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Sept 11

An Informal Bio

Oh let's see. Born in Brooklyn on Feb. 15, 1935 -- that's Susan B. Anthony's birthday!!! I learned this as a child because her picture was on the page for February, right near Washington and Lincoln, on the Dime Savings Bank calendar. Did this give me a mystic identification with the great champion of women's suffrage? Nope. It bothered me that she wasn't pretty. (I talk about this in Femininity.)

I remember World War II very well. Franklin D. Roosevelt was king in our house. He died when I was 10, and it was like a death in the family. My parents were so intense about Roosevelt and the war and the newspapers and the radio that I became very intense about these things too. My dad worked as a sales clerk in Macy's and my mom worked as a secretary in the Empire State Building. I was lucky to go to Cornell University for a couple of years on scholarships. When I left school, I was determined to be a Broadway actress. This was, in my case, a very mistaken ambition. So I found a little tenement apartment in Manhattan, got jobs as a file clerk, did some waitressing, got fired a lot, and studied acting. Quite accidentally I started backing into editorial-type jobs for some confession magazines, and learned some skills!

The southern sit-in movement to end lunch counter segregation started in February 1960. Its effect on the nation was enormous. Its effect on me was enormous. I joined CORE, organized a picketline in front of a New York Woolworth's, and became--wow--a political activist. In 1964, when I was working as a researcher at Newsweek, SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and CORE organized Freedom Summer in Mississippi. I was one of a thousand white volunteers that summer.

1968 was an amazing year around the globe. I was working as a television newswriter at ABC and I was marching against the war in Vietnam, when the Women's Liberation Movement erupted. My new book on the history of the movement carries the story of feminism, and my intimate involvement with it, on from there ...