Tag Archives: Alice Embree

Making History

First you make history and then the participants need to document it from the perspective of participants. You donate the archives with as much annotation as possible. You gather and participate in oral histories. You ensure that material is digitized so that it can be accessed by radical activists, students, and researchers. I began this blog to document collective history and make it searchable online.

I am often asked where material can be found. I have focused primarily on Texas and information about the movements of the 60s and 70s. I will continue to update this information.

The Austin Women Activists Oral History Project Records is a collaboration between the University of Texas (UT) Briscoe Center for American History and the Department of History, and undergraduate students working under the direction of Dr. Laurie B. Green. In 2017, Glenn Scott and Alice Embree worked with Dr. Green to provide contact information for initial interviews. Dr. Green has continued to have students gather oral histories, and the list shown below is long.

Civil Rights in Black and Brown, is an important 2022 addition to Dr. Green’s work.

Some class presentations have been documented on the University of Texas (UT) History Department Blog, Not Even Past. The following list indicates interviews are available at the Briscoe Center for American History as of May 18, 2022.

Austin Women Activists Oral History Project

  • Adela Mancias
  • Alice Embree
  • Alicia Jarry
  • Allison Nash
  • Alyce Guynn
  • Arleen Lawson
  • Barbara Hines
  • Brenda Malik
  • Carylon (CT) Tyler
  • Cheryl Dean Jefferson
  • Cynthia E. Orozco
  • Cynthia Valadez
  • Deborah Jean Tucker
  • Dianne Duncan
  • Emma Lou Linn
  • Erna R. Smith
  • Glenn Scott
  • Glo Dean Baker Gardner
  • Hortensia Palomares
  • Irma Orozco
  • Irma Soto
  • Linda Lewis
  • Linda Smith
  • Lori Hansel
  • Lynn Hudson
  • Maria Limón
  • Martha Cotera
  • Melissa Hield
  • Modesta Treviño
  • Nancy McMeans Richey
  • Pamiel Johnson Gaskin
  • Pat Cramer
  • Pat Cuney
  • Sharon Shelton-Colangelo
  • Susan Post
  • Susana Alamanza
  • Suzette Cullen
  • Sylvia Orozco
  • Teresa Paloma Acosta
  • Teresa Perez-Wisely
  • Victoria Foe

In 2018, Dr. Suzanne Seriff, working with the University of Texas Schusterman Center, directed students to gather history on UT Jews in the Civil Rights Era and that material was presented in a Symposium sponsored by the UT Schusterman Center. In 2021, Dr. Laurie B. Green and Dr. Suzanne Seriff collaborated with students focused on Mapping Social Justice Activism in Austin, with class presentations presented in a symposium on December 11, 2021.


A community activist, Anne Lewis, worked on a similar mapping project that is detailed in this blog. Anne Lewis is an independent documentary-maker and professor of practice in UT’s Moody College of Communication, Department of Radio-Television-Film. Anne Lewis’ 2013 work, Austin Beloved Community, brings movement history alive in a digital collage of collective memory — audio, film, photos and maps, with a rich diversity of local recollection.


The Rag newspaper has become an invaluable resource for activists and historians. At the first Rag Reunion held in 2005, Peoples History in Texas collected oral histories from attendees and produced a documentary about the pioneering underground newspaper. The Rag: Austin Underground Press 1966-1977 is a three-part documentary featuring interviews and photography from members of The Rag collective.

In 2016, Ragstaffers organized a second reunion to commemorate the paper’s fiftieth anniversary. At that time, New Journalism Project published Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper. The book features more than 100 articles from The Rag’s 11-year history, plus contemporary essays and eye-popping vintage art and photography. This collection captures the radical politics and subversive humor that marked the pages of this upstart newspaper between 1966 and 1977. More detail about The Rag and the book Celebrating The Rag can be found at The Rag Blog.

In 2021, New Journalism Project published a second book about the Houston newspaper Space City!. A companion to Celebrating The Rag published five years earlier, Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper is a 376-page exploration of Houston’s groundbreaking publication. New Journalism Project compiled a complete collection of the newspaper and had it digitized and made available on the Internet Archive.

Last and hopefully not least, there is my memoir, Voice Lessons, published in 2021, It can be ordered through UT Press as shown on my website.


Peoples History in Texas has been collecting oral histories, producing documentaries, and written material, and has launched a podcast series. Their projects are varied and well worth a deep dive. They produced The Rag documentary mentioned earlier in this post. Here are some other projects Peoples History in Texas has undertaken:

Peoples History in Texas produced a documentary on the 1960 theater demonstrations, The Stand-Ins, that integrated movie theaters near the University of Texas at Austin.

Peoples History in Texas did ground-breaking work collecting oral histories from women participants in two major Texas labor strikes in the 1930s, the San Antonio pecanshellers strike and the garment strikes that were statewide. Talkin’ Union features these oral histories in a documentary format as does a book published by New Journalism Project called Talkin’ Union: Texas Women Workers.

Sarah Pike, as an intern at Peoples History in Texas, also produced a blog introduction to Jeff Friedman, who at the age of 26, was the youngest person elected to the Austin City Council. Serving as Austin’s mayor from 1975-1977, he was the city’s first Jewish mayor.


Sarah Pike, as a student of Dr. Suzanne Seriff, created a website for Fly By Night Press. I shared Sarah Pike’s blog on this site. Earlier posts of mine on this site featured both Fly By Night and Red River Women’s Press

In 1988, a UT undergraduate student, Beverly Burr, wrote a detailed Plan II thesis on The History of Student Activism at the University of Texas at Austin (1960-1988). It stands the test of time.

In 2017, Rachel E. Brown wrote a graduate thesis on Repeal Politics: Abortion in Austin, Texas, 1965-1975. Rachel had attended the 2016 Rag reunion where she heard about the Birth Control Information Center established in The Rag‘s office.

For those who were at the Chicago Democratic Convention in August 1968, here is a deep dive by PBS history detectives who identify the origins of a poster used on the streets of Chicago.


The UT Briscoe Center for American History is a resource for archival records, photographs, and personal papers. The Sara Clark Collection on Social, Political, and Environmental Reform contains papers from individuals and organizations. Here is a list of organizations and individuals with papers archived at the Briscoe Center for American History. I’m limiting these to 60s and 70s Texas activists.

People:

  • Pat Cramer
  • Cameron Cunningham
  • Michael Eakin
  • Alice Embree
  • Melissa Hield
  • Barbara Hines
  • Robert Pardun
  • Steve Russell / Donna Mobley
  • Jim Simons
  • Ruthie Weingarten
  • Frieda Werden
  • Mariann Garner Wizard

Organizations:

  • Bread and Roses School for Socialist Education
  • Peoples History in Texas
  • Texas Human Rights Foundation
  • Rag Radio

Professor Max Krochmal at Texas Christian University, is an important resource for Texas oral histories. His latest book, Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Histories of Resistance and Struggle in Texas, uses more than 530 new interviews with grassroots organizers to reconstruct the history of the intersecting African American and Chicanx liberation movements across the Lone Star State.


The Rag v. Regents, the story of The Rag‘s journey to the US Supreme Court, is a separate post on Collective Impressions.

Fly By Night Women’s Printing Collective

Sarah Pike created a stunning website highlighting the history of Fly By Night Women’s Printing Collective. Her work was part of a class project under the guidance of Suzanne Seriff at the University of Texas at Austin, but she has taken her research to an innovative level and given new life to this important chapter in the ’70s women’s community of Austin. Kudos to Sarah Pike for her interest, diligent research, and website skill.

Sarah used this photo of Rita Starpattern and Alice Embree accepting a check for Red River Women’s Press. Fly By Night morphed into Red River Women’s Press in 1977, operating from a storefront on West 12th Street in Austin.

Fight Like A Girl

Fight Like A Girl: How Women’s Activism Shapes History

by Alice Embree

Fight Like a Girl” appears as a feature article in the Summer 2018 magazine, Life & Letters, a publication of the Liberal Arts College at the University of Texas at Austin. The article, written by Rachel Griess, is accompanied by a video. Life & Letters and the Humanities Media Project at the University of Texas at Austin collaborated on the video.

