Veteran Feminists of America web-zine


KATHLEEN BARRY - Radical Feminist




KAREN DeCROW - Betty Ford's GOP fought for women and their rights


FLORENCE HOWE, a founder of women's studies and the
Feminist Press
  DIANA KURZ: ARTIST, Naturalist Painter

CINDY NEMSER - Artist of the Month - April 2011







I was Born Female, but, of course, I was not Born Feminist.

Like other Philadelphia-born and bred girls, I expected to become a wife and mother; but, instinctively, I wanted to explore what else I could be. And from childhood, I had a very independent mind. (In public school, my report card was usually PP9. That's Poor for Conduct, Poor for Effort and "9" -- the best grade in the class. ( I was bored.)

The very idea of staying in Philadelphia for college drove me wild. I chose Barnard College in New York City; it was the closest thing to a convent…one narrow bed, one dresser, a small desk and a set of rules on the back of the door including front gates locked at nine p.m. to seal us from the men across the street at Columbia. I lasted six weeks, then returned to Philadelphia, in time to make the January term at Penn. I went to Wisconsin and Cornell for the next two summer sessions to catch up with my normal graduation date, the Class of '42.

But Penn didn't escape my boundary-breaking nature, either. Women in those days were automatically assigned to Penn's College for Women. I wanted to learn about business. After a bit of a wrestling match with the powers that used to be, I was admitted to classes at the Wharton School. As the only woman then at Wharton, I was called "ballsy and aggressive," a title I publicly acknowledged years later when I was invited to return to Penn as the featured speaker at the merger of the College for Women into the mainstream University of Pennsylvania.

Oh, yes, and did I mention I was married for a year and a half by graduation. time? It was obviously one of my better decisions for we've now been wed more than seventy years. Alan has always helped me with my writing -- the one thing I'll admit he does better than I do.

During World War II, I managed to have two children - Alan got home often - and took courses towards my Masters in Art at Penn. But as soon as the war was over, I plunged into business ventures. Flowers-Every-Friday was a subscription service. For three bucks a week, we'd deliver flowers of our choice to your house - the clever part was that we'd go to the wholesale flower market at 5 a.m. and buy whatever was plentiful and cheap. The men who ran those wholesale houses couldn't believe that two women (me and my partner, Doris Beifield) could sell and pay for so many flowers, so it was all cash on the flower bed.

Tiring of rising at 5 a.m.. to deal with condescending men, I morphed to the art gallery business. Gallery 252 in center city Philadelphia was devoted to contemporary art and local artists, some quite excellent, though hardly famous. I learned the truth about big time art when I took some paintings by best young artist to New York and urged Leo Castelli, the dean of art dealers, to give this kid a break. Leo Castelli told me, "My dear, he's quite good. But so are dozens of other young artists I've seen. And, you see, what my clients buy is my opinion of my artists." I decided that, whatever I might do next, I wanted to be the arbiter.

Then, in 1966, to my surprise there came a request that moved my focus to academia. Ginny Henderson, the universally respected Assistant Dean of the School of Women at Penn, called to say she had a grant from the Carnegie Foundation to fund a course on "what women do with their lives." Ginny overcame my protestations of pedagogical ignorance by putting me in a 30-day intensive training for teachers.

I taught that course, twice. What I saw was women wearing Peck & Peck suits who wanted to talk endlessly about anything they might do -- but not really wanting to do anything. That was a clue. There was a lot of work to do to change women's self-image.

That's when we moved to New York City. But I didn't leave Philadelphia far behind. Ginny Henderson and I conceived and wrote a proposal for a book to show women how they could be in command of their lives. We titled it, "The New Isabella." after the Spanish Queen who dominated her world. Dean Henderson sent me to the dean of literary agents in New York, Carolyn Stagg, a wonderfully bright woman, then about 75 years old, who read the book proposal and told me: "My dear, you're writing about quite modest goals for women. Go down to The New School in Greenwich Village and catch up with the times."

And that's where feminism caught up with me.

I signed up at The New School for a class in women's rights. I was the only one in a dress, not jeans. The more I listened, the more I knew how much I had been missing. It wasn't a question of fighting for an isolated justice here or there. It was a movement, an uprising, a sea change in women's accepted roles.

To learn more about this new movement, I called the New York Women's Resource Center. I said to the woman who answered the phone: "My name is Maggie Tripp and I've moved here from Philadelphia and I'm taking a class on Feminism at the New School and I'm looking for more information on the subject." "Look," she said, "I don't know what you're looking for but there are just two of us here. I'm Abortion and the only other one is Rape."

After a few months of investigating Feminism - with much more success than my first telephone call -- I told Ruth Van Doren, head of the Women's Studies department at New School that I could teach a class called, "The Changing Consciousness and Conscience of Women - Liberation How?"

Now the New School operates as a marketplace: people propose courses and, if the title and outline sound right, the course gets listed in the New School catalog. Then, if enough people sign up to make the course profitable, it gets a classroom and away you go. If not, you're cancelled. Well, women signed up in droves to find out how to get liberated - and I figured out the lectures week-by-week.

"The Changing Consciousness…" lasted four semesters. As my own consciousness and horizons expanded, the women's movement exploded and I was exposed to the minds of such socially intelligent people as Caroline Bird, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug,, Margaret Meade, Jesse Bernard and so many more great women. I expanded the feminist premise with courses on small topics like "The Present and Future World of Women." When New York University, New School's Greenwich Village neighbor, wanted to engage with the growing women's movement, they borrowed a group of us from the New School to do a year-long series of seminars.

One fine day, Ruth Van Doren called me and asked: "NOW wants someone to give a short talk to a meeting of the buyers for Federated Stores. Can you do it? You know, tell 'em about how women and women's roles are changing. Of course, I said, "yes" - without even asking what it would pay. (Turned out to be $50.) Then came the hard part. What do I say? What do you tell a group of hard-nose retailers, mostly men, that they don't already know - something they'd accept -- about women? As always, I consulted my husband. He provided the winning opening lines: "Good morning, Buyers. My subject today is how you can beat last year's numbers, week-by-week, month-by-month. Oh, and incidentally, I'm going to mention a few things you may not know about how your women customers are changing."

Verbalizing my beliefs about free choice for women became a habit. And being at New School in the late Sixties and Seventies was the right place to build a reputation. I became the Women's Studies Maven in Residence, being quoted in newspapers and writing articles for magazines from the feminist journal, Aurora, to the plebian publication, Modern Bride. In an interview, Long Island Newsday dubbed me, "The respected mouthpiece of the Women's Liberation Movement."

Someone, I know not who, recommended me to Program Corporation of America, a leading Speakers Bureau and soon I found myself delivering the feminist message to big gatherings of students at colleges across the country.

At Mt. Holyoke, it was "Money is as Beautiful as Roses." Wellesley got the message as "Legal Tender Has No Gender." And in Green Bay, Wisconsin, albeit the home of the very masculine Green Bay Packers, they really took the point when I said, "Take Charge of Your Life - and You'll Never Look Back in Anger."

By the mid-1970s, the world at large wanted to know about the feminist viewpoint. Program Corporation booked me everywhere from Junior League meetings to the International Federation of Teachers and to self-improvement blow-outs with Wayne Dyer. To my surprise, it paid well. But I also brought the message to women at the Lexington Avenue YWCA in New York where lectures on women's changing role drew crowds and paid little.

Not all of the bookings were a pleasure. The prospect of freedom of choice for women worried some people, and no one made a career of this fear more aggressively than Phyllis Schlafly. When Program Corporation asked me to debate her in Kansas City on the Equal Rights Amendment, I leaped at the opportunity. Frankly, she dominated the debate. But she had two things going for her. First, she stacked the audience with her followers who applauded on cue and then seized the microphones for the Q. & A. Second, she tortured the truth, saying, in effect: "If you get a job, your husband will leave you." But, afterwards, in radio interviews, I beat her because the men who did the interviews gave me a clean shot at explaining what women really want. And the story in the next day's Kansas City Star was more than kind to me and to feminism.

Nowadays, it seems everybody writes a book. But back in the 1970s, it wasn't so easy for an unknown author to find a publisher.

I was blessed to know some authors in New York. Writer Leta Clark hooked me up with agent Elaine Markson who involved Don Fine,, publisher of Arbor House Books, who loved my idea of asking each of the wonderful people who understood feminism to write a chapter on how they foresaw women's lives.

Who were the contributors? To name but a few, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Alvin Toffler, Margo Jefferson, Nora Sayre, Lois Gould, and Lucinda Franks. The subjects ranged from women's impact on politics to a new balance of power in business to equal joy in sexual relations. And, of course, the introduction plus a chapter called The Free Married Woman plus editing it all were the work of one Maggie Tripp.

Don named the book, "Woman in the Year 2000." It was published in hardcover in 1974 and in paperback in 1976. and 1978. And it's still around on Amazon.

Speaking of books, during my teaching years I had accumulated many hundreds of volumes about women and, when I left New York in 1989, what was I to do with them? I had kept in close touch with Susan McGee Bailey and Jan Putnam at the Wellesley Centers for Women who not only welcomed the gift but created the Maggie Tripp Library - which I have happily supported ever since.

Besides teaching and writing I was on the Education Committee of NOW and active in the Political Caucus and represented WEAL at the Houston, TX convention. And I always paid my dues to all those organizations -- until I just plain retired. I am very pleased to be included in the encyclopedic volume, Feminists Who Changed America.

I'll celebrate my 91st birthday on July 7th. My husband is alive and well -- and writing this for me. I had two children; my son's a musical electronics whiz and I lost my daughter to cancer two years ago. My three grandchildren are, respectively, a male lawyer, a male engineer and a female doctor. My three great-grandchildren are two girls and one boy who, no doubt, will grow up to benefit from my efforts to achieve sexual equality.

Comments: Jacqui Ceballos

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KATHLEEN BARRY - Radical Feminist, Sociologist, Writer and Activist, Launched a Global Movement Against Trafficking in Women

photo by Jean Weisinger

I never set out to be single (you don't "get single" like you "get married") and growing up in the 1950s it was Elvis not Susan B. Anthony who captured my imagination. The oldest of three children, I was born in Syracuse, New York to James and Dorval Barry who had just survived the Great Depression. Dad was a laborer in road construction in the summer when he barely made enough for us to get by and was laid off of work every winter when he occasionally got snow-plowing jobs to supplement unemployment. Although we needed the money, he considered it his patriarchal (his word) duty to support his family so that his wife could stay home with her children. As she did not like her children, that left me during summer vacations from school spending most of my day babysitting my younger brothers on our front porch, laying the foundation for my later choice to not be a mother.

Through my teenage years, I yearned to get out of that house. All I wanted was to be independent. I did not think beyond that. My parents' dream for me to graduate high school, get a job as a clerical worker in an office where I would find among the professional men someone to marry, raising my standard of living and possibly, hopefully theirs. The school counselor's set me on that path by tracking me in a "business" meaning secretarial curriculum in high school. Typing, shorthand, sewing, cooking was to round out my preparation for womanhood.

To be honest, at the time, going to college never entered my mind. I knew I was not one of those college-bound kids who rarely associated with us working class kids headed for dead end jobs. And I saw them as "those people" as my Dad referred with resentment to the middle classes who always had more, knew more than us and knew it. Then as if out of the blue, just a few months before high school graduation, my typing teacher asked me one day after school if I "ever thought of going to college." I went blank. "No." But she did not let it go. Before I fully grasped what going to college it would mean for my life, I knew this could be my ticket to independence. Even though I did not have the required courses, excitedly I applied to and was accepted at Oswego State Teachers College (SUNY). Angered, parents saw their plan for my upward mobility falling apart. They assured me that I would receive no support from them.

By my sophomore year, I faced the stark reality that, already deeply in debt with loans, I could not financially afford to continue my college education. I quit and assumed I was doomed for the clerical pool again. There was a serious shortage of school teachers at the time and I landed a teaching position, 4th grade. That was the first time that I ever did something I truly loved - teaching - so I knew I would eventually find my way back to college.

Meanwhile the civil rights movement hit Syracuse, then a completely segregated city, with all blacks of every class living in one city ward, a ghetto. From my earliest remembering, riding with my family to church every Sunday through the ghetto, I was repelled by the way whites talked about black people. That repulsion grew into anger and by the time I was 20 in 1961, I joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The virulent resistance of Syracusans to desegregation crushed my naïve belief that changing attitudes with facts could change racist behavior. These were the years, although I did not know it then, in which I laid the groundwork for becoming a sociologist, giving me a stronger base for my activism.

I put my love of teaching children together with my growing social consciousness of poverty and discrimination and volunteered to teach in a school for migrant children in Texas for a year. I was in my early twenties and under tremendous pressure to marry, not only from my family, but with the disappearance of my longtime girlfriends into their marriages and babies. So, while I was in Texas, I met this guy, Ken, who then seemed to me to be a kind of intellectual. After months of dating we became engaged. There was no magic, either with him or in doing the accepted thing. Ironically, it was Catholicism that saved me. Divorce was prohibited by the Church, and I was not about to be sentenced to lifelong misery, the kind I just escaped. I realized that I neither loved him enough to marry nor did I want to marry, just yet. I was approaching my mid twenties with the escalation of pressure to marry. And then I dropped religion and its patriarchal control of women from my life.

In 1965 when it was time to leave Texas, I moved to Detroit with my teacher-roommate in Texas where I taught in the first years of Head Start and joined CORE there. At the same time, I was taking college courses wherever I lived until I finally received my BA from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1978, nine years after I graduated from high school. By then, ready to move on from teaching children, I earned a Masters from Wayne State and worked in the school district's anti-poverty programs.

In 1967, at the age of 26, I sat down with 5 or 6 other women for the beginnings of one of those small Consciousness Raising groups that were spontaneously erupting all over the country into the Women' s Liberation Movement. We took women's need for equality for granted but knew we had to get to deeper, yet unspoken issues - abortion rights, welfare rights, rape, wife abuse. Although I was in a relationship with George, marriage slipped from my mind and then I discovered that sex no longer need be confined to marriage, and intimacy need not be only with men. Whew! We feminists spoke our anger and pain to each other and turned it into activism. We testified in speak outs and took our guerilla theater to the streets. While it would be a decade before I would begin to think of myself as a writer, the prediction of my 7th grade aptitude test, feminist issues filled me with subject matter and an urge to write. The first article I wrote appeared in the first issue of Women: A Journal of Liberation. After Miss McCarthy my high school typing teacher who coaxed me into college, nothing else shaped my life more significantly than radical feminism as I was there with all those women shaping it - the Women's Liberation Movement. In 1972 I became the Women's Advocate and Sacramento State University in California.

