Book Bag: ‘The Feminist Revolution: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation’

Published: 3/16/2018 11:21:11 AM


By Bonnie J. Morris and D-M Withers

Smithsonian Books / 

“What sparked the fire of radical, ‘second-wave’ feminism was not one lit match but rather many torches raised by women in different communities across the globe,” write the authors of “The Feminist Revolution: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation,” out this month from Smithsonian Books.

Written and edited by Bonnie J. Morris and D-M Withers, the book is a striking visual experience packed with original posters, notes and photographs that enhance the many interviews, oral histories, essays and other insights into the complex and layered history of modern feminism.

The book itself is a testament to the power of collaboration. Morris, who taught women’s history for more than two decades at both George Washington University and Georgetown, currently is a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, and has found her match across the pond in Withers, a UK-based research fellow at the University of Sussex. And to pen the foreword, they tapped Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist,” who writes, “As in the 1960s, we are at a watershed moment of cultural change for women. As we look forward, we must also look back.”

Early on, the authors include a quote from Abigail Adams asking her husband, John, to “Remember the Ladies,” a reminder that the fight for gender equality has been an ongoing battle: “To her chagrin, and the disappointment of many others, the new Constitution failed to name women, Native Americans, or slaves as specific beneficiaries of equal rights.” The book chronicles landmark moments such as the 1963 publication of “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan (Smith College, Class of 1942), the founding of the National Organization of Women (NOW) three years later, and the rise of politicians like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisolm in the 1970s. It also highlights the cultural diversity of the women’s liberation movement in chapters like “Black sisterhood: Civil rights and liberation” and “ ‘There’s no penis between us!’: Sexuality and lesbian feminism.”

“We have tended to use ‘women’s movements’ — rather than ‘women’s movement’ — in the plural to emphasize that there is no single, cohesive movement,” Morris and Withers write in their authors’ note, “but rather a diversity of voices whose personal issues informed their specific outlooks.”

The result is an edifying and entertaining coffee table book that, at times, doubles as a rallying cry, “an overview of intersectional politics and the rise of the second wave,” says Oprah’s O magazine, “that reads like a punk rock zine.”





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