The Scholar and the Feminist VII (Class, Race, and Sex—Exploring Contradictions, Affirming Connections): Class and Race Issues in Women's Studies

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  • Unknown organizer 1: We seem to be alright, we seem to be okay. Angela Jorge: [muffled] They're gonna do a book on the conference, that is the three opening [thoughts] and then some of the panels. They have a contract with the sign by the hall, I think. Anyway, I am just going to begin, and mine has been so that [crosstalk]. I can't even see. As I've said, mine has been written so that I will read, I will try to make my tone vary a little bit so it doesn't become boring. Before I begin my formal presentation titled "Class and Race Issues in Women's Studies," which didn't take much in the words [unclear], that was already the title of the workshop. "A Puerto-Rican Woman's Thoughts." I think it appropriate to give you a brief biographical sketch of this Puerto Rican woman, and I'm not talking about all of us, I'm talking about this one. I was born in New York City just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. My parents are Puerto Ricans who came to New York in the late 1920's, the era of the Great Depression. My mother has an eighth grade education, which, although experienced in Puerto Rico, it was under US control, and consequently, she never learned about her cultural heritage nor enough about her own language. She could only tell her children that they were Puerto Rican, but not what that meant. My father came to New York as a young boy and attended high school here. We lived in East Harlem, and the first nine years of my public school education took place within a four-block radius of where we lived. Although my first nine years of school was with people pretty much like me, my high school experience set a motion of pattern of alienation from my community, and for minority people in general. I was tracked into an academic college bound program and my classmates were white. I've never forgotten my first experience in high school here, in New York City. After a week or so, the English teacher asked me to stay after class one day, which I did. And after the other students had left, she proceeded to hand me a slip of paper, a sheet of paper rather. And I looked at it, and then she informed me that what she had done was make a list of books, that she felt, that I had to read in order to catch up with the students who were in my class. And given the reality that I came from a junior high school located on 111th street between Lexington and Park Avenue, where over 85% of us were Puerto Rican, she did me a favor in a sense. And that catch-up, in retrospect, seems to be something that I've been doing ever since. Today I'm a tenured assistant professor at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. Prior to coming to Old Westbury, I taught at inner city public schools, first in Harlem, and then in East New York, Brooklyn. These teaching assignments were by choice, and very much part of a personal commitment, to reintegrate myself to my community, and to fulfill what I felt was a moral obligation to my community. Even my acceptance of a teaching contract at Old Westbury was a continuation of this obligation. SUNY [ State University of New York] at Old Westbury opened in 1971 with a special mission. That mission was to provide higher education to the traditionally by-cast of American society. This meant providing higher education to Blacks, Puerto Ricans, working class peoples, and women. Once this mission was defined, the search for faculty fell within a predictable pattern. So many women, so many Blacks, so many Puerto Ricans. And [laughter] the interesting thing is, as I mentioned, my teaching experience was really at the public school level. I had no prior teaching at the high school--at the college level. I had no publications. I had none of the things that really are part of that whole search process to find faculty for higher education. But the primary criterion was that I was Puerto Rican, that I had worked with traditionally bypassed students in a junior high school and high school setting. And then I spoke and I read, and presumably could teach. And that was it. At Old Westbury, I have taught, english-as-a-second-language, Puerto Rican history, Puerto Rican literature, and Spanish conversation for non-Hispanic students.
  • My first and only venture into women's studies has been of recent. This semester while a colleague is on leave, I'm teaching the only course, which the Bilingual Bicultural Studies program offers on the Hispanic woman. And I think it is the only course on the Hispanic woman presently being taught at Old Westbury. This one class in no way gives me the background to join the very small group of women who we can today call feminist theorists. I do not even speak, and I stress this, I do not even speak for Puerto Rican feminists nor for Puerto Rican political theorists. I do not even speak for the masses of Puerto Ricans since my lifestyle, my income, my professional life clearly separates me from my community, and their [unclear] struggle for survival. However, with this is mind, who I am and who I am not, I wish to share with you some thoughts on class and race issues in women's studies. And I say thoughts because they are not the results of research. First, my perception of women's studies, and it's a very personal perception, is that it is focused on white middle-class women with a course or two that attempts to introduce these women to such issues as economic exploitation, supplemented periodically by forays into the struggles of black women and other non-european women. Because of this, I will try to discuss class and race issues in women's studies from one Hispanic woman's perspective. And I will also attempt to connect my perspective to the general need for women's studies. The latter will be done more in the form of raising a question. That question is: Is there any merit to engaging in intellectual exercise of compartmentalizing the problems of minority women? That is, finding out which of their problems as women, as racial minorities, as poor people? Recent statistics give a sense of urgency to what I and others perceive, and that is that Puerto Ricans, and Puerto Rican women in particular, can easily become a minority among minorities.
