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Grassroots Feminist Organizations, Part 1: Boston Area Second Wave Organizations, 1968-1998


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Introduction:Grassroots Feminist Organizations. Part 1: Boston

Area Second WaveOrganizations, 1968-1998

 

The Boston area was a center of second wave feminism, orwomens liberation, as it was called by many of its members. The concentrationof young people created by the large number of colleges there made the city ahub of northern support for the civil rights movement, and for the new left,student, and antiwar movements out of which second wave feminism grew. InCambridge, the center of political activity at least in the early years,organizing against the unpopular war in Vietnam lasted until the mid-1970s andduring these years many young people became more and more radicalized by theiropposition to the United States intervention. The large numbers of young womenwho became involved in the womens liberation movement had usually beenpolitical activists, or at least sympathetic to activism, as students. Theywere going to graduate school, or considering it, or had just failed to moveon. The size of this young radical female population made the Boston area aspecial place. Black feminism developed in Boston, too, and was articulatedmost famously by the Combahee River Collective. Researchers will find evidenceof the Collectives impact in items scattered throughout these papers. Overall,however, these documents illuminate groups, perspectives, and activitiespopulated by young, highly politicized, white, middle class women.

 

It would be wrong to deduce from this, however, that therange of issues they tackled was narrow. Second wave feminists attempted tochange everything about society that kept women subordinate, whether it was lowpay, discrimination in hiring, or lack of control over their reproductivelives. Legalizing abortion, making it available to everyone regardless ofincome, and ending the sterilization abuse of poor women of color, wereconcerns that were central to the struggle. Womens liberation activistsorganized against the portrayal of women as sex objects, against racism andhomophobia, and in opposition to the many kinds of violence that kept women intheir place.

 

Feminist Process andTheory

 

The groups represented in these archives struggled withevery one of these issues, all the while earnestly theorizing and critiquingtheir organizational process. In Boston, as throughout the country, groupsformed rapidly, worked enormously energetically and, for a variety of reasons,often did not last long. The organizations were initially composed of and ledby unpaid activists rather than staff. Thus, many of these groups overlappedchronologically and in personnel. Second wave feminism was, above all, a hugenational grass roots movement for social change and womens equality. So whilethe organizations were sometimes short-lived, they often generated other morespecialized groups that, in turn, contributed to the mushrooming movement.Womens liberation groups worked passionately to achieve their goals:organizing, marching, occupying a building, testifying, meeting, writing,arguing, and strategizing. Without computers, email, or cell phones, and usingtypewriters, handwritten notes, and mimeo-machined memos and flyers, activistwomen organized themselves and others to demand change. Their regular andlengthy face-to-face meetings are richly documented in this collection byhandwritten minutes and the notes of individual participants.

 

These minutes and notes reinforce the notion that mostBoston activists were radical anti-capitalists and were deeply influenced bythe civil rights, Black power, and New Left movements. An underlying hope for asocialist future is usually obvious in the records of their political actionsand organizations. Almost all believed that the American government was shapedby capitalism, a system characterized by exploitation and inequality and thatdepended on this discrimination to keep the populace divided and quiescent.

 

The second-class citizenship experienced by women andminorities, in the view of most second wave feminists, meant that the UnitedStates was not truly a democratic society. Not surprisingly, many of thesefeminists solutions were explicitly nonhierarchical, democratic, andcollective: they organized cooperative child care, alternative schools,alternative healthcare, alternative approaches to counseling and therapy, foodcooperatives, and battered womens shelters. At the same time, they demandedthat the government be responsible for the health and welfare of its people,especially women and children, and that it ensures equal opportunity and servicesfor everyone. The one obvious exception to a socialist feminist perspective inthe Boston movement was that of Female Liberation, an early radical feministgroup.

 

Female Liberation, with its emphasis on mens complicitywith sexism, was extremely influential in the early years of the Boston womensliberation movement. It put out several journals and newspapers including TheSecond Wave and the Female Liberation Newsletter. At the same time,a small group of activists who overlapped with those involved with the twonewspapers and called themselves Cell 16, engaged in confrontational politics,such as leafleting the Playboy Club. Their most important enterprise by far,however, was No More Fun and Games, a journal begun in 1968, with sixissues published in all.

