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Women's Movements of Yesterday and Today: Students Interview Feminists

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FC: Women's Movements of Yesterday and Today: Students study the past and conduct oral history with modern feminists

1: Eighth graders at the Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School studied the American Women's Movement starting with the Seneca Falls Women's Convention of 1848. They read the history and acted out the different voices of women in America. First they came up with their own resolutions and then they read the actual ones that women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott defined. Reading several primary and secondary sources on this history, they moved on to learn about other struggles, including that of the Lowell Mill Girls and the next generation of feminists who won the right to vote, women like Alice Paul. Finally, for this project, students generated their own primary sources on the women's movement of the 60s and 70s by interviewing contemporary voices who represent a more diverse spectrum of interests and backgrounds in the city of their school, Philadelphia.

2: Seneca Falls Movement, 1848 Inspired by the abolitionist movement, many women organized themselves to fight for the right to vote as well as have property in their name and speak in public. | In 1919, after years of petitioning, protesting and picketing, women win the right to vote with the 19th amendment passing in both houses of Congress.

3: To the right, is the list of participants in the Seneca Falls Convention. Notice the many "gentlemen" in attendance, including Frederick Douglass. Photo Credits: Library of Congress

4: Tina Sloan Green co-founded the Black Women in Sport Foundation. She has worked to ensure that young under-served minorities gain full exposure to non-traditional sports. | Photo Credit: Sonia Arora

5: "I grew up in Eastwick, Philadelphia and I happened to go to Girls High (School). My parents didn't go to college so I was the first in my family to go to college..... By going to Girls High, I was exposed to a whole different world because for the first time I went to school with a majority of white students, Jewish girls. There were about 20 African-American girls. I was exposed to wonderful facilities.... It was a brand new building with tennis courts and a field. Everything was spanking brand new. The teachers were very bright." "I never played in any organized sport. In my neighborhood we used to play kickball, hopscotch.... (While at Girls High)..My PE teacher said, 'You know you're pretty good in sport, why don't you try out for the field hockey'.... So I found out I enjoyed it." My second year at (college) my coach invited me to play lacrosse. The rest is history. See this stick. (She points to the lacrosse stick in her hand.) This stick took- not this particular stick- took me all around the world to Japan, China. I was the first African-American woman to make the United States Lacrosse team."

6: Jean Hunt works with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation on expanding youth development opportunities city-wide. She has worked as a community organizer and is active in a variety of community organizations. Ms Hunt is married to Mas Nakawatase and has two grown children, Michiko and Kenzo.

7: "I was born in 1945 in Rochester, NY which is upstate. When I was growing up, my mother worked. My parents were working-class. She worked (as a teacher) and she did all the housework, shopping and child care. My father worked and came home and dinner was ready every night. His clothes were clean. The house was clean. So everything was very nice for him. Although the myth was that many women were sitting at home doing housework, the reality was that many of them were working to support their families." "I was active in the (women's) movement and against the war in Vietnam. I worked in an organization where we talked to people about the war and planned demonstrations. I was also very active in the civil rights movement. At that time, the women's movement, I didn't know anybody who was talking about equality for women. Umm... but then were some women who I heard talking about it in the late 1960s. And at first, I thought it was silly. But the more I got to know women, the more interested I became." "Most social movements start where you think about it just for yourself not the big important issues for the whole society. They lead you bit by bit to a larger truth. What began to strike me ... My mom essentially worked two jobs because she did everything in the house. My father was a good man; he didn't mean to be an oppressor or anything like that but that's just how it was. And then when I went to high school, it was expected that all the girls-- no matter how smart we were or where we went to college -- that our future was to get married and raise children."

