Smithsonian Curates History of Feminism With Museum-Feel Book

feminist revolution
The Feminist Revolution: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation provides an extensive history many major contributions to global feminism, including the 1966 founding of the National Organization for Women.

A new volume for feminism history buffs has arrived on the shelves — and it’s a biggee. The Feminist Revolution is based in history, the book reflects the current zeitgeist of the women’s movement, which is continuing to grow and become more intersectional. Roxane Gay, who gives the forward to the book, credits Kimberlé Crenshaw (one of our top posts is an interview with Crenshaw exploring her work to fund women and girls of color)  with helping keep feminism “alive and well” and advance the movement in recognizing the complexity of identity in modern culture.

The book starts out at The Oxford Conference, where author D-M Withers, a museum curator and respected proponent of women’s cultural history,  makes the argument that this was one of the notable beginning points to modern feminist organizing. The conference was meant to be on women’s history, but discussions at the conference ranged into home and family, capitalism, and psychology. Toward the end of the conference, Selma James, an activist since the 50’s, talked about feminism within the context of the anti-imperialist struggle, and recognized that “women [were] just a sector within that.” Hence, some of the roots of intersectionalism can be traced back to the Oxford Conference. As a point of interest, men ran the childcare at the Oxford conference to enable women to participate more fully — an excellent way for them to serve as allies to the early movement.

The book discusses in detail pivotal historical events like the Vietnam War, and provides tons of pictures from the early era — giving the reader a visceral sense of the way early feminists used media to present their ideas to the public. For a feminist like me whose mother subscribed to Ms. and who remembers seeing the Battered Wives edition of Ms. with the woman’s bruised face, the book is also an interesting walk down memory lane, helping me to recall how that image broke through the silence about violence against women.

Smithonian’s The Feminist Revolution comes right up to modern times, with pictures from the 2017 women’s march ending the book. “In an era of rising right-wing nationalism, militarism, capitalist intensification, and border violence, the resources provided by feminist activism and thought are invaluable and more necessary than ever,” says the final chapter, Liberation Without Limitation.

Now that the Women’s Marches are bringing the struggle for gender equality back to the streets,  The Feminist Revolution is making a timely debut. With more than 200 color illustrations as well as essays and oral histories, the book is a creative and diverse new resource for the feminist community.

Buy the book here. 


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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