 

The women identified as Female Liberation were indefatigablein their work to raise consciousness about womens oppression. They promotedself-defense for women and organized for the legalization of abortion and awomans right to choose. Most famously, they theorized about sex (in some casesarguing against the sexual revolutions endorsement of womens availability tomen and in favor of celibacy), and about organizational form. Should the groupbe made up of small personal groups or a large, more structured organization?In this latter concern, they were not alone. Throughout these years, structurediscussions preoccupied groups that had many members or ambitions for largeorganizations.1

 

Bread and Roses, one of the important socialist feministorganizations in the country, managed to inspire structures that were extremelyresilient. While Bread and Roses was officially in existence only from 1969 to1971, it spawned a number of projects that had very long lives. The WomensSchool and the Womens Center were two of the groups most enduring offshoots.

 

The Womens School

 

The idea of a womens school was ingenious. The civil rightsand student movements had argued that formal American curriculum and education,if Black people were even able to attain access to it, was biased in favor ofthe rich and famous and told the stories, primarily, of white men who weremilitary heroes and politicians. Thus, the civil rights movement had set upFreedom Schools where ordinary Black people could learn about their history andsee the United States from their perspective: the bottom. The student movementset up alternative schools in order to teach subjects from a more democraticview and the Black power movement generated a new Black history and demanded BlackStudies programs in universities. Women realized that they, too, were left outof history and needed to understand the world from a gender, class, and raceperspective. They also wanted to learn auto mechanics, self-defense, and otherskills considered inappropriate for girls.

 

The Womens School, then, offered a range of courses ontopics that included everything from how to fix your car, to Marxism,dialectical materialism, womens history, racism, the nuclear family, and Blackhistory. Because the goal was to reach all kinds of women, childless studentsand staff were required to assure free childcare for those who needed it. TheWomens School continued for many years as a place where women volunteered toteach other women. This institution, and others like it around the country, canbe seen as one of the roots of Womens Studies Programs.

 

The WomensEducational Center

 

The site where the Womens School operated was the WomensCenter. Bread and Roses women stimulated the public imagination in 1971 bytaking over a Harvard University building and demanding that the universityprovide a space for women, including community women, to meet and use as theirown. The building occupation did not result in Harvard handling over abuilding, but it did spark an outpouring of community contributions for thepurchase of a private house. This was the birth of what became the longestrunning women center in the United States. Tens of thousands of women havevisited or called over the years. It continues today to offer information,services, a safe space for women and their projects, and childcare.

 

In the early years, the Center was run almost completely byvolunteers. The extensive archives of the Womens Center are a testament to thewide and deep commitment of Boston feminist activists to improving womenslives. The Womens Center activists created a space where women might bothlearn about their subordination and obtain services to meet their specialneeds. At the same time, a great deal of attention was paid to helping womendevelop new organizational skills and create new groups. As a result, untoldnumbers of women become part of the second wave. They came for classes,meetings, and counseling. They came to help themselves and to volunteer to helpother women. Out of their meetings at the Womens Center, activists founded theRape Crisis Center, created the Houseworkers Handbook, established theElizabeth Stone House for disturbed women, and built Transition House as ahaven for battered women and their children. Organizations such as WomenAgainst Violence Against Women, the Womens School, the Birth Control andAbortion Counseling group, the Lesbian Defense Fund and Resource Group, andLesbian Mothers met there, sometimes for years. Over time many of the groupsmoved out into their own quarters; but it was the Womens Center that got themstarted.

 

The Core group, whose composition changed over the years,was in charge of making sure that the Womens Center worked. They tookresponsibility for running a building and seeing that it was paid for andmaintained. They operated on a shoestring budget, yet kept it open for decades.Their deliberations are recorded here in the minutes of literally thousands ofmeetings. Included are discussions of financial planning and fund raising; oftheory, politics, and policies; and of the ever-present urge to reach out tothe largest community of women. One of the constants in their deliberations isthe desire to accomplish all this with a process that they felt was truly feminist.

