You are on page 1of 28

38 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no.

3
The Consciousness-Raising Document,
Feminist Anthologies, and Black Women in
Sisterhood Is Powerful
brian norman
When Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with television executives in
I,,,, the New York Times described it as a curious consciousness-raising
session. That same week, Kathie Sarachild, Redstockings member and prob-
able originator of the phrase sisterhood is powerful, outlined the weapon of
consciousness-raising (CR) to the Conference of Stewardesses for Womens
Rights. Sarachild cited the Timess remark as testimony to the successes and
pitfalls of the womens liberation movement (c. I,o,I,,,)
1
as its CR model
entered national parlance and the highest pantheons of male-dominated insti-
tutions.
2
Indeed, the CR group is a hallmark in the rise of the modern feminist
movement. Social historians now recognize the widespread inuence of CR in
American society and political theory, and CR was a central tool for fostering
womens collectivity during the Second Wave. CR groups generated an impor-
tant body of writingoften in the form of the CR documentthat played a
key role in the movements print culture, which in turn contributed to its goal
of sisterhood.
This article examines one CR document by the Black Womens Liberation
Group of Mount Vernon and its placement in a key womens liberation anthol-
ogy, Sisterhood Is Powerful (I,,o), to illustrate two crucial aspects of womens
liberation.

First, I will demonstrate that some black feminists demanded
race-conscious sisterhood in the Second Wave, and this group drew on the
CR document as a tool to articulate that demand.
3
Second, considering the
documents appearance in Sisterhood, I examine the implications for race-con-
sciousness in the movement at large and what womens liberation antholo-
gies and print culture could and could not do for race-conscious collectivity.
CR documents joined other ephemeral forms such as position statements,
manifestoes, and eld reports and more literary forms such as personal es-
says, short stories, and poems in inuential anthologies like Notes from the
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 39
First Year (I,o8),
4
Notes from the Second Year (I,o,),
5
The Black Woman (I,,o),
6

Voices from Womens Liberation (I,,I),
7
and Woman in Sexist Society (I,,:),
8
in
addition to Sisterhood.
9
These collections testify to how anthologies create a
print-based collective space. As CR documents circulated, womens liberation
groups reported to each other, thereby enacting the collectivity for which they
called. My thesis is that black feminists used the CR document to position
their call for race-conscious collectivity in dialogue with the universalist proj-
ect of sisterhood but without necessarily excluding other groupsincluding
black menengaged in anti-racist projects; in turn, the feminist anthology
Sisterhood Is Powerful aspired to heed their call but was only partially success-
ful in doing so.
This article joins efforts to re-conceive or re-view the Second Wave, espe-
cially regarding race-consciousness. Veteran activists and feminist historians
are recognizing more fully the presence and impact of women of color in the
early Second Wave. They are rewriting its history with documentary and mem-
oir collections that better capture the spirit, internal debates, and importance
of womens liberation.
10
The dominant story of womens liberation has been
that the movement fostered womens collectivity by erasing, deemphasizing,
or in some way abnegating difference into a sisterhood that inevitably placed
white women and their experiences at the center. In this vein, the CR group is
painted as a phenomenon largely exclusive to small groups of privileged wom-
en who may not be interested in addressing difference. For instance, to intro-
duce young women to feminism in Manifesta, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy
Richards note that the CR group was a revolutionary new model to connect
politics to womens experiences and to show that women had more in common
than not, but over time CR became marginalized; these exchanges among
women happened mostly in their own homes and women-only spaces.
11
This
dominant vision constructs CR as a space of safety and refuge, andmost
problematic for later feminists who emphasize difference and race-conscious-
nessanchored hopelessly in homogeneity. Or, in polemical terms from the
movement itself, Ti-Grace Atkinson famously declared, Sisterhood is power-
ful: It kills sisters. Race-consciousness and womens collectivity are often seen,
to borrow from Benita Roth, to be separate roads to feminism.
12
While this is
generally true, the black feminist CR document I examine speaks to what Wini
Breines aptly describes in her study of black and white women in the feminist
movement as the trouble between us.
13
My study conrms a key insight of
these re-vision efforts: by examining black feminist writing in Sisterhood, we
can see that the goals of sisterhood and race-consciousness, while in tension,
are not necessarily in opposition.
40 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
the black womens liberation group of mount vernon and
the cr document in sisterhood is powerful
We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience,
as the basis for an analysis of our common situation. . . . We question ev-
ery generalization and accept none that are not conrmed by our experi-
ence. . . . Consciousness-raising is not therapy, which implies the existence
of individual solutions and falsely assumes that the male-female relation-
ship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can ensure that
our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.
Redstockings Manifesto (I,o,)
14
If women were suddenly to achieve equality with men tomorrow, black wom-
en would continue to carry the entire array of utterly oppressive handicaps
associated with race.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, For Sadie and Maude (I,,o)
15
When I rst began studying the exciting world of womens liberation print cul-
ture, I lived in the historically black, working-class city of Mount Vernon, New
York, just north of the Bronx. So, I was excited to nd an entry in Sisterhood
by a black womens liberation group stationed in my adopted hometown.
The Black Womens Liberation Group of Mount Vernon was an early black
feminist organization, active in the late I,oos and early I,,os, and it consisted
of working-class women, women on welfare, and a middle-class leader, Pat
Robinson. Roth chronicles the work of these black feminists, especially its vet-
eran activist leaders, to show how the group inuenced a nascent womens
liberation movement, whereas dominant narratives of the Second Wave might
presuppose the inverse.
16
What does it mean that black women speak to us
from a central text of a movement often seen as predominantly white? I have
come to recognize how the group creates a space for race-conscious collectiv-
ity that addresses differences within the project of sisterhood, as well as calls
for collectivity outside womens liberation.
In I,,o, at the movements height, the Mount Vernon group espoused the
self-determination ideologies of Black Power and womens liberation in their
Statement on Birth Control. From the pages of Sisterhood, the group states
unconditionally, Poor black sisters decide for themselves whether to have a
baby or not to have a baby.
17
For the group, reproduction is neither solely a
white womens issue of freedom not to bear children nor solely a problem of
eugenics for a male-dominated Black Power movement.
18
They state their po-
sition as simple, declarative fact; it is not open to negotiation. Engaging a strat-
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 41
egy similar to those of black women in the suffragist movement,
19
the Mount
Vernon group uses the touchstone issue of birth control as a platform for a
collective speaking voicepoor black sisterswho determine the frame for
black female reproduction. Speaking within two seemingly incommensurable
movements, the document might dramatize the limits of womens liberation
to deal adequately with race and, conversely, of Black Power to deal adequately
with gender. But we can say something more: The group uses the CR docu-
ment to demand an interracial project of sisterhood.
The Mount Vernon groups statement occupies two-and-a-half pages of
the o,o-page anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful, and is one of only three en-
tries by black-identied women in a collection of fty-seven entries, fteen
historical documents, and two introductory essays. All texts by black women
are grouped together: The Statement joins Eleanor Holmes Nortons For
Sadie and Maude and Frances Beals Double Jeopardy in a group of texts
on women in black liberation within a larger section on changing conscious-
ness. Nortons, Beals, and the Mount Vernon groups writings also appeared
in other venues, including collections explicitly skeptical of alliances between
black and white women such as The Black Womans Manifesto
20
and Cades The
Black Woman.
21
The Statement joins several position statementsa staple of
American social movementsalong with personal essays, poems, political es-
says, and historical overviews. Position statements and manifestoes dominate
the Historical Documents section and hot-button issues span the collection,
such as marriage in a section on The Oppressed Majority and the female
orgasm in a section on Psychological and Sexual Repression.
