Veteran Feminists of America Celebrations


 

ROLLINS EVENT OCTOBER 28th and 29th, 2011

Rollins College students and Gloria Steinem
photo by: Dori Jacobson Wenzel

VFA held an extraordinary event at Rollins college in Orlando, Florida, the weekend of October 28th and 29th. For the first time in our 20 years of existence, instead of “borrowing” college space to hold events where we honored pioneer feminists and documented the history of a certain facet of the Movement, we were the guests and co-participants in a celebration of the Feminist Movement, and shared the stage and interacted with the students and college personnel. From the opening event Friday evening, the appreciation, love and respect from the students, teachers and personnel for the Second Wave’s accomplishments and for all veteran feminists permeated the atmosphere.

It all began in October 2010, when Muriel Fox, VFA Chair, was guest speaker at Rollins College, where she had been a student for two years before transferring to Barnard College in New York City. October 29, 2011 would mark the 45th anniversary of the founding of NOW and the birth of the modern Feminist Movement, so Muriel suggested that Rollins host a celebration of the Movement. She also proposed that 12 Rollins students be linked with pioneer feminists from Veteran Feminists of America, all members of VFA’s board . Rollins leaders–especially their supportive president Lewis Duncan, Winter Park Institute director Gail Sinclair, and faculty members Wendy Brandon and Ryan Musgrave—agreed. Thus began a year of work to make it happen.

Judy Kaplan (left) with Toni VanPelt (right)
photo by: Dori Jacobson Wenzel

The planning was intense. We reached feminist activists from all over Florida, including some who would receive VFA’s medal of honor; we were interviewed by phone and email by Rollins students and teachers; sold tickets for the event and the closing dinner session; and most specially, organizing a Silent Auction, Muriel’s great idea to raise money for VFA. Judy Kaplan, VFA’s vice president of history and a resident of Orlando, was the on-the-scene planner with co-president Sheila Tobias organizing the awards and the printed program from Tucson, while I, Barbara Love and Eleanor Pam assisted from Arizona, Connecticut and New York. Muriel, also from New York, was overall director.

After a lovely reception Friday evening, we met bright and early Saturday for the “Day of Dialogues With Feminist Heroes.” Muriel and Drs. Wendy Brandon and Ryan Musgrave welcomed us and introduced the first panelists, Heather Booth, Sally Lunt, Zoe Nicholson, Kathy Rand and Virginia Watkins. With two Rollins students, they talked about the Direct and Indirect Responses to Injustice. The second panel, featuring Muriel, Mary Jean Collins, and Mary Ann Lupa joined by college women, discussed “Coalitions.”. The final panel, “Leaving a Legacy,” introduced Amy Hackett, Judith Kaplan, Sheila Tobias and me. We regaled the audience with stories of feminist actions of the past--the serious and the sometimes comedic demonstrations. A highlight was a dialogue between Gloria Steinem and former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder with Muriel moderating, discussing the past and future of the Movement.

The Guerilla Girls
photo by: Dori Jacobson Wenzel


The session ended with an amusing performance by The Guerilla Girls. (The Guerilla girls who with song and dance expose racism, sexism and homophobia.)

In the meantime, the Silent Auction had been set up in a room across from the auditorium. Mary Stanley, indefatigable fundraiser of The National Women’s Political Caucus and a VFA board member, ran it with the help of my daughter, Michele Ceballos ; board members Barbara Love, Eleanor Pam, Sally Lunt and James Lewis, a friend of board member from Chicago, Dori Jacobson who saved the day by taking charge of the till. There were over 50 items on sale, including paintings by artists Linda Stein, Kate Millett and Diana Kurz; autographed posters by Judy Chicago; historical documents and photos autographed by Gloria Steinem, Jill Ruckelshaus, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi. It was an incredible feminist store, including a Safari trip organized by Barbara Love, and a week’s stay at Mary Stanley’s lovely home in Matzatlan, Mexico.

Patricia Schroeder, Gloria Steinem , Muriel Fox
photo by: Dori Jacobson Wenzel

The highlight of the evening was the VFA Gala Awards Dinner, with Gloria Steinem graciously serving as M.C. and former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder with Muriel moderating, discussed the past and future of the Movement. Gloria and Sheila then helped award the VFA medals of honor to several Florida feminists.(See their names below). The Lifetime Service Awards went to Barbara Love, NOW’s president Terry O’Neill and Sherrill Redmon, Director of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History Archives at Smith College, the nation’s oldest such repository. And the first-ever Kate Millett Award, founded this year on September 14th, Kate’s 77th birthday, was presented to Eleanor Pam. Included below is Eleanor’s wonderful speech lauding Kate.

