Veteran Feminists of America

By Jacqui Ceballos

posted 07.17.2012

Eleanor Pam, Kate Millett, Jacqui Ceballos

It is the year 2012 and I am standing on the stage receiving an award from Kate Millett, the woman I and many others hung out with in the earliest days of the feminist movement – over 45 years ago! -- and who is now known around the world. There are so many memories I want to share, but I’m afraid to take up too much time on this very long program, so I share but one or two. And Kate, as excited as I about these memories, joins me--even corrects me. "No, it wasn’t my sculptured toilet with the women’s legs in high heel shoes surrounding it that we used at the Colgate Palmolive demonstration on Park Avenue, it was a real toilet!"

I tell the story about how I and others hung out in Kate’s wonderful three-story loft typing
Token Learning, the treatise she wrote criticizing the Seven Sisters Colleges for educating young women to be good “wives and mothers.” I remember sweet Fumio’s art– his wondrous kites majestically suspended in the top loft---and Kate's down-to-earth sculptures on the second loft – and the homey kitchen /living and work room that was the main floor.

And I see as though it was yesterday, Kate in charge of the demonstration against the
New York Times, which was refusing to desex the Help Wanted ads…. . She’d arrive at The Times early, a bunch of posters under her arm, and whip us into to action. Her anger at the Times was palpable. A few years earlier she’d returned from England with an Oxford degree, unable to even apply for a job higher than a file clerk, as the great New York Times continued separating jobs by Male and Female in spite of Title VII.

Kate and Fumio were family in those early years. I’d moved into a loft across the street from them with her sister, Mallory, and we visited back and forth. My son Denis, an artist, was inspired by their art; my son Douglas and his friend hung out with Mallory; later my daughters Michele and Janine, back from visiting their dad in Colombia, were part of the scene.

Life was racing by in those early years. I moved away from the Bowery -- it was dangerous for my young daughters -- and was helping plan the great march and strike of 1970. Kate was taking part in sit ins at Barnard and Columbia, and writing her thesis. It was published as
Sexual Politics in 1970, and suddenly Kate was world famous! She was on the cover of Time magazine, “outed” as gay while talking at Columbia , and her life got incredibly complicated.

For a while we lost Kate our friend, but the world gained a great feminist. Years later, with the founding of Veteran Feminists of America, Kate and all the pioneer feminists are again part of my life. And here I was on June 24th, being honored by her in the company of icons of the feminist movement, who once were in the trenches with us, all here to celebrate our sister, Kate Millett.

And most movingly, I was standing on the stage, not just with Kate but also with Kate's wonderful friend, Eleanor Pam, who was a significant part of Kate's life before and during the Movement--and the feminist who received the First Kate Millett Award and organized this wondrous event!

Awesome! Thank you Eleanor!

And thank you Sheila Tobias and Jan Cleary for helping plan this paean to our great sister feminist.

And thank you my dear friend, Kate Millett!

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