When reading the Statement, it is important that we attend to the imag-
ined future life of the we for which the document calls. To do that, we must
discuss how the group works within the conventions of the CR document to
address simultaneously the particular and the collective. The CR document is
a key but underdened genre in womens liberation. Primarily, the CR docu-
ment generates a we based in personal experience narratives, usually around
shared experiences. The Mount Vernon groups statement comes from com-
mon personal experiences: When Whitey put out the pill, and poor black
sisters spread the word, we saw how simple it was not to be a fool for men any
more.
22
The CR document privileges experiential knowledge over ideology or
political philosophy. Shared experiences provide access to a provisional speak-
ing we that will weigh in on key issues. In this way, the narratives articulate
how group members are personally shaped by and respond to the multiple de-
mands of race, gender, nationality, and classespecially classin an analysis
that presages theories of intersectionality.
23
Second, the CR document puts forward an ideological position on a key so-
42 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
cial issue or question for a specically addressed audience. In this way, the CR
document is closely aligned with the manifesto, which, as Janet Lyon argues,
paradoxically joins utopian desires for a just future to urgent protests of the
immediate moment.
24
In their statement, the Mount Vernon group analyzes
its experiences of oppression as poor black women who are offered the pill
by a white, middle-class industry. Yet the group identies a double standard in
black militant mens calls to cease birth control because it carries out Whiteys
eugenics. The group contends, Well, true enough, but it takes two to practice
genocide and black women are able to decide for themselves, like poor people
all over the world, whether they will submit to genocide.
25
The group presents
themes of double standards, self-determination, and sexism that cross racial
and class lines. Though placement in a womens liberation anthology with the
stated aim of sisterhood would seem to construct the groups audience as exclu-
sive to women, they in fact address their statement to Dear Brothers. In do-
ing so, the Mount Vernon group determines its own audience, but also invokes
a double audience by addressing men in black liberation within the statement
and allowing womens liberationists to overhear the Statementand learn
from the groups dual afliations. Addressing their Dear Brothers, the group
writes, We dont think youre going to understand us because you are a bunch
of middle-class people and we are poor black women.
26
So, middle-class white
women readers must see themselves through the eyes of black women, and in
the position of black men. This is an important reversal of typical charges of
white hegemony in womens liberation, and it underscores the way in which
the Mount Vernon group makes use of the generic ability of the CR document
to address a specic audience, and the generic ability of the anthology to con-
vene another audience.
Third, to negotiate the space between recounted experience and addressed
audience(s), CR documents often chronicle how the collective speaking voice
came into existence or to consensus around an issue. The group makes visible
its own formation across lines of difference because the Statement is signed
anonymously by two welfare recipients, two housewives, a domestic, a grand-
mother, a psychotherapist, and others who read, agreed, but did not help to
compose.
27
The collective, anonymous signature itself performs an impor-
tant ability of the CR document to bring together the diverse members of the
group.
28
In the main sections of Sisterhood, only two other entries are collec-
tively authored and one poem is anonymous. The we of the statement enacts
an inclusive collective of women at the same time that it underscores difference
within the printed we. Further, the collective product of the CR we results
from a process of bringing together individual narratives of personal experi-
ence, similar to the anthology as a whole. For instance, the group recounts the
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 43
effect of the invention of the pill and its possibilities for poor black womens
self-determination, which they portray as a collective conversion narrative in
which That was the rst step of our waking up!
29
With print-based collec-
tive voices, CR documents are replete with conversion narratives where the
newly enlightened author describes her entrance into feminist consciousness
(a radicalizing experience) and offers a path for her to-be-liberated sisters
reading the document.
30
Finally, in addition to experiential narratives and position statements, CR
documents from womens liberation often offer analogies between the personal
experience reported and that of other groups, especially those with which the
movement seeks alliance. That is, experience-based analyses are often couched
in what I have called imperfect analogies to other oppressions.
31
For exam-
ples outside womens liberation, I might cite how Martin Luther King, Jr.s
famous Letter from Birmingham City Jail (I,o,) compares African Americans
struggling for freedom and American ideals to American revolutionists; or,
many feminist thinkers from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Shulamith Firestone
to Simone de Beauvoir compare womens subordination to systems of slavery,
especially as practiced in the United States.
32
These analogies purposefully hew
away important differences between political and historical contexts in order
to clarify a point about oppression, but also to seek alliance with another group
who might be sympathetic to the example accessed through noticeably imper-
fect analogy.

In the Statement, the group uses subordinate clauses to connect
its members personal struggles to struggles they read about, such as when
they gesture toward a connection between their experiences and the struggles
of poor people all over the world.
33
The Statement enters an imagined collec-
tive by articulating the potential successes of their struggle within the gains of
movements typically placed outside the connes of womens liberation: Like,
the Vietnamese have decided to ght genocide, the South American poor are
beginning to ght back, and the African poor will ght back, too. Poor black
women in the United States have to ght back, too.
34
The additive nature
of struggle (the toos and the like) does not render the struggle of poor
black women secondary. Instead, for group members, their struggle gains both
meaning and momentum in the layers of collectives chronicled within, and
imagined outside of, the Statement.
The Mount Vernon groups Statement helps us to understand how the CR
document can work in service of antiracist projects in line with the collective-
minded goal of sisterhood. The group draws specically from the CR model
because members speak as a womens collective (we) anchored in personal
experience; but the members articulate their position in the context of strug-
gles outside their own experiences. The groups use of imperfect analogies does
44 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
not evidence a gap in the groups analysis or inattention to cross-group differ-
ence. Instead, the persistent analogizing to others struggles signals a desire to
move beyond ones social location to enter collectivity with other oppressed
groups. The recitation of personal experience, or even shared experience
among the speaking we, is the rst step in a process of social transforma-
tion that addresses difference through imperfect analogy. Sarachild explains
that the second and third steps of CR are: (:) CR actions; and (,) organizing
new groups or interaction with other groups.
35
Because the Mount Vernon
group insists on imperfect analogies, other groups to be organized need not
be exclusive to womens liberation. Without the strategy of imperfect analo-
gies, balkanization would result and collectives could only mirror preexisting
social divisions. Whereas womens liberation is often dismissed for its erasure
of difference in its search for common oppression, the Mount Vernon group
at leastand perhaps CR documents generallyimagine personal experience
as a starting point in generating true collectivity.
Like the Mount Vernon groups CR document, the CR model draws on other
social movements, especially since many womens liberationists connected
their CR work to their image of the Chinese practice of speaking bitterness.
In the U.S. context, Sarachilds tripartite program of CR reects the blueprint
of nonviolent resistance outlined by Martin Luther King, Jr. In Letter from
Birmingham City Jail, King instructs, In any nonviolent campaign there
are four basic steps: (I) collection of the facts to determine whether injus-
tices are alive, (:) negotiation, (,) self-purication, and () direct action.
36

For womens liberation, the facts to be collected are rooted in experience
so as to insure that those involved are at the center of both the evidence and
the theorizing. Kings push outward from acknowledging specic oppressions
toward interacting with the interrelatedness of all communities is under-
stood by womens liberationists in their reporting of shared experience of
oppression outside and across specic collectives.
37
Further, Kings self-pu-
rication, ridding oneself of the internalized hate and oppressive thinking
against which one protests, becomes a group process in CR. What womens
liberation crystallizes in Kings doctrine, then, is a realization that self-puri-
cation and direct action may be part of the same step. Indeed, Sarachild
stressed, What really counts in consciousness-raising are not methods, but
results.
