I often say my social activist life can be summed up, “from Selma to Soweto with a feminist perspective.” So, to be with friends from many decades at The Feminist Press kick-off event for their 40th anniversary year was a sheer joy. Award recipients included: Arianna Huffington, the trailblazing founder of Huffington Post; Taslina Nasrin, an extraordinarily brave Muslim physician, writer and human rights activist from Bangladesh; and Rhonda Copelon, a groundbreaking human rights attorney who worked at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Huffington spoke of a “tribe of women” who as feminists are pioneering a way “to succeed differently than men.” Nzarin said, “as an exile I have no home; but I have a home with you.” Copelon said, “a new generation of activists is emerging to promote laws protecting [women’s rights].”
Presenters included Ellen Chesler, director Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College; Alison Bernstein, Vice President Education, Creativity and Freedom of Expression Ford Foundation; Iris Weinshall, Vice Chancellor City University of NY and the indefatiguable Gloria Jacobs, Executive Director The Feminist Press. I first worked with Bella Abzug as a volunteer at Women Strike for Peace in the early 1960s and, at about the same time, Shirley Chisholm when she ran for a seat in the New York State Legislature. They informed my understanding of the interconnectedness of women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, poverty, the environment, development and peace. With my sister/mentor/friend, Gloria Steinem, they epitomize strength, compassion, and fierce determination on behalf of positive, sustainable change that I seek to emulate. A tradition Florence Howe championed and The Feminist Press proudly carries on. The world is catching up on their four-decade advocacy with the recently published Gail Collins book “When Everything Changed,” the Shriver Report, “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” and the Center For Global Development new effort “It Starts With A Girl.” For those interested, I am featured in the oral history book about Bella Abzug edited by Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom; and in the oral archives on Shirley Chisholm at Brooklyn College founded and directed by Barbara Winslow.