  • [unclear]Audience member: But just finish saying the [stuff there]... Angela Jorge: We're all saying it in one way or another. I am in no way trying to suggest that there should be a Puerto Rican women's struggle versus a Mexican American women's struggle versus a Cuban American women's struggle versus a Dominican American women's struggle versus a Latin American women's struggle. I am, however, trying to call your attention to the needs and differences within the overall Hispanic women's struggle to overcome race, class, and sexual oppression in this country. The Hispanic population of the United States is not monolithic. To compare one Hispanic group with another, without taking into account their differences at the starting point is to do an injustice to both groups. It would be wholly unfair to compare Cubans who are political exiles primarily of the lower-middle, middle, and upper classes. Many of whom are European in looks, and who receive tremendous economic, emotional, and political support from the United States, with Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans, a great majority of whom are racially mixed, are from an uprooted peasant class, often arriving in the mainland airports, with nothing more than a [unclear] box or cardboard box suitcase, the name and address of a friend or relative, and the expectations of finding a job. A job for unskilled labor. Different questions need to be asked about different women. For instance, how does a Hispanic woman whose primary and secondary school years have taken place in an indigenous cultural setting, perceive herself, and/or react to race and class conflict in this American society? How does a Hispanic woman, whose primary and secondary school years have taken place in the inner city community in the United States, where people like her do not control the schools or the economic life of the community in which she lives, perceive herself and/or reacts to race and class conflict? How does a Hispanic woman, whose experience has been primarily those of living in one migrant farm after another, with parents who make up the majority of the migrant labor force of the United States, react? How does a Hispanic woman, whose experiences have been those of traveling back and forth between the United States mainland and Puerto Rico, react? And further, these same questions, with minor modifications, can be applied to poor white or poor Black women. And this came home to me, a couple of years ago at Old Westbury where I teach. I was an advisor to a young woman, who was white, of poor working-class background, and who also happened to be deaf. And I started to work with her to teach her Spanish. She spoke, she had some degree of hearing, not what we would call hearing, but some degree of it. And so my attitude generally, was well, you know, if you can speak one, you'll speak the other. It was very flippant in a certain kind of way. But it was an enriching experience for me, because it was the first time that I dealt with a white woman on such a personal basis, as I did with this particular young woman. It was almost a daily contact. It required a tremendous amount of tutorial work with her, of sitting apart in the classroom and working with her. And in that process we began to talk with each other. It was one woman talking to another woman. And I started to find out more and more about her, and to see the parallels between her life and mine in terms of the same thing of being poor, coming from a poor background, being on welfare, the foster home experience, to some extent the drug abuse experience. All of that, and I finally said, "My God!" It was, I can't even begin to describe what it meant to me, because I look at people now differently than I did before. And it added another dimension, which I felt very much enriched by. And I think that kind of dialogue needs to take place, intertwined with [unclear] shared something that after what, seven years? Nine years of working together.
  • Intertwined with the class and culture question, there is the question of color. As a group, Hispanic women are women of color. Some are redheaded, some are blonde, but mostly they are black and brown haired woman, whose hair texture is more than just wavy or straight. There are those who have blue eyes or green eyes, but the majority have black and brown eyes. Many have have straight noses and thin lips, but there are many with broad noses and full lips like myself. Thus the question, how do hispanic women, who vary in phenotypes perceive themselves, and relate to the broader issues of class and race? must also be asked. How does the Hispanic woman, who is a carbon physical copy of the Anglo-American react, compared to the Hispanic woman who is physically indistinguishable from the black American woman? How do the vast majority of Hispanic women, who are grouped between these two extremes, representing innumerable hues, perceive themselves and finally react to class and race issues? Admittedly, the Hispanic woman's perception of herself is not influenced solely by forces external to her home. Her perception, based on color, begins almost from the cradle. How the family impacts on this, is the theme of an article that I wrote and recently had published, titled "The Black Hispanic: The Black Puerto Rican Woman in Contemporary American Society," and the article appears a new book, which is titled, "The Puerto Rican Woman", edited by Edna Acosta-Belen, [unclear], and it was published by Praeger Publishing, in a 1979 publication. And, those of you who have an opportunity to read the article and begin to understand it, even with the whole question of race, there is a vocabulary, that doesn't even exist in English. We have words that we use for every hue or color, just like you would find in other parts of the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, which are not very much a part of this American experience. Most people deal in white and black, and that's it. And we deal in white, everything else in between, and black. So that, this is important, that we must ask what has been the historical, political, economic, and social differences or similarities in the relationship each of the groups making up the Hispanic community has had to each other. And to American society, to American institutions, to America's broad issues of race and classes,I believe, evident in the following statistics and profile about the Puerto Rican woman. According to a 1979 government report, 42.1% of Mexican American women, and 49.7 of all other Hispanic were a part of the labor force. However only 33.7%, Puerto Rican women 16 years of age or over were actively participating in the labor force. When when we consider that 33.2% percent of Puerto Rican families are headed by women compared to 14.4% of Mexican Americans and 12.4% of all American families, we realize that a disproportionate percentage of Puerto Rican women and their families are locked into welfare dependency. Why is this true for the Puerto Rican woman, and not so apparent for the Mexican-American women, particularly when both of them are poor? There are several reasons which I believe, and these again are very personally reasons [unclear], very biased, may explain why the differences [unclear] between Puerto Rican women and Mexican American women exist. These reasons are not the ones traditionally given to explain the statistical information gathered by government agencies about Hispanic women. Among them are, and some of you probably heard these reasons in different kinds of contexts. The Puerto Rican community on the mainland is not as large, nor is it as old, in terms of being here physically, as a Mexican American community is. The Puerto Rican community also has been an uprooted community, not only for Puerto Rico here, but within here, it's been uprooted. Urban renewal of the 50s and the 60s, destroyed us. They destroyed businesses that we had in the community. And when those developments were built and people were housed in 20 and 22 story buildings, generally the supermarket came in and they're not owned by us. And those kinds of things took place and people relate very differently in these huge buildings as they do in the smaller compact type of things. And then also to get into some of the better housing, it meant that the extended family as we had known and sometimes reconstructed, in the old [apartment] could not take place. We have to explain and justify each and every member of the family unit that was going to live with us in the apartment, and in the project.
