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March 21: Redstockings and the Abortion Speak-Out

March 21, 2014
tumblr_m9ogox5WLq1qdogv5o1_400The radical feminist activist group Redstockings, founded in 1969 by Shulamith Firestone (pictured at left) and Ellen Willis, among other women, held an abortion speak-out in New York City on this date in 1969, in protest of legislative hearings in Albany the previous month in which the speakers about abortion, then still illegal, were a dozen men and a Catholic nun. Several hundred people attended the abortion speak-out in Greenwich Village, in which women spoke about their experiences having illegal abortions and/or being young, unwed mothers forced to give up babies for adoption. Abortion was made legal in New York the following year and legal (but still highly contested) throughout the U.S. in 1973, after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. The Redstockings, writes Linda Napikoski at Women’s History, “firmly believed that women were oppressed as a class. They also asserted that the existing male-dominated society was inherently flawed, destructive, and oppressive.” The Redstockings were critical of liberalism within the feminist movement and of sexism within the American left. Their “Redstockings Manifesto” called for women “to unite to achieve liberation from men as the agents of oppression. The Manifesto also insisted that women not be blamed for their own oppression.” fem-cover-72“Redstockings members spread feminist ideas such as consciousness-raising and the slogan ‘sisterhood is powerful.’ . . . Veteran members of Redstockings established an archive project in 1989 to collect and make available texts and other materials from the Women’s Liberation movement.” -Linda Napikoski