PERSONAL POLITICS: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left by Sara Evans
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PERSONAL POLITICS: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left

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In the 1960s, as everyone knows, ""a few young women stepped outside the assumptions on which they had been raised to articulate a radical critique of women's position in American society."" They aimed to transform ""personal life itself into a political issue."" But just where they came from has not, up to now, been spelled out. Historian Evans (Univ. of Minnesota) is not only precise but admitably lucid and convincing. On the basis of her research, oral interviews with several dozen of those women, and her own experience (in that order), she concludes that the early feminists came out of the Civil Rights movement, where they learned to organize but were barred from power positions (and relegated to ""prone,"" in Stokely Carmichael's notorious quip) by men, first white, then black. They went on to the student New Left where they ran all the viable community projects and made coffee while many of the same old leaders thought up theories that didn't work and spewed jargon in carefully cultivated southern accents. Disillusioned, they wrote papers on the position of women in the movement and grew into radical feminists. Evans' summary and analysis is gripping all the way from Mississippi Summer, to Ann Arbor, to Cell 16; her account of last-ditch SDS meetings at which women tried to confront their ""leaders"" is vividly drawn, the arrogance of the male leaders themselves simply dazzling. She introduces female leaders (Casey Hayden, Mary King) who asked embarrassing questions to teach the others--all those nice young girls who found the party line sexually intimidating, their own interests not on the agenda. All in all, a concise, eminently readable account of men who significantly failed and--far more important--of women who, as yet, have not.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1978
Publisher: Knopf