  • Another reason is the Puerto Rican migration to the mainland as a result of the deliberate displacement of the peasant class from the land, and the concentration of this population in the [level] jobs from which they are again displaced. I have a quote that I'd like to share with you, and it's from "Beyond the Melting Pot " which some people have definite feelings about. "The reconstruction of the island destroyed almost as many jobs as it may. And that is an economic reconstruction of the island. The fine needle work that had occupied women at home. One of the processes that takes place to begin the industrialization of Puerto Rico is that sewing machines." And I was last year in the Yucatan in Mexico that's where the same kind of thing, these sewing machines, Singer machines with the pedal that you can hit with the knee, were brought to Puerto Rico. And women were able to work in that, and they worked in their homes. And that [part] took place after they have been displaced from the tobacco industry. Because the capitalists that began bring monies etcetera to Puerto Rico decided that it wasn't tobacco that they wanted to emphasize, but instead was a sugar cane industry. And with mechanization there was greater placement of labor from [unclear]. And then the other thing that took place in Puerto Rico with the sugar industry is that requires that it be near the coastal areas. Those are the richest lands in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long and and 35 miles wide. And if you take a piece of paper and crumple it up and then throw it that's what Puerto Rico is. It is a mountainous, small island. So that its fertile land is very precious to its people. Another reason the Mexican-American Community is a racially homogeneous group, the result of Indian and European intermingling, for those of you who know, Africans were also taken to Mexico. And if you go to places like a Veracruz region you will find people whose phenotype includes an African heritage. However, most of the people that we see of Mexican America background here we see as primarily as having a European and Indian heritage. And the African is almost non existent. The Indian population of Puerto Rico, however, was almost completely destroyed by the end of the sixteenth Century. The century in which the African was brought to the island. One of the things that's interesting, one of the first things that's done about the Puerto Rican migrant population is done in 1938 by [Chenault]. He did it as a doctoral thesis and as one of the first things it's done on [community]. And he found that over 1/4 of the population was Black. And this presents an interesting phenomenon because when we consider that Puerto Ricans have been locked into very set communities, have not had either the economic means etcetera to move out and expand into other areas of the city except when they've been relocated because of urban renewal, have really contained themselves greatly. And it means that then the Black element in the community intermarries with the European element. And I don't know if they're any studies that have been done into this aspect of the community and how often that the rate of intermarriage between the groups takes place. I know that Fitzpatrick did a study where he talked about the number of Puerto Rican men and women who marry outside of the Puerto Rican group. But I don't know if they've done anything inside. Another reason is that Puerto Rican women have been victims of an unprecedented campaign of sterilization. And a 1976 report on the sterilization of Puerto Rican women has stated that more than 35% of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age have been sterilized. The highest rate of female sterilization in the world. Speaker 1: Could you say the number again? Angela Jorge: 35%. Wait till I give you the next number. [laughter] In a survey, also mentioned in the same report, they surveyed 450 doctors, Puerto Rican doctors in [Maryland]. And they found that of the respondents to the survey, 66% advocated sterilization as a means of eliminating poverty. But we don't have to go to Puerto Rico to find statistics of that proportion. In the Women's Center for [unclear] 1976, Helen Rodriguez -Trias was asked to give two lectures on sterilization.
  • And one of her presentations titled ["Sterilization Abuse"], she talks about doctors who were interviewed and 14% favors sterilization for their welfare patients. For welfare mothers who had born illegitimate children 97% favored sterilization. As if this victimization of Puerto Rican poor women was not enough, Puerto Rican women were the human guinea pigs used in the experiment involving [a kill]. We are only in recent years beginning to learn about the effects of hormonal therapy on women and their children. And I don't think that there is any study being done on Puerto Rican women presently as to the impact of that experience. Besides the victimization of Puerto Rican women by such institutions as Health [unclear] she's also impacted by other forces [unclear]. The profile of the 31 year old Puerto Rican woman illustrates this, I think. This woman, head of household with 3 daughters, had been on welfare for three years when she was interviewed in 1976 in a New York Times article. Prior to coming to New York she was employed in Puerto Rico for [$90] a week. The basic motivation and some of us may think that $90 a week is a reasonable salary. Puerto Rico had the highest cost of living surpassing New York State. And New York City has one of the highest of the United States. Almost all of its food is imported from the mainland. Everything that you see was imported from the mainland. The basic motivation behind her decision to emigrate was to get a better-paying job. When she arrived to New York in 1971, she found work earning $140 a week and was with the company until they closed two years later. From this limited profile, one can conclude, or at least I concluded that woman was adventurous. I don't know if I'm too ready to pick up my boots and go someplace else where people don't look like me, the majority of people don't look like me. They don't speak my language and I am of another religious orientation. Industrious, she worked in Puerto Rico, she had a job in Puerto Rico before coming to the mainland, arrived in the mainland and was again employed. And conscientious. She was with a job and with that company til it closed. Thus presenting three qualities highly prize in American society which paid off earlier immigrants to America. The unavoidable question is why does the 31 year old Puerto Rican women end up on welfare? There are several possible answers [unclear]. Among them, she had skills which will no longer in great demand as the labor force moved into white collar jobs. Industries including light manufacturing where Puerto Rico women have been heavily concentrated went -- and let me tell you this. When the whole thing with sewing and women, also Puerto Rican women used to make not doilies, but the beautiful laced work on handkerchiefs, etcetera. When all of that was shifted out of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican women began to shift to the mainland. And Puerto Rican women were also actively recruited to come and work in the factories in New York. These companies are like manufacturer, Puerto Rican women have been heavily concentrated, are relocated at an unprecedented rate in other parts of the United States for shipping their raw materials to foreign shores. Another reason, New York City where a majority of the Puerto Rican community will reside basically in three states. We're scattered all over the United States and Puerto Ricans in all of 50 states including Hawaii. [unclear] [laughter] What happened was that I saw a report of an article about the 1901 experience. [unclear] [laughter] When they were primarily in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, New York State still had the highest percentage of Puerto Ricans. So that you have New York State and within it New York City with a great majority of our people live had been experiencing and economic crisis since the early 1970's. With much of the upward mobility of Puerto Ricans, the last to be hired in public and private white collar jobs becoming unfortunately an illusion.
