In September 2018, the California Online Branch held an email list discussion on the topic The Intersection of Racism and Sexism: Where Feminism Fails Women of Color featuring guest speakers:
- Gloria Blackwell, AAUW Senior VP of Fellowships and Programs
- Suzanne Gould, AAUW Archivist and Historian
Dawn N. Hicks Tafari, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Winston-Salem University (2014-15 AAUW Fellow)
Mary Phillips, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Lehman College, CUNY (2018-19 AAUW Fellow)
Amaka Okechukwu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, George Mason University (2017-18 AAUW Fellow)
Ashley D. Farmer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Texas-Austin (2016-17 AAUW Fellow)
The program looked at the issue covering four sub-topics:
- History of the early 20th century (passage of the 19th Amendment)
- History of the 1960s/70s (Civil Rights Movement and Second Wave Feminist Movement)
- Current Events (Black Lives Matter, #MeToo)
- White Privilege
Resources/articles shared during the program:
EARLY 20th CENTURY HISTORY (passage of the 19th Amendment)
- 7 Women of Color Who Fought for Gender Equality — August 20, 2015 post on AAUW website
- Black Women & the Suffrage Movement: 1848-1923 — excerpt from One of Divided Sisters: Bridging the Gap Between Black and White Women by Midge Wilson & Kathy Russell, 1996
- How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women by Brent Staples, NY Times July 28, 2018
- AAUW’s Long Road to Women’s Suffrage — August 23, 2013 post on AAUW website
- Celebrate Women’s Suffrage, but Don’t Whitewash the Movement’s Racism by Tammy L. Brown, August 2, 2018
- Women’s Suffrage Leaders Left Out Black Women by Evette Dionne, August 18, 2017
- Anna Julia Cooper’s classic essay, “The Status of Women in America” (no link available)
- The African-American Suffragists History Forgot by Lynn Yaeger, October 21, 2015
- The Ballot and Black Women by Denise Oliver Velez, August 21, 2011
- When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America, a book by Paula J. Giddins (HarperCollins 2007) Chapter on Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell is available to read for free.
- Opening Membership and Minds, AAUW post about Mary Church Terrell, February 26, 2014
1960s/1970s HISTORY (Civil Rights and Second Wave Feminist Movements)
- Video interview of Gloria Steinem by theGrio’s Deputy Editor, Natasha Alford, June 29, 2017
- The Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement Are Black Women You’ve Never Heard Of by Alia E. Dastagir, February 16, 2018
- The Women of the Combahee River Collective
- 8 Historic Women Who Pioneered the Civil Rights Movement by Yohana Desta, February 5, 2015
- Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers & Torchbearers, 1941-1965, a book edited by Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods (Indiana University Presss, 1993)
- Sex and Caste: A Kind of Memo by Casey Hayden and Mary King, 1965. Written by 2 white women, black feminists agreed with some points, but felt that race mediated their experiences within the organization.
