Reporting on the ‘Revolutionary Moment’ Conference at Boston University, March 2014

boston conf 3Spanning three days near the end of Women’s History Month this March, the conference “A Revolutionary Moment: Women’s Liberation in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s,” organized by the Women’s Sudies et al. program at Boston University, attracted over 600 participants from the US and abroad to discuss the herstory and tactics of the Women’s Liberation Movement and debate the direction of feminist theory and practice.

Laced through the many panels at the Conference were representatives from a wide swath of the early radical wing of today’s movement. These pioneers covered a range of political positions “back in the day,” from “feminist” (later called “radical feminist”) to “politico” (later called “socialist feminist”).  Of the few 1960s radical women’s liberation groups continuing today, attending the conference were veterans and fresh troops from the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective of the  book Our Bodies Ourselves,  Gainesville Florida Women’s Liberation, and Redstockings of New York City. BU conference organizers have recently posted the full panoply of videos of the Conference sessions, plenaries, and most of the panels – including questions, comments and debates (see below for links).

Participants in the 2013 Shulamith Firestone Memorial Conference organized two panels in Boston that continued to pursue discussion of the burning questions which gave birth to the Shulamith Conference and to this blog: what happened to halt the momentum of the earlier moment and movement, and what is needed to bring about ANOTHER revolutionary moment for Women’s Liberation? These panels were:  “How to Defang a Movement: Replacing the Political with the Personal” and “Tools of Radical Feminist Analyzing, Organizing and Mobilizing: ‘Consciousness-Raising’ and ‘History for Activist Use.'”

For the latter panel, those of us active with Redstockings and National Women’s Liberation – two groups with roots in an exciting collaboration from the 1960s – shared ideas on what is to be done now with accounts of  what we’ve actually been doing, why we’ve been doing it, and what we think should continue or change going forward. This included a retelling of how the 1969 radical principles of Redstockings (like “women are the real experts on women”) led National Women’s Liberation, against the opposition of two US Presidents, to a significant women’s liberation advance, in a country lagging behind many others, of making the morning after pill available over-the-counter in pharmacies and accessible to women and girls of all ages. (The battle continues, of course, with a big one the cost of the pills!)

Belle and GordonHuge thanks and congratulations go to Professor Deborah Belle of Boston University for the courage to organize a conference that restored to academic herstory the radical 1960s origins and revolutionary impetus of today’s feminist movement.  Professor of History Linda Gordon of New York University, herself a veteran 1960s women’s liberation organizer, was a main aider and abetter of Professor Belle’s efforts, along with a wonderful team of young Boston University cadres who helped with the huge workload of making such a conference happen. Click on the photo to watch a WGBH interview with Deborah Belle and Linda Gordon discussing the conference.

To find your way to more information about the Conference, its many panels and panelists, and videos of most of the Conference sessions, as well as the written text of many of the talks, visit the homepage of the Conference by clicking here: http://www.bu.edu/wgs/conference2014/

For more details on and specific links to the Conference panels organized by various Redstockings, old and new, as well as National Women’s Liberation, click here: http://www.redstockings.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=99

For some other voices on the Boston Conference, click here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kathleen-b-jones/reflections-of-revolutionary-moment

And here: http://kenwachsberger.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/womens-liberation-conference-celebrates-2nd-wave-revs-up-3rd-wave/

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