War and Peace: Four Generations of Feminists, 1974

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‘*_’-‘WAR AND ;3EA_cE:. FOUR GENERATIONS or FEMINISTS

   

The title of our workshop had two meanings. First, we _ I L! . wanted to talk abnut.roughly the period from 1900 to the present, the period from before world war lpto the post-

Vietnam era. We were interested in exploring the question of

 

how feminist concerns over the last 75 years have differed,

‘and in particular, in why the "new feminism" of the 1970's often ,‘J__ seems alien to older feminists.

ih . I l We wanted to ask some questions in relation to this.

First, with regard to the older feminists, what directions

did their scholarship take? What circumstances -- economic

and political -- did they find themselves in? What were the

rewards of their efforts? What sacrifices did they make?

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Second, speaking to the younger feminists, what new attitudes

explain what seems to be a crucial focus: what.are the sacri-

fices that will no longer be tolerated? And finally, with regard —

x to the relations between generations, and this is the second meaning of our title, what are the sources of misunderstanding.

and even conflict over what feminism implies?

 

,~ What follows are some notes on the discussion evoked by these

questions.

     

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‘the Progressive movement is being abandoned by men, most

_women in our past and to talk about motivation in a way that,

of honesty between women teachers and their women students about

 

  

 

 

Characteristics of the generation of 1900: Jane

Addams an example. Opportunity to go to college is a "pri* vilege" since only 3% of women are college—educated. This creates a certain noblesse oblige, a sense of obligation to society, which combines with a Christian service ethic. These women do not marry, they go into public service. Their fe~ minismhremains purely intellectual.‘ Their causes: The

League of Women Voters, the American Association of University women, pacifism, social work. _

The 1930's and 1940's generations contribute political

iradicalism, the trade union movement. Even in the 1920's, when

progressive legislation is spearheaded by women: this is now being studied by feminist historians.

As history of feminism and of women is being rewritten, historians need to look beyond upper class and middle class

women. It is easier for male historians to see women as part

of the ruling class elite. We should begin to see the nameless

goes beyond class lines.

some of the benefits of the new feminism: the beginnings

. A , .E_:_ r how difficult it really has been to get where they are, the ,fi%?5)~ .5 . W‘ . “ “Q; r"i-

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struggles that have gone on behind the scenes. This communicatienl/?’i and emotional support tends to freak out white male colleagues A“ (Black professors have been doing the same for their Biack

students). J _ V e -

Some of the issues raised by present-day feminism: intellectual women don't really see housewives as their V-E1fL%Th

1 , , ‘ gi-

sisters. There is greater respect for dead feminists among

 1 w , r ..l . A the women's movement than for live ones: why? As women enter y;u

 

academic lige in greater numbers, should they just step into the professional slots opening up for them or should they be .’,,fsh’ contesting the values these positions represent? What should 1 women's colleges be doing for women and for feminism? f‘

Can women been-their confidence in the set of values that

A“ L ‘ feminism represents while they climb the academic ladder?

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