 

The issues did change some over time. For example, in a 1977statement they said that they were committed to fighting sexism, racism, andimperialism, class-ism, and heterosexual privilege, to building an autonomousmovement, and to creating an alternative space for women. These earlyproclamations contrast with a later practice more focused on therapeuticapproaches to helping individual women. The archives allow one to trace thisand other fairly dramatic shifts in emphasis over the years. Still, throughoutit all, the Cores commitment was to a woman-only space, nonhierarchicaldecision-making, and womens empowerment. Researchers will find in thismicrofilm publication more than ample documentation of the workings of one ofthe most important and interesting institutions built by second wave feminismin the Boston area.

 

The Persistence ofSocialist Feminism

 

While undoubtedly central to the Bread and Rose legacy, theWomens Center and the Womens School were only two of the organizationsinitiated by Bostons persistently socialist feminist current. From the late1960s to well into the 1980s, socialist feminists fostered other significantand influential organizations and projects. These included the Boston WomensUnion and, later, the Boston Area Feminist Coalition.

 

The Boston Womens Union drew together women from theWomens School, Womens Center, Cambridge Goodard Feminist Studies, and theAlternative Center in Dorchester, among other organizations, to advance boththeory and practice. Preparing for several months, they organized their firstconference in March of 1974, stating that they wanted to link their analysisand feminist consciousness with the economic and political situation in thenation and the world. The Boston Womens Union articulated a commitment tostruggling against sexism, racism, capitalism, and imperialism and wanted tobroaden their organization so that working class women and women of color wereinvolved. Those researching socialist feminism will find the womens union statementa particularly illustrative document.

 

The Boston Womens Union study/action groups included thosefocused on labor, abortion, gay liberation, organizing high school women, ThirdWorld women, and anti-imperialism. In truth, they analyzed everything. Thesepapers document just how intellectual were the lives of socialist feministgroups. Researchers will find pages and pages of theorizing, including someabout process and organization, and others about the Unions particularrelationship to the broader womens movement, the left, and contemporarycapitalism. Even after the organization disbanded in 1976, many of the womencontinued to meet to discuss socialist feminism and to analyze theparticularities of womens experience, including those of motherhood andsexuality.

 

In 1981, socialist feminists organized yet another group,the Boston Area Feminist Coalition, which consisted of representatives fromorganizations as well as individuals, and lasted for two years. Thesemanuscripts allow one to trace the efforts of some of the same socialist women,though often with newer allies, to build effective feminist organizations andlaunch new political initiatives. Overall, this microfilm publication documentsthe surprising consistency of socialist feminism activism.

 

Violence AgainstWomen

 

One of the most explosive issues raised by feminists wasviolence against women, a problem increasingly understood by them to be endemicto American social and cultural institutions. At the birth of the second waveof feminism, violence against women, particularly violence in the family and inintimate relations, had barely been acknowledged. Recognition of the impact ofincest and child sexual abuse on the lives of adult women was equally rare.

 

The Boston chapter of Women Against Violence Against Women,one of many chapters that formed in response to the degrading cover of RollingStones album Black and Blue in 1977, attempted to change all that. One of anumber of issue groups affiliated with the Womens Center, it focused most ofits attention on exposing demeaning media portrayals of women. The group foughtthe often glamorized portrayals of violence against women in the media byboycotting record companies for their album covers (particularly WarnerCommunications) and condemning pornography and objectionable advertisements. Attheir most provocative, they sometimes argued that commercial images of womenwere pornography. Participants spray-painted objectionable images on stores,spotlighted events or films that condoned violence against women, created slideshows of violent public images, and effectively created a great deal ofpublicity. Convinced that there is a link between media portrayals and violenceagainst women, especially rape, they wanted to eradicate from our culture allthose images which dehumanize, degrade and vilify the dignity of women While the groupwas not large, it was effective in raising womens consciousness aboutsocietys acceptance of the violence, particularly rape and battering, that wasendured by females.

 

Reproductive Rights

 

Another central and most passionately felt goal of earlysecond wave feminism was the legalization of abortion and the right of women tocontrol their bodies. Second wave feminists became aware, very early in thestruggle, that the medical establishment victimized poor women through forcedsterilization and inadequate reproductive health care. Radical second waverswere truly pro-choice and, thus,consistently linked the fight for abortion with the fight against sterilizationabuse, understanding that their movement had to focus on the plight of allwomen, not only on the issues facing the middle class. The manuscripts in thispublication document just how deeply this generation was convinced that controlover their bodies was a prerequisite to being able to live an autonomous life.

