Joyce Antler

Some Never Noticed They Were Jewish

Joyce Antler on her new book Jewish Radical Feminism: Voices from the Women’s Liberation Movement

Reading through Rachel Blau du Plessis and Ann Snitow’s anthology The Feminist Memoir Project almost a decade ago, I was struck by the essay “Our Gang of Four: Female Friendship and Women’s Liberation,” written by Amy Kesselman with Heather Booth, Vivian Rothstein, and Naomi Weisstein, members of the nation’s first women’s liberation group. The article posited that friendships like theirs formed a pivotal part of second-wave feminism, becoming the matrix for its revolutionary ideas. Though it included sections on the women’s family histories and their involvement in the social movements of the 1960s, it did not mention the women’s Jewishness (except in the case of Rothstein, who was the daughter of Holocaust refugees.) Until I contacted the women, in fact, they had never spoken about their Jewish backgrounds to each other! It turned out that this was also true of Jewish women in other collectives that I began to research. Historians of women’s liberation were not writing about the significance of Jewish women’s participation in the movement either.

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