Library Acquires Papers of Susan Griffin and Ruth Rosen

By Kathryn Allamong Jacob, Johanna-Maria Fraenkel Curator of Manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library

Within the first few minutes of the terrific new documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, produced and directed by Mary Dore, it becomes clear why the Schlesinger Library is thanked in the credits at the end. Inspiring, powerful, funny, and poignant, the film captures the birth of the post–World War II women’s movement in the 1960s and moves through the early 1970s and the emergence of more-radical factions of women’s liberation.

It’s a story that can be told only with the help of papers and records of women and organizations at the Schlesinger. Footage and stills of Betty Friedan, Flo Kennedy, and Ellen Willis and recollections and analyses by Susan Brownmiller, Marilyn Webb, and the National Organization for Women officers Mary Jean Collins and Muriel Fox—all movement leaders whose papers are here—enhance the film from start to finish.

Within the past year, two more movement leaders and “stars” of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry have committed their papers to the library. We’re honored to welcome the papers of Ruth Rosen and Susan Griffin and eager to see what new perspectives they will offer to the ongoing dialog about feminism and cultural change.

Ruth Rosen is a pioneering historian of gender and society, an award-winning journalist, and a professor emerita at the University of California, Davis, where she taught American history, women’s history, history and public policy, and immigration studies for more than two decades.

As a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and an editorial writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rosen has promoted the rights of women, lesbians, and gays and written about women, the Iraq war, freedom of expression, the homeless, and the mentally ill. You may have heard, seen, or read her commentaries on radio, television, or social media. Rosen is also a key figure in another documentary, the 1990 award-winning Berkeley in the Sixties, in which she discusses her activism and analyzes the social movements in which she was involved.

Rosen is no stranger to the Schlesinger Library. Her first book was based on letters she found here written from 1910 to 1922 by Maimie Pinzer, the daughter of an immigrant family and an ex-prostitute, to Fanny Quincy Howe of Boston, in which Pinzer described her efforts to leave “the life” and create a shelter for “ruined girls.” The Feminist Press published The Maimie Papers in collaboration with the Schlesinger Library in 1977.

Rosen’s second book, The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900–1918 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), examines prostitution and American culture in the early 20th century. Her most recent book, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (Viking, 2000) explores how American political culture shaped contemporary feminism and how the women’s movement in turn shaped American political culture and society.

The radical feminist philosopher, poet, playwright, and screenwriter Susan Griffin was born in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust, events that have shaped her work on nature, women, racism, war, and terrorism, for which she received a MacArthur Grant for Peace and International Cooperation.

Griffin’s groundbreaking first book, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (Harper & Row, 1978), credited with founding the ecofeminist movement, is an extended prose-poem that the poet Adrienne Rich, whose papers are also here, called “perhaps the most extraordinary nonfiction work to have emerged from the matrix of contemporary female consciousness.”

Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War (Doubleday, 1982) blends history and memoir to explore the psychological aspects of violence, war, and womanhood. In The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender, and Society (1995), she looks at the connections between religion and philosophy and science and nature. Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy: On Being an American Citizen (Trumpeter, 2008), a Pulitzer finalist, charts the rise and fall of our society’s highest values—equality, truth, and freedom—from the Declaration of Independence to the Iraq war. Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World (University of California Press, 2011), an anthology coedited with Karen Lofthus Carrington, offers a new paradigm for moving the world beyond violence as the first and often only response to violence.

Griffin’s poetry, known for its minimalist style, has won many awards. Her play Voices (1975) won an Emmy. Griffin cowrote and narrated Berkeley in the Sixties.

The 20 cartons of Rosen’s papers that arrived in July 2014 include research for her books and articles, editorials, speeches, reviews, photojournalism, correspondence, and teaching material. The collection will continue to grow. Griffin’s papers began arriving in December. Thus far they include notebooks, notes, research material for several of her books, journals, material for film scripts, lecture notes, audio/ visual material, correspondence, and memorabilia. Both collections are closed until processed.

At one point in She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Rosen says of the 1960s, “We began to realize that we knew nothing about ourselves. I was in the history department at Berkeley and I knew zip, nada, zero, about women’s history. We realized we didn’t know very much about women as a social group, or women’s literature, or women’s art.” In the intervening decades, Rosen and Griffin have been and continue to be at the center of efforts to illuminate our past, present, and future.

To learn more about She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, visit www.shesbeautifulwhenshesangry.com.

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