38
For womens liberationists, to self-purify by naming and refuting
womens oppression was a form of direct action: organize women around the
oppression of women. Sarachild further rooted CR and womens liberation in
an afnity toward black self-determination by quoting not King, but a I,o
Malcolm X speech: When the people create a program you get action.
39
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 45
Womens liberation CR did not seek personal experienceor even shared
experienceas an endpoint. Sarachild explained,
The decision to emphasize our own feelings and experiences as women
and to test all generalizations and reading we did by our own experi-
ence was actually the scientic method of research. . . . [CR]studying
the whole gamut of womens lives, starting with the full reality of ones
ownwould also be a way of keeping the movement radical by prevent-
ing it from getting sidetracked into single issue reforms and single issue
organizing.
o

When Gainesville Womens Liberation explained the model of women-only
CR groups in I,,o, they contended, We can, of course, ask men to join in spe-
cial discussions or actions if WE decide WE want to. But we must have unity
among ourselves FIRST.
41
And when Pamela Parker Allen outlined the small
group process in I,o,, she insisted, The group is a rst step in transcending
isolation.
42
When cultural feminism began to use CR models and slogans to
bolster separatism as an end, earlier womens liberationists were at great pains
to intervene by underscoring the temporariness of the all-women CR group.
Barbara Leon, for instance, addressed Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael
and her call to Separate to Integrate. Leon argued for separatism as a strate-
gic means of organizing and building womens power, but Womens groups
are progressive only if they exist for the purpose of making themselves unnec-
essary.
43
For womens liberation, the collective we of women is something to
work toward vigorously, as well as something to move beyond once that we
materializes.
Though the project of sisterhood carries the goal of unity, it is important
to underscore CRs emphasis on making connections that address difference
among women to fully understand the Mount Vernon groups use of CR to
forge race-conscious collectivity. In her inuential construction of a feminist
theory that arises from CR groups, cultural feminist Catharine MacKinnon
illustrates well the tension between shared experiences that may cross identity
lines and the project of sisterhood. MacKinnon explains that through shar-
ing lived experience in a CR group, women noticed patterns and deduced
systems of oppression. She states, More than their content, it is the relation
to lived experience which is new about these insights.
44
MacKinnons radical
feminist project uncovers the common oppression of women as a political
class so that abstract political theory arises out of shared everyday experience,
or what Linda Nicholson refers to as aha experiences. Nicholson notes, This
general orientation, however, suffered from one serious weakness: it tended to
deny difference among women.
45
Though MacKinnon is roundly critiqued for
46 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
deemphasizing difference, her insight is key: collectivity among women arises
from interrogation of that which is seen as the everyday, the pedestrian, the
given.
46
In their CR document, members of the Mount Vernon group address
a Black Power movement, other black women, and womens liberation. The
collectivity produced by their CR document is not necessarily limited to the
boundaries of sisterhood, especially if the everyday experiences of CR group
members do not fall along those boundaries.
In an outward-moving direction, the Mount Vernon group accumulates a
collective we incrementally, across not only identity, geography, and poli-
tics, but also time. Sarachild recently reconsidered the collectives imagined by
womens liberation as ongoing, incomplete projects that rely heavily on simple
persistence and circulation amongst a variety of women. In a :oo: interview,
she reects,
I think the women who have been drawn to the Redstockings tradition
in the last couple of decades have a consciousness, or, we gained a con-
sciousness, about how important it is to persist. In the beginning of the
movement we would talk about women of the world unite, women
have to unite. But we thought of that as kind of an instant revolution. We
didnt realize that persisting, the power of persisting, was actually part of
the power of unity.
47

Given Sarachilds insight that a we forms by persistence, the time frame
and scope of the Mount Vernon groups we exceeds the immediate moment
chronicled in their CR document, and serve as starting points in the project of
social transformation.
The Mount Vernon groups Statement on Birth Control is only one possible
avenue toward the goal of race-conscious sisterhood, which includes alliance
with, and liberation of, those who may not fall under any single conception of
women. This is why we must notice which experience gets anthologized and
within which social movements. In her address to the stewardesses, Sarachild
explained the importance of understanding ones own oppression by
making connections between the oppression of women and other systems
of oppression and exploitation. Analyzing our experience in our personal
lives and in the movement, reading about the experience of other peoples
struggles, and connecting these through [CR] will keep us on the track,
moving as fast as possible toward womens liberation.
48
Though Sarachilds slippage between plural pronouns and singular experience
is vulnerable to familiar charges that the term women is a homogenizing politi-
cal category, actual CR documents like that of the Mount Vernon group un-
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 47
derscore the uses and limits of a collective we. The ght against forced birth
control or forced reproduction is like class struggle in post-colonial Africa. If
the analogy is noticeably imperfect and the we cannot speak for all womens
struggles, the imagined collective within and without the banner women is
strengthened by the slippageor exibilitycreated by such imperfections.
We can more fully understand the possibilities and limits of this slippage by
placing CR documents into the heterogeneous concerns of the womens liber-
ation and its connections to proximate social movements, especially by look-
ing at the anthologies in which such documents circulate.
dear brothers: reading cr documents inside and
outside womens liberation
We call on all our sisters to unite with us in struggle.
We call on all men to give up their male privileges and support womens
liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own.
Redstockings Manifesto (I,o,)
49
Womens liberation has generally left the minorities to deal with their particu-
lar problems themselves. This, then, is the explanation of why there are few
minority women in feminism.
Celestine Ware, original member of NY Radical Feminists, The Relationship of
Black Women to the Womens Liberation Movement (I,,o)
50
In her study of white, black, and Chicana womens separate roads to femi-
nism, Roth demonstrates how groups may have participated in different
social movements, but had in fact read each others work in the Second Wave
(or, preferably, Second Wave feminisms)
51
even before coalition became a
principal organizing strategy in the late I,,os.
52
This key insight underscores
the importance of the Mount Vernon groups decision to address their state-
ment to Dear Brothers, whereas some of their other position statements were
addressed to Dear Sisters. Within an anthology invested in the project of
sisterhood and a CR document that calls for race-conscious collectivity across
identitarian lines, the Mount Vernon group addresses an audience both
within and outside womens liberation, a move not unlike the Redstockings
Manifestos call for all men to become womens liberation allies. This is impor-
tant because womens liberation marks a point when the experience of sexual
difference became a platform for organizing and social change. Put in succinct
terms, the New York Radical Women proclaim in their widely distributed I,o8
manifesto, We take the womans side in everything.
53
This universalist spirit
48 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
seems to conict with Roths emphasis on different segments of feminism on
the one hand, and CRs emphasis on the experiential on the other hand. If the
Mount Vernon groups CR document is situated at a salt point between the uni-
versal and the particular, the anthology attempts to gather different texts into
a common project in a way that desiresif not necessarily succeeds atrace-
conscious collectivity. Key feminists like Morgan turned to the anthology as
uniquely able to enact the universalist aspirations of sisterhood while attend-
ing to the particularity of womens experiences, identities, and orientations.
But we must also tend to the limits of Sisterhood to maintain its dual attention
to the particular and the universal because the volume of the common chorus
of sisterhood almost inevitably drowns out calls for race-conscious collectiv-
ity, not to mention the very particular address to Dear Brothers.
The Mount Vernon groups call for race-conscious collectivity participates
in the emergent print culture of womens liberation, which brought together
different struggles and experiences of women under the banner of sisterhood.