Friday evening Gloria addressed a cheering crowd of 2,500 women and men and talked brilliantly about current events as relating to feminism and the future of the Movement. I couldn’t help but wonder what we would do when Gloria leaves this planet, but she said she hopes to live to be 100 – so she’ll outlive many of us!

Our Rollins visit was a joy especially because of the attention and help we got from Gail Sinclair and Wendy Brandon. and Maureen Mäensivu, the Assistant Director of Foundation Relations for Institutional Advancement. We left Rollins with a new purpose and new friends .


FLORIDA AWARDEES - for their extraordinary contributions to the feminist cause: Judge Alice Blackwell, Rita Bornstein, Becky Cherney, Jaime Dison, Adele Guadalupe, Sue Idensohn, Jeanne Linders, Diedre Macnab, Monica Mendez, Meredith Ockman, Judith Setzer, Donna Slutiak, Joanne Sterner, Toni Van Pelt, Carol Wick and Kay Wolf.

 

Thanks to these who gave priceless items for our successful Silent Auction: June Blum, Shirley Boccaccio,Judy Chicago, Penny Colman, Dori Jacobson, Diane Kurz, Barbara Love, Jeanne McGill, Kate Millett, Dianne Post, Susan Schwalb, Mary Stanley- and through Mary, Senator Diane Feinstein & Nancy Pelosi, Linda Stein, Al Sutton, Grace Welch. (Please let us know if we forgot anyone. )

EXCERPTS FROM ELEANOR PAM'S KATE MILLETT AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

I am expecially honored and delighted to receive VFA’s first Kate Millett award. Kate is a foremother and leader of the women’s movement – and one of its most important activists and scholars.

Eleanor Pam
photo by Dori Jacobson Wenzel


I am so very proud of her as I accept this award in her name, and thrilled that there now is an award in her name -- thanks to VFA -- because she does so deserve to be celebrated as one of our generation’s greatest women – and not coincidentally – possessed of one of its finest minds.

Kate’s contributions to our movement are deep and long. She was at the head of the line during the famous August 26, 1970 march down Fifth Avenue celebrating the 50th anniversary of women getting the vote.

That was the day we early feminists of the 2nd save began to comprehend the strength, reach, resolve, appeal – and most of all – the power of this evolving and controversial new idea about equal rights for women.

Kate Millett grasped more than the microphone that day as she addressed the crowd of many thousands. She grasped the meaning and implications of what was unfolding before us.

Triumphant -- and with the most exquisite simplicity, she declared to the excited and emotional crowd, “Now we are a movement!”

Kate had supplied the words as well as the mandate. She told us who we were and what we were charged to do. We heard, and stormed into history – and we never looked back!

Earlier in that same year Kate gave us the Bible of Feminism , Sexual Politics, the first of eleven books she’s written.

Sexual Politics defined and analyzed patriarchy in its many forms – as a system adverse to females in which the entire culture supports masculine authority in every area of life – within and outside of the home.

That bold and brilliant book took on many sacred cows – in life and in literature – as she shone a beacon of light into gender darkness, changing the lives of girls and women irrevocably, and causing Andrea Dworkin to observe, “The world was sleeping and Kate Millett woke it up.”

Doubleday called it one of the ten most important books the company published in its 100 year existence.

Kate and I were friends, yes, but we were also comrades in the movement. She and I – a committee of two—served together on NOW”S first education committee.

In those days everything was up for grabs: media, health, mental health, sexuality, politics, publishing, advertizing , employment, custody, abortion

We early feminists were trying to realign the world, change values, overcome negative images and self images.

We tackled and hoped to change, enduring and systemic problems of stereotyping, bias, male entitlement and entrenched interests in every area of our society.

Our lens was on everything. It was both telescope and microscope, looking outwards, looking inwards.

Kate and I have always been passionately interested in issues of women and violence.

Her sympathies are especially with those she feels have been unfairly confined – whether in prisions, mental hospitals, nursing homes or even a family basement.

Kate Millett and Eleanor Pam
at Kate's Farm


I have been deeply involved in the rescue of particular individuals from the shackles of their victimization – rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and unfair incarceration.

To this day, cruelty against girls and women abounds, morphs, proliferates, and continues. We have, both, in different ways, been warriors in that fight, and still are …

Kudos to VFA for creating this annual Kate Millett Award – which will now, in perpetuity, recognize and pay tribute to Kate as a feminist hero – and to her extraordinary life and work.

Finally, heartfelt thanks and gratitude to VFA for choosing me as its first recipient – connecting my friend and I to each other-- and serving as a natural marker in our lives – a kind of sweet bookending.

It’s been a special privilege and pleasure to be here with you on this memorable, moving and marvelous evening.