My first book,
Female Sexual Slavery (1979), translated in several language and still in print in English since its first publication, launched me into global activism against sexual exploitation and trafficking in women two decades before that issue came of age in the United States. I earned a dual doctorate in Sociology and Education at University of California, Berkeley. My dissertation on the social origins of nineteenth century American feminism, a background preparation for my next book, Susan B. Anthony: A Biography of a Singular Feminist. By the late 1980s, having been a feminist activist for two decades, having seen how Anthony was dismissed by contemporary feminist historians, I saw her life as a model of feminist activism. My teaching shifted to university students. I joined the faculty of the Sociology Department at Brandeis University in 1981 to teach Feminist Theory. In 1988 moved on to Penn State University as sociologist in the multi-disciplinary department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Through the 1980s, I unintentionally become a one-woman movement against and global expert on trafficking in women and children. One impact of Female Sexual Slavery was that the United Nations took up the issue of trafficking once again. But it would take many more years before American feminism would take up that issue. At the time, the radical feminist movement contested pornography but it had not yet connected the exploitation of women in porn to prostitution and trafficking. At the 1988 radical feminist conference on sexual liberals and the attack on feminism, I announced that as a one-woman movement is a contradiction in terms, "I give this to you." With Dorchen Leidholdt, I cofounded the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a UN-NGO, with Category II, human rights status.

While teaching full-time, writing the Anthony biography, I traveled the world for many years speaking and organizing against trafficking and to end prostitution. Through a collaboration with UNESCO and with support of feminist activists from different world regions, I developed a model for a new international law, The Convention Against Sexual Exploitation, which would make prostitution, pornography and sexual trafficking a violation of human rights in international law. Although not yet adopted by the U.N., I was undaunted. Sweden became the first of many countries adopt and criminalize the customers who buy sex. Vietnam, when it began to shift to a market economy was on the brink of being invaded by massive sex industries. I organized a feminist seminar there in 1993. Vietnam, too, criminalized customers in state law. A few years later my edited volume Vietnam's Women in Transition (1996), a collection of essays from American and Vietnamese feminists, was published.

With the normalization of sexual exploitation of prostitution as sex work and the massive explosion of pornography's sexual objectification and violence through the Internet, I turned to my next book, Prostitution of Sexuality: Global Exploitation of Women which was published in 1995 and includes the model law for criminalizing customers of the sex trade.

By the age of sixty, the pace and pain of my work that kept me in the center of controversy and constantly under attack from the sex industries caught up with me and my health. I took an early retirement and moved back to the California. Fortunate for me personally, feminists and human rights organizations globally were beginning to seriously take up the issue of trafficking while women who survived prostitution were creating programs to help women get out of it.

I needed to rest. My doctors told me I should try "working out of the other side of your brain." I did not have a clue of how to do that until I found myself painting first with pastels and then with oils and surprise to me, being an artist for the first time in my life became my passion. I truly love dragging my easel and paints out for three hours of painting to some lovely landscape, seascape or cityscape scene which are easily within reach here in Sonoma County of Northern California. Or I pick up my camera and head to the ocean. Painting and photography shows of my work are on my horizon.

By 2006 with good medical treatment, my energy began to return. I had been watching with anger as George W. Bush manipulated the U.S. into committing war crimes with its invasion and occupation of Iraq. In that summer, something stirred my consciousness when I began to hear reports of "the loss of innocent lives" in the Israeli-Lebanon War. "When," I thought, "we set aside one group of human beings who are to be protected (even though today's militaries ignored that law) from harm in war zones, we construct another group, men in combat, who are killable." Soon I found myself back to writing for the first time in more than a decade. My latest book
Unmaking War, Remaking Men: How Empathy Can Reshape Our Politics, Our Soldiers and Ourselves was published in 2011. Returning to feminist political activism, teaching workshops and lecturing, at the age of 70 I am excited to discover that "I'm back!"

Unmaking War, Remaking Men Kathy discusses the future of war. She says war will become less of an option as diplomatic measures become more advanced. Will there be fewer wars when women are equally represented in governments ? And why is human life considered expendable?

Robin Morgan says, "With the courageous vision, scrupulous scholarship, and heartfelt writing that has illumined her books on female sexual slavery, Kathleen Barry here focuses her laser-like intelligence on violence, militarism, and core masculinity. Unmaking War, Remaking Men makes the connections that could save us all. Ignore this book at your peril."

Unmaking War, Remaking Men is published by Phoenix Rising Press, PO Box 9567, Santa Rosa, CA 95405 9780982796702, $17.95,

Find me at and say "hi" on my blog if so inspired.

Contact Kathleen Barry:

Comments to: Jacqui Ceballos

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Virginia and husband Dave

I was born in 1939 in a small town in Iowa, about 60 miles from Des Moines. I am officially Virginia Smith Watkins but they call me Ginny. My father, Ted Smith, owned and operated a hatchery (hatching chicken eggs). My mother, Dorothy Dotts Smith, had been a teacher with a Bachelor's Degree. She became a homemaker upon marrying my father, and I must say a very good one. In addition, she was the bookkeeper for my dad's business.

Once my younger brother Stanley and I were in school, my mother became interested in possible employment in county human services, but my dad dissuaded her because he didn't know what he would do without her bookkeeping skills. I am sorry she didn't have much career fulfillment, but fortunately that was his only foray into sexism.

Roxanne Barton Conlin

In fact, when Roxanne Barton Conlin, the acclaimed feminist attorney from Des Moines and current VFA Board Member, was running for governor, some of the men were saying they wouldn't vote for a woman. My father quite vocally stood up for her within his businessmen's coffee klatch and he, who hated confrontations, put them squarely in their place.

Both my parents were at some time or other president of every organization they belonged to, therefore it was a natural for me to become a leader within NOW. They both agreed with the new and controversial issues of feminism, particularly the ERA and abortion rights, and pretty much treated my brother and me equally. They were very active in the United Methodist Church, which was a building block of my feminist attitudes as a child, when our local church had a woman pastor in the 1950's.

Fast forward 20 years. My mother, whose church leadership went beyond the local, returned from a United Methodist Women convention wearing an ERA button. I definitely had feminist thoughts as a child, mostly centering around women being more involved in business and having a greater public life. I owned at least a dozen dolls I seldom played with; I preferred my stamp collection. As a teenager, I was quite aware of what I would now call sexist attitudes that some, not all, boys had against girls. That awareness led me to make a good, albeit early by today's standards, choice of husband: David Watkins, who grew up in a neighboring town and worked most of his career for a medical supply company.

I had grown up with a feeling of entitlement. As a freshman at Drake University I was appalled by dorm hours (10:30 weeknights for girls, none for boys). Though I liked the friends I met, dorm life back then was pretty stultifying, so I was quite happy with my early marriage to Dave in 1959. I felt more adult and independent. Our first night cooking in our apartment, I started to clean up the dishes after dinner. "Sit down and talk to me," Dave said, "I'll help you later with the dishes." He has more than shared all housework and childcare ever since.

The subsequent births of our two children occurred before I achieved my degree. Dave and I decided we needed him to complete his degree first (as we understood that men could get far better jobs) and I would work as a caseworker for parents on Aid to Families with Dependant Children in order to support our beginning family (it was possible at the time with two years of college). The radicalization process clicked in there as I compared my temporary financial situation with the pervasive poverty of my clients.

When I became pregnant with our second child, my feeling of entitlement prevented me from realizing I wouldn't be granted what I envisioned as a maternity leave. What happened was even more shocking than that. The agency director, an unmarried man, took it upon himself to presume my stage of pregnancy and terminate me a full three months before I was due! (My immediate supervisor, a black woman, fought for me.)

Even my part-time endeavors to stick with college had interruptions, which to my good fortune had me still a student during the late 1960's. It was a heady time. I became involved in civil rights and peace movements and finally became part of a consciousness-raising group that included students, professor's wives and staff. Also, in 1967 I became a national member of NOW.

What I still didn't see before graduating was the need for more specified educational opportunity and career counseling. These were pretty much outside women's vision at the time--I couldn't have dreamed of all the possibilities that would open up. Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" guided me to conceptualize these fragmented thoughts about women that were swirling in my mind and soul.

That propelled me to found the Des Moines chapter of NOW in 1970 and serve as its first president. But soon I moved with my family to Minneapolis, where I immediately became involved in NOW and also with organizing the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus. I served as president of Twin Cities NOW for three years, State Coordinator (president) of Minnesota NOW for two years, then six years on the NOW National Board, five of which I was Midwest Regional Director.

During the earlier part of my feminist career, I focused on organizing. That meant personally recruiting members and aiding in the formation of new chapters throughout the state of Minnesota, which would then recruit more people into NOW. I also worked a lot on structural organizing and decision-making processes. I felt a real mission to fill the nation's heartland with organized feminists ready to develop power relationships with business and legislative bodies so we could strengthen the Movement nationwide.

I put much personal effort into many feminist issues, particularly reproductive rights, the ERA, and childcare. My lobbying efforts secured passage of the first Child Care Sliding Fee legislation in Minnesota. I also have published feminist writing, among them such articles as "Can Moral Values Go Too Far?" (about pro-choice abortion) in Engage, a magazine of the United Methodist Church social concerns division; "Diagnosis Drives Women Crazy" New Directions for Women (Englewood, New Jersey) XVI No. 5 (1987). The issue of psychiatric labeling of women stirred a controversy within the psychiatric community when in 1986, the American Psychiatric Association began considering a diagnostic category which would involve emotional trauma preceding the menstrual period. The diagnosis, Late Luteral Phase Disorder, involved feelings of irritability or anger, tension or feelings of depression, feeling "on edge", and self-deprecating thoughts, as well as decreased interest in usual activities, fatigue and loss of energy, sense of difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbance.

In addition to several more feminist articles, I have published articles on travel, home decorating, and the settlement of Hmong immigrants (an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand) in St. Paul.

Finally at age 40, employed part time as a community organizer in childcare, I realized I had to devote my time to my own career; I had no more time for devoting as much time to an avocation as paid work. I had to live what I had sought for women. I held the positions of lobbyist and executive director for Minnesota Social Service Association and went through a travel phase that absorbed much of my spare time.

photo: Bettye Lane
An effort toward a U.S. postage stamp is in progress--our proposal was accepted for consideration by the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee of the USPS and we should learn in about a year about the outcome of a Betty Friedan stamp.

The travel phase led me eventually to retire from social services and take up a travel career in customer relations with an affiliate of Northwest Airlines. In 2000 at age 60, I traveled to a Feminist Majority event in Baltimore, and there I became acquainted with Veteran Feminists of America. I became VFA's secretary, and worked with Barbara Love on "Feminists Who Changed America". Some time after the death of Betty Friedan, I became interested in memorializing her in a way that would be widely visible and permanent, such as statues and street names. The VFA Board authorized the Betty Friedan Permanent Memorial Committee, and I was appointed chair. An effort toward a U.S. postage stamp is in progress--our proposal was accepted for consideration by the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee of the USPS and we should learn in about a year about the outcome of a Betty Friedan stamp.

No, I don't get out in the winter tundra of Minnesota to go to feminist meetings anymore. I go to some Planned Parenthood fundraisers and feminist candidate events. I also work two part-time jobs that provide intellectual fulfillment and help fill our post-retirement coffers. That is important because of my preoccupation with the feminist movement, which earlier led to partial neglect of earning.

I'm proud and happy that I chose volunteer feminism. I feel fortunate to have been so immersed in such an historic movement, and I am content with our cyberspace technology that allows me to work with VFA from the comfort of my home.

My children, Kyle and Rhonda Watkins, are now middle aged and have brought me five grandchildren. Kyle and his wife Kathryn Hammond are both partners in their respective companies. Kathryn frequently tells me how much she appreciates our early work, as it has opened many doors for her. Daughter Rhonda, who has her own business as a prop stylist, feels the same way. She is married to Nik Wogstad. There is more information on my family on VFA's website under Mothers, Daughters, Granddaughters. (

In addition to feminism, I have a passion for classical music and play the piano. As a traveler, I have visited all 50 states and all seven continents. I am a provisional member of Travelers' Century Club as 100 countries is the full membership requirement. With about 94 achieved, I hope to make 100. Elder role models in VFA inspire me to keep living life big!

Contact Virginia Watkins:

Comments to: Jacqui Ceballos

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An only child, I was not born a feminist on September 29, 1935, although as I look at my 76-year-old life I keep wondering where I got the instincts to become the lifelong feminist I have become. It came through exposure to injustice and contact with outstanding women like Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Millie Jeffries.

I was born in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico in a small town on the southeastern coast, Yabucoa, among sugar cane fields, lovely rivers and streams, gentle mountains and a seductive sea. Hurricanes, which accost the island often, traditionally hit land along that coast and my parents used to say that my volatile, frisky personality derives from the influences of those hurricanes.

After I graduated from elementary school with high honors in a school system where my mother, Candida Paz, was my third and fifth grade teacher and my father, Luis Oscar Delgado, was about to become my seventh grade teacher, I went to junior and high school in San Juan, our capital city, old in history and charm and modern in its cultural manifestations and splendor. There I acquired leadership skills through the Girl Scouts, the Juvenile Red Cross and continued to excel educationally, writing poetry and essays and developing my English reading skills through comic books and Mickey Spillane detective stories.

28th August 1963: American minister and civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 – 1968) waves to the crowd of more than 200,000 people gathered on the Mall during the March on Washington after delivering his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Washington, DC. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Two years at the University of Puerto Rico in 1952-54 launched my working career at the Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico in 1955, then the hub of the rapid industrialization effort to lift up the island by its own bootstraps. In 1960 I married a "mainlander," Gregory Votaw, who worked for the Economic Development Administration; shortly thereafter we embarked on a life of international dimensions by going to live in Tehran, Iran for two years. While Greg worked on the development plan for Iran, I learned about Muslim culture, visited orphanages, organized women to have play days at their homes for the orphans in their homes and petitioned the Government and the Mullahs for authorization of adoptions of Iranian kids by foreign persons.