8: Joanne Fischer is a community activist and nationally recognized leader advocating for women, children and families. She is the Executive Director of the Maternity Care Coalition, a statewide maternal and child health organization, whose signature program, MOMmobile has provided outreach to over 60,000 pregnant women and parents of infants in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. | Photo Credit: Sonia Arora

9: "I had a boyfriend in high school and after my freshman year in college, I got married. I was only 18. And all of a sudden people would start asking me, 'are you going to drop out of school to support your husband?' And it hadn't occurred to me that I wasn't going to go to school. But all of a sudden people's expectations changed of me just cause I got married. And I began to resent this. Only my husband was going to go to college and I wasn't. It didn't make sense to me. So I think that's what catapulted me (into the women's movement) I was in college when the Women's Movement was picking up steam. And I got involved in protests at my college to help set up a child care center for the children of students. I got involved to make sure that abortion was legal because in those days women you know who had money would go to Puerto Rico or England to have an abortion. But poor women here were at the hands of of people who were unsafe. So right from the beginning I was concerned about the fact that all women should have rights, not just privileged women." "One of the things was that I got very involved with setting up different organizations for women. You saw Jean Hunt downstairs. We worked together for many, many years. Right here (she points to a medallion she's wearing on necklace) this is my medal from the Bicentennial Women's Center and it says ERA. So one of the hardest struggles was trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed and having that amendment lose by just a teeny bit in Congress. I took the Freedom Train to Chicago because a critical vote was in Illinois. I marched in Washington DC. My kids were little at that time. They went on demonstrations early on... So I think a lot of the work I did was setting up organizations that would help support women. And the Maternity Care organization-- the place that I work with right now -- is one that helps pregnant and low-income women have healthy pregnancies and get babies off to a healthy start."

10: Ed Nakawatase is a third generation Japanese American, and grew up in Seabrook, NJ, son of plant workers for Seabrook Farms. In 1963 at the age of 20, Ed dropped out of college to join the Southern Non Violent Coordinating Committee at a critical time during the Civil Rights movement. For thirty years, he has been the national representative of the Native American Affairs for American Friends Services Committee.

11: "I was born in an internment camp in Arizona during World War II. That was because my parents were of Japanese ancestry and (during) that war people of Japanese ancestry were living on the West Coast of the United States. They were forcibly evacuated into camps in the inland part of the United States. There were 10 of them and the largest was Poston. That's where I was born. "A feminist it seems to me always meant a measure of equality for women both on a legal basis but even more than a legal basis it meant an actual practice in the job market, in the labor force that women out to be equal--- that there should not be any restrictions based on gender." "You also have the development of the Civil Rights Movement which cast the question, 'Why are black people being denied opportunities?"' For obvious reasons, they are often denied by law and in some places by custom. So when the Civil Rights Movement began and won some victories it became. I think, very logical to say, "what about women?" In the Civil Rights Act that was passed in 1964 which banned discrimination in public accommodations, in other words you could not prohibit black people from being served or staying in a hotel.... There was also in the legislation prohibitions that were inserted against discrimination of women. Initially, it was meant almost as a joke by a Southern Congressman. But it became the basis for pushing against discrimination of women in employment. The joke was on them actually. (He laughs.) So that was an important victory in the Civil Right Movement that was related to the rights of women."

12: Dr. Christine Woyshner is Associate Professor of Education at Temple University. She is an historian, teacher and mother of two children. She recently published a book entitled, The National Parent-Teacher Association, Race and Civic Engagement. | Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Woyshner

13: "I om originally from Buffalo, NY. I grew up in a Rust Belt, blue collar, Catholic community and I am one of four children. I guess I grew up in a working- class, blue collar neighborhood and was always taught that education is important and I'm the first generation in my family to go to college." "I guess you could say I'm an activist. Certainly, I am a feminist... So it takes on different forms and it's changed over time. In my mid-forties my activism is expressed through my career at Temple. I write about race, gender and diversity--- histories of schools and communities that have been under-served. For example, do you know what the PTA is? I just wrote a book about the desegregation of the PTA and the problems that have been in schools and communities when the black PTA in the South wanted to integrate withe the white and how the white PTA resisted. I see my writing and historical scholarship as activism. And there are two more parts to my activism. The second is being a teacher. My classes are all about inclusion and hearing different voices and including all kinds of kids and people in the school curriculum. Finally, the last piece. ... I was thinking not too long ago that I was so consumed with my family and work that I'm not being a good citizen. I'm not out there marching in demonstrations or whatever the case may be. And then it occurred to me that my activism just looks different. I am a foster parent. I became a foster parent 5 years ago. My husband Michael Viti and I have two sons and one we've adopted. We took him in when he was 8 and adopted him when he was 11. And we have a 5 year old that we've had for 2.5 years. So just working with the system and kids with special needs who need families. I see that as an important part of my activism."