  • Perhaps all the things I have shared with you this afternoon have contributed to this 31 year old Puerto Rican women [unclear], a very quiet, perceptive person by the time she's interviewed in 1976. Perhaps not. We really won't be sure until women's studies undertakes a serious review of American institutions and their effect on minority women. But not minority women as a [group] like this. But minority women with all of its subgroups and all of its needs based on that wide range of color and wide range of experiences. If you don't do it that way then you'll bypass what I feel are important opportunities to try to do it with women's issues; all women's issues. And finally, if women's studies continues to be perceived by women like me, and by others who are not even here in this room, as focusing primarily on sexism and neglecting serious investigation of class and race issues - and this does not mean that the investigation has not taken place or is taking place --and that there is a segment one element within women's studies movement that is not and cannot be classified as middle class etcetera. But that is not what basically women like myself and others want to see. When it comes to [unclear] that image of white, middle class America. So that the women's movement will be essentially two movements. This kind of investigation as to [unclear] place. One movement of non-European women trying to bring about a revolution and another movement trying to make some limited changes but essentially supporting a capitalist society that perpetuates racism, sexism, and classism. I and many like me are oppressed because we are women, we are black, and we are poor. We do not prioritize our [three pains]. One is not more or less oppressive than the other. And I've tried to share with you today some of the thoughts that I have as I said in the very beginning, they were not always based on studied because I haven't done a big enough study. They weren't thoughts based on any long involvement in women's studies, because I've only just started teaching of course as a [unclear]. But I think that the kinds of questions that I've presented today are kinds of questions that must be seriously asked. And must be thought about when we look at -- yes we wand to and we recognize that women studies or women's movement is limited to one group and how can we begin to open up and to include other women unlike us. And that as you begin to do that you have to ask some of these kinds of questions about the differences and similarities not only between you and I, but between me and her. And that's very important.[unclear] I've been looking at this woman at the back at [unclear].[laughter] There was a question that I that I raised in the very beginning and the question was, "Is there any merit in engaging in the intellectual exercise of compartmentalizing the progress of minority women, that is finding out which other problems as women, as racial minorities, as poor people?" I think I just answered that but I'd like to at least again say it. My answer to you is that yes there is merit in undertaking such an investigation. My warning to you however, is that in compartmentalizing the problem, get a grasp on what are the problems and the needs for minority women. You do not prioritize them or the strategies designed to eliminate the cause, the experience of oppression at all three levels. And as I said, it's not one, it's more oppressive [unclear].[Applause]
  • Florence Howe: I can talk. I hope that what will be seen as a complementary fashion. As a historian and a political theorist of the women's studies movement, women's relationship to issues of gender, race, class, and [unclear]. You all know I'm sure that we had a brief period of time to talk about, that is, designated history involving compasses to women's health movements. And this was an effort to break some fresh ground. But it followed ethnic studies programs though it had very, very different conceptions of purposes and strategies. And in fact, many of us learned from ethnic studies programs to some extent at least what was informative. We did not want to go to a corner of the campus and do our thing in another campus. We wanted to change the whole of the educational curriculum. We wanted to transform it in some major way. Even in 1969-70 there was an elementary consciousness about the issues of class and race. But more I would say then there was consciousness about heterosexuality, homophobia. That's the last and the least from the beginning. But even from the beginning there was certainly consciousness about issues of class and race. If you want the evidence for it, all you have to do is go back and read Female Studies 1 through 4 which were published by [unclear] in the early 1970's-71, 72 and [unclear]. It's all documented you can still buy it [unclear] and see what programs just forming here in New York, in Richmond, on the west coast, in San Francisco state and Washington, middle of the country. Varying places. 