New York Radical Women

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New York Radical Women was an early second-wave feminist and anti-pornography feminist group that existed from 1967–1969. They drew nationwide media attention when they unfurled a banner inside the 1968 Miss America pageant displaying the words, "Womens Liberation".

Origins[edit]

The protest group was founded in New York City in the fall of 1967, by former television child star Robin Morgan, Carol Hanisch,[1] Shulamith Firestone,[2] and Pam Allen. Early members included Ros Baxandall, Patricia Mainardi, Irene Peslikis, Kathie Sarachild, and Ellen Willis.[3][4] New York Radical Women were a group of young friends in their twenties who were part of the New Left, who had grown tired of the male-dominated civil rights and antiwar movements, and men who they saw as still preferring their female counterparts to stay at home.[5]

Protests[edit]

The first major protest the women attended was the Jeannette Rankin Brigade Protest in Washington, D.C., on January 15, 1968.[6] Members of the group led an alternative protest event, a "burial of traditional womanhood", held in Arlington National Cemetery.

They also participated in the first major Women's Liberation Movement demonstration, the Miss America protest with their brochure No More Miss America in Atlantic City, NJ, on September 7, 1968. About 400 women were drawn together from across the United States to a protest outside the event. The women symbolically threw a number of feminine products into a large trash can. These included mops, pots and pans, Playboy magazines,[7] false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and bras,[8] items the protestors called "instruments of female torture." Carol Hanisch, one of the protest organizers, said "We had intended to burn it, but the police department, since we were on the boardwalk, wouldn't let us do the burning." A New York Post story about the protest made an analogy between the feminist protest and Vietnam War protesters who burned their draft cards. It has been argued there was no bra burning, nor did anyone take off her bra.[9]:4 A local news story reporting on the event did report there was a burning of bras and other items. It said "as the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women's magazines burned in the 'Freedom Trash Can'..."[10][11]

Hanisch said, "Up until this time, we hadn't done a lot of actions yet. We were a very small movement. It was kind of a gutsy thing to do. Miss America was this 'American pie' icon. Who would dare criticize this?" Along with tossing the items into the trash can, they marched with signs, passed out pamphlets, and crowned a live sheep, comparing the beauty pageant to livestock competitions at county fairs.[7] A small group bought tickets and entered the hall. While 1967 Miss America, Debra Barnes Snodgrass, was giving her farewell address, four protestors unfurled a bed sheet from the balcony that said "Women's Liberation" and began to shout. They were quickly removed by police but drew coverage by newspapers from across the United States. "The media picked up on the bra part," Hanisch said later. "I often say that if they had called us 'girdle burners,' every woman in America would have run to join us."[7]

In January 1969, the last event they attended was the Counter-Inauguration in Washington D.C. The protest targeted women who supported the Vietnam War.[6] Protestors were sent invitations telling them not to bring flowers or even to cry at the 'burial', but to be prepared to bury traditional female roles.[6]

Dissolution[edit]

By 1969, ideological differences split the group into a radical feminist faction and a socialist feminist (or "politico") faction. Tension grew between the two splinter groups until January 1969 when the organization fell apart. Socialist feminists like Robin Morgan left to form Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.), while radical feminists led by Shulamith Firestone started Redstockings.[3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hanisch, Carol. "Carol Hanisch of the Women's Liberation Movement". Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Shulamith Firestone (1968). "Women and Marxism: Shulamith Firestone". Women and. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Maren Lockwood Carden, The New Feminist Movement (1974, Russell Sage Foundation)
  4. ^ a b Echols, Alice. Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America
  5. ^ Maurice Isserman & Michael Kazin, America Divided, (New York, Oxford University press, 2000)
  6. ^ a b c Shulamith Firestone, Jeanette Rankin Brigade, Women Power?: Notes from the first year: Documents on Women’s Liberation, (1968, New York, Duke University)
  7. ^ a b c Greenfieldboyce, Nell (September 5, 2008). "Pageant Protest Sparked Bra-Burning Myth". NPR. Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Dow, Bonnie J. (Spring 2003). "Feminism, Miss America, and Media Mythology". Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (1): 127–149. doi:10.1353/rap.2003.0028. 
  9. ^ Duffett, Judith (October 1968). "WLM vs. Miss America". Voice of the Women's Liberation Movement. 
  10. ^ Boucher, John L. (September 8, 1968). "Bra-Burners Blitz Boardwalk". (Atlantic City) Press. 
  11. ^ Campbell, W. Joseph (2010). Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism. University of California Press. p. 109-110. ISBN 9780520262096. 

External links[edit]