- A black woman in the same organization as the “Sex and Caste” article (above) wrote from a black viewpoint: “We Started From Different Ends of the Spectrum” by Cynthia Washington, in the journal Southern Exposure, Winter 1077, pp 14-18 — no direct link available
- The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement, a book by Winifred Breines (Oxford University Press, 2006)
- Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980, a book by Kimberly Springer (Duke University Press, 2005)
- Welfare is a Women’s Issue by Johnnie Tillmon, 1972
- Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States, a book by Premilla Nadasen (Routledge, 2005)
- Storming Caesar’s Palace: How Black Mothers Fought Their Own War on Poverty, a book by Annelise Orleck (beacon Press, 2005)
- Coalition Politics: Turning the Century, a speech by Bernice Johnson Reagon reprinted in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, a book edited by Barbara Smith (Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983)
- 4 Big Problems With The Feminine Mystique by Ashley Fetters, February 12, 2013
- Black Herstory: The Founders of the Feminist Party by Janell Hobson, February 9, 2012
- Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, a book edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin (New York Univ. Press, 2001)
- Want to Start a Revolution? Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle, a book edited by Dayo Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard (New York Univ. Press, 2009)
- “The Interstitial Politics of Black Feminist Organizations” by Kimberly Springs, article in journal Meridians, Spring 2001, pp 155-191 — no direct link available
- Chapter on AAUW and integration in Organized White Women and the Challenge of Racial Integration, 1945-1965 by Helen Laville (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)
- Yearning For a Unified Society in 1960s America, by Suzanne Gould on AAUW website, August 21, 2013
- AAUW Coretta Scott King Fellows: Scholars and Women of Action, AAUW website post, January 16, 2017
- Fellowships became a way for AAUW to expand educational opportunities for African-American women and add to the scholarship around black women, civil rights, history, race, and social movements: Nell Irvin Painter, Barbara Smith, Keisha Blain, Melissa Harris-Perry, Sherie Randolph, Patricia Bell-Scott, Faith Ringgold, Ruth Feldstein, and Kimala Price.
- African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, 1992
CURRENT EVENTS (Black Lives Matter and #MeToo)
- “The Urgency of Intersectionality” TED talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw, October 2016
- Black Lives Matter website describing Guiding Principles and Herstory
- Connect the Dots: For Korryn Gaines, Skye Mockabee and Joyce Quaweay, August 3, 2016
- Police Kill Unarmed Blacks More Often, Especially When They Are Women, Study Finds by Gerry Everding, February 6, 2018
- Unarmed Black Women Are At Highest Risk When Interacting With Police, Study Finds by Ashley Lisenby, February 12, 2018
- Serena Williams and the Game That Can’t Be Won (Yet): What Rage Costs a Woman by Rebecca Traister, September 9, 2018
- Serena Williams Cartoon, Called Racist, Gets New Life on Paper’s Front Page by Isabella Kwai, September 12, 2018
- Serena Williams May Be Singled Out for Drug Testing. The Question is Why. by Kevin B. Blackistone, July 27, 2018
- Murdered and Missing Native American Women Challenge Police and Courts by Garet Bleir and Anya Zoledziowski, August 27, 2018
- The Health Care System and Racial Disparities in Maternal Mortality by Theresa Chalhoub and Kelly Rimar, May 10, 2018
- For Serena Williams, Childbirth Was a Harrowing Ordeal. She’s Not Alone. by Maya Salam, January 11, 2018
- NPR Series Lost Mothers: Maternal Mortality in the U.S.
- How Hospitals Are Failing Black Mothers by Annie Waldman, December 27, 2017
- Black Women Disproportionately Suffer Complications of Pregnancy and Childbirth. Let’s Talk About It. by Adrianna Gallardo, December 8, 2017
- Empowerment Through Empathy: The Birth of the Me Too Movement, a feature about social justice activist Tarana Burke‘s presentation to AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) in June 2018.
- Black Women Are Waiting For Their #MeToo Moment by Renée Graham, May 15, 2018
- What About #UsToo?: The Invisibility of Race in the #MeToo Movement by Angela Onwuachi-Willig, June 18, 2018. From last paragraph: ”This work can’t grow unless it’s intersectional. We [women of color] can’t do it alone and they [white women] can’t do it alone . . . . Until we change [how we interact], any advancement that we make in addressing this issue is going to be scarred by the fact that it wasn’t across the board.”
- Test for implicit bias (Harvard University, “Project Implicit”) — AAUW International Fellow Mahzarin Banaji helped develop the research for this test during her Fellowship year at Harvard
- What Is White Privilege, Really? by Cory Collins, Fall 2018
- How I Discovered I Am White, blog post by Janelle Hanchett, December 9, 2014
- Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy video “A Trip to the Grocery Store”
- How White People Have Reacted to Black Success Over Time in the United States by Kim Reynolds, July 30, 2018
- 5 Ways White Feminists Can Address Our Own Racism by Sarah Milstein, September 24, 2013
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, 1988
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, a book by Robin DiAngelo (Beacon Press, 2018)
- A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans From Confronting Racism by Katy Waldman, July 23, 2018
- Tim Wise video on White Privilege
- So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know by Jamie Utt, November 8, 2013
- Jane Elliot‘s Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Test (video “How Racist Are You?”)