17 very early programs. They talk about their perspectives on women and women's studies, and their perspectives including class and race. It's not always but some of them included homosexuality, heterosexuality. Now, what they had to do, what these programs had to do was in one sense nothing short of miraculous. Because what they had was to turn around hundreds of years of higher education. At least 150 years of [womanhood] in this country. In which the great push forward in the beginning was what in the 19th century women called "The right to the men's curriculum." That was the language they used. That is, that's what white women and Black women wanted; the right to the men's curriculum. But allegedly, the [physiology], this is medical nonsense in the 19th century. The physiology of women really was such a handicap, that if they studied the men's curriculum their uterine development would be so impaired [laughter] that they would be unable to conceive or have normal children or even bear children. That was absolutely true medical belief [unclear], medical belief [laughter]. Now we probably got the right to the men's curriculum just about the same time we got suffrage. And in the 1920's that schools like Spelman College for instance begin to call themselves the wealthy in the south [unclear]. You know what that means, that means not only that they lose some of their [unclear] and sense of their own institution. But that also means that they get what [Wellesley] was after, which is the white man curriculum rather than a curriculum that had anything to do with getting caught. And I'm not talking about the early curriculum in which the women's curriculum was a better version of home economics or a small minor version of [unclear], I'm not too certain about that. At any rate, women's studies set out to do, and by the way none of us knew even tiny fragment [unclear] and I have. I certainly didn't. I didn't know anything about it until 1974-75 when I started to ask myself "What [unclear] are we going?" I went back to the 19th century and looked at all of it. None of us knew this, but we knew that something was wrong with the education we had had. We knew women were missing from the curriculum and some of us who had learned everything we had learned in the Civil Rights and the anti- war movement in the 50's and 60's, also knew that there were more women in the world than white middle class women. And some of us, were not middle class to begin with anyway. My background [unclear]. So that there was this incredible idealism I think at the beginning of this women's studies movement in 1969-1970 when most people who heard about us laughed. That was really the immediate reaction on campus. We were the funniest thing going. One could not laugh at Black people in 1969 and 1970 if your historical consciousness carried you back, you know what happened to people who laughed in 1966-1970 [unclear] laughing. So the new laughter was these funny white women whose "bra burns' now on campus and we were very [unclear].
  • And as a matter of fact, it wasn't so bad because it allowed women's studies to start at a time when everybody thought it was so funny and so silly that they really didn't hear what we were doing. And before anyone knew anything, as a matter of fact [unclear]. No-one started to pay much attention to us [unclear]. Now it's very different I must say. At any rate the immediate problems with him [unclear] I say we, because [we're all these idealists], most of us were white. Most of us were part of this racist society, most of us had bad assumptions about class and I quote "false consciousness". Most of us were homophobic and didn't even know that, didn't know that word. So we had a lot of problems, right. That was just the start, that's just the first set of problems. The problems I call attitudes; conscious and unconscious attitudes. Then we had a second set of problems. I don't know whether it be for better or worse. Like I pull up all the problems are problems. You can't say which are better or worse. But I've listed them separately. The second set of problems have to do with ignorance. We were massively ignorant. We didn't know our own history, we didn't know -I'm talking about the people who were allegedly going to teach us stuff, right. We didn't know our own history, we assumed lots of things were unavailable. You remember why there were no great women artists. No it's so that was the big question. Remember that question? That was [mind breaking] ! I mean, that was, you know, a groundbreaking question. We assumed, I assumed even as late as 1973, I started to do a bibliography for the [unclear] bibliography series. I assumed that I could fit the bibliography of women, British and American, from the Renaissance to the present into 2300 items. [laughter]. Now, you have to be really dumb, right. Then after a year of slaving away on this thing and just trying to find out who are these women, right that I was going to put into this bibliography. I said "Well I gotta have a little more space." So I got 4400 slots. This is, you know each slot as a book. Then a year later I knew there were thousands of these women. Not even looking deep, just looking at the standards of the articles there were 1000 women who had written. Not one boor or two, but like, 56. Unknown women whose names I never heard of who had been bestsellers in the 19th century here in this country. And who wrote literature that is at least as good as the literature that were given in the classroom by so called male great writers. So I was very ignorant and we all were very ignorant. We were ignorant about the lives of working class people, about third world women, about lesbians. We assumed our favorite word was "inarticulate." We assumed that the inarticulate had left no record. We wouldn't have been more wrong. Okay, three, third problem. Unavailability in print or on film of materials from which to teach. And we were at least smart enough, some of us, to start presses and magazines and research projects and so forth a decade ago to try to make some of this material available.