That was my initial "advocacy" effort that launched my second career in lobbying for worthy causes as a professional and volunteer advocate. Returning to the United States in 1962, my husband was employed by the World Bank and I started my half a century checkered journey into advocacy for causes related to civil and human rights and continued my engagement and fascination with the international affairs field. The Martin Luther King March on Washington in 1963 sealed my commitment to justice issues.

By 1972 I was heavily involved with the League of Women Voters Overseas Education Fund under whose banner we helped organize and strengthen women's organizations in Latin America. As its Vice President, I traveled wide and far in the hemisphere to help women organize to protect their rights and institute practices similar to those the League promoted in the U.S. I was a member of the first committee, under the aegis of the League, who organized and oversaw the first presidential debates in the United States.

So naturally, in 1972 I also joined and soon led the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women to advance Latina women's rights. Pretty soon thereafter President Jimmy Carter appointed me a member of the International Women's Year Commission (IWY) and then later as Co-Chair (with Bella Abzug) of the National Advisory Committee for Women. His Administration also appointed me to represent the United States in the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States and eventually I was elected unanimously by the countries of the hemisphere as President of that Commission for 1978-80, exactly 50 years after it had been initially presided by another U.S. citizen, Doris Stevens.

Needless to say, this heady and fruitful engagement with women's rights allowed me to play key roles during the Decade for Women, starting in 1975 with the first United Nations World Conference on Women in Mexico City and all the ensuing U.N. Conferences (1980 Copenhagen, Denmark; 1985 Nairobi, Kenya; 1990 Beijing, China). Always straddling the "official" and NGO (non-governmental) Forums, I was entranced with the progress women united had been able to forge. Also our U.S. Commission was instrumental in organizing the 1977 Houston, Texas national conference and the energizing state conferences that had preceded it.

My concern with women's rights also led me to gravitate toward action on human rights, serving for more than a decade on the Board of the Inter American Institute of Human Rights located in Costa Rica.

Professionally, I became the first Hispanic female Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress, Representative Jaime Fuster, serving the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico for seven years and being his staffer for international affairs in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. During these years I attended The American University, getting a B.A. in International Studies. My career in government relations culminated with service as director of government relations for the Girl Scouts of the USA - after serving 9 years on its national board of directors, as Chair of the Western Hemisphere Organization and chairing the triennial conference of the World Organization of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in Kenya, United Way of America, and the Alliance for Children and Families. My retirement at the end of 2006 kicked me back to my never-abandoned field of citizen advocacy which keeps me busy doing political, gender and religious advocacy for the same causes that have engaged my attention for five decades: women's rights, civil and human rights, and all issues of inequity .

The between years found me listed in the leadership or the ranks of the National Women's Political Caucus, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the Independent Sector Government Relations Committee, the Human Services Forum, the Maryland Women's Heritage Center, the Pan American Liaison of Women's Organizations (PALCO), the National Urban Institute. As a long-time member of the Veteran Feminists of America, I was honored with the VFA Medal of Honor on May 6, 1999 at a Sewall Belmont House celebratory event.

Currently I preside the Public Members Association of the Foreign Service (PMA). I have also helped, as George Santayana advised, to recapture "herstory" by writing a bilingual book in English and Spanish, "Puerto Rican Women" (now in its third edition), with biographies of women we should all emulate, and by writing chapters in books such as
Notable American Women, To Ourselves Be True, and other publications.

My personal life has been full with two outstanding sons, Stephen and Michael, and an equally outstanding daughter, Lisa, as well as six grandchildren. The four girls, Alexandra, Anna, Taylor and Abby, have benefitted from my advocacy on Title IX of the Education Amendments (the Equity Act) with their excellent academic records and sports achievements in soccer, basketball and softball; the two males, Daniel and Michael Todd, are doing exceptionally well in science. Michael, the younger one, on lacrosse and Daniel, the eldest, on soccer and softball.

Oh, the memories my life as a mother, professional and feminist has given me.

Carmen Delgado Votaw has received many awards and recognition for her work, including the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education, Las Primeras Awards from the Mexican American Women's National Association, (MANA). She was inducted into Maryland Women's Hall of Fame and received an Honorary Doctorate in the Humanities from Hood College in Maryland.

Comments: Carmen Delgado Votaw

Jacqui Ceballos -

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Florence Howe, feminist teacher, activist, editor, publisher, writer, a founder of women's studies and the Feminist Press, and author of many books and essays, including A Life in Motion, a memoir.

In the years before I was ten, my maternal grandparents-immigrants from Kiev (then Russia) and from Safed, Galilee-were as important to my life as my parents. Baba Sara loved me unconditionally and continued to nurse me through pneumonia when I was three, though the doctors and my mother assumed I would die. A few months later, after my brother's birth, I continued to spend most of my time with Baba Sara who taught me to knit, crochet, embroider, and for fun, play card games. She spoke only Yiddish and I learned her language at the same time I learned English. When she died suddenly in a bizarre accident, I was seven and I can still remember the day of that loss as though it were yesterday.

Sarah and Max Stilly’s wedding picture, circa 1900

My grandfather Max came to live with us because, unlike her brothers' wives, my mother kept a kosher house. Max, who had once taught Hebrew to young boys studying for their bar-mitzvahs, decided to teach me to read and write Yiddish-as he had not taught his wife or his daughter-and to read Hebrew. To my constant pleas about the meaning of Hebrew words, he said I needed to read more quickly. Three years later, the day after he had announced that he would begin to teach me the meaning of words, he became ill, and five days later he died. At ten I experienced once more the shock of loss, but from these two grandparents I had felt love and gained the pleasure of learning.

My mother had wanted to become a teacher but her father had allowed her only a high school commercial course, since he wanted her to marry one of the young rabbis he brought home to dinner. For five years after her high school graduation, she refused these rabbis, and then, at 21, Frances chose to marry Sam Rosenfeld, a man who had had no Hebrew education at all, nor more than six years of school. He was the son of a Polish immigrant who had entered the U.S. with her brother and year-old baby Sam. She worked at buttonholes, married again and was widowed shortly after she had borne two daughters. Thus, she depended on Sam who began working full-time in a house-furnishings shop before he was 12.

My mother and father planned to make their fortune selling household goods, first from a pushcart, then from their own shop. Unfortunately, I was born in March 1929, nine months and a week after their wedding, which grandfather Max did not attend. Unfortunately also, the pushcart burned down and Sam began to support his family by driving a taxi. The first decade of their marriage and my life coincided with the Great Depression. Frances was not a happy stay-at-home mother, and I-plagued with colic-was not a happy baby. After my brother was born when I was three, my mother was fond of saying about her two children, "Isn't it a pity that he has all the looks and she has all the brains."

My mother and me in the Bronx Jewish Home and Hospital, 1992.

In January 1939, after my grandfather's death and just before my tenth birthday, my mother announced that she was going to work in an airplane factory and that I would do the housework and look after my brother. Fortunately, our move that year allowed me to attend a junior high school that happened to be a feeder school for the best high schools in the city. Two years later, an English teacher decided that I should be tutored in math so as to pass the test for Hunter College High School, thus setting me upon a path leading to Hunter College. Both institutions in different ways changed my life and career goals, though nothing could change the command my mother had given me when I first entered kindergarten: I was to become the teacher she had wanted to be.

Hunter College High School assigned me to speech clinic, which forced middle-class speech into my mouth and traumatized me into silence at home and in the classroom. I studied full-time after school, even through my mother's radio programs and past normal bedtime, often still typing required history outlines when my taxi-driving father entered at two or three in the morning. Still, I could rarely earn the A's I was accustomed to. One high school teacher told me that I was the perfect B student, organized, diligent, reliable, and with not "a creative bone in my body." I accepted that assessment gratefully; in an alien world, I was pleased to be noticed.

At Hunter College I regained my voice, if not in the classroom, then as a student activist, inspired by the college's motto: Mihi curae futuri-the care of the future is mine. Perhaps because the high school had been so demanding, at college I earned A grades easily and made friends as well. Our small group formed an inter-racial and inter-religious sorority, probably the first in the nation. In my junior year, when I was president of the Student Self Government Association, the dean of students saw me through the annulment of an unfortunate marriage. In that year also, the college president and another professor thought I should drop student teaching and prepare myself to become a college professor of English. Their letters sent me on to graduate school, overriding my mother's goals for me.

A year later, M.A. from Smith College in hand, I entered the University of Wisconsin as a rare female teaching assistant. Still longing for motherhood, I also married a man working on his M.A. at the University of Chicago. Eventually, he transferred to Wisconsin to continue his graduate studies, but in the spring of what was my third year, he issued an ultimatum. I was to return to New York with him right then, or he would divorce me. I begged to be allowed to complete at least my residence requirements, but I did leave before writing my dissertation.

Three years as a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin allowed me to gain an instructor's position at Long Island's Hofstra College in 1954. A year later, I reluctantly ended my second marriage, when it became clear that my husband would, under no conditions, agree to have a family. Two years later, in 1957, still chasing that family and the children I wanted, I married a psychologist on the Hofstra faculty. Surprisingly the nepotism rules that usually punished female academics were used against him, and I refused a tenure track, multi-year position.

My father and me in front of the Ford Zephyr, West 57th Street in Manhattan, 1958

We moved to Baltimore in 1957, where I could not find a teaching job, and instead decided to write my thesis and have a baby. Even with the aid of artificial insemination, I could not get pregnant or keep the fetus, and in 1960 gratefully accepted a temporary appointment at Goucher College, which turned into a tenured position as an assistant professor. Perhaps the teaching assuaged my desire for a family. Certainly, three years later, when my husband accepted a visiting appointment at Berkeley and wanted me to quit my job and come along with him, I realized that I couldn't do that. Had he been willing to adopt a child, had he been willing to deal with his need for alcohol, all might have been different. But I wouldn't leave the one part of life that satisfied me. So he went to Berkeley in August 1973 and I stayed in Baltimore, though we did not move to divorce until the following year, when I decided I was through with marriage forever.

In the fall of 1963, students at the dinner table in the Goucher dorm where I often ate, asked me to drive them to a demonstration in front of a segregated movie theatre and barber shop near Morgan State College, attended chiefly by black students. After dropping my students, I worried about their safety, parked, and walked over to check on them. Thinking I was coming to join them, the students applauded and chanted, "Howe is coming." When I joined them, I didn't know that I would be ostracized by half the faculty for allegedly "leading students to break the law." The president of the college, hearing that I was sympathetic to the students' activism, assigned me to bail out students who were increasingly getting arrested as demonstrations grew larger and bolder all through Baltimore.

In the early months of 1964, I heard about the organizing of Mississippi Freedom Summer, and in June the world learned about the murders of three young men who were attempting to register black voters. I went to Mississippi on a bus filled with people ten years my junior. In Jackson, I was assigned to open a school in the basement of the Blair Street Church, with six college students as staff. Among the 100 young people who turned up on the first day was Alice Jackson, a sixteen-year old who, the next summer, would come back with me to Baltimore as my adopted daughter.

The immersion experience in Mississippi changed my life significantly. Henceforth, I would work actively to expose racism, and I would change my teaching methods. I learned to teach through asking "open" rather than "closed" questions in order to elicit responses from students who were learning to think about their lives and the social and political world around them. One question obsessed me: why could young black teenagers write better poems than my privileged white college students? I was going to change my teaching style in composition classes to elicit better writing. This sounds simple, and seems to have nothing to do with feminism. But, friends, this is how ultimately I became a feminist.

One day, something happened in my Goucher College composition classroom while I was trying to teach young women to see that D. H. Lawrence's point of view in Sons and Lovers was never focused on the young women Paul Morel made love to. I asked students to imagine what might happen should Miriam tell her parents she was pregnant. "What would they have said to her?" No one responded. After some minutes of trying different questions, I grew impatient and fairly shouted, "O.K., what would your parents have said? How do your parents treat you, and how do they treat your brother?"

Immediately, I had responses, and as we went around the room, students became more and more insistent that their parents treated them and their brothers equally. But when I asked more detailed questions about mowing lawns, washing dishes, hours, cars, allowances, and other matters, differences became visible, and the students tried to deal with them by claiming they would not want to mow lawns even if there was a payment, that they didn't need money, since their dates paid for them. I knew I was on to something when students groaned as I assigned this as a writing topic. I had found a topic that young women in the mid-sixties could write about, and I began to call my course "Identity and Expression." Only in 1969, when the women's movement hit U.S. campuses, did my composition course become popular. That same year, when students asked why there were no women writers in the eighteenth century course I taught, I had to admit that I knew of none, that I had studied only men. And again, I knew something was wrong.

Other key events pushed me into feminism in 1969 and 1970 and led me to women's studies and the founding of the
Feminist Press. The newly-founded Chronicle of Higher Education sent a reporter to my composition class who then put my picture on its front page, claiming I was "teaching consciousness," even though I insisted I was teaching composition. The Modern Language Association appointed me as the first Chair of its newly-founded Commission on the Status and Education of Women in the Profession, and asked that I prepare a study of the status of women in 5,000 English and Modern Language Departments. My report found that women were 80 percent of those studying English and the modern languages, but they were only 20 percent of those applying to doctoral programs. The study made clear that women with high grades chose not to apply to doctoral programs, leaving the field open to men with weaker grades. How could this be? What discouraged women from even applying? The short answer was, of course, the male curriculum, which, when it included women at all, derided or sexualized them.

Early in 1970, three university presses asked me to write a biography of Doris Lessing. I told them I wanted to begin another project: a series of 100 short biographies about dead women, to be written by living ones, including Doris Lessing. All turned me down, saying "there's no money in it." In July members of
Baltimore Women's Liberation, who said they had no time to work on a project that might be called the Feminist Press,

Tillie Olsen and the cover of Life in the Iron Mills, published by the Feminist Press.

nevertheless, without telling me, announced its existence. When I returned from a month at Cape Cod, I found more than a hundred letters, some with checks and bills, in my street mailbox, addressed to
The Feminist Press. The letters indicated that Baltimore Women's Liberation had also announced that the Feminist Press would publish children's books as well as the biographies I had suggested. Fifty people attended the first meeting of the Feminist Press in my living room on November 17, 1970.

