Contemporary Feminism Bibliography

Query From Debra Michals 17 May 1996

Dear Colleagues,

I wonder if anyone knows of any good academic articles about the state of contemporary feminism. Most of the readers I use were put out two to four years ago, and therefore, even their attempts at predicting or discussing the contemporary movement already seem dated. I would be interested in Third Wave or any youth-oriented articles as well, though my primary need is for an overview look at the women's movement today. I have plenty of articles that take second wave feminism up to the mid 80s or even early 90s. But this being 96, we should be able to say how the 90s are shaping up for the women's movement. I appreciate your help in advance.


>From DeAnne Blanton 17 May 1996

I suggest Naomi Wolf's Fire With Fire.

>From Susan V. Richards 17 May 1996

Have you looked at Feminist Generations: The Persistence of the Radical Feminist Movement by Nancy Whittier. Temple U. Press, 1995. It is a study of the evolution of feminism in Columbus, Ohio using oral histories.

>From Christine De Vries 19 May 1996

Are you familiar with Living With Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics, edited by Alison M. Jaggar, pub. in 1994? If not, you might find it helpful. It provides a variety of viewpoints on several issues such as Affirmative action, equality, pornography, fashion/beauty, family values, etc. I've found it very useful and used some of the articles in a course on women in society.

>From Stephanie Cole 20 May 1996

I don't know if a Ms. article would meet your qualifications, but a couple which appeared there capture part of what you're looking for: "Let's get real about Feminism: The Backlash, the Myths, the Movements." (a discussion w/Urvashi Vaid, Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinhem and bell hooks about different interpretations of feminism) Vol.IV, No. 2, Sept. 1993: 34-43.

There was also an article in Ms. about different generations of feminists, in the last year or two, but I don't seem to have that one in my office.

>From Grace Palazzolo 22 May, 1996

The conventional wisdom has been that the First Wave of feminism dissipated after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 & the Second Wave began in the 1960s(perhaps with the publication of Friedan's The Feminine Mystique??). But I seem to recall before taking a leave of absence that that characterization has been challenged. Could anyone enlighten me?

>From Ruby Rohrlich 27 May 1996

Blanche Wiesen Cook, who recently wrote a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt also wrote about feminists from the 1920s to the 1960s. I don't remember the name of the book, but it's a biography of a well-known woman, I think. Blanch has also written about Lillian Wald and the other women who founded the Henry Street Settlement in the early 1900s and her article "A Utopian Female Support Network: The Case of the Henry Street Settlement" is included in Women in Search of Utopia by Ruby Rohrlich and Elaine Baruch. These settlement house workers and nurses were feminists.

>From Theresa Kaminski 28 May 1996

The death of feminism after 1920 has indeed been challenged. Nancy Cott's The Grounding of Modern Feminism is a must. J. Stanley Lemon's work on social feminism in the 1920s is worth looking at as well. Susan Ware examines the prevalence of individualist feminism in the 1920s and 1930s in her biography of Amelia Earhart called Still Missing. Ware's other books on women and the New Deal also challenge the notion that feminism died. On the 1950s, see Rupp and Taylor's Survival in the Doldrums. Joanne Meyerowitz,ed. "Not June Cleaver" challenges a wide array of notions about 1950s women.

>From Jo Freeman JFRBC@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU 31 May 1996

Editor's Note: Much thanks to Jo Freeman for sharing this thoughtful and provocative essay. KL

Waves of Feminism

By Jo Freeman, Ph.D., J.D.

A recent post asked if the common wisdom that there were two waves of feminism has ever been challenged. If it hasn't been it should be. Those of us who started the women's liberation movement in the 1960s thought we were the second wave of female political activism because we knew very little about our own history. We were vaguely aware of the Suffrage Movement and mistakenly thought that was all our foremothers had done. One of our magazines was even named "The Second Wave". Now that we know more, it is time to drop it. If anything, what began in the 1960s was the third wave of women's activism in the US, and maybe even the fourth.

The three main waves of conscious female activity have all had their roots in periods of organized agitation for social change--Abolitionism, Progressivism, and "the Sixties"--and each has been shaped by the movements which gave them birth. Even when women's movements grow vastly beyond their origins, forming their own communities with their own values, they are always embedded in and shaped by the larger social movement community from which they sprang.

Throughout the Nineteenth Century women whose roots were in abolition and temperance worked to increase the rights of women, particularly the rights of married women to gain some independence from their husbands and the right of all women to gain an education. According to O'Neill(1969, p.x) the term "woman movement appears in the late nineteenth century to describe all the public activities of women, whether directly related to feminist goals or not."

The real second wave was the Suffrage Movement, which was stimulated by the good government branch of the Progressive Movement. Although there was a flurry of suffrage activity during the Populist movement of the 1890s, the most active years for the Suffrage Movement was in the second decade of the Twentieth Century. Women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been agitating for woman suffrage for many decades but it didn't strike a popular chord until it was picked up by those who wanted to reform the means of electing public officials and curtail the power of the party machines. Woman suffrage became a possibility when men, whose support was necessarily because they could vote, saw it as valuable to attaining their goals of a better, purer, government.

The contemporary movement which began in the mid-sixties is better seen as the Third Wave of conscious female activism. This third wave is the only one which can properly be called feminist, because the term wasn't in use until after 1910(Cott,1987). Even then, it was the younger generation of suffragists, rather than the older one, which actually organized the Suffrage Movement, which found the term attractive. This younger generation included Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others who formed the National Woman's Party. They provided the bridge between the Second and Third Waves(Rupp & Taylor, 1987).

The foregoing is Copyright 1996 by Jo Freeman. I hereby give permission for it to be reproduced and circulated in electronic form, though I would appreciate it if anyone who reposts to other lists at least tells me. Anyone who wants to download it to print in hard copy must get my permission first. JFRBC@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU

>From Sylvie Chaperon 03 June 1996

I'm very interested in getting a copy of Freeman's book. I'm currently completing my Ph.D. about women's movement in France, United States and Italy from 1945-1970. Which means a period between waves however you count it. Tell me what I have to do in order to get a copy. Best regards.

>From Karen Offen 04 June 1996

Jo Freeman is certainly correct to suggest that the "two wave" metaphor be dropped. It has already been challenged by Europeanists. In 1994 a conference on the history of feminism in Europe took place in Amsterdam that postulated "six waves." There are at least that many, if not more, in recorded history. A book from that conference will be published shortly.

In my forthcoming book on European feminism, 1700-1950, I do suggest we abandon the "wave" notion, and have proposed a new metaphor (geological-to be revealed in the book!) that doesn't have numbers attached to it. But readers of H-Women might be interested to learn that one of the first uses of the wave metaphor(if not the very first) is by the Anglo-Irish feminist Frances Power Cobbe, in her Introduction to Theodore Stanton's The Woman Question in Europe (1884). So it's been around for some time.

To be continued, I hope, following Berkshire Conference...

>From Jo Freeman JFRBC@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU 05 June 1996

If you mean my book on the emerging feminist movement, it is The Politics of Women's Liberation (1975) but has been out of print since 1987. You'll have to get it from the library(or interlibrary loan). If you mean a book with my thoughts on feminist waves in it, don't hold your breath. I have several hunks of unpublished material on my computer for which there is no obvious forum(too short for a book, too long for an article)> I dip into them for an occasional post when there seems to be some interest on this list.

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