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Activist Narratives

This file offers suggestions for narratives about feminist activists that might
work well in an undergraduate course.  The suggestions were offered on WMST-L
in September 2008.  For additional WMST-L files available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 09:25:19 -0700
From: "Nelson, Jennifer" <Jennifer_Nelson AT REDLANDS.EDU>
Subject: narratives by activists
Hi all:

I'm looking for some good narratives (autobiographical or fictional)
about feminist activists. They can be book length or short. They can
cover any historical period although I prefer something relatively
contemporary. They don't need to be by U.S. activists either. I am
teaching a "Feminist Campus Activism" course next semester. I want to
integrate some first-person accounts that are not in the conventional
academic essay format.



Jennifer Nelson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Director
Women's Studies Program
University of Redlands
1200 E. Colton Ave.
PO Box 3080
Redlands, CA 92373-0999
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 11:44:15 -0500
From: AnaLouise Keating <zami11 AT VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Hi Jennifer,

I highly recommend Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir and Selected Plays (U
of Texas Press, 2008), Teatro Chicana, a group of Xicana college-student
activists during the 1970s & 80s. The book includes 17 first-person
narratives, as well as 8 "actos," or short plays.  It's like a miniature
archives, and illustrates teatro (guerilla or streat theater) as a form of
activism.  Moreover, it demonstrates that even during the so-called second
wave of the women's movement, women of color were deeply involved in
multi-issue feminist activism and theorizing.  It also offers contemporary
college students some excellent suggestions for enacting social protest.


AnaLouise Keating
Professor of Women's Studies
Texas Woman's University
PO Box 425557
Denton, TX 76204

"[O]nce you have discerned the meaning of a label, it may seem to define you
for others, but it does not have the power to define you to yourself."
--James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 14:32:12 -0400
From: JV Sapinoso <sapinoso AT UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Hi Jennifer,

I'd also suggest the section on "Queer Feminist Politics" in _Beyond
Masculinity:  Essay by queer men on gender and politics_, edited by Trevor

It is available free, on-line at
AND a bonus is that in addition to being available as pdfs, you can also
download a podcast of the author's reading their essay and listen to it.
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 15:01:20 -0400
From: Rebecca Whisnant <Rebecca.Whisnant AT NOTES.UDAYTON.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
I'd recommend *Outlaw Woman* by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and *Heartbreak* by 
Andrea Dworkin.


Rebecca Whisnant
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Director of Women's and Gender Studies
University of Dayton
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 16:07:27 -0400
From: Hagolem <hagolem AT C4.NET>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
You could try my SLEEPING WITH CATS.  Judy Chicago has a memoir THROUGH THE
FLOWER.  Audre Lorde's memoir CALL ME ZAMI is great.  I hope i am
remembering the name right. IT's on my bookshelf but has somehow wandered
from L.  
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 16:21:35 -0400
From: Rebecca Howard <howardra AT MUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Particularly relevant to campus activism are the Radical Cheerleaders.
There is a pdf of an "interview" (actually more of a conversation between
two members) available at


The New York Radical Cheerleaders also have a website at


I routinely use a short video profiling the Cheerleaders in my Intro to WMS
course (sorry I don't have the video title/production info in front of
me--if you're interested in finding the video, contact me back channel and I
will get it for you).  My students are mostly fulfilling a liberal ed
requirement, and the campus is fairly conservative, but I have always gotten
a good response from students who love the Cheerleaders as well as students
who think they are a little "over the top."

Rebecca Howard
howardra AT muohio.edu

"[T]here's only two or three things I know for sure. Only two or three
things. That's right. Of course it's never the same things, and I'm never as
sure as I'd like to be."
~Dorothy Allison, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 17:08:37 -0400
From: Mary Jo Aagerstoun <mjaagerstoun AT MATHISNET.COM>
Subject: Narratives of Activism
In Spring, 2007, the NWSA Journal published a special issue (19.1) on
Feminist Activist Art. In it is a wealth of material including: a forum
featuring Mary Flanagan, Jennifer Gonzalez, the Guerrilla Girls, Margo
Machida, Marsha Meskimmon, Martha Rosler, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and
subRosa, with Amelia Jones responding; Articles on Suzanne Lacy, an
interview with the Guerrilla Girls, Dyke Action Machine and Toxic Titties; a
very interesting piece on documentaries about women filmmakers as feminist
activism through art; a comparison between Code Pink, Raging Grannies and
the Missile Dick Chicks re: feminist activist art involvement in the
anti-war movement; an article on Black Cuban feminist activist rap; art as a
way out of poverty for South African Black women and ruminations from
feminist activist artist and educator Beverly Naidus. There are also 4
review essays commenting on a dozen important books about activist art and
whether and how they address feminist activist art.  

Full disclosure: my colleague Elissa Auther of Colorado State and I were the
co-editors. The issue is now out of print, but it should be in most
university libraries.



mjaagerstoun AT sfeap.org
West Palm Beach, Florida
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 19:23:58 -0500
From: Jeannie Ludlow <jeannieludlow AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Narratives of Activism
Hi all,
I know we're not supposed to issue "me too" messages to the list. However, I
wanted to say that I've used the NWSAJ issue on feminist activist art edited
by Mary Jo Aagerstoun and Elissa Auther in classes, and students really
responded well to the articles and the activist art groups analyzed in the
issue. Several of the students were inspired to create their own "activist
art" project. I paired the NWSAJ essays with "Feminist Media Strategies for
Political Performance" by Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, which was in
their textbook (Jones' *Feminism and Visual Culture Reader*). Lacy and
Labowitz use examples from their own activist experiences to outline the
how-tos for getting media attention for one's feminist activist project.

