Material Feminists, & Daniel Berrigan, SJ

Last Sunday was May 1, International Workers Day.  Studs was a great supporter of the labor movement in all its iterations, and he demonstrated that on April 30, 1981 when he spoke to Dolores Hayden, author of The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities.  The book describes the work of women who “campaigned against women’s isolation in the home and confinement to domestic life as the basic cause of the unequal position in society” (from the MIT Press page).

It’s an economic struggle which is about women’s work, all kinds of women’s work.  In the household, taking care of children, cooking and cleaning… A struggle to find… places which spatially support new forms of women’s work.

Hayden focuses specifically on what she calls material feminists: “alert women who understood that in addition to changing work, they had to change the design of the workplace.”  Since for most women, the workplace was the home, this entailed “the feminist struggle to transform homes, neighborhoods, and cities.”

Feminist, social reformer, and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Material feminist, social reformer, and author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1900

At a time when a presidential candidate can reference the “Woman card,” where a pink tax is common and a tampon tax must be voted against, and women still are paid less than men, this is the right moment to remember the American feminists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who believed that “women must be economically independent if they were going to be truly equal citizens in society.”

Over the weekend we also lost one of the last century’s great civil disobedients, Father Daniel Berrigan.  In 1972, after he’d been released from prison for burning draft records in Catonsville, Maryland, he joined Studs in the studio to talk about his family, the time he spent in France, his civil rights work with his brother Philip, and why he continues to make radical choices.

And finally, if you enjoyed our month of poetry programs, you can find them all here.

Photo credit: By Frances Benjamin Johnston – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a49162.  Public Domain,

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Audio Collage: Civil Rights & Racism

Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress during the opening weekend of the exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Certainly it was inspiring to learn so much about the work of activists, politicians, and everyday people; but it also left me feeling a real grief for our country, that such a thing could have ever taken place here.  And yet it is in having an exchange – a conversation – about this history that may keep us from repeating it.

Studs Terkel understood the power that words and conversation have to affect not only our daily experiences, but the history we choose to make both personally and nationally.  In the conversations I listened to while preparing this collage, Terkel bears witness to the challenges that face underdogs of every stripe, and invites us to do the same.  He asks Muhammad Ali what it was like to read about Emmett Till’s death in the newspaper, when Ali was just a child himself; he talks to a young Puerto Rican activist about his struggles with the local alderman; and he listens to Maya Angelou recall seeing children speak disrespectfully toward her grandmother because she was Black and they were white.

Like the exhibit at the Library of Congress, Terkel’s conversations about civil rights simultaneously reveal the best and worst of human behavior; but through it all, he never loses heart.  He is obviously inspired by the stories he hears; and his speakers’ words, hopeful or heartbreaking, flow clearly through my laptop speakers, as potent as when he first recorded them.

Order of clips:  Pete Seeger; Maya Angelou (reading an excerpt from “When I Think About Myself”); Peter Sellars; three selections from the 1969 “Fiesta: A Chicago Happening” in Lincoln Park (male resident, Terkel, female resident); William Bradford Huie; Charles V. Hamilton; Muhammad Ali; Dr. Neil Sullivan; Terkel and Ali; friend of Paul Robeson at a tribute event; Myles Horton; Terkel and Rosa Parks; John D. Weaver; Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; Pete Seeger (singing).

Thank you to Allison Schein and Sophia Feddersen for their help in building this collage.

-Grace Radkins, Archive Assistant