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Freedom for Women

Forging the Women's Liberation Movement, 1953-1970

Carol Giardina

Publication Year: 2010

In this richly detailed firsthand history of the contemporary Women's Liberation Movement (WLM), scholar-activist Carol Giardina argues against the prevalent belief that the movement grew out of frustrations over the male chauvinism experienced by WLM founders active in the Black Freedom Movement and the New Left. Instead, she contends, it was the ideas, resources, and skills that women gained in these movements that were the new and necessary catalysts for forging the WLM in the 1960s.

Giardina uses a focused study of the WLM in Florida to tap into the common theory and history shared by a relatively small band of Women's Liberation founders across the country. Drawing on a wealth of interviews, autobiographical essays, organizational records, and published writings, Freedom for Women brings to light information that has been previously ignored in other secondary accounts about the leadership of African American women in the movement. It also explores activists' roots in other movements on the left. Comprehensive, serendipitous, and carefully formulated, Giardina's work is a vivid portrait of the people and events that shaped radical feminism.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book would not exist had not Women’s Liberation Movements past and present toppled barriers to women’s learning, engaged me in a life’s work of social change, and deepened my desire and capacity for useful scholarship. My gratitude to these sisters-in-struggle is boundless. Coming from the movement, I hope the book will, in turn, serve the movement with more ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-14

THIS IS AN INVESTIGATION of how Women’s Liberation pioneers gained the courage and consciousness to make a movement against male supremacy in the United States in the 1960s. It chronicles the gaining of that courage and consciousness. It is not about the particulars of the male domination the founding organizers experienced as individuals or their reaction to that domination. ...

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1 Toward a Female Liberation Movement

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pp. 15-33

IN THE EARLY 1960s, male domination limited the participation of women in the life of the nation, the family, and the community, and interfered with women’s ability to determine the course of their lives. Women struggled as best they could, but because of the reigning myth Lorraine Hansberry had referred to, the myth that women in the United States were already emancipated, few ...

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2 The “Borning” Movement: “The idea of doing something about it”

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pp. 34-55

THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, particularly SNCC with its young band of shock troopers, was a breeding ground for feminists, black and white, radical and liberal. Although it is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Women’s Liberation, the consensus in the literature is that the birth was painful.1 The evidence that supports this view includes stories about male chauvinism ...

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3 “Something had to be there already”

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pp. 56-72

POWERFUL FORCES FRAMED the feminism of the women who first raised its banners in the Black Freedom Movement and the New Left. Their feminism, as Judith Brown observed, was fueled by “common movement and life experiences.”1 What were the common life experiences of the women to which Brown referred? ...

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4 The Influence of Simone de Beauvoir

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pp. 73-82

BEAUVOIR RAISED Women’s Liberation founders’ consciousness that male domination, including everyday male behavior, imposed arbitrary limits on woman’s achievement of her human potential. Moreover, Beauvoir clarified to radical women, those who opposed exploitation and oppression root and branch, that socialism, while necessary for Women’s Liberation, would not automatically or by itself resolve the “woman ...

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5 Next Steps to Women’s Liberation [Including Image Plates]

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pp. 83-97

The “SNCC Position Paper (Women in the Movement)” has long been considered the beginning of the Women’s Liberation branch of the Second Wave.1 It was submitted anonymously for consideration at the November 1964 SNCC Conference at Waveland, Mississippi. For years its authorship was attributed to Ruby Doris Robinson, who has also ...

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6 The Influence of Black Power onthe Rise of Women’s Liberation

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pp. 100-125

ON 16 JUNE 1966, chants of “Black Power” thundered out of Greenwood, Mississippi, as civil rights marchers in the Meredith March against Fear rallied there. “What do you want?” SNCC leaders Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks asked repeatedly. “Black Power,” shouted back approximately six hundred angry, mostly black marchers who had just hours ...

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7 “After that paper, there would beno turning back”

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pp. 126-144

IN THE MOVEMENT'S years a struggle emerged, fueled by the radical logic of Black Power, over the need for a mass independent Women’s Liberation Movement that classed men as well as racism and capitalism among women’s oppressors. Debates raged both in black Women’s Liberation groups and in predominantly white groups over ...

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8 Support for Women’s Liberationon the Left, New and Old

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pp. 145-172

THE LEFT HELPED give rise to the Women’s Liberation Movement—with both opposition and support. “Old Left” refers generally to the Marxist-inspired parties and individuals who held at their core “the emancipation of the working class” through its taking “ownership of the means of production and distribution.” The Old Left, including the Communist Party, reached its pinnacle ...

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9 Making theWomen’s Liberation Movement

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pp. 173-192

IN 1967 AND 1968, as the Women’s Liberation Movement formed, the idea that a mass-based movement of women was both possible and needed was, as has been indicated, neither obvious nor well accepted. A number of views contended for influence in several important debates: Should there be a mass movement rather than a lobby, a vanguard, a legalistic approach, caucuses within ...

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10 The Movement Goes Nationwide: 1968–1970

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pp. 193-216

IN 1970 FOUR OUT OF FIVE Americans knew there was a Women’s Liberation Movement.1 Between 1968 and 1970, as Anne Forer observed, from “just a few women meeting in a room” the movement would go “nation-wide and international.”2 Women’s Liberation took off, a mass grassroots movement that was powerful, popular, radical. ...

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11 The Movement Is Established: 1970

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pp. 217-236

THE PIONEERING black Women’s Liberation groups led the way for black women and often for the predominantly white movement as well. Poor Black Women had developed a movement-wide influence, sending their working papers out to black and white women’s groups of all sorts. The group also published their working papers in the black press, Women’s Liberation ...

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pp. 237-243

THE PREDICTION THAT had so impressed Anne Forer was coming true: from “just a few women meeting in a room,” a movement that was radical and feminist had “gone nationwide and international.” Soon its victories would include the legalization of divorce in Italy and the legalization of abortion in Italy and France. In the United States the derailing of the Carswell appointment ...


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pp. 245-288

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 289-303


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pp. 305-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045542
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034560
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034566

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010