HISTORY FOR ACTIVIST USE —
WOMEN'S LIBERATION STUDIES
Building on What's Been Won
By Knowing What's Been Done!
"Their view of history was not as past — as static; but of history as movement, as development, as continuing struggle, a history of the present as well as the past — for the future. It is a history of the arguments and the debates, not just to show progress but how it came about. Theirs was a history that sums up in order to move forward, a history not just to give credit, but to record, record attempts and mistakes, a history to use — an "arsenal" for women, as they put it. It was a history by the activists, those who write history to change history."
— Kathie Sarachild describing History of Woman Suffrage, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Gage, 1881, in "The Power of History" from Redstockings' Feminist Revolution, 1975.
The Redstockings Women's Liberation Archives for Action is a mostly volunteer, grassroots effort, for using and spreading the principle of history for activist use. Through our catalog, and our larger collection, we have been disseminating and restoring to public awareness some of the founding documents of the Women's Liberation Movement (the WLM), as well as materials that take stock of all the freedom organizing of the 1960s. The Archives for Action emphasizes the distinct power of engaging with primary sources to learn from, analyze, and advance the gains won from past freedom struggles.
Understanding the freedom struggle as a learning process from movement experience — for women and all oppressed groups — is at the heart of the Redstockings tradition and track record. It was there at the beginnings of the radical feminism that led to the founding of Redstockings, it is at the core of the consciousness-raising process long associated with Redstockings, and it is central to our Archives for Action project: to demonstrate the action benefit of an archive that is a repository of women's freedom movement experience. The importance of exploring history — or "herstory" — with a commitment to action is why we favor using the term "Women's Liberation Studies" over "Women's Studies."
For decades, feminist, community, and youth organizers have been drawing from our lively original source documents for all kinds of activism such as speakouts, campaigns, conferences, zap actions, consciousness-raising discussions, and study groups. In addition, students, journalists, and professors use Archives material for Women's Studies classes, research papers, and to produce films, articles, and books.
Beginnings: Speakout and Catalog in 1989
The Archives for Action began in 1989 with a "history speakout" marking the 20th anniversary of the first Redstockings abortion speakout in 1969, in which women defied law and custom by talking publically about their then criminal abortions — launching this hallmark WLM strategy in the fight for abortion rights in the United States. Part of the anniversary speakout was an exhibit of documents and photos of milestones of the mass Women's Liberation agitation that brought about the Supreme Court's "Roe v. Wade" decision that expanded women's right to abortion. We called this exhibit "Archives in Action."
Close upon the heels of the 1989 commemorative speakout and exhibit, Redstockings published its "Archives for Action” Catalog, with the motto, “Building on What's Been Won by Knowing What's Been done.” Part of the strategy of the 1989 Catalog, which was itself an action, was to vividly illustrate the nationwide explosion in 1968 of the independent Women's Liberation Movement as evident from a burst of journals across the country — and a major national demonstration, the protest of the Miss America Beauty Pageant. While corroborating the then virtually ignored impact of the Women's Liberation organizers in galvanizing the renewed feminist upswell in the U.S., the Catalog showed radical feminism in particular to be the main engine of the WLM's rapid spread.
Consciousness-Raising and Pro-Woman Line Selections
Along with spotlighting 1960s radical feminism, the Catalog concentrated on providing primary source selections from what fierce proponents such as Redstockings sometimes called the “consciousness-raising and pro-woman line” or “materialist” branch of radical feminism and its forerunners. It was this school of thinking, organizing, and activism that Redstockings, together with other proponents and key allies from the 1960s, were committed to continue pursuing and developing when compiling the Catalog in 1989. One of these key allies was the newly reorganized Gainesville Women's Liberation in Florida, whose activists helped to design the Catalog, and continue to use its materials in their ongoing work as part of a new mass organizing group, National Women's Liberation.
25 Years of Progress — Catalog Now Online
With a combination of hard work, radical feminist financial supporters, and developing technology, in 2015 Redstockings was able to make the exciting advance of offering most of the Catalog selections online and for free on this website. As a result, after 25 years of the Archives for Action's existence, the Catalog selections from the rich original sources are now widely available for even more activists to use — no purchase and mailing needed.
On the Archives for Action Index page of this website, you can find out how to access all of the currently available Redstockings Women's Liberation online Archives for Action Catalog selections. We are working to compile a larger index of all the materials available now online — from the Catalog and other projects.
