Abby Rockefeller

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Abigail Aldrich "Abby" Rockefeller (born 1943) is an American ecologist, feminist, and member of the Rockefeller family. She is the eldest daughter of David Rockefeller and Margaret McGrath.

Feminism and left-wing politics[edit]

Drawn to radical humanism on the behalf of women (feminism) and leftist politics, she was drawn to Marxism and was an ardent admirer of Fidel Castro and a late 1960s/early 1970s radical feminist[1] who briefly belonged to the organization Female Liberation Front (not to be confused with a much later group called Female Liberation run by the Trotskyite SWP) before it changed its name to Cell 16.[2] She joined Cell 16 (founded in 1968) in 1969 to work with Betsy Warrior, Roxanne Dunbar, Dana Densmore, Jayne West and others who were providing ground-breaking feminist analyses.

Abby Rockefeller and Jayne West joined other members of Cell 16 in promoting self-defense for women and became skilled in karate. They set up a Tae Kwon Do studio in Boston and taught hundreds of women who, in turn, taught other women, becoming pioneers in self-defense for women. This effort was initiated in response to the frequent, if unremarked, street harassment and sexual assaults women were subjected to during this era. After reading the literature of Cell 16, especially the initial "Journals of Female Liberation", Abby Rockefeller decided to join them. One of the articles she contributed to the Journals of Female Liberation was Sex: The Basis of Sexism, which posited male desire to access and control female sexuality for their own ends as a driving force in sexism.[3]

After being infiltrated by Trotskyites and F.B.I. agents, Cell 16 disassociated from its splinter group Female Liberation, which was providing a front for Trotskyist recruiting of aspiring feminists.[4][5][6][7] Despite her class background, Abby was subjected to many of the stinging barbs other women are subjected to. For instance, as a young girl she was told that although women did most of the cooking in the world only men could be great chefs. In her own relationships with men she often encountered the same sexist attitudes when they expressed an underlying trivialization or contempt for women's aspirations - no matter the man's class or race. Her feminism was not some dilettante's passing fad, but arose from an analysis of her lived experience. Some, mistakenly misreading her commitment to justice as vulnerability, tried to exploit her for her name or money.[8][dubious ]


  1. ^ Echols, Alice, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America: 1967–1975 (Minneapolis, Minn.: Univ. of Minn. Press, 1989 (ISBN 0-8166-1787-2)), pp. 158 (& perhaps n. 106), 163 & nn. 132–133, & 211 & n. 37 (author then visiting asst. prof. history, Univ. of Ariz. at Tucson).
  2. ^ Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.
  3. ^ Gorman, Hollis (January 16, 1975). "Feminist Says Physical Desire Is Cause of Female Oppression". The Harvard Crimson.
  4. ^ Humanities & Social Sciences Online. Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America. New York and London: Penguin, 2000. The FBI was apparently able to recruit informers to attend meetings and report back to the FBI with ease. Bureau files contain summaries of feminist meetings with such subversive aims as, "They wanted equal opportunities that men have in work and in society" (p. 242).
  5. ^ The Other Woman, a Toronto-based feminist newspaper with cross-Canada circulation "Infiltration of the Women's Movement by the LSA/YS" Issue: Nov.-Dec. 1973.
  7. ^ Densmore, Dana; editor (1 October 1968). "Complete set of No More Fun & Games". Cell 16 – via Amazon.
  8. ^ Conversations with Cell 16, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University