In this print culture, CR documents played a prominent role, so that the uni-
versalist goal of sisterhood originates from and speaks to very different and
particular womens experiences, identities, and locations. In his helpful over-
view of CRs central role in womens liberation, Reed suggests that poetry is
most effective in conveying the movements ideology and spirit. While Reed
focuses on poetry, his examples are anthologies, most of which place poetry
alongside CR documents, manifestoes, position papers, and political essays.
54

My focus in this section is on the anthologies themselveswhich include the
CR documents, poems, and many other formsand their role in compris-
ing the diversity of womens experiences and identities. If sharing personal
experience in CR is only a rst step to sisterhood, then the circulation of CR
documents in the anthology form becomes a crucial later step to the collective
project. The anthology form creates a community of readers that might live up
to the promise of making connections that Sarachild found so central to CR.
Further, when the Statement enters the terrain of Sisterhood, that anthology
might connect the Mount Vernon group not only to other groups within the
anthology, but also to a diverse community of women readers.
Recent scholarship in the history of the book alerts us to ways in which we
can evaluate the communities of readers brought together around feminist
anthologies like Sisterhood.
55
The anthology as a form is sometimes celebrated
for its ability to break apart cemented traditions and lines of identity,
56
yet
also studied and scrutinized for its potential imperialist effects of bringing
together disparate texts into overly relativist museumlike displays of differ-
ence and diversity.
57
However, as Patricia Coit Murphy asserts in her study of
the history and reception of Silent Spring (I,oo), the history of the book as a
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 49
eld of study largely concentrates on literary works from the Guttenberg era
to the nineteenth century. As a result, the role of books in public debate has
been considered, but rarely with respect to works of contemporary nonc-
tion, rarely from a sociopolitical vantage point, and very rarely in relation to
other media.
58
Murphys generalization is only partly true in feminist studies
where womens reading communities have long been a central focus.
59
These
conversations help us consider how texts circulated in national womens lib-
eration anthologies, which often included local pamphlets, mimeographed
position statements, and other ephemeral organizing documents, as well as
literary texts.
But is print-based sisterhood able to address, not mufe, the diversity of
womens experiences and political goals? The inclusion of the Mount Vernon
CR document points to an explicit desire to speak to the diversity of experi-
ences in womens liberation. Womens liberation writers conceive of the an-
thology itself as part of the creative process of writing and organizing. For ex-
ample, Voices from Womens Liberation (I,,I), another key womens liberation
collection, consciously uses the anthology form to invite more women into the
movement and to imagine open-endedness by making room for experiences
and issues not yet included in the anthology. The back matter proclaims,
They [feminists] used to gather in great conventions for eloquent speeches.
Now they meet in private apartments and rap among themselves. They
used to ght for legal rights and the vote. Now they focus on human
rights, and the scope of their struggle includes such matters as the plight
of the black woman, sexist brainwashing in high school, male chauvin-
ism, and the myth of the vaginal orgasm.
60
If the CR group takes place in private apartments or even particular com-
munity centers, the anthology form and its circulation become an important
venue for making the private public, the local global; the particular or the
personal is in service of the collective.
In line with the Mount Vernon groups insistence upon its collective speak-
ing we and semi-anonymous authorship, womens liberation made visible
not only the politics of production but also the transformative power of self-
production. Like the Statement, many womens liberation documents are
signed by various activists and circulated as mimeographed pamphlets, leaf-
lets scrawled off the night before an action, or, later, in small print runs from
feminist or womens presses. Morgan introduces Sisterhood by documenting
its scene of production:
This book is an action. It was conceived, written, edited, copy-edited,
proofread, designed, and illustrated by women. (The process broke down
50 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
for the rst time at the printers, that industry being of the many which are
all but completely closed to women.*) *I have just learned that the book
is being set by a computer, keypunched by women. Breakthrough!
61

Writing, production, and distribution represent acts of womens self-determi-
nation. The act of putting together an anthology works against the isolation
imposed on women by dominant culture, and the male-dominated machin-
ery of cultural production. Though she elides the crucial act of editing and
selecting entries, Morgan stages the production and circulation process of the
anthology as an enactment of sisterhood.
If the production of a print-mediated sisterhood explicitly attempts to ad-
dress difference and make room for all women in its universalist project, how
did these womens liberation anthologies come to be seen as lacking race-
consciousness? The answer to this question may lie in part in the way that
anthologies are only partly able to translate the CR process into print form.
In their important recovery work, historians and feminists Rosalyn Baxandall
and Linda Gordon note, [CR] was the major new organizational form, the-
ory of knowledge, and research tool of the womens liberation movement.
62

Since womens liberation arose in response to other social movements render-
ing secondary women and womens experience, CR comes to be perceived as
a unique way of theorizing womens experience, which risks deemphasizing
connections to other groups and social movements regardless of CRs em-
phasis on imperfect analogies. Further exacerbating this risk, anthologies
convene different texts and the groups and experiences they represent as al-
ready constituted connections (that is, all these documents are in the same
collection, so they must belong together) outside the step-by-step processes of
CR and political organizing that generated connections across the imperfect
analogies in the rst place.
Morgan, also from Mount Vernon, included the Statement to demonstrate
the wide net of sisterhood. This net of sisterhood in early womens liberation
has fallen under scrutinyas intense as it is necessarythat the women of
womens liberation are either racially homogeneous or only secondarily con-
cerned with antiracism.
63
Many women of color, like Ti-Grace Atkinson, saw
the wide net of sisterhood as entrapping as much as liberating. Yet a close
look at Sisterhood reveals a very pained and complex understanding of power
differences among the women in the collection, women who are from differ-
ent social groups and often separated accordingly. Recognizing the specicity
of her own position, Morgan reects on the privileged standpoint of white
women like her on the Left who were
doing Lady Bountiful actions about other peoples oppression. This left
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 51
me conveniently on top, and in a seat of relative power, because it isnt
until you begin to ght in your own cause that you a) become really com-
mitted to winning, and b) become a genuine ally of other people strug-
gling for their freedom.
64
Further, Morgan identies her relation to women of color: she speaks as a
ruling-class woman who has no real power herself and as a not-starv-
ing white American woman living in the very belly of the beast.
65
Morgan
and womens liberation are necessarily subject to the often-true criticism that
women of color were imagined as some homogeneous Other. But it is also
important to acknowledge that Morgan at least understands the challenge of
forging a womens collectivity that is able to attend to different socioeconomic
positions within racial, class, and national allies grouped under the banner of
sisterhood.
Morgan couches the project of sisterhood as difcult, but possible: We
share a common root as women, much more natural to both groups than
the very machismo style of male-dominated organizations, black, brown and
white.
66
Though Morgans theorization of race may be thin in her emphasis
on common denominators, racial difference is not merely incidental, and she
attempts in earnest to respond to the Statements call for race-conscious sis-
terhood. She explains, There are three articles by black sisters in this book
written specically about the oppression of black women; it was important to
have more than one or two voices speak for so many sisters, and in differing
ways.
67
Though vulnerable to charges that this is an anemic gesture of inclu-
sion or an afterthought, Morgan brings to her project an awareness of differ-
ences among women, though her point of reference for difference centers on
her own experience.
68
Nicholson notes that identity politics arose in the I,8os
in part as a response to white feminists who sought a multiracial movement by
making the world better for others, without necessary input from those others
themselves.
69
If Morgans understanding of race in sisterhood remains un-
satisfying, it is important to note that she does not construct her personal I
as an endpoint. In Sisterhood, at least, Morgan and the Mount Vernon group
provide a model of textually brokered conversation that belies any simplied
portrait of womens liberation as failing totally to recognize the specicity of
those within or outside the speaking we.
