Judith Duffett, Cynthia Funk and Joyce Miller at a NYRW meeting.
Nov. 2017: “In the fall of 1967, a small gang of women began meeting regularly in cramped apartments across the Lower East Side. At the time, the Civil Rights Movement was shifting toward Black Power, while resistance to the Vietnam War continued to escalate. These women, mostly in their 20s, had caught the scent of revolution in the air. Their group, New York Radical Women, disintegrated within a few years, but during its short, fractious life, it helped define the burgeoning women’s movement and pioneered crucial elements of modern feminism. It arose out of a savagely polarized political moment, much like our current one, in which the frustrations and injustices of life as a woman suddenly exploded into eloquent rage. These radical women coined concepts and slogans like consciousness-raising, ‘sisterhood is powerful,’ and ‘the personal is political.’ They wrote formative essays and books about sex and gender roles and misogyny that laid the foundation for women’s studies: Anne Koedt’s ‘The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,’ Pat Mainardi’s ‘The Politics of Housework,’ Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex, Carol Hanisch’s ‘The Personal Is Political,’ Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will. (Some of these groundbreaking works debuted in the group’s mimeographed spring 1968 pamphlet, Notes From the First Year, and its sequel, Notes from the Second Year.) NYRW also practiced a flamboyant brand of political theater, most infamously with their 1968 protest of the Miss America pageant, which inspired the myth of feminists as bra-burners. Even if few of the pussy-hat-wearing protesters at January’s Women’s March know their names, the influence of New York Radical Women reverberates through the carnivalesque spirit of contemporary feminist activism. The group started out with a dozen or so women and grew exponentially by word of mouth; no one kept a tally of the fluctuating membership, but several hundred women were showing up to meetings by the time NYRW disbanded. …”