 

After a great deal of feminist political work around thecountry, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its Roe v. Wadedecision in 1973. Attempts to roll the decision back or to restrict its impact,however, began almost immediately after its announcement. In Boston, FemaleLiberation, Bread and Roses, and other individuals and groups had worked hardto legalize abortion, but found themselves forced to continue the campaign forreproductive rights throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

 

The Abortion Action Coalition was formed in 1977 to countera growing right-wing attack on abortion rights. They fought the abolition ofMedicaid funding for abortion, understanding that the denial of access to poorwomen was best understood as the first step on the path to denying abortions toall women. The Abortion Action Coalition wanted to organize a broadmovementof women from all class, race and religious backgrounds. They workedin neighborhoods with community organizations, on campuses, in health clinics,and with unions. In order to build the largest movement, they stressed thatthe fight for abortion rights is only part of a broader struggle for adequateday care, medical care, safe and effective birth control, and a decent standardof living. They focused on a single issue, but they were motivated by the ideathat education and services in this area were the prerequisites to full genderand racial equality for all.

 

To accomplish their aims, the Abortion Action Coalitionorganized outreach committees, liaisons with legislators, a media andeducational office, and a speakers bureau. They were direct in their defenseof abortion, especially in their defense of clinics, but they also linked the issuewith maternity leave, childcare, and other issues facing pregnant women andmothers. The coalitions incisive political analyses of abortion politics arewell documented in these papers.

 

Significance of theCollections

 

The archives reproduced here are a treasure. They cover arange of organizations that existed in the years from 1969 to well into the1990s, but most manuscripts document grassroots activity at the height of theearly radical second wave movement of the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.The researcher will find extensive material on which to base a local study ofone of the most important twentieth century American social movements or tobegin a comparative study of grassroots organizing in different cities.

 

Boston organizations and political campaigns addressed allthe issues that came up in other places, but they developed somewhatdifferently, perhaps due to the especially high concentration of young women,the large numbers of organizations, and the influence, in the first decade atleast, of socialist feminism. Researchers may conclude that Boston areaactivists paid less attention than those in other key locations to the thornyproblem of sexual preference in the early years, particularly the criticism bylesbians of straight women as homophobic. It may be that the Boston areamovements whiteness and intellectualism were distinctive as well.

 

Clearly though, and contrary to stereotypicalcharacterizations of young white feminists caring only about personal andsexual issues, these archives document just how deeply political early secondwave feminism was. In general, these activists broadened their politics bymoving from issues deeply felt by their middle class selves to problems thataffected poor women. They regularly discussed race and class, made efforts toorganize outside their narrow class and race base, taught courses on minoritywomen, and theorized about the political importance of considering race, classand gender together. Instead of discovering young white feminists driven bytheir own personal issues and satisfaction, a researcher will be unable toavoid evidence that the inclination of these groups was to look outward intheir efforts to understand and change the world.

 

These collections bear witness to the fact that youngfeminists were willing to embrace extremely unpopular and unheard-of-issues, totake serious risks by confronting those in power with their arguments andaction, and to devote extraordinary amounts of time and energy to create awomens movement nourished by grassroots work. There is also evidence ofdifferences between activists, splits and divisions in groups, anger andfrustration, and unsuccessful struggles to develop organizational forms thatwere politically effective while still fostering close personal connections.Because the divisions, on balance, were outweighed by the impact of successfulorganizing, our world is a much different place. Fortunately, many of thesewomen kept impressive records. For the burgeoning field of research on thesocial movements of the 1960s and of second wave feminism, particularly at thelocal level, these archives will provide priceless documentation of theBoston-based second wave feminist movement.

 

Winifred Breines
Professor of Sociology
Northeastern University

 

NOTES

 

1 Wini Breines: The Great Refusal: Community andOrganization in the New Left (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press,1988).

 

AUTHORS NOTE

 

Thanks to LibbyBouvier for help on this essay.

 

EDITORS NOTE

 

Professor Breines isthe author of The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of Black and WhiteWomen in the Feminist Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

 

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE

 

The second wave offeminism transformed every aspect of life in the United States. It is rightfullyunderstood as one of the most important social movements of the Americantwentieth century.