If Morgan was so pained about and conscious of her race privilege, why
are there so few documents from women of color in Sisterhood, and many
similar anthologies? Though I will consider other avenues of print-based black
womens organizing in the concluding section, for now this question gets at
some key limits of the anthology to attend to the diversity of experiences and
52 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
concerns of women as it gathers texts into one common project. Though the
anthologists desire to attend to the particular within their universalist project,
they are also vulnerable to charges that it failed to do so. In Sisterhood, entries
are organized thematically, including by issue (e.g., changing consciousness),
identity (e.g., high school women, Chicana women), or genre (e.g., poetry as
protest). In this way, Sisterhood reaches far with inclusive aspirations to cover
a diverse array of womens issues and identities, though its categories may re-
inforce as much as protest lines between women. When she labels the section
on black women Women in the Black Liberation Movement: Three Views,
Morgan seems to recognize the danger that the thematic sections promise
more diversity than the anthology delivers. Is three enough? Why not two?
Why not seven? At o,o pages, the anthology seeks comprehensive coverage,
but paradoxically the more it includes particular concerns or identities, the
more it risks charges that its coverage of an issue is thin. We can ask questions
about depth of coverage for all identities and themes, almost as if the anthol-
ogy form goads us to do so. We can also tally which kinds of women are able
to speak across themes to see why the Mount Vernon group can only speak in
a section on black liberation and not, say, in a section on birth control or East
Coast women. Morgan continued to tinker with the coverage model in sub-
sequent manifestations, with Sisterhood Is Global (I,8)
70
organized by nation
and Sisterhood Is Forever (:oo,)
71
organized by feminist strategies and debates,
but questions about exclusions and charges of white Western bias persisted
with each universalist version, even multiplying as the terrain of the sister-
hood project increases.
72
These ever-expanding projects evidence Morgans
evolving understanding of the challenges of attending to the particular in a
universalist vision of sisterhood, especially in her choice to use a text by Rayna
Green, a Native American scholar-activist, as the representative document for
the United States section in Sisterhood Is Global.
73

In the universalist design of thematic representation in Sisterhood Is
Powerful, individual entries speak largely to particular themes; the reader must
look within individual documents to see connections across thematic sections,
or differences within documents of the same section. As discussed above, the
CR model is specically designed to seek out and address connections among
women and other groups across identitarian lines, but reading an anthology
may not enact the same process of making connections. Morgan bills the an-
thology as writings from the womens liberation movement, but the reader is
not necessarily in the movement. In fact, if a stated aim is to bring more wom-
en into the movement, many of these targeted readers would not have access to
the group process of CR. The anthology comes to stand in forand possibly
displacethe central CR process of beginning with ones own experience and
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 53
moving outward to make connections with others. So, if the Mount Vernon
CR document is not necessarily reporting to other CR groups in the circula-
tion of the anthology, it is up to the individual reader to make connections.
But the entries in Sisterhood largely report their particular concerns and activi-
ties to a general readership of sisters. As a result, attention to the particular can
easily get buried in thematic sections or individual documents, and perhaps
attention to diversityincluding the Mount Vernon groups important call for
race-conscious collectivitycan be glossed over in the exuberance of the title
project of powerful sisterhood.
If the anthologys goal of sisterhood risks papering over the CR documents
attention to diversity within collectivity, how can the Mount Vernon group
reach groups outside womens liberation? The Mount Vernon group partici-
pates in a community deeply invested in a broad array of liberation struggles
with race as a central concern. The Statement appears within the print culture
of womens liberation and within an anthology explicitly by, for, and about
women. But the Statement itself also demands a response from black men
(Dear Brothers). Written by a collective of black women within a national
womens liberation movement, the Statement demands a response both with-
in and outside that movement, and it attempts to bring the struggles of black
men into conversation with womens liberation. This conversational model
ts well within a concept of CR in which women liste[n] to themselves and
each other to distinguish their experience from the white noise of patriar-
chy.
74
But in the anthology, the act of listening and the responsive model be-
come print-based and potentially unidirectional. This means that the Dear
Brothers are in a position of overhearing the Mount Vernon groups call for
race-conscious collectivity within a womens liberation anthology in the same
way that women readers are in a position of overhearing the call to black men
within the CR document.
Addresses to men of color by womens liberation sometimes resulted in di-
rect responses. For instance, in I,,,, the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican youth
group often allied with the Black Panthers, published a Position Paper on
Women as a result of demands by women within the group. Baxandall and
Gordon include the paper in their documentary history of womens liberation
because they see it as a strong feminist paper whose impetus for publica-
tion is prescient of a growing identication of women of color with a Third
World movement. The Young Lords state, Third World Sisters are caught up
in a complex situation. On one hand, we feel that genocide is being committed
against our people. . . . On the other hand, we believe that abortions should
be legal if they are community controlled, if they are safe, if our people are
educated about the risks and if doctors do not sterilize our sisters while per-
54 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
forming abortions.
75
The position statement clearly responds to challenges
by womens liberation that antibirth-control stances of other liberation move-
ments are contrary to womens empowerment. In these moments, we can locate
a moment of dialogue where men of color directly respond toand enter
womens liberation projects. Womens collectives and the Dear Brothers they
sometimes address point to a print-based multiracial network of overlapping
social movements attempting to balance self-determination stances and uni-
versalist impulses.
The idea of womens collectivity itself often met skepticism or outright
hostility from the Dear Brothers addressed by the Mount Vernon group.
Not too long before Morgan included the Statement in her anthology, two
Mount Vernon women penned a letter to the editor of Liberator, an increas-
ingly militant and male-dominated forum on black liberation borne out of
frustration with the integration politics of Civil Rights. The womens letter re-
sponds to another black woman, Mrs. Moore, who wrote that she was wrong
to attack the Blackman, and that we Black women and Blackmen should stick
together.
76
In their letter, the women present their combined voices as both
specic and representative by signing as Two Black Sisters. They argue, Most
Black women dont feel the way [Mrs. Moore] does, but most of them are
[too] damned scared to say how they really feel, especially since you cant get
the Black man to understand that we are human beings too.
77
By presenting
their collective voice as representing in public that which is shared in private,
the Two Black Sisters position themselves as speaking to a Black Power move-
ment from a womens liberation perspective, while professing total allegiance
to neither. They conclude, I thank God I was not born a man Black or white.
To tell you the truth because the Black man is only following in whiteys foot-
steps.
78
The Two Black Sisters enter Black Power discourse (they use the term
Blackman and the rhetoric of Whitey); they also draw on womens liberation
ideas about male dominance to achieve a self-determinative stance. The letter
directly addresses black (male) liberation from a womens collective that solic-
its a response: recognize gender equity under the banner of humanism.
These two black womens dual address without total allegiance reects the
stance of the Mount Vernon group and its challenge within Sisterhood. Though
Morgan perpetuated the widespread practice of white bias by segregating the
Statement in a thematic section, both the document and the anthology nev-
ertheless seek a collectivity initially based in shared experiences, but one that
moves outward deliberately and persistently across different social move-
ments. Becky Thompson contends that retrospective narratives of the rise of
hegemonic feminism might expunge black women and multiracial femi-
nism because they often fail to include writings by women of color who do
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 55
not explicitly use the term feminism but who nonetheless do gender-con-
scious, justice work. According to Thompson, The tendency not to include
gender-conscious activism by women of color in dominant versions of Second
Wave history unless the women used the term feminist fails to account for the
multiple terms women of color have historically used to designate activism
that keeps women at the center of analysis and attends to interlocking op-
pressions.
