The First Women’s Liberation Conferences

The Two Conferences

1968 was a big year for women in America. The year marked a major step into what is now known as feminism. 1968 can also be credited for inspiring feminist events throughout the rest of time, mainly because of one of the fact that some of the first Women’s Liberation conferences occured on this year. The two conferences later became known as the Gainesville Women’s Liberation Conference and the Redstockings Women’s Liberation Movement.

 

The Gainesville Conference

The Gainesville Conference took place in Florida. It started after two local civil rights activists wrote The Florida Paper with the title Towards a Female Liberation Movement (pictured above). This paper helped lead Gainesville to host the Women’s Liberation Conference. The Florida Paper came to be known as “the paper that started it all.” It was written by Beverly Jones, who was upset in the local approach to women’s political ideas. Jones wrote the first part of the paper, while the next part was written by Judith Brown. Brown was a member of the civil rights students organization, which functioned under Jones. The paper itself stated that men had way too much at stake to make efforts to have women included as equals. Jones and Brown would come together later on in the conference, and the conference resulted in the continuation of The Florida Paper and it’s feminist content.

The conference was a huge step in the direction that has come to be known as the feminist movement. Since then, Gainesville has come to be associated with many civil rights movements, not only the feminist but african american rights, anti-war movements, and more. Later on, Carol Hanisch also moved to Gainesville to start a freedom for women project, which she does through the organizing of the Gainesville Women’s Liberation members.

 

The Redstockings Liberation Movement

The Redstockings Liberation Movement also held it’s first conference in 1968. They came to gain a reputation of representing a more radical take of women’s rights. The conference is a good example of the many women liberation groups that sprang up around America during 1968. The conference itself, as stated by Amy Kesselman, Heather Booth, Vivian Rothstein and Naomi Weisstein, incited some deep conversations on the experiences of women in America. In their book Our Gang of Four, they say that “I remember the conference as enormously stimulating. It pushed my thinking deeper about issues of personal life, and convinced me of the importance and the viability of an autonomous women’s movement.”

We can see that this is what early feminism needed to grow; discussion and a free space to express gender inequalities helped make the feminist movement grow, and both were provided for by these conferences.

Relationship to Memory

The effects of both these conferences can still be seen today. The fact that both conferences have lead to what is now known as the huge “Feminist Movement” is an amazing example of how memory can be credited to the success of these types of movements. The first Women’s Liberation Conferences yielded immediate results, some that could be seen within the very next year. An example is the First Women’s National Liberation Conference. At first, the conferences were held in an almost local style. However the discussions that took place in those conferences were so well received that eventually the National Women’s Liberation Conference was created. This is because many American women at the time did not have memory associated with “feminist” ideology. The conferences were the platform that were needed by many women in order to see their values they wanted in society.

 

The conferences both had one aim: to have Women’s lives, ideas, desires, and dreams to be no less important than men’s. When we look today, we can see that these are all core values that really sum up the modern-day feminist movement. This also shows that the memories that were created at the first conferences are still in use today.

On top of that, Gainesville is now seen as a city of civil rights activists. It has been the grounds of many protests on ideas beyond than the feminist movement. The Redstockings Movement is also still active; they have their own website and even their own monthly newsletter that people can sign up for online.  It is the memories that are associated with both these places that allow them to have a history and still function today.

 

Sources:

Administrator. “1968: Women’s Liberation Organizing Ignites … Celebrating 50 Years of Renewed Struggle.” Welcome to Redstockings, www.redstockings.org/index.php/main/classics-of-1968.

Kesselman, Amy, et al. “Our Gang of Four: Friendships and Women’s Liberation.” Our Gang of Four, web.archive.org/web/20130120065530/http://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/CWLUMemoir/Kesselman.html.

“ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES.” What Is To Be Done, 1 July 2015, womenwhatistobedone.wordpress.com/shulamith-firestone-conference-2013/organizing-principles/.

User, Super. “National Women’s Liberation.” National Women’s Liberation – About, 2018, www.womensliberation.org/index.php/about.

“The Feminist Chronicles – 1968.” The Feminist Chronicles, 1953-1993 – 1968 – Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014, www.feminist.org/research/chronicles/fc1968.html.

“Radical Women in Gainesville.” UFDC – Radical Women in Gainesville Historical Exhibit : Overview – Radical Women in Gainesville, ufdc.ufl.edu/rwg/overview.

 

 

3 thoughts on “The First Women’s Liberation Conferences”

  1. I like how you brought the topics of the conferences together at the end and discussed how they impacted American memory. It was a very smooth transition and I also did a topic on women’s desires for equality and I think you portrayed their goals very well.

    1. Your post is structured very well and includes an array of information through a targeted focus. I would have liked to know how these conferences perhaps impacted the international women’s rights’ movement. How did the idea for a conference come about? Did it stem from the 1840 Seneca Falls’ conference or from one in 1968 in another country?

  2. Your post is very well done and an engaging concept. It is crazy to think how far we have come since 1968. There is still an inequality between men and women but it is good to know that people are standing up for the injustice. Your connection to the present was well done. It was good to see that these conferences still have an impact 50 years later.

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