 

At the fortiethanniversary of the birth of the second wave, Womens Studies scholars arelooking back to the origin of their discipline with new eyes. As Barbara Loveexplains in her introduction to Feminists Who Changed America (Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 2006), research is now necessarily reachingbeyond the study of well known groups like the National Organization for Womento an exploration of the contributions of the radical and socialist feminists,the local and grassroots organizers, who made it happen. This microfilmpublication, Boston Area Second WaveOrganizations, 1968-1998, which is Part 1 of the Primary SourceMedia, an imprint of Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, series Grassroots Feminist Organizations, isdesigned to facilitate this new phase of study. Both in-depth community studiesand groundbreaking comparative work will be possible due to the access to localprimary source materials provided in these publications.

 

Boston Area SecondWave Organizations, 1968-1998 is composed of the papers of eight individualcollections held by the Archives and Special Collections Department of theNortheastern University Libraries in Boston, Massachusetts, a repository with afocus on the preservation of the records of private, non-profit,community-based Boston area organizations that are concerned with socialjustice issues.

 

The collections that make up this publication are FemaleLiberation: A Radical Feminist Organization Records, 1968-1974; the WomensEducational Center (Cambridge, Mass.) Records; the Womens School(Cambridge, Mass.) Records, 1971-1992; the Boston Womens Union Records,1973-1979; the Abortion Action Coalition Records, 1970-1982; the WomenAgainst Violence Against Women Records, 1972-1985; the Boston AreaFeminist Coalition Records, 1981-1983; and the Massachusetts Coalitionof Battered Womens Service Groups Records, 1979-1981.

 

While the type of documents included in an organizationspapers varies, the researcher will consistently find a wealth of unique items.These include minutes, meeting notes, position paper drafts, lecture notes,staff logs, and slide show scripts for community or other public presentations.Calendars and flyers for feminist and other radical political events providemuch context for interpretation of the internal documents.

 

Taken as a whole, the papers of these organizations documentthe beginnings of the womens liberation movement in the Boston area, thematuration of second wave feminism in both theory and practice, and thetransformation of organizations rooted in the second wave under the politicalpressures of the late 1980s and 1990s. When analyzed collection by collection,the records in this publication manifest not only the broad range of issues andperspectives that characterized the grassroots womens liberation movement as awhole, but highlight the specific features that made the Boston area a nationalcenter of second wave feminism.

 

Three of the collections included, Female Liberation, theBoston Womens Union, and the Boston Area Feminist Coalition, testify to thespecial seriousness with which Boston activists seemed to have attended toadvancing the theoretical basis of the movement. The papers of FemaleLiberation include reference to the well-known contributors to No More Fun andGames and other early ventures in theory, including Roxanne Dunbar, DanaDensmore, Jayne West, Betsy Warrior, and Lisa Leghorn. A dispute between the originalcore of Female Liberation, which included Abby Rockefeller, and FemaleLiberation members who were part of the Young Socialist Alliance overstrategies in preparation for a Womens National Abortion Action Coalitionconvention gives insight into some of the more fundamental questions of theoryand strategy that early feminists confronted.

 

No organizations papers demonstrate more concern withtheory than those of the Boston Womens Union and the Boston Area FeministCoalition. These two collections, and others, including the Womens School inits early years, document the central role that socialist feminism, as atheoretical and strategic perspective, played in the Massachusetts movement.The Boston Area Socialist/Feminist Organization, as the Boston Womens Union(BWU) was first known, produced analytical work that can be found here onconsciousness-raising, womens spirituality, lesbian separatism, as well as theBWUs own Marxian bibliographies and position papers on the state of thewomens movement. The Boston Area Feminist Coalitions interest in finding away to re-politicize a scattered movement in the early 1980s through city-widestrategy discussions, to politically influence the antimilitarism movement, aswell as to challenge the strategy of fighting violence against women throughevents like Take Back the Night, are well documented.