- The History of White People, a book by Nell Irvin Painter
As a part of the program, we asked AAUW Archivist/Historian, Suzanne Gould, to tell us about AAUW’s record in the intersection of racism and sexism. Here is what she shared with us:
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important discussion. I can provide some background on AAUW history to give some perspective in response to Sandy’s third question: “Did AAUW fully embrace equal rights for all, or exhibit some of the same racism that has been documented in other women’s advocacy organizations of that era?”
While AAUW has always been an organization composed of predominately white women, the organization was forced to address the issue of discrimination in its membership policy in 1946. This was the year that Mary Church Terrell was invited to join the Washington DC Branch by a fellow Oberlin graduate. Some members of the branch opposed Terrell’s admittance because she was African American. The irony is that Terrell was once a national member of AAUW, back at the turn of the century after she graduated from Oberlin, yet had let her membership lapse and decided to rejoin later in life. AAUW, 1949. On display at AAUW.
National AAUW told the branch they had to accept Terrell’s application for membership or be dissolved. AAUW had never explicitly excluded women based on race in its membership criteria or bylaws. However, the branch sued AAUW in district court and won. AAUW then appealed the court’s decision but lost. The president at the time, Dr. Althea K. Hottel, recommended that the organization should revise its bylaws to clarify its membership requirements to prevent exclusion by race.
At the 1949 National Convention in Seattle, AAUW members voted to revise the bylaws so that the only requirement for membership was to be a woman with a college degree from an AAUW-approved university. (Men weren’t admitted until 1987. More on the AAUW approved universities later.)
This new wording clarified that was one and only one requirement for AAUW membership, and reaffirmed that women college graduates of all races were eligible for membership. The branch members that had opposed Terrell’s membership quit AAUW and formed their own group, the College Woman’s Club of Washington, D.C. The remaining AAUW members stayed on as the Washington branch.
It’s important to note that although the bylaws did change to make it clear there would be no discrimination based on race, this opened up the organization only in theory. In practice, however, things were quite different and there existed significant barriers to membership. For example, AAUW still maintained a strict membership policy regarding its list of approved institutions. Until about 1965, in order to become a member, you had to have a degree from a list of AAUW approved institutions. Colleges and universities first applied to AAUW for membership, and when they were approved, at which point their graduates were eligible to become members. However, none of the HBCU’s were ever approved despite having applied. The approved membership list remained full of predominately white colleges and universities. This clearly limited the number of women of color who were eligible to become members up until that point in time.
When asked about AAUW’s role in the passage of the 19th Amendment, Gould added:
Many of our members did advocate for women’s suffrage—both on a local and national level. The national AAUW (then the ACA) leaders at the time of course supported the passage of the 19th amendment, but were hesitant to devote AAUW resources to the issue because they deemed it outside the mission/scope of the organization which was focused on equity for women in higher education. They were also very concerned about losing membership since there were some women who opposed women’s suffrage (hard to believe, but true) within the organization’s ranks. The organization was still rather small during that time so maintaining and building membership was always at the forefront of their minds.
Of course there is a strong, natural connection between the issue of equality in education and women’s suffrage, and the leaders knew this and debated it a bit in the records. But as far as ACA itself as a national organization advocating for women’s suffrage, they came to support it rather late in the cause, around 1915, and then only as an issue to study and adoption of a resolution. There isn’t much else as far as historical resources on suffrage in the archives. However, I know of many ACA members who were working on the issue in their own states long before then and then nationally up to the passage of the 19th amendment.