Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell

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Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, shortened W.I.T.C.H., was the name of many related but independent feminist groups formed in the United States during 1968 and 1969 and who were important in the development of socialist feminism. The name W.I.T.C.H. was also sometimes expanded as "Women Inspired to Tell their Collective History," "Women Interested in Toppling Consumer Holidays," and many other variations.[1]

Founding[edit]

W.I.T.C.H. was formed when the New York Radical Women (NYRW) split in 1969. The group divided, mainly as a result of disagreements about the role of consciousness raising (CR) groups, into the Redstockings (the new home for CR group advocates) and W.I.T.C.H. (a group that advocated political rather than personal action). W.I.T.C.H. members tended to be "politicos," social feminists, who strongly identified with the New Left, and radical feminists, who supported an autonomous women's movement.[2]

Activism[edit]

There was no centralized organization; each W.I.T.C.H. group was formed independently by women inspired by the ideas and example of previous actions. Their activism mainly took the form of "zaps", a form of guerrilla theater mixing street theatre and protest, where they used attention-catching and humorous public actions to highlight political and economic complaints against companies and government agencies, frequently involving the use of witch costumes and the chanting of hexes. Witches often appeared as stock characters in feminist Left theatre, representing the misogynist crone stereotype.

On Halloween 1968, women from W.I.T.C.H. staged a "hex" of Wall Street at a branch of Chase Manhattan Bank, wearing rags and fright makeup; Robin Morgan stated that the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined sharply the next day.[1] The DJIA did not decline sharply, and experienced a rise over the next several days and weeks.[3] In December 1968 W.I.T.C.H targeted both the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Chicago Eight, saying that they conspired to treat only men as "leaders" of the antiwar movement.

In 1969, W.I.T.C.H. held a protest at a "Bridal Fair" at Madison Square Garden. Members wore black veils. They handed out pamphlets titled "Confront the Whoremakers", chanted "Here come the slaves/Off to their graves", and had a mock "unwedding" ceremony. The protests also involved turning loose several white mice at the event, which Fair attendees began scooping up off the ground. The event resulted in negative media coverage for W.I.T.C.H., and some dissention among members over goals and tactics.[4]

In February 1970, the Washington coven (W.I.T.C.H. chapters were called "covens") held a protest during a Senate hearing on population control. They interrupted Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough's testimony by chanting and throwing pills at panel members and people in the audience galleries.[4]

Spin-off "covens" were founded in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C.,[1] and W.I.T.C.H. zaps continued until roughly the beginning of 1970.

The "zap" protests used by W.I.T.C.H. may have helped inspire the zap action protest tactics adopted shortly afterwards by LGBT activists, and still in use.

Members[edit]

Members of W.I.T.C.H. included Robin Morgan, a child television star in the 1950s and a member of the Youth International Party in the late 1960s, Florika, Peggy Dobbins, and Naomi Jaffe, who went on to join the Weather Underground Organization.[1] Soon after the breakup of W.I.T.C.H., Robin Morgan repudiated her New Left-aligned politics, and embraced a kind of radical feminism that was strongly opposed to "the male left".[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Brownmiller, Susan (1999). In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution. p. 49. ISBN 0-385-31486-8. 
  2. ^ a b Echols, Alice (1989). Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–1975. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1787-2. 
  3. ^ "Historical Dow Jones Closing Prices 1961-1970". Automation Information. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Bradley, Patricia (2003). Mass Media and the Shaping of American Feminism, 1963-1975. University Press of Mississippi. pp. 63–64. ISBN 9781578066131. 

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