As the editors assembled this collection of memoirs from feminism's "second wave" of the 1960s and '70s, they were lectured by a member of a younger feminist generation about the need to move forward. "It is time for the old to let go of '70s politics," she told them. "To practice a little strategic forgetfulness." Contrary to this stance, the editors see the history of feminism as a necessary building block for further activism. "Ignorance of that time ... is also an odd handicap," they write, "like running a relay race with no idea of what's being handed on to you from the runner just behind."
An impressive group of women tell stories that should inspire--and amuse--a younger generation. The widely published Chicana activist and writer Elizabeth Martinez writes about experiencing racism in the women's movement on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination; documentary photographer Paula Allen and writer Eve Ensler (most recently known for her acclaimed play The Vagina Monologues) recount falling into "activist love." Artist Nancy Spero recalls her first feminist action, in which several women crashed a stag party of eminent art critics in New York and covered the porn-watching men with pies. Anyone interested in feminist history will find this book an accessible guide to the past. --Maria Dolan
From Publishers Weekly
For this mammoth, I-was-there series of reflections on the second wave of American feminism (roughly 1965-1980), the editors invited women whose lives were "transformed by the contemporary U.S. women's movement" to contribute memoirs centering on their motivations and to "take a long view" of the movement's achievements and lingering fallout. Thirty women wrote memoirs, which were then, intriguingly, critiqued by six others. From "consciousness-raising," that de rigueur ritual of the movement, to worries over whether "a change of discourse changed social conditions," most authors were energized either by sexual identity questions (the "free love" movement of the '60s, the Pill, abortion rights, equitable division of child-care duties) or by professional or workplace questions, though civil rights and antiwar convictions drove others. Contributors include Kate Millett, Vivian Gornick, Barbara W. Emerson (daughter of civil rights pioneer Hosea Williams), Italian immigrant Anselma Dell'Olio, Carol Hanisch (who recalls the talismanic but apocryphal bra burnings of the 1968 Miss America Contest) and Lesbian Feminist Liberation founder Joan Nestle. Overall, the collection is successful in conveying the urgency and importance of the goals pursued during this crucial period in the history of feminism. Unfortunately, the selections made by editors DuPlessis and Snitow (literature professors at Temple University and the New School for Social Research, respectively) for the most part reproduce the well-traveled path of the movement's mostly white, elite leaders and membership. And it is striking that, even with hindsight, many authors seemingly can't manage the "long view," remaining narrowly focused on their own personal lives and problems. Still, these are memoirs, not histories, and with the legacy of slogans like "the personal is political" continuing to haunt public life, the circumstances that drove these citizens to action often make compelling reading.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.