14: Debbie Wei was a founder, parent and principal of the Folk Arts and Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTs) in Chinatown. Prior to moving to FACTs she worked for the School District of Philadelphia as an ESL instructor and curriculum specialist in Asian Pacific American Studies. Debbie also taught for two years in Hong Kong.

15: "Growing up I remember there were not many Asians around. There were laws in place that excluded Asians from coming to this country. Those laws didn't start to change until 1965 after the Civil Rights Movement...After Civil Rights, it was determined you should not discriminate against races of people and they went back and looked at the immigration law and realized this whole race of Asian people were not allowed to come here. Yeah.... when I was growing up there were very few Asians. I remember it was hard for my dad to get a job." "College was a very good time for me. I went to a really good school in Ohio called Oberlin, which was very challenging. I almost failed my first semester. I wasn't used to the level of work there.... I went in 1975 and the 60s and early 70s in the US were a very exciting time. It was the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war movement. There was stuff going on all over the globe. It made students quite radical." "One of the things that was in early stages back the is something called Ethnic Studies, the study of specific ethic groups: Asian-American, Latino, African-American studies. So there were pushes on all the college campuses to get those courses in place. I was involved in a number of political movements; I'll be honest with you guys. I got into a lot of trouble, almost got thrown out of school. I shut down meetings by protesting."

16: Alice Paul was a suffragist and activist. She led a successful campaign for women's suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. | Helen Keller advocated for people with disabilities, amid numberous other causes. She was a suffragist, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical socialist and birth control supporter. (Caption by: Avery Fuentes.)

17: Susan B. Anthony joined the suffrage movement in 1852. She also campaigned for the abolition of slavery, women's right to their own property and earnings, and women's labor organizations.

18: Alice Walker (below) is a writer of poetry and fiction. She focuses on issues of race and gender and is best known for her novel The Color Purple. | Modern Day Feminists | Angela Davis (above) is a political activist, feminist, scholar and author. One of her major interest is prisoner rights and abolishing the prison-industrial complex.

19: Eighth Graders at FACTs worked in groups to interview feminists and activists from Philadelphia. Below are the names of the students and their interviewees: Tina Sloan Green: interviewed by Brandon Belance, Kreelle Lay-Whitney, Imani Farell, Obeyo Combaye, Kyra Chamberlain, Zekaryas Tesfamarian Jean Hunt: En-Ci Zou, Nasir Smith, ZiXuan Liang, LivannyWijaya Joanne Fischer: Antonio Nanthanvogsa, David Collier, Taliesin Buffington Dr. Christine Woyshner: Karon Webster, Alexis Brown, Zenia Patricia, Lai Lam, Stephanie Lin, Ed Nakawatase: Adam Smith, Phiseth Oeun, Avery Fuentes, Samir Barnes, Daryan-Carissa Banks, Ming-Sheng Lu Debbie Wei: The Entire 8 Moon Social Studies Class Thanks to Asian Americans United, Philadelphia Folklore Project and FACTs for supporting this project. Many thanks to Principal Stengel, Jean Hunt, Lucinda McGill and Ellen Somekawa for guiding this project and finding engaging feminists to interview. After hearing their stories, we are inspired to continue to do more. A hearty thank you to all the students of Teacher Steve Coyle's class who took the time to listen and ask questions and continue the many struggles ahead. Lead Teacher, Curriculum Design, and Photo-journal Editor: Sonia Arora 8th grade Social Studies Teacher: Steve Coyle Technology Coordinator: Ming Chau

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About This Mixbook

  • Title: Women's Movements of Yesterday and Today: Students Interview Feminists
  • Oral History Interviews with Women Activists and Feminists
  • Tags: oral history, women's movement
  • Published: over 8 years ago