79
This characterization is generally accurate, but we must not also
neglect the contribution of the Mount Vernon group in the most inuential
womens liberation anthology speaking also to black liberation.
Inside and outside womens liberation, the Mount Vernon groups CR docu-
ment imagines a race-conscious collective we that may not t with some
memories of the Second Wave as hopelessly steeped in nave visions of sis-
terhood. In The Feminist Memoir Project, an important collection of memo-
ries of and reections upon womens liberation, Ann Snitow and Rachel Blau
DuPlessis note, The category women, so fresh and surprising on that ctive
but provocative Day One of the Second Wave, is familiar now, to some an
oversimplication, to others a banality.
80
Snitow and DuPlessis recover the
difculty and historical necessity of the project of sisterhood, but in the bright
light of second thoughts in contemporary feminism on intersectionality and
the salience of identity and difference. In their documentary collection of
womens liberation texts, Baxandall and Gordon also convene a diverse, wide
ranging, and cacophonous vision of the movement as they aspire to demon-
strate what Snitow and DuPlessis describe as a polyphonic movement, but
without the racially segregated organization that remains so problematic in
Sisterhood. Evans notes that they effectively challenge the notion that wom-
ens liberation was a racist, white movement by including voices of women
of color in every section at the same time that they do not deny feminists of
colors testimonials of marginalization and racism.
81
Many feminists of color
who were there also testify toand demandmultiracial histories of wom-
ens liberation. Often they do not cater to a younger generation by passing the
torch. Instead, they remind new generations of what is lost if we see the Second
Wave as dead, irrelevant, or, more insidiously, homogeneously white.
82

race and the eclipse of womens liberation in early I,8os
feminist anthologies
Within the dominant narrative of feminism, critical race theory and womens
liberation are pitted against one another when the Second Wave is depicted as
tardy in its race-consciousness; this ties the arrival of race-consciousness to
what Evans calls the eclipse of womens liberation.
83
CR remains a ash point
56 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
in debates about race-consciousness in the Second Wave when it is simultane-
ously remembered as the central organizing mode of womens liberation and
as an exclusively white enterprise.
84
Thompson re-views the Second Wave from
the vantage of multiracial feminism
85
in light of her claim that what have
been understood as doldrums in feminism actually mark groundswells in an-
tiracist feminist activism.
86
She argues, Although the late I,oos and early I,,os
might have been the heyday for white radical feminists in CR groups, from
the perspective of white antiracists, the early I,,os were a low point of femi-
nisma time when many women who were committed to an antiracist analy-
sis had to put their feminism on the back burner in order to work with women
and men of color and against racism.
87
Revisionist and archival studies of
womens liberation, however, can turn up important exceptions. Members of
the black feminist group from Mount Vernon, at least, position their collective
voice within womens liberation and Black Power to suggest that race-con-
scious feminism forms at least a part of the early project of sisterhood, and the
anthologies that sought to demonstrate and mobilize sisterhood.
Many early I,8os anthologies following Sisterhood modeled the CR process
of making connections as they sought print-based collectivity, among wom-
en of color in particular. The most celebrated examples include This Bridge
Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (I,8I), All the Women Are
White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Womens Studies
(I,8:), and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (I,8,).
88
These ground-
breaking anthologies convened many voices of women of color to examine
the often contradictory demands of race, class, nationality, and more that in-
tersected the seemingly monolithic category woman. The positive inuence
of these early I,8os anthologies cannot be overestimated, for they carved out
a politics of identity instead of a politics of sisterhood. In her analysis of the
Second Wave and the subsequent questioning of its collective-minded orien-
tation,
89
Elisabeth Armstrong notes that Third Wave anthologies primarily
contain rst-person accounts,
90
whereas Second Wave anthologies often ven-
ture into the collective we. With their emphasis on experiential rst-person
narratives coupled with a distrust of the collective we, these anthologies re-
spond to the problems of Sisterhood, where attention to the particular can get
buried in a universalist title project. These anthologies seek print-based collec-
tivity in new ways. For instance, they contain entries that specically respond
to other writers and texts, such as a conversation between Tania Abulahad,
Gwendolyn Rogers, Barbara Smith, and Jameelah Waheed in Home Girls or
Gloria Anzaldas inuential essay, Speaking in Tongues, in This Bridge. In
this way, conversational documents modeled the CR process of making con-
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 57
nections by listening to each other in a way that better translates to the project
of print-based collectivity.
Roths study of the rise of identity politics in feminism demonstrates that
the separate roads to feminism begin to splinter into nearly separate move-
ments along identitarian lines shortly after the spike in womens liberation an-
thologies like Sisterhood. Indeed, the most obvious predecessor to these early
I,8os anthologies by women of color is Toni Cades The Black Woman (I,,o),
whose back matter explicitly poses itself between two kinds of revolution:
black liberation and womens liberation. Like the Statement in Sisterhood,
The Black Woman includes Cades article, The Pill: Genocide or Liberation?
and explicitly addresses a male-dominated Black Power movement. Cade ex-
plained that her anthology, published the same year as Sisterhood, grew out
of an impatience with the half-hearted go-along attempts of Black women
caught up in the white womens liberation groups around the country.
91
For
Cade, womens liberation might promise to address concerns about gender
that were marginalized in black liberation, but Cade urged black women to set
the terms of their own politics by drawing on, but not getting caught up in,
two movements that spoke to many, but not all, of their experiences and con-
cerns. Following Cades collection, black women moved away from the project
of universal sisterhood, but they could build on the universalist model of using
print culture to generate race-conscious collectivity.
Cades project and the anthologies that followed mark an important shift in
feminist strategies and sensibilities to emphasize the particular over the uni-
versal, but we must not forget the work of black women in Sisterhood, even
thoughor perhaps becausethat anthology is more identied with white
feminism. Before the early I,8os anthologies, the Statement in Sisterhood of-
fered a model of race-conscious womens collectivity that can endure even
if the project of sisterhood loses its political currency. The Statement shows
how black women in womens liberation could address a diverse audience and
negotiate the sometimes clashing projects of Black Power and sisterhood. New
genealogical projects take the work of women writers of color seriously, and
they rescue womens liberation from what Evans describes as the view that it
was all white; completely separated from leftist activism on issues of race, pov-
erty, and war; and ignorant of or hostile to working-class concerns; opposed to
motherhood; and the rest of the list of latter-day stereotypes.
92
Acknowledging
the presence of women of color in womens liberation does more than provide
evidence against identity-based visions of homogeneity;
93
it asks us to rethink
the possibilities and limits of sisterhood generally. In a universalist anthol-
ogy, the Mount Vernon group uses the CR document to anchor the imagined
we of sisterhood in personal experience and antiracist collectivity. The Black
58 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
Womens Liberation Group of Mount Vernons CR document helps us ques-
tion the specic project of sisterhood, but not necessarily the general project
of print-based collectivity.
notes
I thank Jessica Winston, Jennifer Attebery, Marianne DeKoven, Hillary Chute, and
members of the Works-in-Progress series in the Department of English and Philosophy
at Idaho State University for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this piece. I
am also grateful for the insightful and careful suggestions of the anonymous readers at
Frontiers and coeditors Gayle Gullett and Susan Gray.
I. I follow Alice Echolss approximate dates in Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in
America, I,o,I,,, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, I,8,).
:. Kathie Sarachild, Consciousness-Raising: A Radical Weapon, in Feminist
Revolution (New York: Random House, I,,8), I.