 

Discussions like that around Take Back the Night and thebest way to deal with violence against women, whether occurring in imagery, thefamily, or on the street, are some of the most fascinating contained in thispublication. The files of Women Against Violence Against Women contain not onlythe records of WAVAWs own highly successful campaigns against sexistadvertising and pornography, but also examples of the arguments of theiradversaries within the feminist movement, a group that included the FeministAnti-Censorship Task Force, as well as socialist feminists and libertarianfeminists. Papers of the Womens Educational Center include those of the fledglingcommittee planning the Rape Crisis Center but also socialist feminist critiquesof the imprisonment of rapists. The debates over violence against women alsohad an echo in a long-lived discussion about the place of lesbian sadomasochismsupport groups at the Womens Education Center and in the womens liberationmovement in general. Documents pertaining to this issue are found throughoutthe publication. Similarly, evidence that a discussion of the place ofmale-to-female transsexuals in women-only safe spaces divided the movement fora time is found in a number of collections.

 

Despite some expressions of sentiment toward defining thewomens liberation movement with the above exclusions, many more items documenta more or less continuous effort to include ever-broader segments of the femalepopulation in the movement and the community of women that institutions likethe Womens Educational Center and the Womens School served. The meetingminutes from the early years of the Womens Educational Center (WEC) are filledwith discussion of efforts at outreach - to women of color, to working classcommunities, to women in prison, to Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. The WECsponsored groups for lesbian mothers and for women without housing. News oforganizing drives of local clinics or restaurants punctuate the files. Aneffort to connect with the Puerto Rican womens organization, the Collectiva deLuisa Capetillo, is addressed several times. Perhaps no area of feminist workdemonstrates this desire for outreach so clearly as that of reproductiverights. The files of the Abortion Action Coalition, for example, demonstratethe priority given to preserving or reinstituting Medicaid funding forabortion, an issue most pressing for poor and working class women. Variousorganizations, including the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CESA), areshown to have committed significant resources to the fight to end the forcedsterilization of Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, and Third World women.Critiques of the racist character of international population control projectscan be found in the collections of both the Womens Educational Center and theWomens School.

 

African American women not only had to explain the racistcharacter of population control to the womens movement as a whole, but todefend their own right to choose abortion to those in the Black nationalistmovement who thought that the availability of abortion might have genocidalimplications. MaryAnne Weathers and Barbara Smith, two prominent African Americanfeminists, have notes in these collections and their place in contributingtheory to the early Boston area movement is contextualized in this publication.

 

As all these examples suggest, Boston womens liberationactivists fought around the issues of abortion rights and forced sterilization,the need for free childcare, discrimination on the job, discrimination againstlesbians and gay men, and violence against women in every sphere. They exploredthe connections between racism, imperialism, and womens oppression andattempted to construct a womens history. Concurrently, they tried to buildalternative or collective institutions and practices that might ease the dailyburdens faced by women from all milieus.

 

Instruction in the martial arts for self-defense, forexample, was promoted by the groups Female Liberation and Cell 16 as one way todeal with violence against women. The Pink Patrol was organized when violenceagainst gays demanded grassroots organization. Similarly, radical experimentsin gynecological self-help flowed from the feminist critique of the healthcaresystem that is so well documented in several classes taught by the WomensSchool. Self-help workshops led by Lollie and Jean Hirsch and designed toacquaint women with their ability to assess their own vaginal health, are seenhere in their wider context. As the psychiatric establishment was considered ascomplicit in womens oppression as the medical establishment, self-help andexplicitly feminist practices were explored in the therapeutic and emotionalcounseling realms as well. Activists established the Elizabeth Stone House, analternative therapeutic facility for women named after a 19th centuryMassachusetts woman confined to a Charlestown asylum because her family thoughther decision to switch from Methodism to a Baptist sect insane.

 

Professional feminist therapists developed associations andcollaborated with the Womens Educational Center and items included illuminatetheir projects. Some of the therapeutic work associated with the WomensEducational Center in the latter half of the 1980s came to focus, somewhatcontroversially, on adult female survivors of incest.

 

Researchers will be able to chart the intense interest inthis area of work for several years in the life of the Boston area movement andthe backlash to it. The impact of feminist therapists on the counselingpractice volunteers provided at the Center is well documented as well. Thestory of the Womens Educational Center as told in these papers is, in great measure,the story of the large number of counseling and support groups that met thereand how they changed as the ethos of the second wave ebbed under the impact ofthe new political situation of the late 1980s and 1990s.