Eleanor Pam . October 29, 2011

A few of the many comments we received after our event:

An outstanding event! Beautifully planned and a model for other parts of the country. The matching of veteran feminists with college students was a brilliant idea, implemented impressively by students through Rollins' womens studies program and VFA. I'm grateful to Rollins college and their Women's Studies program for preserving the Legacy of modern women's history through their Oral history project. Their plan to archive the stories of modern feminists will hopefully have a lasting impact on future generations. I was touched by my student partner, Liza who wanted to know how I became an activist for human rights. Liza also gave me hope for our future by sharing her present day activism as a feminist. Mary-Ann Lupa, Chicago

I have great words of praise for Rollins and the people who made our event successful. I thought we were treated as VIPs by everyone. The campus is beautiful and I am thrillled that so many students were excited about our visit. This was the best event ever, and also the most complex. It could never have been done without the skills and caring of Rollins staff and faculty. I reconfirmed my opinion that Gloria Steinem is the most gracious and humble celebrity in the world. I was so fortunate as to run into three old friends from the early NOW days in the Midwest; Mary Jean Collins, Kathy Rand, and Mary-Ann Lupa, as I arrived at the hotel. We had lively conversation. With the Rollins experience, I am finally encouraged about the future of the women's movement. A very diverse group of people were involved. Men were well represented. I think we are really onto something with visiting college campuses.
Virginia Watkins (of MN - VFA’s secretary)

This was a joyous, rewarding, memorable, experience. I am glad to have been part of it! Being surrounded by other feminist friends always make for a warm, happy time. The weekend at Rollins was wonderful with many highlights. Thanks to all who helped make it possible.
Karen Spindel

……. And thank you Muriel, for bringing the VFA women to campus. Your organization brought many wonderful stories, and I believe they inspired our young women. Neither these women, nor I, were fully aware of the history, "herstory," and some of the grassroots fights that were waged by your generation. The stories were amazing, and I look with eagerness to see how our campus will build upon this and truly carry the torch into the future. Thank you and the VFA for lighting our way. Thank you also for the terrific book, "Feminists Who Changed America" identifying those many women and men upon whose legacy we now stand. I will cherish it and feel even more inspired by their stories. Gail Sinclair

Gloria Steinem at Rollins College: 'It is not a post-feminist era'
October 28, 2011|By Joseph Freeman, Orlando Sentinel

Gloria Steinem speaking at Rollins College (David Noe/Rollins College)


WINTER PARK — In between sips of herbal tea to ward off the flu, longtime feminist Gloria Steinem explained why the women's movement will be around for a while.

"If something is going to last and be absorbed by society, it's going to last a century," said Steinem in an interview Friday at Rollins College in Winter Park, where she is participating in events for the 45th anniversary of the National Organization for Women.

At 77, Steinem can hold forth on any number of topics thrown at her. She contended that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin represents men's interests more than women's concerns, and she described the difference between her protest days and the Occupy Wall Street-inspired demonstrations, which she praised.

"It's great. The protests of the '60s on campuses were related to the draft. This has much wider implications because they are much more popular," she said.

Since she first went undercover as a Playboy Bunny in 1963 for a magazine article, Steinem never has really retired from life as an activist. She co-founded Ms. Magazine. She has campaigned for civil and women's rights; she has spoken out against child abuse and the death penalty; and she has denounced the proliferation of pornography. The causes she has supported read like a story of social debates in the 20th century.

In recent years, Steinem has trained her sights on collecting history of the women's movement, and she appeared in an HBO documentary called "Gloria: In Her Own Words."

Though the heyday of her fight may be long gone, Rollins students say Steinem still is a symbol in the broader struggle to eliminate inequality across race, class and gender lines.

"The word 'feminist' is more of an umbrella term today," said Roxanne Szal, 20, a junior and political science major. Szal joined other students in the past couple months interviewing feminist activists from the 1960s and 1970s. They are presenting their work Saturday on campus.

Classmate Jamie Pennington, a 21-year-old philosophy major, said that Steinem was more prominent in her mother's generation.

"I fully believe women my age are ignorant to what Gloria Steinem and others had to go through to get where they are," she said.

Before a packed house Friday inside Rollins' Alfond Sports Center, Steinem was at times funny, irreverent and impassioned. She ticked off outstanding issues facing women today, such as their disproportionate numbers in Congress, and her view that women are hurt more by student-loan debt because they earn less over the course of their lifetimes.

"But they don't tell us that when we're getting our education and paying the same for it," she said.

In a question-and-answer period, one woman related what her 10-year-old said to her as she left for Steinem's speech: "Does Daddy know that you're going?" "I said, 'I make my own decisions, sweetie.' "

Comments to: Jacqui Ceballos - jcvfa@aol.com

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