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Phyllis Chesler
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Posted in: Motherhood & Custody, Feminism

Published on Jan 03, 1996 by Phyllis Chesler, Esther D. Rothblum and Ellen Cole

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Feminist Foremothers in Women's Studies, Psychology, and Mental Health


"Each account in this book, which includes articles from a widely diverse group of women who were designated Foremothers, is very personal. Although some of the women included I count among my friends, I learned much that I didn't know about each of them. I identified at least two unifying themes: The first was the degree to which each woman, however prominent now, had to overcome personal and emotional adversity in her life and career. The second more hopeful theme is the extent to which each woman felt that what she did that made her a Foremother was just a natural result of her becoming whole, integrated, and her own person. Although the paths were different, no one among the group indicated that her accomplishments were anything other than what followed almost inevitably from her own psychological growth and freedom. There is much psychological inspiration here to the women who follow in continuing the revolution of the second twentieth-century women's movement"
-- Hannah Lerman, PhD, Independent Practice of Clinical Psychology and Feminist Therapy, Los Angeles, California

"Feminist Foremothers in Women's Studies, Psychology and Mental Health is a remarkable, moving, and inspiring collection of 48 personal stories. These women were asked to write about what led up to their achievements, what their accomplishments were, and how their lives were consequently changed. While the women were given the choice of being interviewed by a graduate student, most chose to write their own stories.
Some authors are well-known, for example, Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin and Shere Hite. Some are academics, among them Nancy Chodorow, Carol Gilligan and Bonnie Strickland. There are feminist activists such as Judy Chicago and Nancy Azara and women who have taken and led others in spiritual journeys.
The range and depth of political experience and personal risk is astonishing – the accomplishments of these foremothers are truly worthy of pride and emulation. Reading about these revolutionary achievements makes the emergence of the anti-feminist backlash seem inevitable."
-- Susan Contratto, EdD, Co-Director, Interdisciplinary Program in Feminist Practice, University of Michigan

" Reading this book is a little like panning for gold. All it takes is finding one's first nugget to ignite and maintain the process. Feminist Foremothers rewards readers with a plethora of nuggets. I found myself unwilling to skip even a single contribution. Many are written by women I know quite well, about whom I learned more. Others are by women I know only slightly, or only through their writings and speeches, on whom I have new perspectives after reading their contributions to the book.
Each reader will wade to the edge of the stream holding his or her sieve and pan to enjoy the flow of the personal writings as well as the gold sands and pebbles that shine most brightly.""
-- Jeanne Adleman, MA, Independent Consultant in Feminist Therapy; Co-Editor, Racism in the Lives of Women (Haworth)

"Feminist Foremothers in Women's Studies, Psychology, and Mental Health is a welcome addition to the women's history literature. The multidisciplinary approach will interest scholars in a variety of fields. Each chapter is a mini-autobiography or biography in which the women's major contributions are highlighted and the way they found feminism is described. Some chapters go well beyond biography and belong on course syllabi; for example, Louise Armstrong presents her work in the context of the backlash against the incest survivor's movement, which she describes insightfully and concisely.
The autobiographies are particularly interesting to read. Each woman's unique personality comes through. After reading the book I felt I had made new friends and learned more about old ones. This is a fascinating and empowering book; I highly recommend it to feminist foremothers, daughters, and granddaughters."
-- Joan C. Chrisler, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Connecticut College

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