A few months later, Tillie Olsen sent me a copy of
Life in the Iron Mills, a novella first published anonymously in the Atlantic at the request of its author in 1861. Tillie now knew that its author was a woman and she wanted the Feminist Press to publish it. Reading it, I knew that if such a masterpiece had been "lost" for more than a hundred years, then much more must also be lost. So, in addition to biographies of women and feminist children's books, we began to publish "reprints" of important women writers, a series that has continued as a mainstay of the Feminist Press. Some of these women are household names today: Rebecca Harding Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, Paule Marshall, Louise Meriwether, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Frances Harper, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Kate Chopin, Agnes Smedley, Mary Austin, Edith Summers Kelley, Tess Slesinger, Myra Page, Helen R. Hull, Fielding Burke, Meridel Le Sueur, Margery Latimer, and others. These books have changed the

The Feminist Press at C.U.N.Y. logo.

curriculum in literature and history both at the high school and college levels, and, I am certain, have also been responsible for the fact that the majority of doctoral candidates in English and the foreign languages are now women.

Less than six months after the
Feminist Press was founded in Baltimore, I moved, as professor of American Studies and Women's Studies, to the College at Old Westbury, a new SUNY campus on Long Island. The Feminist Press moved with me, where it was given generous quarters at the College and eventually a small two-family house of its own on the fringes of the campus. Surviving a fire in 1983, we moved into a formal association with the City University of New York in 1985, where I was appointed full professor and released from teaching to run the Feminist Press. In 2000 I retired as publisher/director, and in 2005 returned while the Board of Directors searched for a new director. When Gloria Jacobs was appointed in early 2006, she asked me to stay on as publisher for two years. I retired once again in June 2008, when I began to write my memoir full-time. A Life in Motion was published in 2011 by the Feminist Press.

The memoir,
A Life in Motion, contains chapters about my early life, education, and four marriages, as well as my father's and brother's suicides, my mother's decade-long siege of Alzheimer's, and, on happier notes, my friendships, and my life as "another kind of mother." I have two non-biological families, one black, the other white, and they know and care about each other. While all this would have been enough for a single volume, I had another goal: to write a history of the first 38 years of the Feminist Press. During those same years, I was also an advocate for women's studies a new multi-cultural, interdisciplinary explosion of the curriculum attempting to uncover the lost history, literature, culture, and lives of women, and through that process re-vision the world that male culture had created. Not surprisingly, I once described the relationship between the Feminist Press and women's studies as symbiotic, meaning that women's studies needed the books that Feminist Press was producing, and Feminist Press needed women's studies as a natural market for its books. Thus I spent much of the 1970s and 1980s on the road, a tireless advocate for women's studies, and at the same time, a promoter of the new-found literature by and about women.

Although I had spent three weeks in China (as a "feminist") and three in India (as a women's studies founder) during the mid-1970s, after January 1980, the focus of my work in women's studies and in feminist publishing became increasingly international. Early in 1980, Mariam Chamberlain, a program officer at the Ford Foundation, appointed me her advisor on a three-week tour of women's studies in Europe, an event that marked the beginning of two decades of international work that she, the Feminist Press, and I did for women's studies. Much of this came through United Nations meetings in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995). In each case, the
Feminist Press had Ford grants and sometimes UN funds as well to invite scholars to attend the Forums and to report on the development of women's studies in their countries. Thanks to such financial support, some hundred reports were published and circulated to scholars world-wide through our own Women's Studies Quarterly. Mariam and I also attended and often spoke at other international meetings in Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland, Australia, Uganda, and New York. Through the 1980s and the 1990s I continued to speak on the international development of women's studies both at international conferences in Korea, Italy, France, Poland, Japan, Germany, India, and Argentina.

In 1983, on a lecture tour in India, I found Susie Tharu, a professor of English literature in Hyderabad, who became one of the editors of
Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present, ultimately published in two huge volumes by the Feminist Press in 1991 and 1993. Reviewing these volumes, notable critics have claimed that their contents had markedly changed the history of India. Today many of the 140 writers have volumes of their own, and young Indian female authors know that they have a long history of other women writers behind them. Early in the 1990s, the Indian volumes were seized upon by African scholars in the U.S. who wanted to produce similar volumes for their continent, and fifteen years later, the Feminist Press completed the publishing of Women Writing Africa in four regional volumes-South, West/Sahel, East, and North. All of these volumes will shortly also be available in French.

The editors of the Northern volume of Women Writing Africa in Frati at Bellagio, Italy, 2004.

Beginning in 1996, I traveled often to some ten African countries, for multiple meetings with African scholars, writers, translators and editors, gathering and preparing texts for these volumes. In addition, when their volumes were nearing completion, all of us - African and American editors traveled to Bellagio, Italy, to work on team residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation's Villa Serbelloni.

I close the memoir in several ways, hearkening to the oft-cited wisdom that humans, whether female or male, need both love and work, and defining love as emanating from deep friendships. I describe my New York "family of choice," all of whom, have become acquainted with my non-biological families, now scattered through the U.S., from California to Mississippi, Kansas, Illinois, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. And I describe the providence of two personal Bellagio awards from the Rockefeller Foundation that allowed me to write the memoir, and six team awards to Women Writing Africa that allowed the completion of that project.

What I don't say is what I could not have imagined during the intense two years of writing and rewriting the memoir itself: how difficult it would be to "retire," not only from managing the Feminist Press, but especially from working on the Women Writing Africa project, which kept me in motion through 2009. What I understand now is that my life in motion was not simply the experience of being in planes, trains, and other moving vehicles, but the emotion of working with other people. At least so far, I haven't found any way to recreate that experience in retirement.

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Karen DeCrow: Betty Ford's GOP fought for women and their rights
Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 5:42 AM Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 11:37 AM
By Karen DeCrow, Contributing columnist

Courtesy of Karen DeCrow

The first White House meeting with leaders of the women’s rights movement was hosted by President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty Ford (standing) in September, 1974. Among the attendees was Karen DeCrow, of Jamesville, (fourth from the left of Gerald Ford). DeCrow made many trips to the White House. She also was invited by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Next Friday is a day to remember in U.S. history.

Ninety-one years ago (Aug. 26, 1920), American women got the vote.

A fitting way to mark Aug. 26 this year would be to commemorate the extraordinary life of Betty Ford, who died July 8 at the age of 93. She was a hero for women and girls, and a role model for men and women alike.
It might also be a fitting time to observe how much the Republican Party has changed since Betty Ford lived in the White House.

Betty Ford and I were colleagues for years, working together for women's rights in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the country.

Our most memorable time together was at the Republican National Convention in July 1976 in Kansas City.

She was there as first lady, married to President Gerald Ford, who was fending off Ronald Reagan's bid for the presidential nomination. Ford got it. Reagan was the GOP nominee in 1980.

Betty Ford had an agenda beyond that of being the charming wife, although she was without a doubt one of the most charming individuals one could meet.

She used her role to actively support the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced shortly after women got the vote in 1920. The ERA text stated: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The Republican Party was the first political party to endorse the ERA in its platform. Betty Ford and her husband's supporters wanted to keep the ERA in the platform.

In Kansas City, Phyllis Schlafly led a powerful faction of Reagan supporters trying to remove the ERA from the platform.

The battleground over the ERA was the daily meeting of the Platform Committee.

I was at the Kansas City convention as national president of the National Organization for Women. We were supporting the Fords. Gerald Ford was strong on women's rights and Betty Ford was a leader in the movement. NOW's main contribution at the convention was keeping the ERA in the platform through our knowledge of rules and procedures.

As I think back to that convention, it is glaring to see how far to the right - away from civil rights and civil liberties - the party has galloped in 35 short years.

There are moves to permanently deny abortion coverage to low-income women, federal employees and military women and to effectively end abortion coverage in private employer health plans. There is a push to end funding for Title X family planning clinics which provide mammograms, pap tests, HIV and STD screening and contraceptives. There are attempts to dismantle Social Security and push Medicare into a private voucher system.

In 1976, there were ardent Republican supporters of equality between women and men. Betty Ford may have been the most visible leader, but she was not alone.

Today it is often fashionable for some Republican women to say, "I am a feminist," even when they aren't. For example, Sarah Palin says in interviews that she is a feminist, although her positions on economic and social issues show her to be anything but.

When anti-equality politicians call themselves feminists, I am not angry or outraged, I am amused. It is astonishing that in a few decades feminists have come from being pariahs to setting the agenda.

In the summer of 1976, Kansas City was hot and the hotels were full. Those of us from NOW didn't have much money. So we were put up by generous hosts. I'll never forget where I slept: on a pullout couch. It had a metal bar in the middle, making it violently uncomfortable. It was free, so who could complain?

When I think back on that sweltering week, it stands out as one of the joys of my life: the ERA stayed in the platform.

The Ford administration was the first (but not the last) to invite leaders of the women's rights movement to the White House. We suspected Betty Ford had urged the meetings.

As first lady Betty Ford was in the public eye constantly, and was criticized for everything she did. Fortunately, she had a good sense of humor.

Karen DeCrow

First lady has been a thankless position. Eleanor Roosevelt was brilliant, and had strong views. She was criticized for her politics, and for her appearance.

Mrs. Roosevelt was attacked for being too involved in politics. Bess Truman was criticized for being uninvolved in politics.

Jackie Kennedy was criticized for decorating the White House. Her predecessors had been assailed for being dowdy; she was assailed for being fashion-conscious.

Lady Bird Johnson was the perfect wife. The press and public could find nothing to attack her for, so they centered negatively on her being the "perfect wife."

Patricia Nixon gave up a career to become a political wife. She rose to the pinnacle of glory and then fell to disgrace because of deeds over which she had neither control nor knowledge. Rosalyn Carter became first lady in 1976, when women were able to take interest in more than flower gardens and table settings. She was under siege for being intrusive because of her interest in foreign and domestic affairs.

Being first lady is a full-time job. Betty Ford worked full time and should have received a salary. Michelle Obama works full time and should be paid.

When Nancy Reagan was first lady I had an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post (Aug. 27, 1984), saying she should be paid. She wrote a gracious thank-you note.

For now, on the anniversary of universal suffrage in the United States, we remember Betty Ford with much respect and much affection. I wonder if the Republican leadership thinks of her in that way.

Karen DeCrow, an attorney, author and activist from Jamesville, is in the National Women's Hall of Fame and writes an occasional column in The Post-Standard.

Comments: Jacqui Ceballos

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Diana Kurz: ARTIST, Naturalist Painter, Holocaust Memorialist, Eastern-influenced Feminist ....

I was born in 1936 in Vienna, Austria. My parents and I came to the US via Italy, Switzerland, England (where I learned to speak English) and Ireland. We settled in Brooklyn NY, and eventually moved to Kew Gardens, Queens. Because of the large body of work I have done on the subject of the Holocaust, I think it is important to mention that we were forced to flee Vienna in 1938, and that although we came to the United States when I was four years old, the events of WW II directly affected my life and childhood. Family history and my parents' generosity in raising two of my orphaned cousins, survivors of concentration camps, as their own children instilled in me an awareness of the importance of social justice and caring for others.

My father, Benjamin Kurz, a businessman but in many ways unconventional and "bohemian," encouraged me to follow my own path, and

My mother and me in Europe (I don't know where) when I was about 2 1/2 or 3

instilled in me the idea that I was capable of accomplishing whatever I desired. My mother, Lillian Kurz, was an early example to me of a woman who, while raising four children--my younger sister, me, and our two cousins--could also have a full life outside the home. She was for many years an active leader in Hadassah, a women's organization that sponsored a hospital in Jerusalem. Through my mother and her friends, I grew up with the awareness of how a committed group of women working together can be a force for creation and change.

My mother appreciated the arts throughout her life. In her mid-sixties, she and a friend opened a successful art gallery in Queens that she ran until she was in her nineties while also being involved in philanthropic endeavors in the neighborhood. Consequently, from an early age we children had before us the image of a strong and independent woman, and a father who was proud of and supported her accomplishments. My sisters and I were encouraged by our parents to follow our own paths and dreams and were never made to feel limited in our aspirations because of our sex.

Making art has been the predominant focus of my life; from my earliest years I knew I would be an artist. I recently found a report card from nursery school in London, when I was 3 years old, in which a teacher noted "good sense of color and excellent brushwork."

I had violin and piano lessons from age 5 until I went to college, but never art lessons. I went to a conventional local public high school, Forest Hills High School in Queens, NY because we did not know there was a High School of Music and Art. In college (Brandeis University, BA, 1957) I took every studio and art history class possible. I remember being profoundly inspired by a talk to our senior class by Martha Graham, who emphasized that one can do anything if one sets her heart to it, a daring concept for a woman in the 1950's.

I then attended Columbia University's School of Painting and Sculpture (MFA in Painting, 1960), where I studied primarily with John Heliker, one of the rare professors who encouraged his female students. Along with art history classes, an influential course for me was in Chinese and Japanese philosophy. This led me to a greater interest in exploring Eastern religions and philosophy, which in turn influenced my approach to making art and to life in general. I was also privileged to take a class with Margaret Mead.

Although at Columbia I was awarded a General Scholarship and a Brevoort-Eickemeyer Fellowship, I also worked part-time teaching nursery school. While many of the male art students at Columbia went on to teach art on the college level, I was not told, and I did not realize, that I was as qualified as the men. It is important to note here that I had no experience of a woman art professor. For the next few years I supported myself teaching children. My first teaching job on the university level was in 1968 at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts). I subsequently taught painting and drawing for many years at such as Pratt Institute, Queens College, University of Colorado in Boulder, Naropa Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University, SUNY StonyBrook, Cleveland Art Institute, Art Institute of Chicago. In all my teaching I was especially aware of my women students and tried to give them the encouragement and confidence to be themselves that I did not get from most of my male teachers.

In my Paris Studio 1965

Abstract Expressionism influenced my thinking and painting while in school, and for the next few years my work was gestural in style and large in scale. Note that this was a time when a great compliment to a woman artist was that "it could have been painted by a man," a phrase that sounds absurd today but that was how it was 50 years ago.

I received a Fulbright Grant in Painting to France in 1965-6 and lived in Paris. The French painter Jean Helion became a mentor and encouraged my painting representationally. Having felt the need for new forms and structures, I had already started to incorporate suggestions of figures and still-lifes into the abstract compositions, and now in France I was beginning to paint from direct observation—still-lifes, studio interiors and window views—subjects I continued to explore upon my return to New York. I also regularly drew and painted directly from the human figure.

