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Chicano/a History Is Also Feminist History

April 18, 2014, 10:41 am

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The grape boycott became an important model for later radical feminist boycotts of media companies like Warner Brothers.

Yale #Twitterstorian Stephen Pitti has tweeted the news that the University of California-San Diego has unveiled a new collection in a digital archive that documents the United Farm Workers Movement. Part of the Farmworker Documentation Project, the collection was curated by citizen archivist LeRoy Chatfield, who began putting his collection online in 2004 with the help of Jennifer Szabo.

And here’s a little hint for the historians of United States second wave feminism out there: we need to focus in on the links between the farm worker’s movement and West Coast radical/lesbian feminism. Interracialism and cross-class organizing in second wave feminism is as under explored on the West Coast as it is on the East Coast and all the states in between. (Shout out here to Judy Tzu-Chun Wu’s new book, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era, Cornell, 2013.)

For example, Jeanne Córdova, organizer of, is an incredibly significant figure in West Coast feminism and LGBTQ organizing; despite her national profile, she has generated very little interest among historians. Here’s a hint from my own research: just as many early white radical feminists came out of the Black civil rights movement (Susan Brownmiller, Sara Evans, Leah Fritz, and Barbara Deming are but a few), many white radical feminists in California who pioneered feminist anti-violence politics had begun their organizing careers doing social justice and anti-racist organizing with the UFW.

In fact, as Carolyn Bronstein points out in Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976-1986 (Cambridge University Press, 2011), currently the best source I know on anti-pornography feminism, these organizers’ experiences with the UFW in the early 1970s shaped radical feminist history. Experiences organizing the national boycott of table grapes and lettuce persuaded many white radical feminists that consumers could be educated and organized to act against violent, sexist media representations of women as well.

So as you are looking through this wonderful trove of documents, keep your eyes peeled for Julie London, a founder of Women Against Violence Against Women, who began her political work as an Orange County organizer for the UFW;  or feminist anti-pornography activist Lynn Campbell, Bay Area coordinator for the UFW in 1975 and a co-director of the Los Angeles area grape boycott in 1976, and a key organizer for San Francisco’s Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media (WAVPM) and New York’s Women Against Pornography (WAP).

This wonderful archive are essays, poetry, out-of-print books, unpublished manuscripts, oral histories, videos, music, art and photographs. It is, in short, a breathtakingly beautiful collection, that supports the field of Latino/Latina history from the bottom up.

And all of it is online. Enjoy.

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