 

The Center, itself, of course, was the grandest attempt atself-help and collective operations attempted by the Boston area movement.Understandably, a great deal of deliberation about process was generated bythis initiative. As Winifred Breines explains in her introduction to this microfilmpublication, the struggle to develop organizational forms and procedures thatwere nonhierarchical and democratic was a major concern of Boston area womensliberation groups. So it is not surprising that many of the minutes and notesof the Womens Educational Center, the Boston Womens Union, and other groupsdeal with the question of feminist process. Regular retreats were alsoorganized to facilitate the discussion and development of process and toinspire visionary thinking. The notes of participants and report backs of thesesessions will undoubtedly contribute to a deeper understanding of theorganizational goals envisioned and the kind of interpersonal relationshipsseen as ideal by the activists in these institutions and groups.

 

Perhaps no element of this publication gives a betteroverview of the concerns of the Boston area womens liberation movement thanthe calendars, flyers, and notes for the Womens Educational CentersIntroductory Groups. These discussion groups seem to have been designed toreproduce, for an ever-widening circle of women, the conscious-raisingexperience so elemental to the emergence of the second wave. Boston Area Second Wave Organizations,1968-1998 may prove similarly revelatory to students of the grassrootswomens movement.

 

SOURCE NOTE

 

This material was microfilmed from the holdings of theArchives and Special Collections, Northeastern University, Boston, MA.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Primary Source Media, an imprint of Gale, a part of CengageLearning, would like to thank Joan D. Krizak, University Archivist and Head ofthe Special Collections Department of the Northeastern University Libraries,for her assistance in bringing these collections to publication. In addition,we would like to thank Assistant Archivist Marissa Hudspeth for her willingnessto answer our many queries. Finally, we thank Ellen Shub for sharing herwonderful collection of photographs of Boston area feminists and allowing us toreproduce one that captures the spirit of the time so well.

 

EDITORIAL NOTE

 

Organization andFormat

 

The Boston AreaSecond Wave Organizations microfilm publication is composed of eightseparate collections from the holdings of the Department of Archives andSpecial Collections at Northeastern University. The materials were filmed asarranged.

 

Female Liberation: A Radical Feminist OrganizationRecords, 1968-1974 (reels 1-2)

 

Womens Educational, Center Records
Series 1: Administrative Files, 1971-1997 (reels 3-21)
Series 2: Subject Files, 1966-1998 (bulk 1975-1993) (reels 21-31)
Series 3: Newsletter, 1971-1994 (reels 31-32)

 

Womens School (Cambridge, Mass.) Records, 1971-1992(Reels 33-47)

 

Boston Womens Union Record, 1973-1979 (reels 33-47)

 

Abortion Action Coalition Records, 1970-1982
Series 1: Administration, 1973-1980 (reels 49-50)
Series 2: Public Relations, 1978-1980 (reels 50-52)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1970-1980 (reels 52-53)
Series 4: Non AAC Materials, 1973-1983 (reels 53-55)

 

Women Against Violence Against Women Records, 1972-1985
Series 1: Administration, 1976-1984 (reels 55-57)
Series 2: Subject Files, 1972-1985 (reels 57-59)

 

Boston Area Feminist Coalition Records, 1981-1983(reels 59-60)

 

Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service GroupsRecords, 1979-1981 (reel 60)

 

How to Use this Guide

 

Researchers have been given two points of entry into thecollections, a reel index and a subject index. A table of contents lists thecollection titles and the collection subdivisions and directs the user to theappropriate page of the reel index for each division. Users will also be ableto scan the reel index to locate the titles and date ranges of each folder ineach collection or division of a collection. Often these folder titles areuseful guides to the contents found within. Each folder is introduced with a titlepage on the film indicated. A sample of the reel index looks like this:

 

Boston Womens UnionRecords, 1973-1979
REEL 48

 

Folder: 1
Folder Title: Boston AreaSocialist/Feminist Organization: Position Papers/Statements
Folder Date: 1973-1974

 

Folder: 2
Folder Title: Boston AreaSocialist/Feminist Organization: Statements, Flyers, Newspaper
Folder Date: 1975-1976

 