I worked outdoors from landscapes during residencies at the artist colony Yaddo in 1968 and ’69, a practice I continued at other artist residencies including MacDowell, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hambidge Center, Millay Colony, etc, as well as whenever I was out of the city for any length of time.

My first personal experience of uniting in a cause with other women was participating in the Women's March for Peace (Jeanette Rankin Brigade) in 1968 in Washington to protest the Vietnam War. The energy of thousands of women in the march around the White House was extremely powerful and very moving and inspiring to me.

I was an early member (since 1972) of the Women's Caucus for Art, exhibited in many all-women and feminist shows, took part in feminist discussion groups and joined marches and demonstrations protesting inequality in museums and galleries.

Double Francesca (Francesca Woodman) oil on linen 56" x 72" an example of my large figure paintings I did in the 70's and 80's.

In 1970, I bought and renovated the Soho loft in which I still live and work. Throughout the 70’s I painted directly from life, mostly large paintings of over life-size nudes, female and male, posed singly or in pairs. I often included windows and/or mirrors to create a complex spatial structure. Color and painterly gestures were important elements of the imagery. In my art, my approach to giving equal dignity to women and men, and to women's bodies as painted by women, were expressions of my thinking on the subject.

I had begun to exhibit in 1963, and in the 1970's had solo shows in several venues and was also fortunate to have four solo shows at Green Mountain Gallery in Soho, a gallery that showed many women artists. I was also in group shows in Colorado; The Rose Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Artist Choice Museum; Indiana University Art Museum, among other places.

During a MacDowell Colony fellowship in 1977, I completed a nine-foot-tall self-portrait as the Hindu Mother Goddess Durga, the image of power and vigor. It was my contribution to "The Sister Chapel," a collaborative feminist project of 13 artists shown at PS 1 in NYC, and other sites. There are plans for it to be re-assembled and exhibited again.

In the 1980's I painted clothed figures in interiors, exploring more complex compositions, color relationships, and narrative relationships between the people. I also worked extensively with still-life subjects, primarily using as models the American Art pottery and decorative fabrics from the 1930's to 50's I had collected for years, juxtaposing cultures, patterns and objects to imply narratives that are up to the viewer to interpret. As Sandra Langer wrote in an article about my work in Arts Magazine, February 1984: "As a repository of thoughts and feelings her paintings symbolize a human ethics and consciousness all too rarely encountered in modern life."

Freedom Fighters from REMEMBRANCE
(Holocaust) Series oil on linen and wood and paper 76" x 57"

I exhibited with Alex Rosenberg Gallery in NYC from 1980 until it closed in 1989, and also had solo shows in those years at Snug Harbor Cultural Center; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Bienville Gallery, New Orleans; Thomas Center Gallery, Gainesville, Florida; Rider College, New Jersey. During the 1980's I was also in many important group shows in New York City and throughout the US and in Moscow (Russia).

Awarded an American Center Residency in Paris in 1985, I again lived and painted in France for a year. The paintings I did there were exhibited in a solo show in Aix-en-Provence in May l986, where I had the honor to meet Grace Paley. Among my memories of that year is the large silent funeral procession for Simone de Beauvoir.

I was very active from 1992-94 with WAC (Women's Action Coalition), a direct action group started in NYC in 1992 by a group of artists in response to the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. It was a heady time; the energy and protests and actions reminded me of the feeling of early 1970's feminism. I was part of the Diversity Committee of WAC, working to foster diversity of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, etc. Some of the issues we were involved with included rape trials, exclusion of women artists from major art galleries, and the Republican and Democratic conventions.

When I started a small watercolor in 1989 to memorialize family members who had perished in the Holocaust, I never imagined that painting overtly personal works inspired by my family’s experiences and commemorating specific people, were to preoccupy me for the next fourteen years.

In writing this essay, I realize that my experience on the Diversity Committee of WAC may have prompted me to do this work. These paintings are large with over life-size figures as in my previous paintings, but done from imagination and photographs, and often incorporating text and other media. They are narrative and often multipaneled installations or in the altarpiece formats inspired by early Renaissance paintings. While I hadn't set out consciously to paint about women, I realized most of the images were of women and children. As the late feminist writer and critic Arlene Raven wrote about looking at these works, "The artist insists on the intimate and individual responsibility of each pair of eyes and each heart."

Works from this series have been exhibited in eleven solo shows and many group shows throughout the U.S., as well as in a solo show in Vienna at Bezirksmuseum Josefstatdt in 1998. It is most meaningful to me that two of the largest installations were purchased by Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien (the History Museum of the City of Vienna). Evelyn Torton Beck, whom I met at a VFA event, wrote a very perceptive article about my work in the spring 2009 issue of Feminist Studies:
In 1997, with a VCCA-Austrian Federal Ministry of the Arts Residence award, I lived in Vienna for several months and did work inspired by architectural elements and cityscape views from my windows. In 2003 I began a series of pastels and larger paintings based on volcanoes and the landscapes, which impressed me during a visit to Hawaii. They were exhibited in a solo show at Showalls in NYC in 2007.

I am at present continuing an ongoing project of a series of portraits begun at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 2005. After the many years of working almost exclusively on the solemn subject of the Holocaust, I had wanted to paint again directly from life and to celebrate people who are alive now, and to affirm in some way that each life is precious.

I am now also working with imagery of landscapes and animals (I am involved with animal rights), and continue to draw regularly from the live model. Encouraged by Jacqui Ceballos and Gloria Orenstein, I am also thinking of doing portraits of women important in the Feminist Movement. I welcome your visit at

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It is difficult to imagine that the year I was born - in 1933 - was only 13 years after women in the United States had the right to vote. I was raised in a Middle Eastern, predominantly patriarchal community, in Brooklyn, New York, that imposed limitations on my two sisters and my mother. After I chose medicine as a career, I found a similar patriarchy: there was only one woman in my medical school class of one hundred.

As a physician, I practiced Pathology at State University of New York but maintained an active interest in the arts. I trained as a filmmaker under cinematographer, Arnold Eagle at the New School in New York; and as an actor at the Warren Robertson Theatre Workshop, New York. My medical documentary, “Fraternal Twins: The First Year of Life,” was widely distributed to universities in the 1980s. Later, I produced and performed the title role in the award winning film, “The Poet Englestrom”; and I wrote, produced and played the lead role in, “Five Valid Reasons for Murdering Lisa,” a satirical film exploring the roots of misogyny.

My stage work includes the lead role in “Sing, America: Norman Mailer in His Own Words” at the Actors Studio; “Bringing the Fishermen Home” by Deb Margolin, at Dixon Place. As co-founder of the Perfectly Frank Cabaret Theatre, we produced over 40 new plays, mostly in downtown New York venues, including Dixon Place, Here, Home for Contemporary Theatre, and Le Poeme. Currently, a feature film, “Caballo,” is in development.

Since retiring from medicine I have found other interests, which, like the medical ethic, fall under the rubric of “Do No Harm.” Most recently, I have explored the proclivity of our species for killing our fellow members. This interest was stimulated by a book entitled, “The Most Dangerous Animal" by David Livingstone Smith, with whom I’m collaborating on a mixed media project. The project deplores our culture of violence, citing the killing of 200 million people over the last 100 years, through war and acts of genocide. The project’s goal is to create a movement towards a saner society.

This project feels like a natural sequel to a documentary I completed in 2010, entitled "Equality, I am Woman" based on footage I shot of the Woman's March for Equality in New York City in August 1970, a march that celebrated the 50th anniversary of women's right to vote. Equality is an ideal I’ve actively pursued throughout the years: the Civil Rights march with Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1970 from Macon to Atlanta protesting police brutality in Augusta; the first Gay Liberation march in June, 1970, which was a reaction to the police action at Stonewall Bar in 1969; a protest against the proposed neo-Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s. (upper right corner of photo: Emily Friedan, Al Sutton, Jacqui Ceballos)

Women’s equality should be a natural right, yet it has been politicized, by tying it to religion, economy and birthing rights, rendering the issue almost unrecognizable. For a woman, though, the issue of equality is complex: she must maintain her own personal emotional and psychological stability, so that her belief in her right to equality is not mitigated. Often, she must also defend herself against personal attacks that she receives along the way. Thus, she must take care of herself while moving the world forward.

I dedicated "Equality, I Am Woman" to my mother, Luna Sutton, who was born in 1910 and passed away in the waning hours of 2010. My mother’s life spanned an eventful century, where she observed the evolution of the rights of women and minorities. She was my greatest inspiration.

The women’s movement has always been confronted with a male-controlled society that is threatened by its claims for equality. In 1970, the media did its best to ridicule the Women’s March for Equality in New York City as being comprised of a handful of misguided women, using the worst pejoratives. In its coverage of that event, The New York Times underestimated the numbers of the marchers by a factor of 10.

With men, there seems to be a disconnect in our behavior that disables our empathy, and allows us to pursue our own personal entitlement to the detriment of women. One could also describe this male quality as a cocktail of expedience, ambition, self-centeredness, arrogance, blindness or a kind of stupidity. After all, what could be more basic to our lives in this world than the notion of equality? Our society has been able to make wonderful advances because we have cooperated with one another. We need our neighbors. We need our mates, our partners, not as slaves, but as equals, because it is the right thing to do and because, as a society, we are no stronger than our weakest links.

Misogyny, in my belief, is the hostile, emotional underbelly of man's resistance to accepting women’s equality. A man may vote correctly, share in the household chores, and maintain a tokenism of being a fair mate; but if he does not examine his deepest feelings, he will not be free of the hostility that fuels gender inequality. The male perspective is formed from infancy. His mother appears omniscient and omnipotent, creating life and nurturing it. As he matures, he develops awe in the face of her natural gifts, her gracefulness, often leading to a lifelong obsession with women’s sensuality. So it is not unusual that some men are resentful and jealous of her. Someone said, “ The measure of a society is the level of intelligence and maturity of the majority of its members.” We still have a long way to go to achieve an equal society, but we are on the way.

PS from Jacqui:

In early 2010 Jeanne McGill, publicist representing Al Sutton, discovered the film he’d taken of the 1970 march, and then somehow found me. As head of New York NOW’s Strike Committee I’d planned many of the August 26th events and remember that march as the joyous culmination of the most exciting day in the early feminist movement. Thus began several months reaching out to many who had taken part in the march. As the memories poured in, Jeanne was inspired to put them into a book, soon to be published. Meanwhile Al edited the film, adding Helen Reddy singing “I Am Woman” and Gloria Steinem and me sharing our memories and Betty Friedan‘s speech at the rally after the march. All this culminated in our celebration of Betty on June 17th. We are grateful to Jeanne for her major role in this little drama, and to Al for the film and his gift of over 200 copies to share with you.

Check out Al Sutton at the Internet Movie Database:

For Further Info or Comments Jacqui Ceballos:

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I was born in the small town of Greensburg, in Western Pennsylvania. My fascination with the world of art began when I was four and watched a teacher draw a perfect arc, Mickey Mouse ears, on paper with a pencil. I spent my childhood coloring, drawing on my blackboard, and modeling in clay. Small town life was closely involved with nature, climbing trees, hiking fern filled woods, raising dogs, canoeing and visiting a relative's farm. Here I churned butter, milked cows, and on rainy days read through a series of Mark Twain's works. My mother channeled her energy into raising three children. My father, an engineer, was a gun collector and hunter. Every fall he brought home dead, bloody animals from the kill. I failed to come to terms with the ubiquitous hunting mentality of small town life, and from this experience came to feel that nature and her creatures were sacred. I became a pantheist without knowing it.

My parents respected my passion for art and sent me to an art class taught by Dorothy Riester a sculptor, feminist and graduate of Carnegie Tech. She introduced me to a greater awareness of the world, instilled in me that art was a way of life, that women had a right to a career, and I should go to Carnegie Tech to study art. During high school I continued art classes, entered poster contests (where I often won an award), and became the yearbook artist. I was delighted to be accepted at Carnegie Tech as a painting and drawing student in 1949. From that moment, my commitment to art having been validated, was total and has remained so to this day.

At Carnegie, one of my teachers was Balcomb Greene. I became exhilarated by the unconventional ideas and free life style described by his wife Gertrude. We all lived in a run down mansion on Pittsburgh's Fifth Avenue in rented rooms. I was a serious student, grappling with all manner of technical disciplines and expressionistic ideas. During my first year there, were influential painters Philip Pearlstein and Andy Warhol as graduates. It was a good but tough four years. After college I came to New York City because we were told it was the "Art center of the World". For the next several years I struggled to paint, while working at jobs such as stringing beads, parking cars, and doing display sculpture. I socialized at the White Horse Tavern, married and divorced a Czechoslovakian refugee and finally fell into a real job that swallowed years, textile design. My art reflected my life at this time; erratic and experimental with wildly expressionistic images of screaming figures. To stay involved with art, I took classes at the Art Students League with Vaclav Vytlacil and Harry Sternberg, and with Howard Conant at NYU. These were generous and encouraging teachers. The textile field was devouring, although I was promoted as a stylist and managed a small design department. (I could never get the message that "only what sold was good"). That work paid for my Master of Arts degree, which I earned during my vacations and four years of night classes. I received my degree from NYU and found a job at Pace College teaching painting and art history. This was a high point for me; I was getting my life together, had a sense of accomplishment, and had time to paint intensively.

Islip Show 2010

In 1964 I met and married Douglas Kaften, a textile manager, photographer, and divorced father of three. (We subsequently supported and put his children through college, together pooling our resources.) My work at this time consisted of painted and textured collage papers that I assembled into images of oil slicked animals. These works were shown in NYC at the 20th Century West Gallery in my first exhibit (1967) called "Elegy to Nature".

In 1968 Douglas' job took us to California, where I felt wrenched away from my roots and dealt with this by doing a series of silverpoint drawings of home-town life inspired by the faded, mysterious photographs in our family album. I completed a series of 25 works, walked into the Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles and to my amazement was instantly offered an exhibition. This series sold well and was reviewed. (Ten of these are now in the collection of the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia with more promised by three of my collectors).

