From the horse’s mouth.

1955: Lesbian organizing and ‘red feminism’

Communist women—Black and white—helped push the struggle for women’s liberation forward politically and ideologically during that Cold War era. Their efforts reverberated strongly throughout the West Coast, as well as other regions of the U.S.

The political and theoretical contributions of Gerda Lerner and Eleanor Flexner are familiar to women who were a part of “second wave” women’s liberation—the great surging feminist and womanist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But the revolutionary moorings of these women’s politics are less known.

Weigand wrote, “These women, along with many others who are less well-known, worked for women’s liberation within their own political circles and in the United States at large during the hostile years of 1945-56. The group consisted primarily of women who had cut their political teeth in the Left and labor struggles of the 1930s.”

Weigand stressed, “They revolutionized [feminist theory] by conceptualizing the dynamics of women’s oppression and liberation within a framework that made race and class central. They sustained a small but vibrant women’s movement throughout the 1940s and 1950s and transmitted influential terminology, tactics and concepts to the next generation of feminists. Their bold new thinking about the interdependence of gender, race and class, and about the personal and cultural aspects of sexism, shaped modern feminism—both directly and indirectly—and laid absolutely crucial groundwork for the second wave.”

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