  • We made a very slow beginning but it's just now I think, accumulating. Interesting to me Angela mentioned 1979 Puerto Rican. One of the books that make a difference to all of us who you know, were trying to teach what Toni [Unclear], the Black women. And that day exactly 10 years ago, 1970 that book. She was [unclear] to put that book together, Toni was. And she put that book together in 1970. Still useful in 1980. People were still using it, used other books, too. But it's interesting to me that it was put together so long ago that it was put together so long ago that, you know, so much has happened in the [unclear]. Well, one of the earliest things, Tillie Olsen [unclear] Feminist Press put out like in Ireland, that is the first piece of working-class literature ever written in this country. It's still the greatest working-class story that anybody's written in any country, and a woman wrote it. In Wheeling West Virginia in 1961 just seemingly out of the blue. A play, the lady age 32 years old who was at home taking care of her sick father who lived in a mill town, Wheeling West Virginia. A border town in which Black people and white people work together in the same factory at the same horrendous job. A white quaker woman, [unclear] 32, Rebecca Harding was her name. Wrote the story, sent it to the Atlantic, accepted it and said it could be published but only anonymously because no one would read it if it had her name on it. [unclear]. She had that much [unclear] in 1961. And it's about the lives of a steel mill worker who, as you read it, think he'd must be 60, he's 92 and his hunchback cousin who loves him very much is 25 and they are Welsh immigrants and they could be any color; Black and oppressed and Puerto Rican and anything. They are oppressed workers in a terrible system. And she is absolutely [unclear] about the future of this country. The owners, the millworkers have a conversation late at night. At any rate, that had been lost to us. And it's now restored. And that was the beginning [unclear] Feminist Press, the angry daughter of [unclear] other people [pick weeds]. There are many papers, there is now a [unclear]. I don't have to tell you about "Tomorrow's, Tomorrow" the Black woman in white America. A lot of these things were out before the middle of the decade and we had something from which to teach. How smart were we and how much and how well did we use the materials? I'm going to use a little bit of time to tell you what information there is from which to even figure out who is teaching what. By 1974 there was this book, this is the categorization I found in the women's center here. I'm living in Ohio and and I didn't have my own books with me [unclear] so I used this. This is called "Who's Who ad Where in Women's Studies?", the Feminist Press did it in 1974 based on information about the first three years of women's studies. There are about 4600 women's studies courses in this book. And I went through to see how many of them were about minority women, as a group let's say, however one does that. How many of them were about Black women, how many were about Hispanic, [unclear], and how many were about Asians, Native Americans, how many were about lesbian women. And then how many were about race and gender and how many were about race, class, and gender. I did the same thing that you know the method, with my own books seven years later. [unclear] 1976 working only on the material, the information on 15 developed women's studies programs. So here, the total number of courses in this volume where there are 15 programs only, is 589. Let's say 600 for the sake of being sinful. And the other is 4600, okay. Now, let me say something else about the method. I looked only at the titles to see what the titles overtly said "Black women, la Chicana, [unclear], woman, you know, whatever. Or race, class, and sex. I did not try to second-guess when I know whose teaching course, right. If I'm for instance, no literature course that I've ever given did not have at least half Black women and half white women right in the course. Now that's a reasonable percentage certainly for a Westbury. And it would be crazy not to do anything. But even at College of Wooster where I have one Black male student .. [recording cuts off]
  • Just to be very brief which I really want to go on to something else. And I'll give you the numbers if you're interested in having the numbers in the flesh [unclear]. Just to be absolutely [unclear], in1974 the percentage of such courses, total was 4%. In 1976 the percentage of such courses was 11%. Now this is 1980, one would have to do it all over again. And by now, by the way, if somebody asked me how many women's studies courses do you think there are, usually people ask me. Um, I'd say there are 20,000 and I'll explain to you how I get to that number. When there were 5000 [unclear] about 100 programs. There are now 350 programs in this country. So I just multiply by 4, because the programs have gotten huge. Some of the programs in this book, 67 courses listed as their offerings for a particular year. So 67 courses in one program, you start multiplying the numbers, it's quite incredible. Okay, now there are two ways to have sex and race and heterosexual, homosexual issues in women's studies. You can obviously do it in separate courses which is the only thing on campus right now. Or you can try to integrate it into every single course as you go. Now there are pluses and minuses each way. And let me say that everybody who works seriously in women's studies will do a little of each, I shouldn't say everybody. Many people who work in women's studies especially if they are lesbian women, minority women, working class women, will do a little of each. Might do a separate course on working class women culture and literature. Might also have working-class women but that they're white working class or another color working class in their other courses] as well. And I think this is something that one should think about, and I'm hoping that in the question period we will talk about the major quest, what is still a major quest for who should be teaching courses that focus on in minority women, or on lesbian women, or on working class women. And who is responsible for the integration of this material into courses that might be seen or might actually be a quite middle class women's courses. How do we deal with this question? Okay. The other thing I want to talk about before I get to those questions and I'd go back to the numbers that you want me to. But I'm really rushing to stop at least in another 10 minutes. What are the other ways of explaining something about the decade and about how many of the courses, these thousands of courses in women's studies are or are not focused on such issues? One other way of trying to think about this is for me to tell you how, from I think it was 1974 forward, two women in the Modern Language Association [Barbara Smith], [Gloria Hull] and I went and joined [unclear]. Tried to get funding through [unclear] Black women's studies. And that I wrote 3 grant proposals beginning early in 1974 to NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities] and to WBAP [New American Funding Radio Show] for a series of volumes on Black women's studies, Chicana women's studies, Appalachian and rural womens studies, Native American. There were eight volumes in all. I was encouraged to write the proposal, I wrote it, included lesbian women's studies. I was told later through varying grapevines that's really what did it in. Nevertheless, it never got funded. We didn't get funded in one, we didn't get funded in two. Year three, the Feminist Press decided that it was only going to apply to the Black women's studies. But that [garden is] really coming along. The actually had big stack of materials, they had a contract with three authors. And so we applied for Black women's studies. We didn't get that either. Year four, this is the fourth year 1978 we're up to. Year four, a second woman at Feminist Press, Barbara [unclear] called me up and said "I'm going to try again." And I said "You are crazy, this isn't even worth the xeroxing we'd have to go through. They'll never give us money." [laughter] "Let's just do it. Let's forget all this craziness." She said could I please do it give [unclear] a break and I just sighed and said I would do the work, etcetera. So she sent it in and low and behold, got the money. She actually got the money. Now I'm telling you this story because right after we got this money, we got you know, not a lot of money 13,000 and a couple hundred dollars. Before -- I hate to tell you what we were supposed to do with that money [laughter], workshops and. Only a very small amount of money is really for publishing, $4000 dollars. Books cost $25,000 to publish them. So, but nevertheless, right after we got that money, we got another little sum, $7000.00 from the foundation also wanting to be involved in women's studies.