During the following two years I painted and explored the West, taking trips to the desert, redwoods, canyons and Mexico. When Doug's job took us back to New York City, I resumed teaching at Pace College, as well as several drawing courses at Pratt Art Institute. I went to the Lerner-Heller Gallery, with more silverpoint drawings and was offered an exhibition within two months.3 These works were exhibited again in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Midtown Gallery. In retrospect I feel they were my most pleasing works, deeply felt, but not my best. I needed to return to nature. I was fascinated by the slivers of islands on Eastern Long Island and painted these from a small boat using a minimal style that reflected their pared down shimmering, mirage-like simplicity. This series was also well received and was exhibited at the Lerner-Heller gallery in 1973 as well other venues on the East End.

Nature painting in the 70's "wasn't in" especially in New York City. To rethink my philosophy and perhaps to reinforce or strengthen my beliefs, I began a quest, reading Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces and other similar writings. 4 I became involved in the women's movement and began to create a personal myth with the woman as protagonist and heroine, not passive observer. I developed a series of drawings composed of an imploded ink surface, I found a way to break apart India ink, which paralleled what I felt was happening to the landscape. I drew upon them with charcoal depicting my version of the Monomyth. It was a search for a personal truth, climaxing in a merging with the Redwood tree, symbol of nature in its ancient, most powerful form. I still believe Nature and her creatures are sacred. To Lerner these ideas weren't "saleable." In spite of this, I felt a conviction about my subject. Later this series of 20 drawings was collected by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. In 2005 they gave me an exhibition of my Mythmaker series, shown in sequence for the first time. I was gratified to have this work reach a larger group of viewers with its idea about the effectiveness of the expanding role of women as protectors of the earth.

My search led me to the Galapagos Islands, to experience this primordial place, and to paint it. I was inspired by Melville's and Darwin's haunting accounts. I joined a group of environmentalists called Friends of the Earth, and spent three weeks there in February, 1975. We camped, sailed, and hiked, while I painted and took photographs. I was entranced by the grand, barren beauty of these now endangered islands. I was jolted into doing larger work, a series of mural-sized drawings of the monumental tortoises, iguanas, and trees as well as paintings of the lava-formed islands. (These drawings utilized the ink technique I developed in the myth series). I felt a synthesis of my work coming together. These paintings and drawings were exhibited in the Lerner-Heller Gallery in 1977 and in other museum shows and alternative spaces.

My wilderness experiences fueled my sense of awe and concern for the earth. I saved every penny I could for these trips. In 1979, I was happy to receive a C.A.P.S. graphics award for my large drawings, (tortoise etc.) which I used for rafting trips in the Grand Canyon. I developed a Canyon series, collages of ink textured papers with flat shapes and carved beveled white edges. I worked on creating a spaceless anxiety, a loss of the eternal as I saw the Grand Canyon threatened by a dam project. I did more large drawings such as "Tanker in the grand Canyon" and animals of that area. Each of these works came from a personal encounter or in some cases from a dream, a nightmare or newspaper account.

I felt convinced that women could have a stronger role in saving the world from ecological disaster and proposed with Lucy Lippard and several other women an idea for a Heresies magazine issue linking feminism and ecology. My article on ECOTAGE appears in issue #13, published in 1981. The word Eco-Feminism was created.

A personal apocalypse occurred for me In December, 1980. The Lerner Gallery dropped me, a dear friend died and I was seriously injured in a car accident. The accident was shattering physically (a broken pelvis and ribs, a collapsed lung, concussion and contusions, etc. six weeks in the hospital) but it was the combination of losses that affected me deeply. I had another exhibit scheduled that February at the Nardin Gallery in New York City of my Canyon series. Although I was immobilized, and unable to attend my opening, my husband framed and delivered the work.(reviewed by The New York Times.)

My recuperation from the accident came slowly from several encounters with nature. I began digging in the earth planting bulbs, watching them grow and attract hummingbirds. Fortuitously, I was granted a residency at the Ossabaw Island Art Foundation in Georgia, a wild, magnificent, semi -tropical environment with alligators, magnolias and painted buntings where I was lured into taking ever longer walks and even losing my cane. Also we adopted a dog from ARF who became another healing link in my life and whose portrait is in the dog museum in St. Louis, Missouri.

I think the combination of these events and the confrontation with my mortality deepened my awareness and darkened my vision toward the future world. I recall driving along Route One in New Jersey, past miles of smoking, stinking refineries and feeling a sense of despair. The degradation of the environment seemed real, inevitable, and perhaps on some level paralleled my physical destruction. An image of the Statue of Liberty partly obscured by pollution floated in the distance and became the inspiration for a future series of works, the Billboards, 1987-94. I infused my art with an ecological message, developing many works on paper and on canvas. I have shown them in non-commercial places, such as Wave Hill in the Bronx, Guild Hall in East Hampton, the Hillwood Art Museum, as well as many others. In the early 90ties I had solo shows: Carnegie-Mellon Univ. in Pittsburgh, The Harrisburg State Museum, Pa., and Rutgers University Women Artists Series in New Brunswick, NJ. etc.

Industrial Park series called Memorial,
(crow in ruins)

During the last twenty years I feel I have done my best and possibly my more difficult works: the Industrial Park Series, Overview, a group of 20 dimensional textured panels and my Billboard series. I am using iridescent pigments, with collage and oil paint to simulate images of the destruction of our world. I have been encouraged by some awards such as: the Pollock- Krasner grant, (2008) a Puffin grant, a Vogelstein grant,(2004) etc. and some solo exhibitions such as: the Islip Museum of Art, NY, (Future Tense), 2010, in Costa Rica at The National Museum, (Los Museo de Los Ninos) in San Jose (2008), at Seton Hill Univ. in Greensburg, Pa., 2006, and the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, NY, The National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. The museums assisted with catalogues of the exhibits. My work was included in a number of environmental exhibits such as the Nabi Gallery, NYC, 2010, the Puffin Foundation's traveling "Toxic Landscapes" (Havana, Cuba), Savannah College's, "In Response to 9/11 and many others.

I feel that artists can play an effective role in reminding the world about pending disasters and still create a work of beauty. The process of creating the work, probing the core, is one of our ultimate joys as artists. Most importantly, I am doing what is true for me.

Janet's Web Site:

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In 1969, I met a group called
WAR was planning an all women exhibition called "X to the 12th Power." I was invited to one of their meetings and someone asked me the question that changed my life. "Have you ever experienced any discrimination due to being a woman?"

That query woke me up!!!

I began to realize how much sexual discrimination I'd experienced from the time I was born in 1937. As the daughter of Jewish middle class parents who sought to be "Americans," no one thought of preparing me for a Bat Mitzvah. None of the women in my family had ever had one, although the boys had Bar Mitzvahs. So I was deprived of a serious religious education. But I visited my grandfather at the synagogue on high holy days, and I loved Passover, when my grandmother and my mother's sisters and their husbands all got together.

I was a fat kid, teased by my cousin Barry, (who to this day addresses me as Cecil the Nicil). When he called me names, I cried. His father, Uncle Eddie called me a cry baby. No one stood up for me. From the time I was a small child I loved to draw and paint and art became my consolation. I wanted to be like my much admired Aunt Shirley, who had her own art school. When I was 12 I read Irving Stone's
Lust for Life and immediately identified with Van Gogh, who was also an outcast but became a famous artist. So, though I had no encouragement from anyone, including Aunt Shirley, I was determined to be an artist, too. In high school I made it my major. To my despair, none of my art teachers ever praised my work. With great misgivings, I let go of art as a vocation. However, my art teachers had sent us to the Met and to M.O.M.A. and in those magical places my fascination with art was cemented.

I attended Brooklyn College, majored in education, and married Chuck Nemser in my junior year. After graduation in 1958, I was assigned to P.S. 44, an elementary school in a poverty-stricken area of Brooklyn, where the children were ill equipped to absorb the curriculum and the teaching staff consisted of hard working but discouraged women while the administration was comprised of harassed men, some also sexist.

I taught there during the day, and took classes at night at Brooklyn College graduate school and obtained an M.A. in literature. I also joined the newly formed Union and went out on the first teachers' strike. This experience, which taught me I had courage, and Emerson's dictum that nothing was as important as developing as a person, encouraged me to keep searching for a situation where I could be more effective and more fulfilled.

After 6-1/2 years at P.S. 44, I learned that NYU had a graduate division, the Institute of Fine Arts, which offered courses in every period of art history. I was ecstatic to discover I could become an art historian and study with the greatest minds in the field. With no hesitation, I gave up teaching and enrolled. I was also thrilled, though a little overwhelmed, that after eight years of marriage, I was also to become a mother. I gave birth to my daughter Catherine after my first year at the Institute.

But, as a wife and a new mother, my illusions of the joy I would have being instructed by greatest minds in the field were soon shattered. I had no encouragement from my professors, although I studied assiduously and had excellent marks. My thesis advisor, Donald Posner, told me I wasn't fit to obtain a PhD as I was too old to sit at the feet of a professor (I was 29). Another professor, Colin Eisler, told me that, since I was a wife and mother, I should become a volunteer. But I still retained the illusion that hard work and dedication were all that was needed to reach the heights. I was still too insecure not to believe that somehow I hadn't worked hard enough or wasn't smart enough. I had no clear idea that without a male mentor, I could never make my way up to the highest positions meted out by the men's club that controlled the snobbish, sexist world of art history

Once I attained my M.A. from the Institute, in 1966, I obtained an internship at M.O.M.A. where cronyism and prejudice toward women also prevailed. I had no powerful male helping me, so I left and created a successful art tour business. While I enjoyed the lecturing, I didn't want to be a business woman.

Through my first artist friend Irene Moss, I found my way to the world of artists that I had yearned for in my youth. Moss connected me with Arts Magazine, and eventually, I wrote articles for all the art journals. I was the first to interview Chuck Close, Vito Acconci, Eva Hesse, and many famous artists.

In 1969, I encountered a feminist organization called
Women Artists in Revolution, (W.A.R.),( See intro paragraph.) A visit with that group changed my life. I became an avid feminist, determined to fight for women's in the arts.

As a critic who had worked briefly at the headquarters of
Arts Magazine, I had seen from the inside how dismally dealers, art publishers and writers dealt with women artists. Fortunately, around 1970, Arts hired a sympathetic editor, Gregoire Müller, who allowed me to do an article about the situation. It was one of the first published pieces about sexism in the art world. I called it, "Forum of Women Artists," as it was made up of quotes. I asked the women how they felt about their status. Most refused to answer honestly, for fear of angering the establishment. The piece caused a stir.

I also contributed to an alternative newspaper called
Changes; it gave me the opportunity to do a taped interview with Louise Nevelson. In it, one minute she spoke like a queen, declaring, "I am a women's liberationist." But, when I provoked her by asking how she felt about being left out of an important exhibit at the Met, she morphed into a guttersnipe, hissing, "I'd like to sue Harvard. I'd like to take a gun and shoot that other little snot nose, (She meant Rosalind Krauss, an historian and critic, much influenced by Clement Greenberg, an art world king maker, whose disciples taught at elite schools, owned top galleries and curated at premier museums including the Met and M.O.M.A.]). The interview was an art world sensation.

At my suggestion, Brian O'Doherty, the editor of
Art in America, commissioned me to write an article about the treatment of women artists before the present day. I researched thoroughly and discovered that there were great women artists in the past, but they had been written off by art historians and critics in the nineteenth century. I tested the premise right up to the present by sending queries to all the prominent 70's critics. Most of them revealed their misogyny. Entitled "Stereotypes and Women Artists" my article contradicted Linda Nochlins's claim that there have been no great women artists. Then I met Patricia Mainardi, an artist, writer and member of "Red Stockings," a radical organization. The feminist activist Robin Morgan had given Pat $200 to start a feminist art newspaper and Pat invited me to contribute. I showed her some of my writings spoofing the haughty, hypocritical sexist art establishment, and she wanted them all. She invited me to join the board. I brought Irene Moss with me and Women and Art was born.

Cindy holding copy of F.A.J.

However, when we began the second issue there was a split in the political ideology of the board. Moss, Mainardi and I left and started The
Feminist Art Journal, into which I introduced a "Male Chauvinist Pig of the Month" page. We had contributions from women's artists and art historian organizations both locally and around the world. I considered my "Stereotypes" piece to be the most significant analysis of the reasons that the status of women artists' was so low. There was not one female artist mentioned in Jansen's Key Monuments of the History of Art, the bible of the field, therefore I published it on the front page of F.A.J. It later was featured in the Journal of Aesthetic Education and included in Judith Loeb's Feminist Collage.

In 1971, I became a founding member of "Women in the Arts" and joined them when they picketed M.O.M.A. Chuck took the historic photograph of the event.

After my articles appeared in
Arts Magazine and the F.A.J., I was invited to lecture and conduct seminars at colleges, museums, and women's organizations all over the country. I did a slide talk as part of the presentation based on my "Stereotypes" piece. I enjoyed working with the eager women students and even sparring with the skeptical males.

In the spring of 1972 I was invited to speak at a National Women's Conference at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington D.C., where I distributed the Journal to women from all over the country. This was a terrific launching for the magazine and our readership increased greatly. At the event I had the opportunity to speak with Patricia Sloane who was the key note speaker. I wrote up the conference for Art in America.

In 1973, Pat Sloane and I did three panels about women artists and the art world at the College Art Association held at the N.Y. Hilton. Some of the participants were Marcia Tucker, Audrey Flack, Betty Parsons and Lee Krasner. All the sessions were jammed. At the third one, Louise Nevelson strode into the auditorium and spoke forcefully of her struggles, but though she could have, she never hogged the microphone. Later women artists and historians from all over the world began to testify about the male prejudice of art teachers, dealers and curators. The room was pulsing with energy and the women vowed to take actions to remedy the situation. What an experience!!!

The young woman sitting next to me hugged me when I told her I had put the panels together. "I'm a painter from Philadelphia , she said. I want to put on an all women artists' exhibition there. Could I come and see you?" Of course, I said yes!

As Diane Burko and I conferred as to how to go about putting on a major exhibition, I got a flash and said: "Why only one show?" Why not have a city-wide festival with as many institutions, both public and private, presenting the work of women in all the visual arts, as well as panels of significant art world women? The main exhibition would be entitled "Women's Work," and should be a juried exhibition made up of Marcia Tucker, Adele Breeskin, Anne d'Hanoncourt, Lila Katzen and myself. Each juror could invite 20 American artists she thought to be the most gifted."

