The following is a review of the book by Nancy Rosenstock Inside the Second Wave of Feminism: Boston Female Liberation, 1968-1972 an Account by Participants, which Haymarket Books released on August 30, 2022. The review first appeared on Goodreads on August 13. We are re-publishing it here with the author’s permission. We also publish the link to an online book launch, a public discussion about this title, scheduled for October 13, which we encourage World-Outlook readers to attend.
By Barbara Gregorich
I find it both emotionally and intellectually rewarding when a book title delivers on what it promises. This one does, starting with that very important first word, inside, and ending with the equally important second set of words, second wave of feminism. The title promises the reader both an inside look or insiders’ views not on feminism in general, but specifically on its second wave (roughly mid-1960s through mid-1980s). It fulfills both promises.
Inside the Second Wave of Feminism introduces readers to the group named Boston Female Liberation, which existed from 1968-72 and whose importance to the growth and dissemination of feminist ideas and actions cannot be overvalued. The author, Nancy Rosenstock, was one of the members of Boston Female Liberation.
Short but critical, the book is divided into three sections. The first section consists of interviews with thirteen women who were members of Boston Female Liberation during the period it existed. Instead of giving each woman one chapter, Rosenstock has devoted each chapter to specific topics such as: the landmark August 26, 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality march; the relationship of the feminist movement to the anti-Vietnam-War movement; the fight to legalize abortion. Within each chapter we read the recollections of various of the thirteen women (including Rosenstock). Through this back-and-forth movement we get to know the women better. And we also get to understand the times better.
The middle section of the book consists of photos: of people, demonstrations, leaflets, and the covers of newsletters and pamphlets. These old photos and documents help us better understand how things looked and worked before the days of computers.
The third section consists of original documents from Boston Female Liberation. More about these later.
One thing that stands out about the women in this book is that when they were in their formative teen and early-20s years, they did an awesome amount of reading and thinking. They mention the books they read and the discussions they had on various political issues, and this is one of my favorite parts of their recollections. They had serious, inquisitive minds that analyzed the world around them.
Not only that: at the very same time they were incredible actors and doers. They built demonstrations; they traveled far to give lectures and self-defense demonstrations; they pulled up stakes and lived in temporary shelter for three or four weeks at a time in order to build a particular event; they took self-defense classes; they gave exhibitions; they wrote articles and then typed them up on mimeo forms and attached those to the mimeograph machines which they then inked up and then cranked up in order to print, collate, staple, stack, and distribute thousands of copies of weekly newsletters and monthly magazines. Their sense of discipline, commitment, and organization was (and is) inspiring. As you read these recollections, you will feel the strength, the knowledge, and the commitment of the oppressed rising up in protest . . . and helping others do the same.
After reading the first section and then seeing the photos, a reader might think that only dull documents will constitute the third and final section. Wrong. The documents are short and to the point, covering topics such as “An Argument for Black Women’s Liberation as a Revolutionary Force” and “Abortion: A Feminist Perspective.” The writings of Boston Female Liberation were not only pithy, they provoked others into thinking, analyzing, and acting. What stands out to me is that these documents are the works of leaders who could pass their knowledge on to others through their words and speeches.
Just as this book passes on important knowledge of how to organize and work together to fight against oppression.
Thanks to Nancy Rosenstock for this important contribution to an understanding of the second wave of feminism and lessons for the road forward.
Barbara Gregorich is a well-known author and editor. She also teaches writing and gives public presentations on topics related to her books and beyond. She has published more than 20 novels and nonfiction works, as well as poetry. They include She’s on First and Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball, as well as her latest work, The F Words, a novel focusing on student rights, immigrant rights, and social justice.
Categories: Women's Rights