  • Now, the reason I'm telling you this is it gives a message. It gives a message that I think finally somebody is hearing in Washington and in private foundations. Somebody is finally hearing after 10 years, is what we're talking about today. And I think therefore that there may be some hope for the future. But anyway, we have this [unclear] called Black women's studies and it's almost ready to go into production. And I thought I would tell you a little bit of what's in it. It took us 5 years, not just to search for funds, but to search for materials. It was different from other volumes, if those of you who know the female studies series, you know that there's 10 volumes finally in that series published in 1970 and ' 75 [kept] by the Feminist Press and [unclear]. And most of them have essays, syllabi of courses and bibliographies in them. And if anybody ever wants to know how did women's studies spread as fast as it did, including the issues of race and class, the only answer there is is those [girls] publication of the syllabi. Because they went around the country. And teachers who didn't even know the names of books by third world women lets say, or didn't know any women's history, but at least got a bibliography , got somebody elses course outlines and could go and order the books. And that had never happened as far as I know it didn't ever happen in Black studies, or in Chicana studies. I remember friends in Black studies saying to me "Well we're printing these syllabi, giving a course for the first time and letting it out. What if it's not scholarly enough?" And our view was nobody is gonna pay any attention anyway [laughter] except for us. So it didn't matter to us. And I think you did the right thing. Why is the content of this book so different? And I think that's the important question for us today. Content is different of course because we can't have a book of Black women's studies and we're not going to use Female Studies series, the authors Barbara Smith and [Marie Calton] want the book to be called "Black Women's Studies" and want the book named a new series. We also have, will still have to sign contract or proposal from a woman on the west coast to do lesbian women's studies that is well under way. This will be a new series. Why is the content different? Because a book about Black women has to be, has to be about race and class. And this particular book also has to be about sexual preference. And it is about sexual preference as well as about race and class so that it's really a very important volume in a series. It has in it about 28 different authors some of whom are white. It has a very important section, a bibliography. My view about that is [unclear] and I'm an academic. In my view it's the most important single section because it will make available for the first time to a wide reading public, an annotated bibliographies of materials including 19th century imperial [unclear] bibliography by [Julie Ellen], the writings of Black women from 1800-1910 [unclear]. Quite a lot, more recently article section changes which has been [unclear]. I want to tell you so that you'll hear that it's different. Those of you who know the Female Studies series know. I'm just gonna read very quickly the titles and the table of contents. And to put "Gloria Hull" in the subject and [Jean] as the title for interest's sake. The section, I'm not going to read you all the essays but former names [unclear] tributes. The first section is called "Searching for Sisterhood; Black feminism." The second is called "Roadblocks and Bridges: Confronting Racism. The third section is called "Dispelling The Myths: Black Women in History and the Social Sciences." Four: "Creative Survival: Preserving Body, Mind, and Spirit.
  • Now I'll read you some of these because it's really what comes into that preserving body, mind, and spirit. Black Women's Health, Women in Prison, Three's a Crowd: The Dilemma of the Black Woman in Higher Education, Slave Codes and Liner Notes, Black Women and the Church. Fifth section: "Necessary Bread: Black Women's Literature. And the sixth section: Bibliographies and Bibliographic Essays. Whereas I said we have to include 1900 to 1910 Afro American women poets of the 19th century and research on women's bio bibliographies from novels written by Black American women, Black women playwrights, [unclear] and American Black women poets. And then let's think of non print material on Black women. And finally they're going [unclear]. And we're going to have index at least of names and books so that people can actually find things. And this will look like a book and and will be sold in bookstores and look like a standard [unclear] book. And we are going to take our time, it's not be printed badly but it'll be printed beautifully with some very beautiful pictures. Because the one section of the book that [unclear] is a textbook and that brings me to why we have this book at this moment in time. And the reason I'm going to spend at least a minute on this is that I think it will tell us why we don't yet have, but maybe will soon have a Puerto Rican women's studies. And I think we probably would be a Chicana women's studies separate maybe. Why we don't have Asian American, and the least recent, the smallest group of Puerto Rican [unclear]. Printed it this morning, it's really true. The other very small group from the beginning, lesbians in women's studies. That is now I think we're gonna [unclear that area of growth. Okay, why do we have Black women's studies now? Why do we have it now and what is it like? I think, maybe this is implicit in my biases and is my training as a [unclear]. I think literature. I think those of you who don't know the Lorraine Hansberry special issue of Freedom Raiser. if you've seen that, if you know about Lorraine Hansberry, you know about [Zora] and the inspiration of Black writers to contemporary Black women. Both scholars who were in the 30's and creative writers and other artist who were also in the 20's and 30's. The meaning of all of this to them at this moment in time is very profound There is more action literature than anywhere else. The literary people are offering the general courses. They're also offering historical ones for instance there is Betsy [unclear] whose a professor of literature at Indiana University, is the person who wrote the major historical article of Black women's studies on Black women and slavery. And she did it out of a course she taught at Indiana University because there was nobody else to give that course. And she did it and that's the only historical essay on Black women's history in the volume.