Jeannie Ludlow, Ph.D.
jeannieludlow AT gmail.com

Women's Studies & Women's Resource Center
Eastern Illinois University
Charleston, IL 61920
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 21:28:26 -0500
From: Jessica Ketcham Weber <etoilebleu AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Hi Jennifer,
If you are considering any media texts, we have a short
video [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xlVggim9h0 ] asking activist
students about spaces on campus that they identify as
feminist spaces. It's part of a longer
video [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVoKhac_-7E&feature=related ] project
exploring the relationship between feminist discourses and feminist
spaces on university campuses. There's a written companion piece coming out
in *thirdspace* [ http://www.thirdspace.ca/journal ] this semester as well as
a first-person narrative that I can send you about feminist activist work on
college campuses in the South (not published anywhere).

I'd love to see a list of the suggestions you get after you compile them.

Good luck on what sounds like a great class!
Jessica Ketcham Weber | www.etoilebleu.com
Women's & Gender Studies Program Coordinator | www.lsu.edu/wgs
PhD Candidate in Literacy, Media, and Cultural Studies
Department of English, Louisiana State University
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 22:32:40 -0700
From: Lois Helmbold <helmbold AT UNLV.NEVADA.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Hi Jennifer,

My students loved FIREWEED by Gerda Lerner, her autobiog before becoming a
historian, which includes anti-fascist work in Vienna, being a member of the CP
in Hollywood & a progressive in NYC, including in the PTA.  What students
esepcially noted was that she found ways to be an activist regardless of the
situation she was in.


Lois Rita Helmbold, Chair (on sabbatical)
Women's Studies Department
helmbold AT unlv.nevada.edu
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2008 08:02:01 -0400
From: Rebecca Whisnant <Rebecca.Whisnant AT NOTES.UDAYTON.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Another great one is Bettina Aptheker's *Intimate Politics: How I Grew up
Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel*.  Info here:
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2008 09:30:30 -0500
From: "Brothers, Deborah" <Deborah.Brothers AT LLCC.EDU>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists

You may already know about it, but Women Imagine Change (Delamotte, Meeker, et
al) has some excerpts, which are good.  I don't know if anyone suggested The
Narrative of Sojourner Truth.  I'd like to see a list, once you have it
compiled.  Will you be posting to the entire list?


Deborah Brothers

Deborah Brothers, Ph.D.
Professor of English
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2008 07:54:19 -0700
From: Kiesa Kay <oleander_cottage AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: narratives by activists
Audre Lorde's memoir is ZAMI: A New Spelling of My Name. You also might check
out Louise Michel's autobiography for earlier activism.á ALSO,áthe French
translation of a female founder of the French resistance, published in France
in 1946, has been published for the first time in the USA in 2008. It's called,
simply, RESISTANCE. áAnd (modestly, quietly, gently) my own memoir is called
TORNADO ALLEY, published under the pseudonym of Mimosa May.

Love to all,
kiesa AT oleandercottage.com
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 14:46:05 -0700
From: "Nelson, Jennifer" <Jennifer_Nelson AT REDLANDS.EDU>
Subject: Activist Narratives -- compiled list
Hi all:
I've compiled a list of all the great suggestions I received.

Thanks to everyone.


Activist texts:

*Women Imagine Change: a Global Anthology of Women's Resistance from 600 B.C.
to Present* that's edited by Delamotte, Meeker, and O'Barr

Website of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter: In the Issues and
Herstory links there are several articles written
by the women who have worked there over the past four decades.
Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir and Selected
Plays (U of Texas Press, 2008), Teatro Chicana, a group of Xicana
college-student activists during the 1970s & 80s.

"Queer Feminist Politics" in _Beyond Masculinity:  Essay by queer men on gender
and politics_, edited by Trevor Hoppe.

Minnie Bruce Pratt, "Identity:  Skin Blood Heart" in "Yours in Struggle:  Three
Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism."

*Outlaw Woman* by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

"Different Kinds of Hunger" by Dunbar-Ortiz.

*Heartbreak* by Andrea Dworkin.

Ann Russo's chapter from her book, "Taking Back Our Lives:  A Call to Action
for the Feminist Movement" entitled "The Struggle for Integrity in an Unjust
World:  Feminist Resistance Through Storytelling."



Audre Lorde's ZAMI: A new spelling of my name.

Radical Cheerleaders Interview: hemi.nyu.edu/journal/1_1/cheerleaders_print.pdf

The New York Radical Cheerleaders also have a website at:
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 15:06:10 -0700
From: Patricia Huckle <huckle AT MAIL.SDSU.EDU>
Subject: activist narratives
The compiled list of activist narratives is an interesting one. Three others
seem relevant as well:

Rosa Parks, My Story  (known for her role in the Montgomery bus strike, she
was also a life-long activist)

Maggie Kuhn, No Stone Unturned (best known for founding the Gray Panthers,
but also a long-term activist)

Tish Sommers:  Activist, and the Founding of the Older Women's League

All offer perspectives from life-long activists, best known in their senior

Patricia Huckle
Professor Emerita
Women's Studies
San Diego State University
huckle AT mail.sdsu.edu

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