Nancy Sarah Kurshan was born in Brooklyn, NY on February 4, 1944, was raised as a “red diaper baby” and is best known for being a founder of the Youth International Party (whose members were popularly known as Yippies). She was a participant in the civil rights and peace movements as far back as high school. During her college years in Madison, Wisconsin, she was a member of Friends of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and CORE, and participated in the first demonstration against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC in April 1965. She then began to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology at UC Berkeley where she met Jerry Rubin. She dropped out to join Jerry in New York where they worked for the Mobe (National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam) on the 1967 demo to shut down the Pentagon.
Nancy initiated a guerrilla theater women’s group called W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) along with Robin Morgan, Sharon Krebs, and Roz Payne. When Jerry appeared in front of HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) dressed as an international guerrilla, she joined him, appearing as a witch and put a hex on HUAC employing a secret ingredient in her incense. At the conclusion of the “Chicago Conspiracy Trial,” when all the defendants were initially found guilty, Nancy and Anita Hoffman burned judges’ robes during a press conference as a denunciation of the guilty verdict (which was later reversed on appeal). Photos of this action appeared on front pages all across the world.
Robin Morgan wrote about Nancy in her famous essay entitled “Goodbye to All That.” Morgan suggested that Nancy, and many other women (Morgan among them), needed to free themselves from the male domination of the left and their respective partners. In 1970 Nancy traveled to North Vietnam on an all-women’s trip that included Judy Clavir and Jeanne Plamandon of the White Panther Party.
Not long after, Nancy left Rubin. She then went on to join the Weather Underground as a public member until its demise. She participated for many years thereafter in the efforts to free political prisoners such as the Puerto Rican political prisoners, Sundiata Acoli, Geronimo Pratt, and many others. She was active in the fight against control unit prisons as a founding member of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown. She has also authored a popular analysis called “Women And Imprisonment in the United States,” which has appeared in countless texts and books about prisons and repression.
- Krassner, Paul. "The Chicago Three", STOPSMILING, ISSUE 24, page 46 2005.
- "CHI-Town Lowdown: Memories of the 1968 Democratic Convention" from CounterPunch
- "CHI-Town Lowdown: Memories of the 1968 Democratic Convention" from ZNet
- "Take Action: Freedom Fighters" from Time Out Chicago
- Women and Imprisonment in the U.S.: History and Current Reality"
- Rich Samuels from WTTW's Chicago Tonight