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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Second-Wave Feminism

  • June 03, 2020

An entry on the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective describes the group making “most beautiful and stirring” posters for the Movement, without authorship and entirely collectively. Elsewhere, readers are invited to use the New York Woman’s Directory to employ women doctors, lawyers and carpenters; join a tenants’ association-turned-feminist playwrights collective; and participate in community child care ($5 a week per family).

Ms. Grimstad and Ms. Rennie met in the early 1970s while they were both working at Columbia University, after a meeting for Barnard’s newly opened Women’s Center, a research center for feminist scholarship and activism. Ms. Grimstad was putting together a bibliography of women’s studies for the center, and she shared with Ms. Rennie some of the answers she had received from a questionnaire looking for women’s organizations across the United States.

“The imagination was just fantastic,” said Ms. Grimstad. “Somewhere in the country, every single aspect of society that you could imagine was being reshaped from a feminist perspective.”

After they approached an editor at Coward, McCann Geoghegan, she signed them on the condition that the whole thing would be done in time for the Christmas season. This was March 1973. By May, they’d quit their jobs, found a place to lodge Ms. Grimstad’s dog and hit the road. Ms. Grimstad drove the rental car — a green Plymouth Duster with a “Women Pick Up Women” bumper sticker — while Ms. Rennie navigated, consulting a file box of index cards with the names and addresses of the groups they wanted to visit.

They slept in motels and on futons, often crashing after impromptu, booze-fueled dinner parties thrown by their hosts. Everyone they met introduced them to 10 or more people. “The energy was electric; it was rocket-fueled,” said Ms. Grimstad.

When the pair stopped in Washington, D.C., to visit the Furies, a lesbian community, they met Rita Mae Brown, then a young author on the rise just after the publication of “The Rubyfruit Jungle,” who insisted they visit the feminist collective in Atlanta that gave the book its name. In Los Angeles, they showed up unannounced at the ranch house of the artist Judy Chicago, who they said opened the door in a “Judy Chicago fan club” T-shirt, welcomed them in and introduced them to a wide network of feminist art workshops.

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