Betty Millard

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Elizabeth "Betty" Boynton Millard (10 October 1911 – 6 March 2010) was a writer, artist, political activist, philanthropist, and a feminist. She is known for her feminist publication "Woman against Myth", as well as her involvement with the United States Communist Party in the 1940s and 1950s.

Early life[edit]

Born in Highland Park, Illinois, on October 12, 1911, to a wealthy, conservative family, Millard attended the University of Chicago and then moved to New York City to attend Barnard College in the class of 1934. At Barnard, Millard discovered political activism when she marched against the United States' support for fascist leader, Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War. Passionately devoted to the ideals of equality and fairness, Millard joined the Communist Party in the 1940s, drawn by the hope that the movement could lead to the realization of the values she held dear.

Feminism and political activism[edit]

Alongside Nora Stanton Barney, Haley Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony, Millard was a member of the Congress of American Women (CAW), an affiliated group of the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF). Millard worked to tie the CAW's women's rights agenda to the history of the women's suffrage movement as well as the women's labor movement through her organizing efforts and writing. Following World War II, Millard spent two years as the American Secretary in the directorate of the WIDF, promoting feminism as well as women's rights in Paris, France. There she became friends with Marie-Claude Vailliant-Couturier, a leader in the Resistance and later a member of Parliament. In addition to advocating for women in France, Millard promoted the rights of women in Italy. In later years she could hold an audience amused and entranced by her stirring exhortation to Italian women on the need for expanded women's rights, a boilerplate speech that she could deliver in Italian (which she barely knew) at the drop of a hat.

In 1948, Millard produced the influential 24-page feminist pamphlet "Woman against Myth", which analysed the inequality between the sexes. Published by International Publishers and appearing first in her own New Masses magazine, the work examined and explained the history of the women's movement in the United States, in the socialist movement, and in the USSR. Along with editing New Masses for four years, Millard edited Latin America Today for five years during the mid-1950s. It was a monthly magazine devoted to social and political developments. In 1959, Millard appeared as a hostile witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating the Congress of American Women. She joined Cheddi Jagan on the campaign trail in colonial British Guiana during his successful campaign to become Prime Minister, and she remained close friends with Cheddi and his wife and fellow politician, Janet Jagan. Millard left the party towards the end of the 1950s. She nevertheless continued to be politically active through her efforts to gain the release from prison of David Siqueiros, Mexican Communist Party member and social realist painter and also through her efforts to end the Vietnam War.

Later years[edit]

Millard was an avid photographer, poet, writer of fiction, and political reporter. In the 1990s, she openly affirmed her own lesbianism and became an advocate for gay and lesbian rights. Around the same time, Millard was drawn towards environmental issues. She became a philanthropist and would donate to progressive, LGBT, and environmental organizations. Never afraid to form an opinion, Millard was always eager to discuss interesting and controversial issues. The stories she accumulated during a lifetime on the frontier of social and political justice, and her love of music and life, drew new friends to her side even well into her ninth decade.

Betty Millard died on March 6, 2010, at her home in New York City. Her papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts.


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