaps done in the wrong medium. While it makes an impressive book (and an expensive one), it would have much more scope and utility as a web-based cache of knowledge - it would be automatically searchable and also more easily expandable for the stories that didn't get finished by the deadline. It's my hope that once Barbara Love recovers from making the book she will recover her futurism and consider a move into the 21st century medium.

Meanwhile, you can help her recover what she spent out of her own pocket to put this book together, by ordering a copy and getting your library to do the same. It will speak volumes (well one volume anyway) about your politics when you have it on your coffee table - and with its large comfy size and water-resistant cover, it will also make an excellent and symbolic chair-booster for the toddlers you'd like to see standing on their foremothers' shoulders by and by.

The publisher's listing is here:

Or you can order through the editor herself:

It's $80 US (but you get a discount if you're in it).

-Frieda Werden

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last Stop Sunnyside (the first Dana Leoni mystery)

by Pat Capponi (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2006)

I couldn't put down til I finished all of Capponi's nonfiction books: Upstairs in the Crazy House (1992), Dispatches from the Poverty Line (1997), The War at Home (1999), Bound by duty: walking the beat with Canada's cops (2000/2001), and Beyond the Crazy House: changing the future of madness (2003); so, it was a thrill to find her name on a paperback in the Mystery section of the Brittania branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

The themes Capponi explored so grippingly in the earlier books - realities of life among Canada's crazy, poor, and marginalized - serve her as a rich and believable source of background for genre fiction. And the safety of the genre may help her get her core message a lot further.

This mystery has many characters, and they work together to solve the case. There is also a lot of background of the community and its institutions, including the cheap Single Room Occupancy (SRO)living spaces; the local bar that serves breakfast; the local drop-in centre, its activities, and how its staff juggle the needs and eccentricities of the people who come there; and the way that different neighbourhoods of poor and richer exist side by side on the map and yet so far apart. There is also a secondary mystery in a richer venue that interlocks with the main one. The guilt (and sometimes the anger) of those who have more wealth upon looking in the faces of those who have less are touched upon. And so are the cops, who are not the enemy exactly, but they don't care for the marginal as much as the marginal care about each other. The marginalized are also very diverse, and so among them they can put together some interesting resources for their teamwork. As in Capponi's non-fiction, the writing is clear, to the point, vivid, and unsentimental, even about emotional matters. Overall, a satisfying read for fans of the mystery genre who prefer non-cozy settings and characters.

Pat's second mystery, The Corpse Will Keep, came out this year, 2008, and is previewed in the paperback of the first one. It has the same set of characters in a progression from their first escapade. Mystery publishers usually want an author to commit to a series of at least 3 novels with the same characters to get a contract, so we should be able to expect another one in the next couple of years.

Keep writing, Pat! You're a gem.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Antigone Magazine Fundraising Calendar

Dear Friends,

We REALLY need your help! With only one month left of 2008, we still have 500 copies of our 2009 Dreams for Women Calendars left to sell! The money raised by selling these calendars is instrumental for us to launch Antigone For Girls (a magazine written by and for girls aged 10-15 that will encourage them to get involved in leadership and politics).

The 2009 Dreams for Women Calendar is a non-profit calendar featuring 12 postcards sent in from around the world depicting men and women's Dreams for Women (Ex. 'I dream of a world where no woman is seen and not heard'). The funds raised from the sales of the calendar go to the Antigone Foundation (

Please forward this e-mail on and let everyone know what a great project, organization and calendar this is. Buy copies of the calendar for yourself or as holiday gifts for family and friends. Or buy one for a special woman in your life who has helped YOU make your dreams come true!

For Bloggers:

We're giving FREE calendars to the first 15 bloggers who write about the calendars and pay a $5 shipping fee at this link:

For Non-Profit Organizations:

Raise money for your organization by selling calendars! We sell calendars to non-profits at half price and allow them to sell them to raise money for their organizations! Find out more information here:

This is a great opportunity to buy a cool feminist gift for the holidays and to support a great organization! See below for more information about the Dreams for Women project and calendar!

Take care,

Amanda Reaume
Executive Director
The Antigone Foundation


Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
- Gloria Steinem

Antigone Magazine's Dreams for Women postcard art project is launching it's 2009 Dreams for Women calendar featuring postcards submitted by men and women around the world! The calendar seeks to help raise money for The Antigone Foundation and to provide a way other women's organizations around the world can also fundraise for their own organizations. As part of this launch, we have created a video in which men and women share their dreams for women equality.

The Project:

Featured in Ms. Magazine, in the International Women’s Museum, and on, the postcard art project has attracted worldwide attention and interest, garnering media attention and submissions from as far away as Japan, Germany, Brazil, France, Portugal, Romania and Los Angeles. The Dreams for Women art project asks women and men of all ages to depict their hopes and dreams for women (examples include “I dream of a world with more female leaders” and “I dream of a world where no woman is seen and not heard”) by painting, drawing, writing,sketching or decoupaging them onto a postcard.

Inspired by the popular mail-art project, a postcard art project that encourages people to send in their secrets, Dreams for Women strives to be a feminist PostSecret. Instead of asking what your secrets are, the project wants to know what your dreams for women are.The Antigone Foundation began receiving submissions in January 2008 and has received hundreds of submissions so far. Their YouTube videos,which showcase the project, have also received thousands of hits.

The project, which is coordinated by a small group of dedicated young women ranging in ages from 20-24, is committed to envisioning progress for women around the world. According to founder Amanda Reaume, dreaming is essential to change: “the postcards we have received and continue to receive keep expanding our vision of the future, and keep adding more voices to the conversation of what that future will look like for women.”

The project was started out of a desire to encourage women and men to envision a better future for women and to help fund work towards that future. Dreams for Women has thus launched a fundraising calendar. The calendar,featuring 12 postcard submissions from around the world, will be sold for $20 and is available via Antigone Magazine’s blog

Indeed,the project hopes to raise money to officially launch the Antigone Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that will encourage young women to get involved in leadership, politics and activism. The organization will continue the work started by Antigone Magazine, a publication about women, politics, leadership and activism that started at UBC and has since expanded to a national subscription base, as well as, to the University of Toronto.

Fundraising with Dreams for Women

The organization also hopes to help raise money for other women's organizations around the world. They will be selling the calendars in bulk at a discounted price so that other women's groups can use it for fundraising. Groups who buy any amount over 10 copies for fundraising purposes will pay only $10 per calendar. They will then be able to resell the calendar for $20 and raise money for their organizations. There are also opportunities for organizations to be able to raise money online using the calendars with absolutely no obligation. For more information please e-mail or check out their website here: