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Women activists — past and present — speak out

By Ofelia Madrid, Special to the Daily Planet
Monday November 19, 2001

Images of protesters, peace signs and power struggles circled around three generations of women as they discussed their own experiences as activists to a packed room of around 100 people yesterday afternoon. 

The Berkeley Art Center brought the activist panel together to discuss the invisibility of women’s issues through out the world in conjunction with, “The Whole World’s Watching,” an exhibition of documentary photography of the social movements of the 1960s. 

Before the discussion began, the panel gave tribute to Alice Hamburg, the 95-year-old activist who recently died. Author Tillie Olsen who was also scheduled to be part of the panel was unable to attend due to illness. 

The theme of invisibility ran throughout the hour-long panel discussion. Ruth Rosen, a professor of history at UC Davis spoke of the invisibility of the women of Afghanistan, but expressed optimism with the western world leading the fight to aid the women of Afghanistan. 

Susan Griffin, author of “The Book of Courtesans: A Catalogue of their Virtues,” talked about how women in the 1960s faced the invisibility of women’s issues and stereotypes of women as sexual objects and mothers. 

“The real truth was not coming out,” Griffin said. “To think about women’s issues one had to be an activist.”  

This is when women’s studies departments in universities began and eventually evolved into gender studies. 

“Ideas that may seem clichéd now are actually a measure of our success,” she said. 

When Miriam Joffe-Block attended the University of Pennsylvania, she said some university