The article grew out of a Fall 2017 History class taught by UT History Professor Laurie Green. Rag staffer Glenn Scott and I identified a list of women to contact, some far flung, most still living in Austin. Dr. Green had her students gather oral histories from these women, all involved in 60s and 70s movements and uprisings. Three of us are highlighted in the Griess article: Barbara Hines, Martha Cotera, and me. Two of us, Barbara Hines and me, were Rag staffers and participants in Austin’s women’s liberation movement. Martha Cotera is well known for her Chicana and Latina activism.

Those of us who were interviewed were invited to class presentations made by the students at an end of semester event. While, it is still somewhat difficult to accept that we are “history,” it is clear that students see us that way. Their questions and insights were as illuminating to me as my history appeared to be to them. The video includes some footage made at the class presentation and interviews with Dr. Laurie Green, the three of us featured in the magazine article, and several of the students involved in the collection of the oral histories.

The taped interviews will be transcribed and housed at the UT Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. I have been donating papers to the Sara Clark collection there as well, and encourage others with 60s and 70s material to do the same.

The video incorporates photographs of documentary genius and former Rag staffer Alan Pogue. The class relied on the book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale as source material. Published in 2016, the book continues to be cited as a unique deep dive into the history bracketed by the life of The Rag, 1966-1977.

 

Beautiful When Angry

general_strike

by Alice Embree

The Feminist Action Committee of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) showed the film, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” last night in Austin.  We were raising funds for abortion access — for the Lilith Fund and for Frontera Fund.  I wanted to share comments I made after the film, reflections on the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and on the challenges of today.

I remember the consciousness raising rooms with women talking in 1970, electricity in the air. We were beautiful. I remember the moments when someone would say, “That happened to me.” And someone else would say, “Me, too.” When we realized that we faced barriers as women that we hadn’t even seen before. When we realized that women’s voices were frequently silent in rooms that included men, even in rooms full of radicals intent on ending the war. Women typed the leaflets; we didn’t give the speeches. We rarely stepped up into leadership until women’s liberation came along.

Our self-discovery required us to learn from each other, tell our own stories, hear our sisters’ stories. That’s how we began to connect the dots and understand that a system of patriarchy had molded our ideas of what was possible. We intended to break down those barriers.

When I met Glenn Scott, now co-chair of Austin’s DSA chapter, I was in a group called Austin Women Workers. Here’s what our leaflet said in 1975:

We are all workers although some of us are in the role of unpaid mothers and housekeepers.

We know that the struggle for women’s liberation is a revolutionary struggle because the realization of our demands will bring about a basic transformation in our society. We cannot settle for less than the possibility of engaging in meaningful and creative activity: the opportunity to develop… skills…; adequate compensation…; free, loving care for children; control over the reproductive processes; sexual self-determination for all women and especially for lesbians; the development of personal relationships based on mutual responsibility; and the power to make decisions about all areas of our lives…

We also know that the liberation of women will not occur until all people are free. We do not intend to gain a greater degree of independence at the expense of other oppressed people. Therefore, we struggle against all forms of racism, capitalism, and imperialism. Our most important work is the creation of a society in which every person is provided with the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter; every person participates in the decision-making process; and every person is able to expand his or her consciousness to the fullest extent.

As part of the 70s Women’s Liberation Movement we began to knock down employment barriers in Austin, demand birth control choices, challenge abortion laws, organize rape crisis centers and speak out against domestic abuse.   Soon, many of us had children while holding down full time jobs. We scrambled for child care and summer camps. Betty Friedan had framed a question in 1963 in The Feminine Mystique written from her suburban vantage point, “Is this all there is?” For most of us in the 80s, it was more like, “Isn’t this too much?”

The point of a socialist analysis is “yes, it is too much.” To expect women to work at lower wages, often taking on the major responsibilities of childcare and elder care in families. With skyrocketing childcare costs, hit or miss health care, even sales taxes on tampons. Yes, it is too much.

The imprint of our work in women’s liberation many decades ago can be seen now in DSA.

In our DSA Feminist Action Committee, we look at intersectionality of oppression – a big word way of saying that oppression can take many forms – class, race, gender identity, citizen status to name a few. We know we can’t understand class without understanding race. We can’t only look at patriarchy without understanding how it intersects with capitalism. In DSA, our organization reminds us to Step Up if you haven’t spoken, to Step Back if you have already spoken. We use something called Progressive Stack in discussions to amplify the voices of women, people of color, and queers.

When we organize for Medicare For All, we know that is a feminist issue. When we win a Paid Sick Days Ordinance, we know that is for women, and for their children. Reproductive justice is a socialist issue. Poverty is a feminist issue. Capitalism has rewarded the few and failed to deliver on basic needs for the many. Patriarchal privilege has warped our culture and our choices as women. As Socialist Feminists, we intend to break down barriers and transform our society in revolutionary ways by fighting for democratic socialism.

Sex and Socialism

[The 1976 Rag newspaper cover shown above celebrates International Women’s Day.]

by Alice Embree

August 25, 2017

Is sex better under socialism? Apparently, according to an August 12, 2017 New York Times opinion piece. Did women from the United States find fulfillment in revolutionary Russia? Julia Mickenberg’s American Girls in Red Russia makes that case. As socialism continues to gain traction with millennials, it may be time to consider what that can mean in the bedrooms as well as in the body politic.

“Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” was a theme of the 60s rebellion. After all, the Baby Boomers came of age when birth control pills did. Then women’s liberation added an entirely new spin to sexual liberation.

Women’s consciousness-raising groups began reading the revelatory pamphlet, “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.” Feminists in the Boston Women’s Health Collective and the Women’s Health Organization in Austin informed women about their bodies from a woman’s perspective. In 1973, the Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion. The Gay Liberation movement brought same sex relationships out into the open.

Sexual pleasure outside of marriage and procreation has always rankled the religious right. Anita Bryant brought her rant about homosexuality to Austin in 1977, drawing a large counter protest on Auditorium Shores. We still are fending off bathroom bills in 2017 and trying to keep Planned Parenthood from becoming extinct.

At the rate things are going, it may take revolution to gain reproductive justice – decent sex education, family planning, abortion rights, pre-natal care, post-natal care, and child-care. Addressing the structural inequities, particularly for women of color, to reproductive healthcare will demand far more from all of us than defending legalized abortion. Does it require socialism?

Women born slightly before the raucous Baby Boom found themselves in the 60s with less “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” and more diapers, baby rattles, and Dr. Spock (the pediatrician who wrote the Bible on childcare during that era). For those women in 1963, Betty Friedan posed a question in The Feminine Mystique, “Is this all?”

The question has a quaint, middle-class Leave it to Beaver feel in today’s world. Friedan was speaking as a woman of privilege about the isolation of motherhood in suburbia. Her comments resonated among many women who helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW).

But, for those of us who began to knock open employment doors for women in the 70s, we faced an entirely different question when we had children. The question was: “Isn’t this too much?”

The scramble to work full time and negotiate lives around childcare schedules, afterschool programs and summer camps was, in fact, daunting. And what we faced in the 80s seems quaint now. Childcare costs alone have tripled.

In what we called the Women’s Liberation movement in the 70s, we envisioned a world in which women’s work outside the home would benefit everyone. There would be shared responsibilities at home, shorter workweeks, time to relax and even time for sex.

We envisioned a quality childcare system that would be affordable and accessible. In a forgotten footnote to history, the U.S. Congress passed a Comprehensive Child Development Bill, aimed at universal childcare in 1971. In 1972, President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill, arguing against a communal approach to child-rearing that would weaken family life.

Our vision ran contrary to the capitalist vision. As women entered the workforce in large numbers in the 70s, employers found a way to use the expanded labor force to flatten wages and work families to the breaking point. Middle class aspirations began to require dual incomes. Single parents frequently worked more than one job to make ends meet.

This is where life under socialism provides an important contrast.

Kristen R. Ghodsee’s piece, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism” appeared in the August 12, 2017 New York Times. She writes:

“Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.

A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women.”

Ghodsee quotes a 65-year-old Bulgarian woman who worries about her daughter born in the late 70s:

“’All she does is work and work,’ Ms. Durheva told me in 2013, ‘and when she comes home at night she is too tired to be with her husband. But it doesn’t matter, because he is tired, too. They sit together in front of the television like zombies. When I was her age, we had much more fun.’”

The same New York Times article tells the story from the perspective of a German woman in her 30s, responding to her mother’s pressure to have a baby,

“She doesn’t’ understand how much harder it is now – it was so easy for women before the wall fall [referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989], They had kindergartens and crèches, and they could take maternity leave and have their jobs held for them. I work contract to contract and don’t have time to get pregnant.”

While Ghodsee draws a comparison between East Germany and West Germany, University of Texas professor Julia Mickenberg shines light on the motivations that propelled women from the United States to Russia after the 1917 revolution. Julia Mickenberg’s American Girls in Red Russia describes what Russia had to offer.

Russia had granted suffrage to women in 1917, three years before women in the United States got the right to vote. Furthermore, a new Family Code legalized divorce, allowed women to own property, eliminated the category of illegitimate children, and made family leave available. (Did you hear that last one, Ivanka Trump? One century earlier!) There were publicly funded child-care centers, public laundries, and cafeterias that made working outside the home easier to integrate with family life.

U.S. women seeking adventure found a range of possibilities in revolutionary Russia — working in factories and agricultural collectives, editing newspapers, and contributing to the cultural renaissance in dance and film.

Mickenberg’s writing reveals a story rarely told, a U.S. exile community similar to the one that thrived in Paris. It is not the more familiar story of Ernest Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, but the story of women attracted to the revolutionary frontier of Red Russia.

In 1934, African American actress, Frances E. Williams, visited Russia drawn to opportunities in film and theater. Her impression of childcare and college without debt has a current resonance. Mickenberg writes:

“Because her mother had worked since the age of five as a laundress, Frances E. Williams found Soviet attention to children profoundly moving: ‘Schools were available for your children, even nursery schools or pre-primary things were planned so that they were near, if you worked in a factory or wherever you worked… And you didn’t have to again hoard your money and know all the right people to get your children into college and be in debt all your life.’”

It is now 2017, 100 years after the Russian revolution. Many of us in the United States have been inspired, as some of us were in the 70s, by the vision of democratic socialism.

When 13 men huddled in the U.S. Senate to concoct a healthcare bill that, among other things, would eviscerate Planned Parenthood, opponents didn’t just say, “No!” They began to demand universal health care.   To this demand, we must add many others.

For women, for families, for children, for everyone, we need universal health care that provides for all aspects of reproductive health. And, we should add demands for paid family leave and universal childcare. With the present in dire straits, it is definitely time to re-imagine the future.

The New York Times article skips from a study on orgasms to the societal support systems that made life easier for women in East Germany. Mickenberg’s American Girls in Red Russia gives a more nuanced view of women’s experience in revolutionary Russia – exploring affairs of the heart as well as those of the collective.

Let no one doubt that revolutionary fervor is a powerful aphrodisiac. It can provide the spark, but that spark needs to be nurtured. Societal support systems don’t sound quite so sexy– family leave, universal child care – but they can be quite exciting when they translate into less stress and more time.

The author is an Austin writer and activist.  She contributed to Sisterhood is Powerful, writes for The Rag Blog, and is a member of Democratic Socialists of America.

Austin Movement History

On November 19, 2013, I wrote about Anne Lewis’ website, Austin Beloved Community.  Read the entire post in The Rag Blog.

Austin Beloved Community brings movement history alive in a digital collage of collective memory — audio, film, photos and maps, and a rich diversity of local recollection.

Anne Lewis came to Austin in 1998 and teaches film at the University of Texas at Austin. She hardly limits herself to teaching. She can often be seen behind a camera at marches or demonstrations or without a camera holding a picket sign.

This website is the history of the struggle for social justice told by participants who know that the struggle isn’t over.

 

Sattva

On October 12, 1970, this notice appeared in Austin’s underground newspaper, The Rag.