  • The largest group of young black scholars at the moment who have gotten in [unclear] after the sink in literature. Why? That's something I want to talk about. The second largest group seeped [unclear] in history. The smallest group sees to be in social science. I think the reason black women's studies has emerged at this point is that there is a relationship between the white women's movement and the consciousness of Black feminists and Black feminist movement. And that however, however it is happened, however it will work out, I think that everything that's happened to us in women's studies in the decade, has happened out of this combination of political activism, social awareness, and knowledge and scholarship on the other hand. We have had to have that combination of consciousness and knowledge for women's studies. And there are two other factors. The presence of the movement that see some value in pursuing its work on college campuses. It seems to me that's important. More important and this is the most important reason, the availability of numbers of faculty able to teach the material. Why aren't there large numbers of Native American women's studies courses? Where are the Native American women? And it's not surprising therefore that the greatest number of courses are about minority women. And are a still very small number. They have to do double and triple time. But they're still the largest number on campuses. So that it seems to me at this point between the path that leads to Black studies, the scholarship that the scholar teaches. I'm going to name the problems and then I suppose we just start talking about them. The early problems are still with us. That is the attitude, the ignorance and in some ways more massively than before. What distinguishes 1980 from 1970 [unclear] many more people doing this. And when you have many, many more people, the masses of people. When it's no longer so completely dangerous, you have a greater mixture of reasons for doing it. There is something in that bandwagon that just happened. And in certain institutions it is....it's good for your careers to do women's studies. It may sound very strange but in some institutions it is good for your career to do women' studies. And some people do it until they don't need women's studies anymore and then drop it. So that there is some amount. The movement is no longer the [cure] and idealist movement it was to start with. So we've got this mixture; on the one has some of us is very much smarter than we were then, and you know, some of us have been with it for a long time. And on the other hand there are newcomers who some of us have to worry about. Or who themselves need a lot of pre education. Most graduate students for instance, let's say they're very idealistic. And they understand that they have to do something different. Graduate school does not prepare you to teach women's studies. Graduate school prepares you to teach male elite learning so that if you come into women's studies right after graduate school, you really have to start all over again. Okay, second problem. The relationship between Black studies and other ethnic studies programs and women's studies is very complex. There is for instance, right this weekend in Washington a big conference on Black higher education. If you read the program at that conference you would not know that women were and issue. Much less issues of class. You wouldn't know that if you read that. And yet, women are there increasingly through the program with one exception. The section of engineering had no women in it. In some universities the relationship between Black studies and women's studies you see worked out very well. I would give you as an example Berkley for instance which is not high on my list of favorite places. But one, as far as I'm concerned, one sort of claim to a bit of praise. I'm always knocking institutions but I don't mind praising them now and again if they deserve it. In that institution, the head of Afro- American studies is Barbara Christian who is a Black woman who has a joint appointment in Afro-American studies and Women's studies. And the head of the Women's Center for the whole university is Margaret Wilkerson who has a joint appointment in the Women's Center and Afro-American studies, who is a feminist and who works very closely with the Women's studies program. And they have have written a proposal for a research institute that I think will happen. The research institute would focus on minority women [unclear] and research institute in women's studies would focus on minority women. And indeed in that sense, the issues of at least Black women, women's studies, and Black studies and women's studies are close together.
  • That's true in some institutions and not in [unclear]. Two problems that I have left until the end are the major ones. Who are the students and who are the faculty? It's what is the constituency that we're talking about. Some people are very much concerned for instance, some people who teach Black women's studies are very much concerned about teaching Black women. Other people take the perspective that it's really urgent to teach white women about class and race. I'm just throwing these out. What's the priority? Where should we put our energy? It's the biggest questions are the ones I'm [unclear]. Should we be aiming at separate courses? Is it a course or series of courses on Puerto Rican women? Or should we be aiming and insisting that you can't teach a course about women without teaching about race and class and heterosexuality and homosexuality? We know these questions actually. Finally, how do we move forward? How do we massively reeducate teachers who have been reared on white, middle class, male curriculum that is homophobic [unclear]? How do we do this when we have not only ourselves to continually keep teaching so that we can teach better? Where do we put our energies? Are the answers different if we are knowledgeable Black women, knowledgeable Puerto Rican women? Knowledgeable white women? Assuming that one believes that a knowledgeable white woman Puerto Rican woman can teach anyone, anywhere. Women assume that. What don't we assume? I haven't talked as much about class and homosexuality, but I think some of the problems are really the same and I will stop so that we can... [Recording cuts off]
  • Speaker 3: One of the things that I observed at a state college in New Jersey is that the women who would go in [lectures] not to appease, not to offer [unclear]. So everybody had the horrendous notion that [unclear]. By the way, what this says is that we will never be able to generalize. This is the only place that which I'm far on the [unclear]. That is, the generalization about what is and isn't taught in women's studies courses. I would be very careful about [unclear] no one had done these [unclear] research on Black [unclear]. And didn't have any research time and energy. That was a big [unclear]. The only people who can do that kind of research are people who happen to know that they could get very [messy]. That's the difficulty trying to get a hold of [unclear] syllabi. Because I think that's exactly what's going on. [Courses] are [taught] the American women, they've gotten on books that way, right. They're called "Women in American History" or they're called "Women in Literature" or they're called "Sociology and Women." And you got enough from looking at that title alone [any listing] where what the issues are. Speaker 4: Could you maybe speak about [unclear] 1978 [unclear].
  • [unclear].