,. Robin Morgan, ed., Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the
Womens Liberation Movement (New York: Vintage, I,,o).
. Shulamith Firestone, ed., Notes from the First Year (New York: Radical Feminism,
I,o8).
,. Shulamith Firestone, ed., Notes from the Second Year: Womens Liberation; Major
Writings of the Radical Feminists (New York: Radical Feminism, I,o,).
o. Toni Cade, ed., The Black Woman: An Anthology (Signet: New York, I,,o).
,. Leslie B. Tanner, ed., Voices from Womens Liberation (New York: New American
Library, I,,I).
8. Vivian Gornick and Barbara Moran, eds., Woman in Sexist Society: Studies in
Power and Powerlessness (New York: New American Library, I,,:).
,. In addition to anthologies from the time, CR documents can be found in some
contemporary documentary histories. See Barbara A. Crow, Radical Feminism: A
Documentary Reader (New York: New York University Press, :ooo) and Rosalyn
Baxandall and Linda Gordon, Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Womens Liberation
Movement (New York: Perseus Books, :ooo). Sarachilds writings in particular are no-
table for providing how-tos or methodologies of CR to a national audience.
Io. For a selection of these re-visions, see Elisabeth Armstrong, The Retreat from
Organization: U.S. Feminism Reconceptualized (Albany: State University of New York
Press, :oo:); Rosalyn Baxandall, Re-visioning the Womens Liberation Movements
Narrative: Early Second Wave African American Feminists, Feminist Studies :,, no. I
(:ooI): ::,,; Wini Breines, review of Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights
Movement, by Debra L. Schultz, and Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the
Freedom Movement, by Constance Curry et al., Signs ,o, no. : (:oo,): Io,o,; Rachel
Blau DuPlessis and Ann Snitow, eds., The Feminist Memoir Project: Voices from Womens
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 59
Liberation (New York: Three Rivers Press, I,,8); Jean Curthoys, Feminist Amnesia: The
Wake of Womens Liberation (New York: Routledge, I,,,); Sara Evans, Re-Viewing the
Second Wave, Feminist Studies :8, no. : (:oo:): :,,o,; Sara Evans, Tidal Wave (New
York: The Free Press, :oo,); Christina Greene, Whats Sex Got to Do with It: Gender
and the New Black Freedom Movement Scholarship, Feminist Studies ,:, no. I (:oo,):
Io,8,; Jennifer Nelson, Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement (New
York: New York University Press, :oo,); Ellen Messer-Davidow, Disciplining Feminism:
How Womens Studies Transformed the Academy and Was Transformed By It (Durham:
Duke University Press, :oo:); Kimberly Springer, Living for the Revolution: Black
Feminist Organizations (Durham: Duke University Press, :oo,); Kimberly Springer,
Third Wave Black Feminism? Signs :,, no. (:oo:): Io,,8:; Becky Thompson,
Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism,
Feminist Studies :8, no. : (:oo:): ,,,oo. Evans praises the varied and widespread
work to rewrite the history of the massive, dynamic, thrilling, angry, and incredibly
diverse movement (Re-viewing, :,,) and notes that the problem of writing any
history of the Second Wave is that the movement is simply too complex to bear a
single tellingor even several (:,,). This work is important because, as Elisabeth
Armstrong notes, The Second Wave movement in the United States has reached an
age of memory: it is now old enough to be forgotten, distorted, or both simultane-
ously (The Retreat from Organization, I). This work responds to earlier historians
work, like Evans foundational social history of womens liberation, Personal Politics:
The Roots of Womens Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (New
York: Alfred Knopf, I,,,).
II. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism,
and the Future (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, :ooo), I,,.
I:. Benita Roth, Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist
Movements in Americas Second Wave (New York: Cambridge University Press, :oo).
I,. Winifred Breines, The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black
Women in the Feminist Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, :ooo).
I. Redstockings, Manifesto, I,o, mimeographed position paper, in Baxandall and
Gordon, Dear Sisters, ,o,I.
I,. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Women in Black Liberation, in Morgan, Sisterhood,
,,8,,.
Io. Roth, Separate Roads, esp. 8o,,. Roth discusses the group within both Mount
Vernon and neighboring New Rochelle, but I follow the groups listing in Sisterhood,
which only mentions Mount Vernon.
I,. Black Womens Liberation Group of Mount Vernon, Statement on Birth
Control, in Morgan, Sisterhood, ,oo.
I8. For a history of black feminist struggles for the right to bear children, not
necessarily the right to abortion, see Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race,
60 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (New York: Random House, I,,,). See
Springer, Living, for a history of similar black feminist activism.
I,. In Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman
Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, I,8,), Hazel Carby argues that black
women adopt white suffragist rhetoric as a public platform for their own aims.
:o. The Black Womans Manifesto (pamphlet, Third World Womens Alliance, n.d.),
I8. Another essay in that collection explicitly questions the tasty abstraction of
the idea of a common oppression of blacks and women because the American white
woman is relatively privileged. Linda LaRue, The Black Movement and Womens
Liberation, in The Black Womans Manifesto, ,,.
:I. Roth looks at the position papers of the group included in Cades anthology. See
Roth, Separate Roads, 88.
::. Statement on Birth Control, in Morgan, Sisterhood, oo,.
:,. For key early work on the concept of intersectionality, see Kimberl Crenshaw,
Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women
of Color, in The Public Nature of Private Violence, ed. Martha Albertson Fineman and
Roxanne Mykitiuk (New York: Routledge, I,,), ,,II8.
:. Janet Lyon, Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, I,,,).
:,. Statement on Birth Control, in Morgan, Sisterhood, o,.
:o. Ibid., o,.
:,. Ibid., oo.
:8. I thank an anonymous reader from Frontiers for emphasizing the importance of
the groups diverse membership.
:,. Ibid., o,.
,o. Sisterhood, xv. Morgan describes her own conversion in the introduction to
Sisterhood.
,I. For more on imperfect analogies, see my Crossing Identitarian Lines: Womens
Liberation and James Baldwins Early Essays, Womens Studies ,,, no. , (:ooo): :Io.
,:. Roth, among others, chronicles the notorious use of the woman as Black anal-
ogy in white womens liberation. See Roth, Separate Roads, I,o,,.
,,. Statement on Birth Control, in Morgan, Sisterhood, o.
,. Ibid., o,.
,,. Kathie Sarachild, A Program for Feminist Consciousness-Raising, in Feminist
Revolution (New York: Random House, I,,8), :o,.
,o. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail, in A Testament
of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M.
Washington (San Francisco: HarperCollins, I,8o), :,o.
,,. Ibid.
,8. Sarachild, Radical Weapon, I,.
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 61
,,. Ibid., I,.
o. Ibid., I,, emphasis mine.
I. Gainesville Womens Liberation Group, What We Do at Meetings, in Baxandall
and Gordon, Dear Sisters, ,o.
:. Pamela Parker Allen, The Small Group Process, in Baxandall and Gordon, Dear
Sisters, o8, emphasis mine.
,. Barbara Leon, Separate to Integrate, in Feminist Revolution (New York: Random
House, I,,8), I,,.
. Catherine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, I,8,), ,I.
,. Linda Nicholson, introduction to Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory
(New York: Routledge, I,,,), ,.
o. Further, T. V. Reed argues, [CR] was especially important in that key feminist
theoretical act of challenging the boundaries of what counted as political by rethink-
ing the border between public and private life. See his The Art of Protest: Culture
and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, :oo,), ,,. Rethinking the border between public and
private life allowed seemingly private experience to form the basis of a political theory
of feminism.
