SAVING THE FEMINIST LEGACY

REPORT from Rebecca Lubetkin January 25, 2012

Dear Veteran Feminists and our younger sisters,

This is a follow up to my recent alert (see below) reminding you that we continue to dedicate ourselves to a project for which we value your contributions. Not money, but the contributions of the artifacts reflecting your part in our feminist progress. We are committed to cultivating an appropriate repository for a collection of "grass roots" materials saved by American feminists, with a special focus on activists of the second wave.

Our current vision is at an early stage. We know that as activists, who have been instrumental in attaining change in our little corners of the world back in the 60s and 70s, many of us have memorabilia that are worth salvaging and developing into a museum-quality exhibit. We are not aiming only for the national leaders. We are looking for artifacts and other evidence of local struggles, for example:

  • to permit girls to play Little League;
  • to desegregate the want ads to give women and men access to all advertised jobs;
  • to secure for widowers the same Social Security benefits as widows;
  • to increase the number of sports teams for girls;
  • to open all high school courses to both boys and girls.

Clearly there were hundreds more. To get such changes in policy and practice required countering enormous resistance, as differential treatment seemed the natural and appropriate order of things. Huge changes in every aspect of society were effected within only a few years.

We are all getting older, and the few artifacts each of us has saved may not be deemed worth saving by us or our heirs, but together they could comprise a valuable contribution to American history. Ultimately we will need to find an institution, in a high tourist area, that is willing to house, curate, exhibit and enable the collection to travel to other venues. This will be a collection for the public, not simply for scholars.

In the meantime we need a place to collect your treasures. If you have access to a secure place that could be a temporary home (a place for members to send parcels) and are willing to receive and store them, please let us know. Ideally this would be without cost to VFA but, if it means paying for public storage we will seek to secure funds to pay the rent. Just let us know of the possibilities.

I have included below the call for materials. As you can see, we are asking you and your families not to discard what you have saved and to expect to hear from us with regard to a place to send them.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

In Sisterhood,

Rebecca Lubetkin
Member VFA Board
Chair - Legacy Committee


Call for materials

What will happen when you and I are gone? Will the feminist movement continue? We must act to ensure that our Movement wonít fade away --- as did every feminist movement since the beginning of the patriarchy.

If you say that, what with all the organizations, libraries, womenís studies departments in colleges, feminist books, etc., this canít happen, just ask around. Ask younger women , from age 50 on downÖ. Who is Betty Friedan? Weíve asked young people who is Gloria Steinem? And many donít know. So how would they know about the feminist movement?!

The good news is we can save our legacy! HOW? By collecting the artifacts and memorabilia that will tell our story. Here is how we aim to save feminist history, especially reflecting the issues you or your associates worked on.


Each one of us has a small or larger collection stashed somewhere that we canít bear to get rid of; but, as we age, we know that if we donít do something with it soon, it may be thrown away when we pass on.

The good news is that our struggles will not be forgotten. We are planning long-term for a museum-quality exhibit that illustrates and makes tangible our successes.

We hope to have a place for you to send your precious collections within the next few months; meanwhile, please donít throw anything away -- and , just in case , please tell your next of kin to hold on to it until they hear from us.

Here are some of the things (in no special order) we are hoping that you will save for the future exhibit:

  • artwork
  • t-shirts, hats, hats with buttons
  • data-charts, tables, graphs (before and after graphics)
  • newspaper articles, op eds, letters to the editor, editorials
  • newsletter articles or announcements
  • letters for advocacy
  • photos, scrapbooks, photo albums
  • video or audio recordings
  • interview transcriptions
  • guides, workbooks, study materials to advance campaigns
  • diary or journal entries detailing activity
  • sashes, special clothing worn at demonstrations and other events
  • invitations, certificates
  • speeches
  • bumper stickers, buttons, campaign posters and signs
  • planning documents
  • essays, columns, books
  • opposing material from our critics
  • reading lists

We probably have left out some category. Please do not throw any of it away. It would be helpful if you can date (approximate) the material and indicate who, where and what is depicted.

If you can send us a list of what you have, that would be greatly appreciated. Also if you have a suggestion of a no-cost central place, safe from people and the elements, where we can temporarily store these artifacts, please let us know. And, most valuable, if you have a suggestion of an ideal museum, college or other possible repository for posterity please suggest that as well.

In addition to VFA members we will be issuing this call to save our heritage to other feminist organizations and their members. Please alert us to names and email addresses.

We are very enthusiastic and hope you are too.

Sincerely for feminism,

Jacqui Ceballos and Rebecca Lubetkin*

*Rebecca Lubetkin, a member of VFA's board, is professor emerita at Rutgers University's School of Planning and Public Policy. For much of her academic career she served as founder and director of Rutgers Consortium for Educational Equity. In retirement she hosts the cable TV show,
New Directions for Women, sponsored by the Morris County (NJ) Chapter of the National Organization for Women. More than 220 shows have been produced, and all are archived at Smith College; most shows are available on youtube at www.youtube.com/mcnownj

Comments to: Jacqui Ceballos - jcvfa@aol.com

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