If you want materials that are not yet available on our website — for instance, Feminist Revolution or an audio recording — let us know which items you would like. A donation to Redstockings for the womanpower, time, space, and other resources needed to respond to your request will help us get you the material. You can make your contribution with the secure Paypal button below or on our donate page, and let us know by email what material you need at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Catalog and More: The Redstockings Collection Through 1991 on Microfilm
Even from the beginning of the Catalog and its selections, beyond the work of writing back into history the radical feminists of Women's Liberation organizing in the "Women's Liberation Studies" Catalog, Redstockings nurtured another dream. As the first 1989 Catalog announced, "This catalog is only the beginning of the project... Redstockings is working to make available a chronological bibliography of — and public access to — all the written documents of the 1960's rebirth years of feminism." We felt this because we had come to understand that access to as much of this record as possible is crucial to the learning process of the WLM, and a developing science of feminist revolution.
In addition to the catalog going online, in recent years we took a significant leap towards this other long-cherished goal. We seized the amazing offer of a well-respected commercial microfilm publisher to create on microfilm our idea for a chronological compilation of nearly all the public documents from radical women's liberation and feminist campaigners of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The chronological arrangement in itself has a particular power to shed light on how the ideas and work developed and interacted. But the publisher was willing to incorporate much more of our archive of Redstockings and other Women's Liberation Movement work, from the pre-history of the 1960s through 1991, including a range of internal documents and impassioned correspondence among radical feminists about many of the debates of the time. The resulting microfilm publication is called the Redstockings Organizational Collection, Parts I and II. Click here for some of the publisher's publicity material about the Redstockings Organizational Collection.
We hope that you will use it to agitate for libraries to purchase the material, in whole or in part. The collection in both parts is already in a number of libraries. If you would like to help bring it to a library near you, click here for information on purchasing the entire Redstockings Organizational Collection or selected reels, or call 1-800-444-0799. As the microfilm publication of the collection is already an available resource in some libraries, you may be able to borrow the reels through inter-library loan. Click here for a condensed Finders Guide to the Redstockings Archives collection, with synopses of the subject matter of each Series and Sub-Series, and reel numbers.
Spreading the Radical Signposts from Feminism's Past
The Archive is supported by the time and money of volunteers and people who use our materials. We need your help to keep use of the Archives growing.
As longtime Redstockings activist and Archives user Jenny Brown says, "We will not be able to build a radical movement for women's liberation or the liberation of anyone else until we uncover the foundations of radical organizing in our own history and experience. We have to alert our sisters to the vital storehouse in the feminist tradition and get our movement going in a direction which will actually win some of the things we need." ("Women for Peace or Women's Liberation? Signposts from the Feminist Archives," Vietnam Generation, Summer/Fall 1989.)
To continue in this direction, the Archives needs your donation of time and money. Make a contribution to Redstockings to help us continue collecting, cataloguing, preserving, and analyzing the treasure trove of newspapers, journals, position papers, tapes, photographs, and posters of the Women's Liberation Movement. Arrange for a Women's Liberation activist who works with the Archives to speak in your community or at your college to share the new organizing ideas coming out of Redstockings Archives work. Every dollar, every hour you donate sows the seeds of a Women's Liberation resurgence.
If you have questions about accessing our material, supporting Redstockings, or getting involved, send an email to email@example.com. Redstockings of the Women's Liberation Movement
P.O. Box 744 Stuyvesant Station
New York, NY 10009
Other Women's Liberation History and Activist Resources
Pioneer Of Women's Liberation Activist History: Laura X's Women's History Research Project
Begun in 1968 by Laura X in Berkeley, California, the Women's History Research Center was the first activist and women's liberation movement connected archives. By 1970, it had become a mass organizing tool and was widely listed in early women's liberation publications. A major achievement of the Women's History Research Center was to put on microfilm many of the early Women's Liberation Movement Writings, particularly the explosion of Women's Liberation periodicals of the time. This microfilm is available in libraries across the country. Ask your librarian to phone the National Women's History Project at (707) 838-6000 for ordering information. Or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Women's History Library, 2325 Oak Street, Berkeley, CA 94708.
Laura X now heads the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape, which can be reached at (510) 524-1582.
The Online Archive of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union
Statement of purpose: "Out of the upheavals of the 1960's came a group of Windy City women determined to challenge the suffocating male supremacy of the time. They joined the growing women's liberation movement and organized the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU) which touched the lives of thousands of women through its many organizing projects from 1969-1977. Now they are sharing their history on the Internet to inspire new generations to continue the struggle for justice and equality. "
The Genesis Project in England
The Genesis Project is a mapping initiative, funded by the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP), to identify and develop access to women's history sources in the British Isles. The Genesis Project Team is currently designing the database which will enable you to search over 2,000 archive, library, and museum collections from 45 institutions relating to women's history.