Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Word About The Photos

Yesterday I cringed a bit as I posted my blurry photos of Dorothy Height which I took at the 1981 ERA Countdown Gala. But, blurry or not, I am glad to have them. They remind me of the story.

So a word about how/why I have most of my pictures.

Remember this was in the days before digital cameras. No chance to check the photo and shoot again. And, no little lightweight cameras or phones that you slipped in your pocket.

I was shooting with a clunky and heavy 35mm SLR camera that I lugged with me everywhere - often carrying a separate longer telephoto lens to take a long shot. My photos are a classic example of multi-tasking. Usually I had paper and pen in one hand with the camera balanced in the other catching a few shots for the record. And, no checking the photos on the spot, as we can do today. You waited for the slides to come back a few days later hoping - - -

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My new story - The Second Wave Album, a new blog and the Second Wave Album Facebook Page. Posting pictures and captions that tell a bit of the story. Experimenting with Social Media to let the word out and build an audience.

Bringing out boxes of day-books to go through. Its overwhelming. Where to start?

When I went back to college as a Freshman in 1968 I thought I was going for an education. I had no idea that I had stepped onto a new road - to change my life.

The catalyst - the first- ever Women's Studies course at Dunbarton College, a small Catholic women's school, the last place one would have expected such a life-changer. The instructor was a founder of the first Rape Crisis Center in DC and a member of NOW, (The National Organization for Women).

My art history professor, artist Nancy Cusick invited me to accompany her to the 1972 Corcoran Conference of Women Artists, the first-ever national gathering of women artists. They came from across the country, sharing ideas and images and changing the way I looked at art and thought of myself as an artist.

Timing is always everything. I was a graduate student at American University in Graduate School during the organizing of the Women's Caucus for Art when AU Art History professor Mary Garrard was the second president. I volunteered to be membership secretary and processed a growing membership.

The Washington Women's Art Center was founded in 1972 and by 1974 I had joined it. Through WWAC I became part of the network in DC and nationally. In 1975-76 I was a founder of the Coalition of Women's Arts Organizations and, based in Washington, DC, found myself the lobbyist for the group - testifying before Congressional Committees and advocating for equal rights for women artists to federal agencies.

Talking has always been my strong suit - once I was told I should list taking on my resume - but I thing the lobbying was the true start of my career as a storyteller.

The CWAO experience as a lobbyist and grassroots organizer led to my job on the staff of the National League of Women Voters as ERA Campaign Director,1979 - 1982, the last three years of the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. They hired me to represent the League with the other women's organizations, tend to the State Leagues and raise money for ERA.

Artists have ideas - we see things in new ways. It turned out that I came up with a new idea for the ERA campaign and for the League. I proposed and organized the National Business Council for ERA which brought the campaign support from Fortune 500 CEOs. Raised money and provided a professional umbrella under which The Ad Women of New York, could work with the ERA campaign.

It was a perfect combination - the League of Women Voters and Business. Our organizing co-chair, actress and business woman Polly Bergen was not just a name on the letter-head she was hands-on. We developed stategies around her being present and she came. I happily held her purse so she could wow them. ERA Board Chair Madeleine Appel and Lois Harrison were wonderful team members. And BPW ERA legend Mariwyn Heath was my mentor and supporter in the business effort. She told me at the end of the campaign - " I consider you one of my successes. I thought it was a dumb idea and did not believe that you could pull it off - - but I never said a word to discourage you." It was a good management lesson and I have never forgotten it.

Women did amazing things during that campaign. It was a dynamic volunteer grass roots effort, and inexperienced women learned their jobs by doing them.
Women cared about the issues and taught themselves the skills they needed to lobby effectively.

The loss of the ERA was heart-breaking for the supporters.

That's an outline. There are a lot of stories there. What to tell?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Introducing the Second Wave American Album


Several things collided that prompted me to get started sifting through the archives I have stored in the basement - and to do something with the stuff.

So - I have initiated a Second Wave American Album page on Facebook hoping to also catch stories from other people who were involved in the 1970s women's movement. It is set up for everyone to post, add pictures and comment.

The years between 1970 to 1982, the year the Equal Rights Amendment failed, were challenging and exciting. For me they follow two tracts - the arts and women artists and the ERA -
because I was involved on both tracts - although there was much overlap in people and purpose.

What happened to get me started on this?
  • A CA college student called and asked to interview me about the Coalition of Women's Art Organizations. She hoped I would have files and pictures to lay before her - you know sort of like the Smithsonian. But I could not. They were all gathering dust in boxes scattered on shelves in my studio. When she came to Washington I gave her a few posters and an outline that covered what she was interested in, added some suggestions and sent her on her way ---- after a couple of very pleasant hours of talk.
  • Epiphany - This request and interview - and the fact that she could not find the information she needed at the Smithsonian, the Museum of Women in the Arts or anywhere else was an epiphany for me. Like a pack rat I have kept it all. Now I feel a responsbility to myself and all the women I knew and worked with to organize what I have and give it to an Archive that will make it available. I have the story - and its not just mine. We were a large grass roots effort. - True I have memorabilia from the now-famous but mostly from the every-women, like me, who pushed things along
  • Most importantly, my daughter Robin is here visiting. Robin is a Social - Media specialist - a guru. First of all, she is interested in the history - which she lived as part of her childhood. So, she is teaching me how to use Facebook and Twitter to organize this stuff in a way that it is accessible to others with a way for you to comment, add your stories and your pictures. We are going through papers, photographing slides, gathering the material for the album - hoping to identify people in the photos and add your stories to this album - to make a richer quilt.
  • You may wonder why I want to do it this way - as an internet album. Since the 1970s Albums have been a part of my body of art work from personal albums to albums in which groups of women participated i.e. Women Yes, ( a large collage quilt with an accompanying notebook of letters from women across the country), The American Album, (a collection of nine fabric covered notebooks containing original arts works from 325 women of 32 States which I took to the UN Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985. This last is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Women in the Arts.) The Second Wave American Album is conceived as a digital album with an internet presence so that women everywhere can participate.
P.S. -- If you are wondering what exactly I did in the 1970s and early 1980s relating to the women's movement, you'll find some of the details on my public Linkedin Profile at