From on this day

Today in Feminist History: Shirley Chisholm on the ERA

Forty-five years ago today, Shirley Chisholm speaks on behalf of the Congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment: 

“This is what it comes down to: artificial distinctions between persons must be wiped out of the law. Legal discrimination between the sexes is, in almost every instance, founded on outmoded views of society and the pre-scientific beliefs about psychology and physiology. It is time to sweep away these relics of the past and set further generations free of them.” Read more

Today in Feminist History: Marlene Sanders, 1931-2015

For my research reading Bonnie Dow’s excellent “Watching Women’s Liberation 1970.” One point she convincingly makes is that coverage of the movement was not as uniformly hostile as we might expect. Part of this was due to women like Marlene Sanders, who died this week, and, among other things, produced a substantive piece on the Ladies Home Journal strike of 1970. As Dow explains, activist Susan Brownmiller cultivated this sympathetic coverage by leaking word of the sit-in to Sanders in advance, assuring she would be the one on the scene. There are a lot of great stories of these little collaborations at the time – my favorite being another one Dow describes, when a secretary at Playboy leaked to feminist activists a memo Hugh Hefner had written asking for “a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.”  Dow devotes a chapter to the documentary she produced for ABC about the movement and how she navigated her sympathy for the movement with her position at the network and her views about the role of journalists. Those of us on the left are rightly suspicious of the idea that getting more people of X group on the inside is a solution to social injustice, but in this case it did really make a difference.

Baubie

March 20th was blessedly the first day of spring and also would have been my Baubie’s 100th birthday. She lived 95 of them about as well as you can. She grew up in Minneapolis the oldest of five sisters, had two daughters and four grandchildren. She was a social worker and a faculty wife who loved her college community – much of my stubborn romanticism about academic life is thanks to her, her bookshelves, and her stories about Saul Bellow’s various wives. She was a widow for al…most thirty years who remade herself in every way. I first read the New Yorker at her apartment by the lake in Chicago. She took me to the Art Institute countless times and taught me to remember one thing in particular from each visit because you can’t remember them all. The last time she visited New York we went to see Avenue Q and she was a good sport about the puppet sex. She stayed at the Wellington hotel that visit and this week I happened to walk by it on St. Patrick’s Day and suddenly felt her presence among all the drunken kids stumbling around. I remembered taking the bus with her downtown, talking about Mary McCarthy. Those were my people, she said, the college girls of the Depression, a little eccentric but had their heads screwed on straight. She loved books but wanted to know why so many great writers had such a pessimistic view of the world. I never came up with a good answer to that one. She died just over a year before Eli was born and when I found out I was having a boy I had a dream that she said “I thought we’d never have another boy again!” Family legend has it she once had five boys call her in a single night to ask her to the same dance – I can believe it looking at this picture. Happy birthday Baubs.