Turning 40, Going Global
It's 1969 and East Coast to West, there are marches and teach-ins and
sit-ins and rallies. People are taking to the streets, gathering in
church basements, walking out of classrooms to protest the war in
Vietnam, demand civil rights, and press feminist agendas.
Everywhere, women's power symbols are popping up: on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City, where a sheep is crowned Miss America while Bert Parks croons to pageant goers inside the Convention Center; at the University of Washington student Hub, where Bernadine Dohrn, National Secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) joins a roster of Seattle peace and justice activists to discuss the “woman question”; in Chicago, where hundreds of women from leftist organizations and causes gather and found the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union.
In Boston on May 4th that year, some 500 women make their way to the Fenway neighborhood for a conference in the red brick halls of Emmanuel College, then, as at its founding by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an all-female institution. In 1999, activist and author Susan Brownmiller would write about a performance she saw that day in which members of the radical separatist feminist group, Cell 16, publicly cut off their hair to protest male domination. Nancy Miriam Hawley, whose work with the SDS had led her to help organize the conference, later characterized the milieu and the women who were drawn to Emmanuel to talk about women's rights: “Many of us were involved in other movements for liberation – the New Left or civil rights or the antiwar movement. When the women’s movement came along, it hit home, because it was addressing our oppression as women, which we hadn’t identified before.”
Hawley, who would go on to work for years as a clinical social worker, group therapist, and organizational consultant, served at the conference as the leader of a workshop. She recalled, “A number of us were particularly concerned about health issues because as young women, were having our first babies, and birth control and childbirth were prominent issues for us.”