Folder: 3
Folder Title: Boston AreaSocialist/Feminist Organization: Socialist Feminist Papers/Statements
Folder Date: c, 1976

 

 

The subject indexprovides a list of the important topics found throughout the papers of theeight collections. The subject index does not, in general, list the names ofthese eight organizations. Rather, it lists topics addressed by one or more ofthe organizations. An entry contains two numbers to help the user locate theitem indexed. The first number is the reel number and the second, the numberfollowing the colon, refers to a folder number. A sample entry looks like this:

 

Education,feminist and radical
Carpenters Brigade buildswomens school in Nicaragua, 36:58
culture over politics shift, 36:58
Grailville, 8:67
pedagogy and curriculum development, 34:45-50; 35:53-55; 36:57; 38:149; 47:327
philosophy of, 3:5; 33:40; 42; 46:299

 

The contents of thefolders are more often organized by chronology than by subject. Thus, it is notlikely that the subject indicated is to be found at the beginning of a folder.The subject index simply lets the researcher know that an item or run of itemspertaining to that subject will be found somewhere within that folder. Thefolder number, then, provides an approximation of where the subject is to befound on the reel.

 

Issues of Privacy and Copyright (Notice ofItems Not Filmed)

 

Some items judged toviolate privacy or copyright were excluded from publication. Every attempt wasmade to insert a Notice of Withdrawal to alert the researcher to suchinstances. Items not filmed include resumes, job evaluations, bank accountinformation, ledgers, and like materials. Log, journal, calendar, and notebookpages without entries were not filmed. In addition, every attempt was made tomask personal addresses and personal phone numbers that were less than twentyyears old. In the case of correspondence or logs dealing with sensitivepersonal, psychological, or medical issues, personal names were also masked.

 

Folders not filmedfor concerns of privacy include:

 

Reel: 10
Folder: 99
Folder Title: Insurance
Folder Date: 1978

 

Reel: 10
Folder: 104-107
Folder Title: Massachusetts Divisionof Public Charities
Folder Date: 1975-1986

 

Reel: 12
Folder: 123
Folder Title: Staff: Hours
Folder Date: 1979-1987

 

Reel: 21
Folder: 192
Folder Title: Financial: AccountingLedgers and Projects
Folder Date: 1971-1986

 

Reel: 21
Folder: 193-204
Folder Title: Financial: AccountingLedgers
Folder Date: FY75-FY86

 

Reel: 21
Folder: 205-221
Folder Title: Financial: Projects
Folder Date: FY76-FY86

 

Reel: 24
Folder: 275
Folder Title: AffiliatedOrganizations: Horizons
Folder Date: 1987

 

Reel: 29
Folder: 390
Folder Title: Old Group Contacts
Folder Date: n.d.

 

Reel: 33
Folder: 6
Folder Title: Contacts: MailingLists
Folder Date: 1984-1992

 

Reel: 46
Folder: 293-296
Folder Title: Registration Forms[Spring]
Folder Date: 1991-1992

 

Folders not filmedfor respect out of copyright include:

 

Reel: 25
Folder: 308
Folder Title: Anti-Abortion: ReaganAdministration
Folder Date: n.d., 1981

 

Reel: 49
Folder: 29
Folder Title: Legislative LiaisonCommittee: The United States Law Week
Folder Date: 1976, 1977

 

Reel: 54
Folder: 202
Folder Title: Publications: LegalAbortion
Folder Date: 1977

 

Reel: 54
Folder: 209
Folder Title: Publications: WIN:Peace and Freedom Thru Non-Violent Action - Newsletter
Folder Date: 1977-1980

 

Folders not filmedbecause they only contain realia include:

 

Reel: 46
Folder: 310
Folder Title: Address Stamps
Folder Date: n.d.

 

Reel: 46
Folder: 311
Folder Title: Graffiti: Audio Tape
Folder Date: 1980

 

Reel: 46
Folder: 312
Folder Title: Publicity: Buttons
Folder Date: n.d.

 

Reel: 55
Folder: 2
Folder Title: Address Stamp
Folder Date: n.d.

 

Reel: 56
Folder: 39-40
Folder Title: Slide Shows: Slides
Folder Date: n.d.

 

 

All the items intheir original form are available for study in the Archives and SpecialCollections, Northeastern University.