Discussions we had this weekend in a series of diaries touched some very deep and strong emotions that had been brought to the surface again in the bruising last few months of the nomination campaign. There was an obvious hunger there to take things further, so I've come up with an idea for trying to tie together individual experience, history and politics.
All three OpenLeft founders, Chris, Matt and Mike, have written about the history of progressive movements at different times, always from the point of view of sharing insights, while acknowledging there's much more that we do not know. So it seems like a no-brainer to me to draw on our community here to see what we can learn from one another about the diverse history of emerging feminist consciousness, from the everyday life level on up. Clearly, things have changed enormously since the 1940s, the decade in which the oldest posters who have dated themselves (including me) were born.
So my idea is this: Each day this week I'm going to post a diary calling for people to share their experiences, from everyday experience of family and friends, to local politics, all the way on up, as high as our experience reaches. The nation is not the limit. If you've been part of an international women's movement group, like WEDO, we want to hear about it. Obviously, more and more people can participate as we go on, so I'm going to start with two decades combined together, the 1940s and 1950s, but every diary after that will just be for one decade. Tell us what it was like for you then. First hand experiences, how things seemed to you watching the news, reading newspapers, magazines and books, watching tv or the movies-anything and everything that made an impression is fair game.
The point of this series is to get at women's experience and the growth and development of feminist consciousness-and/or womanist consciousness as many women of color prefer. Naturally this does not exclude men. We are an important part of this story, even if we are not the center of it. But our main role here is one of listening. Because we don't do that enough. If we listen well enough, we will know when to speak. I've commented a lot in the diaries I put up this weekend, but if this works right, I should be doing a lot less of that. I'll probably be asking questions, tho. After all, "Tell me more..." is the whole premise of this series.
On the flip, I'll say a little that's period specific to get things started, and then it's up to you....
The 1940s was the decade that re-started it all. In the 1920s, women got the right to vote, but the Great Depression set things back enormously. It may seem astonishing today, but it would not be until the 1960s and 70s that women re-entered higher education in numbers comparable to the 1920s. But World War began the change, drawing tens of millions of men of to war, and creating an enormous need for workers, so vast that it mobilized a whole new army of them-women, who had previously been shoved to the back of the line during the Great Depression years. My mother was one of them. And life was never the same after that.
In 1950, my mother was part of another army, an army of volunteers in the Senate campaign of Helen Gahagan Douglas., one of the most progressive politicians in American history. Douglas, pictured here from the 1920s, was considered one of Hollywoods great beauties, but like many others after her, she was a great deal more than that.
Originally a Republican, but became an ardent New Dealer, and eventually left show business for politics, representing a congressional district that was largely African American, and, of course, poor. An audio interview regarding her introduction of an anti-lynching bill can be heard Helen Gahagan Douglas here .