A new restaurant in Austin, SATTVA, at San Antonio and 21st, just around the corner from the Drag in the Hillel building, non-profit, run completely by members of the Austin community. Good food, macrobiotic and vegetarian cheap, vegetables and rice 35c, raw milk 10c a glass, good whole wheat bread, healthy, filling food, and good people. Open Monday thru Thursday from 11:00 AM to 8:30 PM closed on Friday. On Saturday, Free lunch from 12:00 to 1:00, dinner, not free from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM, open Sunday from 3:00 to 8:30. Come by.

Sattva was a collectively run vegetarian restaurant. It was first established in October 1970 at the Hillel Student Center at 2105 San Antonio, but that arrangement was coming to an end when I got involved. I approached Bob Breihan, who ran the Methodist Student Center, about housing the noon hour restaurant.

Bob was blunt. “The only time I ate there,” he said, “I got terrible diarrhea.”

Despite his own digestive reluctance, he agreed and we moved about three blocks north into the Methodist Student Center kitchen at 2434 Guadalupe in the fall of 1971.

My strongest memory is garlic.  The first thing we did in the morning was mince garlic. We peeled the skin off cloves and chopped until we had a mound — aromatic and translucent.  After that we chopped a lot of onions. The garlic and onions went in the beans, the soups and the casseroles. Beans were essential, and rice.  The combo bowl was a real bargain. We usually had a soup, a tub of salad you could dish out with tongs, and a main entree like squash casserole, eggplant Parmesan or vegetarian enchiladas.

One morning, the health inspector paid a visit. He looked in on this somewhat bedraggled group of long hairs and asked: “Who’s the top banana here?”

Jay McGee, who wore a pony tail down his back and had a mustache like Yosemite Sam, gave the perfect response in his gravely, low voice: “We ate him for lunch.”

The inspector did his job, checking to see if we stored our onions or potatoes off the floor, looking for signs of rodent or roach droppings, seeing what we used as a cleaner. We passed inspection and he went on his way.  Sattva closed in December 1976.

Delta Diner

The Delta Diner was a short-lived spin-off from Sattva. It was located in the Campus Guild housing co-op at 2804 Whitis, a building that was constructed in 1941 by co-op residents and condemned in 1972. We served dinners there. Charlotte Pittman, Lori Hansel, Vernell Pratt, Michael Lutes and I were among the workforce. Vernell wrote the Delta Diner song and we’d serenade our dining guests.

(to the tune of “Nothing Could be Finer Than to Be in Carolina”)

 Nothing could be finer than to eat at Delta Diner in the evening.

Nothing could be greater than to eat a raw potato at the Diner.

And while you’re eating real good food and having a ball

You can meet with all your friends and plan the state’s fall

Nothing could be finer than to eat at Delta Diner in the evening.

We specialized in names for our entrees like “Squash the State Casserole.” The Delta Diner was open during the first shuttle bus strike when the drivers were organizing against stiff owner opposition to be represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). We offered to feed all striking shuttle bus drivers and their families for free, and many took us up on the offer. They won their contract in February 1972. I was in San Francisco in the summer of 1973, after the Delta Diner’s demise, when my mother sent me a clipping from the Austin American Statesman. The co-op building burned down on July 4, 1973.

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s Health Organization

The Women’s Health Organization (W.H.O.) in Austin was formed in 1974 with three main objectives: education for women, improving existing health care, and the establishment of new services for all women. W.H.O. targeted two areas of education: self-knowledge and improved relationships with gynecologists. They distributed a questionnaire to area gynecologists, set up an evaluation and doctor referral service based on feedback, and actively sought to bring a “progressive woman gynecologist” to Austin to include among referrals. They produced informational pamphlets and reading lists. W.H.O. also established a Self-Help Clinic and trained women in self-cervical and self-breast examinations. Similar to the groundbreaking work of the Boston Women’s Health Collective, publishers of “Our Bodies; Ourselves,” this local women’s group empowered women with information about their bodies, challenged patronizing gynecologists, and opened space for new services such as birthing centers and midwife-assisted home-births. The model of peer support survives today with lactation coaches and breast cancer support groups.