,. Kathie Sarachild and Amy Coenen, Two Redstockings Interviewed, interview
by Doug Henwood, WAVI, New York, January :, :oo:, http://www.leftbusinessob-
server.co/Redstockings.html (accessed January Io, :oo).
8. Sarachild, Radical Weapon, I,.
,. Baxandall and Gordon, Dear Sisters, ,o.
,o. Celestine Ware, The Relationship of Black Women to the Womens Liberation
Movement, in Crow, Radical Feminism, ,8II:.
,I. Roth argues, When the second wave of feminism is seen as feminisms, the au-
dacity of all feminists who challenged the status quo from wherever they were situated
is recaptured and highlighted, and we are forced to recognize the power of feminist
visions (:I,).
,:. See Roth, Separate Roads, ::o.
,,. New York Radical Women, Principles, in Morgan, Sisterhood, ,8,8. Morgan
places the I,o8 New York Radical Women position statement in the appendix Historical
Documents.
,. For Reed, the poetry in these anthologies is a key strand of the movement be-
cause poetry is uniquely able to invent a new language to characterize the experiences
of oppression and liberation that had no name (88). Reed, The Art of Protest, ,,.
,,. See, for example, Bonnie J. Gunzenhauser, Historicizing Communities of
Reading in the Long Eighteenth Century: A Report from the Classroom, College
Literature ,I, no. , (:oo): I8,o.
62 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3
,o. See, for example, Paul Lauter, Taking Anthologies Seriously, MELUS :,, nos. ,
(:oo): I,,,; Andrea McCormic, Theorizing Difference in Asian American Poetry
Anthologies, MELUS :,, nos. , (:oo): ,,8o.
,,. See, for example, Barbara M. Benedict, The Paradox of the Anthology: Collecting
and Diffrence in Eighteenth-Century Britain, NLH ,, no. : (:oo,): :,I,o; Jeffrey R.
Di Leo, ed., On Anthologies: Politics and Pedagogy (Lincoln: University of Nebraska
Press, :oo); Jeffrey J. Williams, Anthology Disdain, College English oo, no. : (:oo,):
I,o:oo.
,8. Priscilla Coit Murphy, What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of
Silent Spring (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, :oo,), :o. Murphy ar-
gues, Studying books as news makers or as instigators of media-borne public debate
nonetheless still requires accounting for books as part of a media system, which print
culture scholarship has tended to sidestep despite its umbrella interest in all printed
communication (:Io).
,,. For a foundational example, see Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women,
Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
I,8,).
oo. Tanner, Voices from Womens Liberation.
oI. Morgan, Sisterhood, xii.
o:. Baxandall and Gordon, Dear Sisters, o,.
o,. Most foundational womens liberation texts use of woman has fallen under such
scrutiny, perhaps most notably the work of radical feminists Gornick in Woman in Sexist
Society and Firestone in The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (New
York: William Morrow, I,,o). For an inuential early critique from critical race studies
see Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (New York: Vintage, I,8,), esp. I,::oI.
o. Morgan, Sisterhood, xiv.
o,. Ibid., xvii, xxxv.
oo. Ibid., xxvi, emphasis in original.
o,. Ibid., xxiv.
o8. Norma Alarcn provides an inuential analysis of the tendency to place white
women at the center of ideas about difference in her study of different responses
by white women and women of color to This Bridge Called My Back. See her The
Theoretical Subject(s) of This Bridge Called My Back and Anglo-American Feminism,
in Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color, ed. Gloria
Anzalda (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation Books, I,,o), ,,o,,.
o,. Nicholson, introduction to Second Wave, ,Io.
,o. Morgan, Sisterhood Is Global (New York: Feminist Press, I,8)
,I. Morgan, Sisterhood Is Forever (New York: Washington Square Press, :oo,).
,:. Reecting on her increasing awareness of the difculty of a transnational scope
in Sisterhood Is Global, Morgan writes, Perhaps that was just as well: our navet served
us where our courage may have failed (xiii).
Norman: The Consciousness-Raising Document 63
,,. Rayna Green, The United States: Honoring the Vision of Changing Woman,
in Morgan, Sisterhood Is Global, ,o,I,. Green is an American Indian member of the
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
,. Baumgardner and Richards, Manifesto, I,,.
,,. Young Lords, Position Paper on Women, in Baxandall and Gordon, Dear Sisters,
,8.
,o. Two Black Sisters, letter in Liberator, October I,oo, ::.
,,. Ibid., :,.
,8. Ibid.
,,. Thompson, Multiracial Feminism, ,,: n. ,.
8o. DuPlessis and Snitow, The Feminist Memoir Project, :I.
8I. Evans, Re-viewing, :o,oo.
8:. For responses to Springers focus on a new generation of black feminism, see
Wini Breines, Whats Love Got to Do with It? White Women, Black Women, and
Feminism in the Movement Years, Signs :,, no. (:oo:): Io,,II,; Beverly Guy-
Sheftall, Response from a Second Waver to Kimberly Springers Third Wave Black
Feminism? Signs :,, no. (:oo:): Io,I,; Sheila Radford-Hill, Keepin It Real: A
Generational Commentary on Kimberly Springers Third Wave Black Feminism?
Signs :,, no. (:oo:): Io8,Io,o.
8,. Evans, Re-viewing, :o,.
8. For a rich but succinct trajectory of the CR groups contingent, evolving models
in feminism, see Lisa Marie Hogeland, Feminism and Its Fictions: The Consciousness-
Raising Novel and the Womens Liberation Movement (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, I,,8), esp. :,,,. For a brief overview of CRs role in womens
liberation, see Reed, The Art of Protest, 8,,o and ,: n. I,.
8,. Thompson borrows this term from Maxine Baca Sinn and Bonnie Thornton
Dill. Thompson also relies heavily on Chela Sandovals excoriation of early Second
Wave feminism as hegemonic feminism, which is white because it undertheorizes its
own racial grounding.
8o. I borrow this term from Linda Keller Kerber, No Constitutional Right to Be
Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship (New York: Hill and Wang, I,,,);
Thompson, Multiracial Feminism, ,,,,8.
8,. Ibid., ,. Womens liberationists also often equate the CR group model with
unied (read white) sisterhood. Echols writes of the CR group, By circumvent-
ing the experts on women and going to women themselves, [womens liberationists]
would be able not only to construct a theory of womens oppression but to formulate
strategy as well. Thus womens liberationists struggled to nd the commonalities in
womens experience in order to generate generalizations about womens oppression.
See Nothing Distant about It: Womens Liberation and Sixties Radicalism, in her
Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks (New York: Columbia University Press,
:oo:), ,:. This portrait echoes Daring to Be Bad: With the assertion of difference
within the womens movement in the eighties, the notion that women constitute a
unitary category has been problematized (,:).
88. Cherre Moraga and Gloria Anzalda, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings
by Radical Women of Color (Latham, NY: Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, I,8,);
Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, eds., All the Women Are White, All
the Men Are Black, But Some of Us Are Brave: Womens Studies (New York: The Feminist
Press, I,8:); Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (Latham, N.Y.:
Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, I,8,).
8,. Armstrong paints the rise of identity politics as a retreat from organization.
,o. Ibid., II.
,I. Cade, The Black Woman, Io.
,:. Evans, Re-viewing, :o,.
,,. Sometimes writers identities are held up as evidence of multiracial feminism.
For instance, Evans writes, Baxandall and Gordon challenge the notion that womens
liberation was a racist, white movement by including voices of women of color in every
section (Re-viewing, :o,).
64 frontiers/2006/vol. 27, no. 3