I also offered to curate my own exhibition called "In Her Own Image." The whole festival would be called "Philadelphia Focuses on the Visual Arts" or "Focus."

Diane was ecstatic. She got together a committee of women supporters. I traveled back and forth to Philadelphia, once to help convince the supporters to take on all the necessary work that would be required; later to help persuade powerful Philadelphia people to participate in making the festival come to pass. In the spring of 1974 "Focus" became a reality!

The main exhibition was held at the city's Civic Center. My show, in which I displayed 46 artists, was at the Fleisher Memorial Art Gallery. The Philadelphia papers raved about the events, and
The New York Times sent Grace Glueck to write it up. I created a black and white catalogue, reproducing the art works in my exhibition, as a centerfold in the F.A.J. and wrote about "Focus" there.

After the third and forth issues of the
F.A.J., both Mainardi and Moss ceased editing the magazine. But with Chuck keeping the books, and second reading, Carolyn Mezzello, and later Jeri Bachmann doing the layout, and Barbara Jepson copy editing, we soldiered on, publishing articles by Gloria Orenstein, Lucy Lippard, Frima Fox Hoffrichter and other distinguished art historians and writers who did pieces on little known highly creative women. Most articles were on the visual arts but sometimes they covered the other arts as well. I did so much writing for the magazine that I had no time to contribute to other publications, some of which, I and other contributors, had attacked for their corrupt behavior and sexism. The subscription list accelerated and I found it hard to keep up with assessing the art scene for significant subjects, assigning articles, editing submissions and answering letters. Fortunately I found a dedicated college student, Diane Addrizzo, to take care of the subscriptions and mailings.

Before I cut my ties with the art magazines, I published an interview with Lee Krasner in
Arts and an article in Art Forum, which drew attention to her "Little Image" paintings that indicated that she influenced her husband Jackson Pollock. I also helped to make Alice Neel a feminist cause célèbre by writing about her bohemian life as well as her work in Ms. Magazine. In 1975, Neel painted a portrait of Chuck and me in the nude, which was reproduced in New York Magazine and the Village Voice.

At this point I put my taped interviews into a book and called it
Art Talk: Conversations with 12 Women Artists. I had a hard time getting a publisher as they couldn't understand the need for it, even though a book about women artists had not appeared since the 1930's. Because of an article in Ms. I was contacted by Scribners. It was published exactly as I wrote it.

It was exciting interviewing the artists. Some like Sonia Delaunay, Dame Barbara Hepworth and Louise Nevelson were historic figures and grand dames. I formed a friendship with the tragic Eva Hesse, and there was a lot of laughter with the wicked, but hilarious Alice Neel.

Art Talk came out, Scribners gave me $100 for my "book tour," which I supplemented by giving slide talks at universities and institutions around the country. In California I met Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago. Chicago was determined to have me see vaginas in all her paintings, but I resisted, saying I felt entitled to interpret her works as I saw fit. Judy strongly resented my response, and, in one of her autobiographies, called me "Cindy the Nemesis."

In 1975, I was proud to receive an Art Critics Fellowship from the N.E.A. In 1977, I was completely wowed when The Minneapolis College of Art and Design asked me to be their Commencement Speaker.

In the summer of 1976, I wrote my first novel, a satirical roman á cléfé about a woman artist ready to do anything, including providing sexual favors, to reach the top. I think the book scared the publishers because it exposed the misogyny and dishonesty of the art establishment. It was way ahead of its time.

By the summer of 1977, I was burnt out and had to close the
F.A.J. and leave the public arena for a time, though my heart was always with the fight for equality. I turned inward and began to write fiction. My next novel, Eve's Delight, dealt with a woman's sexual needs, and it found a home in 1982 with Pinnacle Books.

In 1989 Patsy Cunningham, the widow of Ben Cunningham, asked me to do a monograph about her husband. I'd met Ben many years ago and had written a favorable review in Arts about his fabulous optical painting. I had also done a catalog introduction for his traveling exhibition, so I agreed . The result was Ben Cunningham "A Life with Color" JPLArt Publishers/Texas.

In the 90's, I wrote an article about women artists for Ms. depicting violence, and a piece about the lack of produced women playwrights for the Dramatist Guild Quarterly. I published humor pieces for the New York Times and Newsweek and did theater reviews for many publications.

In 1995 HarperCollins did a reprint of
Art Talk, adding three more 70's interviews. The book is has been translated into many languages and is in libraries and museums all over the world. It is considered a classic and is always available online and in bookstores.

Cindy with Betty Friedan and Barbara Seaman

In 2005, I wrote a memoir,
Tales of the 70's Art World: As Told by A Feminist Art Critic. The book is filled with historical facts and stories about my encounters with a few male artists, but mainly the great women artists, some of whom, such as Lee Krasner, have finally come into their own. It also fills in the gaps in women's art history missing from other books about the period.

In 2007, I curated an exhibition at the Tabla Rasa Gallery in Brooklyn called "Women's Work: Homage to Feminist Art." consisting of women artists' of the 70's, dialoging visually with young artists of the twenty-first century. The exhibit received super reviews.

I also created my blog in 2008 called Cindy Nemser's Forum, and I have continued to lecture about the need to hold demonstrations and sue, if necessary, for the equal validation of women's art in all important venues.

Cindy Nemser is in the process of archiving her tapes and papers, seeking a publisher for her memoir, and attending to her blog at

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March 2011

Photo: James Arzente

I was born in New York City 1944. My sister Rita Ann Schwalb was born in 1946. My dad, Morris Schwalb was a lawyer and then a judge; my mom Evelyn Rosenhain Schwalb was an artist. She worked in ceramics and jewelry and painted in oils. When I was around ten she went back to school to get a teaching license and taught art and metal shop in the Junior High School in Riverdale and other schools. She even had her own gallery in our Riverdale apartment building where I had my first solo show while in college.

I wanted to be an artist since I was five years old. My first art classes were in an after-school program at PS 86. I still have the first oil painting I made--an idealized landscape of an imaginary mountain, a lake, some fir trees, a small house and a setting sun.

While in junior high school I began studying with the painter Anna Meltzer whose work evolved from realism to a personal abstraction related to cubism. She had a skylight studio at 50 West 57 St. and every Saturday I took the subway to my classes. I drew still-lifes in charcoal and tried to draw figures and portraits. I was building a portfolio to apply to the High School of Music and Art. My JHS 115 (Elizabeth Barrett Browning JHS) had terrible art classes; there were sewing classes but no craft classes; the all-girls school was training us to become secretaries and mothers.

After two tries I was accepted to Music and Art. It was a long commute, but M&A was a sanctuary for me and I felt like an artist; those three years were the happiest of my life. I exhibited works in the Semi-Annual Exhibition and even had a solo show of paintings in the hallway, a big

"Using the arc and the circle representing the universe and the earth, Schwalb creates vividly colored works that combine silverpoint, gold leaf …. Here the artist contemplates spiritual existence, using brilliant sky blues, steel blues, waves of sepia, deep wine reds, and subtle filigree of silver lines…."
— Cassandra Langer, Women Artists News, Fall 1990

deal at the time. We had amazing teachers including the well-known painter May Stevens. One of my favorite teachers was the printmaking instructor, Miss Pferdt.

When I applied to art school I wanted to leave New York City. Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) seemed like the perfect place, with a campus in Pittsburgh. I studied graphic design and fine-art classes. After graduation I came back to New York and found a job at Dell Publishing as a book-jacket designer. I had to look under “help wanted male” as there were no jobs listed under “help wanted female,” and I was the first woman in the art department except for the secretary; however my salary was less than the male designer.

I began to share an apartment in Manhattan with my sister and life seemed to hold exciting promises. One month after we moved in together she was diagnosed with melanoma and two years later she died. It took me over five years to recover from this loss. I joined the Vietnam anti-war movement and made posters and buttons for demonstrations. By then I was working as a freelance designer, hardly making a living, but somehow able to afford my little rent-control apartment.

In the summer of 1971, I lived on Cape Cod trying to reconnect to my own artwork. My first works were pen-and-ink watercolor drawings based on dreams and imaginary landscapes. In 1973 I went to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony. These were transforming experiences, working in large studios, three meals a day and no distractions.

At VCCA I met the feminist writer Elizabeth Fisher and became art director for her literary magazine Aphra. I found my way to Women in the Arts and I was hooked. Soon I volunteered to be the designer of the first WIA newsletter, working with Cynthia Navaretta (who is still my friend today). WIA held numerous actions to change

“Susan Schwalb’s metalpoint and smoke Tablets and Headdresses explore the effects of fire as a symbol of dynamic transmutation of matter into energy. She probes changes of state, the limits of life and death, destroying part of the art work itself in a moment of the burning, the ephemeral moment in which the essential radiance inherent in all matter is perceived.”
— Gloria Orenstein, "Evocative Images," Arts Magazine, May 1980

the status of women artists, at one we demonstrated at galleries that didn’t show the work of women. I remember picketing Pace Gallery on 57 St with Cynthia. Patrons there were astonished to learn there were any women artists at all.

In 1974 while sharing a house in the Hamptons with artist friends I discovered silverpoint and within a year it had become my primary medium. My first series of metalpoint drawings was on the theme of the Orchid (1974-78). For the first year I drew from one dried flower exclusively, seeing it from many points of view. Meant to evoke sexual as well as spiritual themes, the orchid was a symbol for me and for women. Relatively small drawings though later enlarged, in 1977 they were shown in a solo exhibition at the Women’s Series at Rutgers University and then toured to several other universities.

In 1977 a group of us from WIA went to Albany to choose delegates for the National Women’s Year Conference to be held in Houston, and tried to elect someone to represent women artists there. I became the elected delegate, while a few others were appointed later on. I remember Gloria Steinem standing on a chair with a bullhorn encouraging us to stay in lines for hours before we could cast our votes for slates for pro-choice and pro-ERA women. Back in New York I networked with writers and artists so there could be an art space at the Houston conference. During this conference I heard about the next international UN conference planned for 1980 and decided that women artists coming from all over the world had to be represented.

It is a long story of how I was able to get this conference to come into being, including a trip to Denmark to secure support from a major museum and a meeting with a group of women artists in Copenhagen. This was long before email and the internet, and I would call Denmark from the offices of a UN official. Daily I received 50-100 letters and packages from women who wanted to participate. In a wonderful book, “Women Artists of the World” edited by Cindy Lyle, Sylvia Moore and Cynthia Navaretta about the first International Festival for Women Artists, I describe how I was able to form a committee of over 100 women in the US to bring this conference into existence.

It was a heady time, and in July 1980 the conference opened at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum. We had slides, posters, books and original art from more than 30 countries, and women artists from over 20 countries held readings, performances, and panel discussions. Numerous museums and churches in Copenhagen held

“In Schwalb’s ethereal silverpoint drawings streams of whispery lines — surely it is impossible to make thinner lines than these — cascade downward. They form sliding, blossoming organic shapes so close to touching you can feel the heat between them. Schwalb achieves great tension between formal delicacy and sensuous, even erotic, content.”
— Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, 2/26/1987

special exhibitions and for the first time The State Museum of Art showed 19th and 20th Century Danish women artists from its permanent collection.

I have no idea how I made art during the year I worked on this conference and taught part-time at City College, but there are a surprising number of works dated from 1979 and 1980. By this time I was combining silverpoint drawings with fire and smoke and creating box sculptures. These works have a more abstract quality, but evoke the same sensuality and spirituality. I scratched and tore into the paper as well as used smoke and burning with silverpoint. The works were like a ritual act and in some cases the drawings seem to exist only for a moment. My Headdresses and Parchments speak of a lost space being reclaimed by women. I used burning and tearing as part of my technique until the mid-1980’s.

In the summer of 1981 I was accepted at Yaddo. I was back working in my small apartment. but the summer changed my work as well as my personal life. I met the composer Martin Boykan who taught at Brandeis University and lived in Newton, MA. Within a year I was dividing my time between Boston and New York, something I do to this day. In Boston I searched for a network of women artists. I helped found the Boston chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art, its first open meeting in my husband’s living room. My husband and I married in 1983. I taught part time at Mass College of Art and continued my involvement with national WCA and College Art Association conferences.

In my work of 1988-90 the female body remained as a source in such works as “Emblem” and “Spiritus Mundi.” A large drawing from this series was included in “Power, Pleasure, Pain: Contemporary Women Artists and the Female Body” at the Fogg Art Museum in 1994.

Since 1996 I moved further into minimal abstraction and have continued to push the limits of silverpoint. My current work is the most reductive to date. I now make works that fuse painting and drawing. I have an additional network of much younger women artists in New York, a supportive husband and since 1990 have been able to devote myself to my work on a full-time basis. I make a living as an artist and have work in many important museums collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery, Washington D.C., The British Museum, London, The Brooklyn Museum, NY, Kupferstichkabinett - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.

Recently I joined facebook and am looking forward to continuing the work for women’s rights through the internet.

My solo exhibition “A Gathering Quiet: Metalpoint Paintings and Drawings” is currently up until March 12, 2011 at Galerie Mourlot, 16 East 79 St, NYC.

Comments: and

Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the revival of the ancient technique of silverpoint drawing in America. Most of the contemporary artists who draw with a metal stylus continue the tradition of Leonardo and Durer by using the soft, delicate line for figurative imagery. By contrast, Schwalb’s work is resolutely abstract, and her handling of the technique is extremely innovative. Paper is torn and burned to provide an emotionally free and dramatic contrast to the precise linearity of silverpoint. In other works, silverpoint is combined with flat expanses of acrylic paint or gold leaf. Sometimes, subtle shifts of tone and color emerge from the juxtaposition of a wide variety of metals. In recent works, Schwalb abandons the stylus altogether in favor of wide metal bands that achieve a shimmering atmosphere reminiscent of the luminous transparency of watercolor.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World.

In about twenty years I have written “a pile of books” (my partner’s phrase) about women and their lives, including Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World. Why? Personally I was undoubtedly making up for years of deprivation, but when I realized that the deprivation was widespread I became mission-driven to fill the void.

I was born Penelope Granger Morgan in 1944 in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in North Warren, Pennsylvania, in a time when women’s history was an unheard-of concept, especially in my male-centered family, what with my three brothers, Freudian psychiatrist father, and immigrant mother, an artist who took on the trappings of a post-war homemaker. And, women’s history remained an unheard-of-concept throughout my college and graduate school years in the 1960s, despite the fact that I earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master of arts in teaching social studies.