Nancy Simons illustrated the W.H.O. pamphlets. She shares these memories:

I remember us having a table at a Health Fair and encouraging women to write in a book about their personal experiences with local gynecologists (sort of an early version of Yelp!). I remember our provocative (for that feminist era) poster with a naked woman and the words “HELP YOURSELF.” I will never forget how small and sweet our mysterious cervixes seemed. I remember doing a cartoon of Wonder Woman with a speculum in hand saying “AT YOUR CERVIX.” The whole thing was very liberating for women whose bodies had previously been mostly defined by male doctors.

Soeur Queens

The Soeur Queens were described by Vernell Pratt in the June 1975 Soeur Queens Songbook as follows:

the soeur queens are an all-girl-honky-tonk-barroom band that has (have) done music together off and on since 1971.

for at least as long as we’ve been playing & singing, we’ve been talking about a songbook. here, hot in your hands, it finally appears, through the hard work, beer, sweat and tears of:

fly-by-night print collective and the souer queens, and especially our sisters behind bars, marcelle and mary, who did the center spread, alice, gail, krissy, nancy, frances, all the others who’ve ever sung along with us, the socialist feminist conference for the impetus to finally get it together, and especially the people whose songs are included, helping us to make it a people’s songbook.

vpsq

In July 1971 the Soeur Queens played at the founding conference of the National Women’s Political Caucus at the Rice Hotel in Houston. They also played at the Austin’s One Knite on Lavaca and at the University of Houston for the Gay Student Association. They performed at the Ritz in Austin in 1973 to benefit Bach Mai Hospital (a Vietnamese hospital targeted by a 1972 U.S. bombing raid). One of the final performances of the Soeur Queens was at Liberty Lunch in the fall of 1976 to raise funds to send Vernell Pratt on a slow boat to China for a cultural exchange. The Songbook’s cover illustration shows these women (from left to right): Nancy Crothers (stand up base), Vernell Pratt (guitar), Frances Barton (piano), Lori Hansel (guitar) and Gail Caldwell (flute).

 

Red River Women’s Press

Fly-By-Night Printing Collective, the predecessor of Red River Women’s Press, began operations in May 1974. Fly By Night’s press had been donated and overhauled in a press repair class at Austin Community College. After the class, the press was moved upstairs to 901 West 24th Street. The Soeur Queens Songbook was printed by Fly By Night in June 1975. In the Fall of 1975, Cynthia Roberts and Melita Abrego, Fly-By-Night press operators, completed a large print run of Cyclar, a 1976 Women’s Community Calendar. Rita Starpattern and Robin Birdfeather collaborated on the design.

On November 4, 1975, Fly-By-Night’s Multilith 1250 was lowered downstairs and rolled down 24th and San Gabriel to Bread and Roses Community Center, 2204 San Gabriel Street. A member of the collective was offered employment while still serving a prison sentence for destroying draft records in 1969.  She came to Austin from Alderson Prison in the fall of 1976.

Red River Women’s Press (RRWP) began as a feminist print shop in January 1977. A successful musical benefit February 2nd at Soap Creek Saloon laid the foundation for a move to a storefront in June 1977 at 908-C West 12th Street in the Enfield Shopping Center. The press was an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union shop. The IWW union bug was proudly placed on countless print orders – stationery, envelopes, leaflets, pamphlets and posters (both offset and silk-screened). The shop employed two full time staff and received Comprehensive Education and Training Act (CETA) funds to train several women as printers. The movement provided a steady set of customers – law collectives, the Brown Berets, the Austin Committee for Human Rights in Chile, Womenspace – as well as walk-in orders.

On West 12th Street, Red River Women’s Press occupied a storefront that backed up to a quiet Shoal Creek. Two presses, a Multilith 1250 and a Multilith 1850, paper supplies, typesetter and light tables were at street level. A copy camera, darkroom and silk-screen shop were in the basement. Shoal Creek flooded on May 25, 1981 (Austin’s Memorial Day Flood). Floodwaters inundated the basement, submerging the copy camera and rising about 10 inches on the presses upstairs. The press dug out of the mud, but closed later that year. The initial Red River Women’s Press collective included the following women: Alice Embree, Rita Starpattern, JoAnn Mulert, Linda Evans, Gail Lewis, Lori Hansel, Marce Lacouture, Barbara Krasne and Kandy Littrell. Maria Flores and Angelina Mendez were two of the CETA trainees.