Penny with her brothers, 1948

So, it’s no wonder that for many years, I believed that men’s words, needs, and deeds were what mattered most. After all, men are featured in history books. Statues of men dominate our public spaces. In everyday life, men are the majority of politicians, preachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, mechanics, and the experts on everything from money to child rearing. Men make the laws and enforce them. Their stories dominate the movie screen. Their voices monopolize the radio waves. Men’s pictures and activities appear most frequently on television and in magazines and newspapers—even on the obituary page. Men’s feats are the focus of public holidays and celebrations. So, no wonder I believed that men’s words, needs, and deeds were what mattered most in life.

That belief was upended by the Second Wave of the women’s movement, although not immediately because in the mid-1960’s I was preoccupied with coping with the unexpected death of my beloved brother Jon and my father’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, which had prompted him to pressure me to accept a marriage proposal in order to provide a family for my soon-to-be-widowed mother and fatherless sister (Cam was born in 1962, the year I graduated from high school). Dutifully in 1966 I married a Presbyterian minister, and had three children: Jonathan in 1969, (the year my father died), and David and Stephen in 1970.

Given my minimally religious upbringing and skeptical mindset, I wasn’t prepared, or even suited, for life as a minister’s wife, but like my mother I took on the trappings of the role and threw myself into it.

We spent five years in Buffalo, New York, where some of the older members of the congregation dubbed me a “women’s libber,” although I never quite understood why since all I remember is changing diapers, diapers, and more diapers. The next church was in Oklahoma City and we arrived there in 1973, a year after Oklahoma became the first state to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

"Penny Colman off to take aerial photographs of a historical site."

In the summer of 1975, we spent a week at Ghost Ranch, a retreat and educational center run by the United Presbyterian Church, where I heard Letty Russell, a feminist theologian, talk about liberation theology. Inspired, I returned home and wrote Knowing Me and You, a multi-week course on understanding gender role socialization that I taught in various adult education venues. I also formed The New Image Players, an all-women drama group, which gave many performances of a one-act play I wrote, Dare To Seek, which focused on Jesus’ interactions with women.

The play opened with two actors who alternated between calling out the names of Biblical women and reciting religious strictures against women. Rose, an African American woman, typically played Jesus, and K.C., who was pregnant, played Mary. The cast included a musician, medical student, retired teacher, and two mothers and their teenage daughters. Mostly we were well received, although at a performance in Stillwater, women wearing aprons showed up to launch a protest, which included harassing my sons who were passing out programs.

In 1978, we moved back to the East Coast where I held a series of jobs, including one as a program manager of a national project to deal with racism and sexism in the United Presbyterian Church and another as the executive director of an anti-poverty agency. Then in 1987, as my sons were graduating from high school and leaving for college, I embarked on a career as a full-time freelance writer. I wrote personal essays and research-based articles on a variety of subjects for popular magazines. (Having noticed that women experts were rarely cited or quoted in articles, I made sure I used only women experts.)

In 1990, I started my first biography of a woman, Breaking the Chains: The Crusade of Dorothea Lynde Dix. Dix, the 19th century social reformer who led a forty-year crusade for humane treatment of people with mental illness, had come to my attention during my earlier stint as a history teacher in an all-boys Roman Catholic high school when a number of my students chose Dix for their paper on a 19th century social reformer. The fact that I later found out that her popularity was due to the existence of a paper written by one of their older brothers, didn’t dissuade me from selecting her because I was curious about her and her crusade, having growing up on the grounds of a mental hospital where my father worked.

That same year was the premier of Ken Burns’s five-part television series, “The Civil War.” Since Dix had served as the Superintendent of the Female Nurses of the Army during the Civil War, I decided to watch it.

I was outraged; Burns’s presentation made it seem as if all the women in America had been relocated to a far-off island for the duration, and his brief mention of Dix was misogynistic. Coincidentally, I happened to know a woman who had worked on the series with Burns, so I asked her, “Did anyone ask Ken about including women in the film?”

“Yes,” she replied. “But he said ‘Women didn’t do anything during the war.'”

That prompted me to write my next book, Spies: Women in the Civil War.

At the same time, I was writing fiction and nonfiction for children’s magazines, which was really fun. In 1993, I wrote a cover story “Girls and Sports” for Sports Illustrated for Kids. Shortly before publication, the executive editor, who was worried about alienating male readers by featuring girls on the cover, proposed replacing the cover photograph of two young female athletes with a male football player. Outrageous, I told him; my sons would be insulted by his assumption, plus, I pointed out, Title IX was passed in 1972—get a grip! I not only won that argument, but also I won the Miller Lite Women’s Sports Journalism Award for the cover story.

Immersing myself in women’s words, needs, and deeds inspired me to adopt the practice of evoking a woman’s name to identify a contemporary situation or behavior. For example, if I labeled something as “a Fannie Lou Hamer,” that meant standing up for what was right despite the danger; “doing a Frances Perkins” referred to being strategic; “a Mother Jones,” signified resilience; Madam C. J. Walker, was a prompt for financial solvency and generosity, and the Rosies evoked a can-do-anything attitude. I gleaned life lessons and inspiration, which I’ve incorporated into my multimedia presentation, “Celebrating Women” that features photographs I’ve taken during twenty years of road trips in search of landmarks to women, including statues, street signs, gravestones, and historic sites.

I decided to write Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America when those words suddenly popped up in my brain. I had just given a presentation about Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II to students at Nontraditional Employment for Women, an agency in New York City that trains women to do hard hat jobs. Standing at the corner of Broadway and Twentieth Street, I was thinking about the young woman who had vociferously interrupted me. “So,” she said waving her arm toward the screen with images of women workers, “you’re saying women have done these jobs before, right?”

“Right,” I replied.

“Then why do we keep having to prove ourselves on the job?” interjected another woman.

“That’s her point,” replied the first woman with a nod of her head in my direction. “We don’t! Women already have. It’s here in this book.” In retrospect, I think, that incident precipitated the phrase—girls, a history of growing up female in America-- because it underscored the crucial connection between women’s history and activism. Women’s history is an antidote against taking hard won gains for granted and against being duped into thinking that we have to keep proving ourselves.

With the exception of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Fight for the Vote, I’ve done the picture research and taken photographs for my books, which are replete with images, including many of girls and women. Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II is particularly stunning with photographs by legendary photo-journalists such as Lee Miller, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dickey Chapelle. Recently I narrated a documentary, “Pioneering Women War Correspondents,” based on my book and produced by Milena Jovanovitch for the Newswomen’s Club of New York, which can be seen at

During these years, my sons completed college and graduate school and got married and I got divorced. I am now happily living with my partner Linda Hickson.

My first grandchild—Sophie—was born in 2003 and it was to her that I dedicated Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories About Women Who Made a Difference, which she proudly calls “her” book. She was three years old when I started my forthcoming book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World and six-years old when I finished. Together we crafted the dedication:

To everyone who has fought
and who is fighting and who will fight
for the rights of women everywhere.

A Complete List of Penny's books is at:

Contact Penny:

I launched a Facebook Fan Page for my forthcoming book: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World at:

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"The Red Dress" will be featured in June Blum's exhibition at the
Long Island University's
Renwick Gallery Showcase,
Brooklyn Campus,
January 24 through
February 25, 2011.

Book (On my black and whites) available at and



I was born June Druiett in 1929 in Maspeth, New York, a town with trolley tracks running through its main cobblestone street. Life passed by my house as I watched them from our bedroom window and our enclosed porch. But after my grandfather died, my two sisters and I moved with my mother and father into my grandmother's house.

I recall my mother receiving a washing machine (I had never thought about how the clothes got cleaned). My dad purchased a television, which became my connection to the outside world. A dance show on TV excited my long-time love of dance and dancing. In 1985 this love helped me out of a deep low after my husband, Maurice, died.

We were five women in a house after my father died in 1941. The war had broken out three days before and my mother worked for the war effort. Although still young and beautiful, she never showed any desire to marry again.

From early on I was interested in dancing, but had none in dating. As a teenager I was allowed to go to an afternoon dance at the Ascension church where I never refused a request to dance and never sat down for the whole two hours. Beyond that I had little contact with the opposite sex.

In general I gravitated toward female adults--my teachers at school were mostly female--as they had vast experiences and knowledge. I was too young and immature for male relationships, and besides, had a very strict mother who kept her children together and always in her sight.

Schooling in those days was sewing, cooking (which I hated), copperplate and handbag making, and art. I played the clarinet, was in the school orchestra, and in a school play, "The Student Prince.” My mother put together a group of area musicians my age and we played for other kids in the neighborhood who liked to dance. My younger sister and I played the clarinet and my older sister played the saxophone. As I watched the kids dancing, I realized this was not for me, as I wanted to be the one dancing.

In 1956 I met Maurice Blum through friends, and we were soon married.

In 1956 I met Maurice Blum through friends, and we were soon married. Maurice was a businessman and photographer. He attended all the demonstrations and meetings and photographed the activities-- at least those where men were allowed--and was a constant support of everything I was doing.

I studied at Brooklyn College, Pratt Graphic Art Center, The New School for Social Research, Art Students League, The Crafts Students League, and The Brooklyn Museum Art School. In the 1960’s I was invited to join the National Association of Women Artists, was chairperson and exhibited art exhibitions nationally and internationally.

In 1968-9 I wrote, directed and produced "The Female President." It was an idea whose time had come, particularly after Betty Friedan's "The Feminist Mystique" and all the publicity about her and feminism. Although publicity was scant for my play, the attendance was great.

In 1971 I was appointed Curator of Contemporary Art of the Suffolk Museum at the Museums of Stony Brook, New York. After trying to find female artists for a figure exhibition, my first experience proved to me that there was discrimination against women artists in the art world. I then curated an all-woman artists exhibition ok'd by the female director, Jane des Grange, with her blessing. Titled "Unmanly Art," this showing of 56 women artists was the first in-house museum-curated exhibition of women artists in the United States.

Subsequent meetings, demonstrations and events fortified my underlying feeling that women were kept out of mainstream art, galleries and funding. I had alliances with women who put together panels and speakouts. Asked to talk at the Brooklyn Museum I met many women artists, critics and writers who felt the same about the lack of opportunity to exhibit their work. I met Pat Mainardi and Irene Peslikis at editorial meetings for the publication "Women and Art" at Cindy Nemser's house in Brooklyn and wrote articles for Cindy's Feminist Art Journal. In my series of painting women artists I did paintings of Pat and Cindy.

With the new feminist group, I supported demonstrations at the Whitney Museum and galleries protesting the lack of work by women artists. I was assigned to the OK Harris Gallery in Soho. After group meetings with the directors at the Brooklyn Museum in 1971, I came up with the idea for an original selection concept, and in 1975 coordinated the first all-women drawing exhibit there. Titled "Works on Paper/Women Artists," it gave entry to a New York City museum to 141 women artists.

Invited to do a painting for "The Sister Chapel" project, a proposed moveable installation where 13 women artists were asked to choose a woman of heroic quality, I chose Betty Friedan and titled my work "Betty Friedan as the Prophet."

After many calls and finally getting acceptance, I met Ms. Friedan at her apartment across from Lincoln Center, an unforgettable experience. Not only was I impressed by the enormity of the challenge to paint this great woman, but meeting this monumental personality was like being run over by a steamroller, and it was a challenge. Also it wasn’t easy, as she was constantly moving about, answering phone calls or talking with her assistant.

Over a period of six sittings I produced seven studies, some drawings and many photographs of her. After the sessions were over, I created the 9' x 5' painting in my Brooklyn studio and then did another painting, now in the collection of Muriel Fox. I also did several drawings and took numerous photographs. When Ms. Friedan had to go out of town she loaned me the dress she had posed in, which I put on to get the correct hanging of the fabric in order to continue doing conceptual documentations.

Maurice took photos of me which I used to create my artist's books titled "Transformations”; "June Blum as Betty Friedan"; " The Metamorphosis of June Blum"; and "On Painting Betty Friedan." In 1977 Nelleke Nix, director of the NN Gallery in Seattle, WA, exhibited my small portraits of Betty and the June Blum Documentations. I could have gone on painting Betty's most interesting face and personality forever, but other projects took over.

I was founder, director and organizer of the Brooklyn Women Artists and Women Artists Living in Brooklyn, exhibiting groups that gave exposure to women artists’ work. At that time--it was during the 70's--I was the only one doing this. Long Island University's Brooklyn campuses gave shows to professional artists, including my groups. The Brooklyn Museum had a fine art school and agreed to a national women's drawing exhibition. These events kick-started the women's art movement in New York City and around the country.

The first showing of my work had been in1964 at Brooklyn’s Hicks Street Gallery. In 1980 we moved to Cocoa Beach, FL, where I started the East Central Florida chapter Women's Caucus for Art. I was on the Brevard's Commission on Women and did a visual documentation on Cocoa Beach's history for its seventy-fifth anniversary. One of its features was my visualization of Capt. Irene Wirtschafter, a Navy pilot and the first woman to land on an aircraft carrier during World War II. Because of this, I received a letter from the National Museum of Women in the Arts acknowledging my contributions to art. In addition to my curatorial work at the Suffolk Museum, I curated exhibits around the country, creating women artists’ exhibitions and continuing my support of women artists.

One day, as I was walking in to an opening at the Whitney I overheard the staff saying "There's June Blum!" which befuddled me, as Salvador Dali was there. Later I was told by Alice Neel that the painting she had done of me had been loaned to the Whitney.

Later, as I was going over Maurice's photos of that opening I noticed he had captured Salvador Dali and his companion. Maurice never hesitated to photograph anyone and I had no objections, particularly to his photos of the women's movement. I encouraged him in his photography and he encouraged me in my career. Some of his works included Kate Millett's art, Senator Robert Kennedy leaving after a luncheon talk, many events and demonstrations, and always my art. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and proudest of the Veteran Feminists of America medal I was awarded in 2003.

A most recent painting of mine was influenced by the dress Betty Friedan had loaned me. Although abstracted in black and white with red, "The Red Dress" still stimulates my creativity, as Betty's spirit continues to inspire, and will inspire generations of women in the future.

Book (On my black and whites) available at and

Contact June Blum:

Comments: Jacqui Ceballos

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