Schlesinger Library / Collections

Barbara Deming

The author and activist Barbara Deming is known for her nonviolent political activism. She became politically active in 1959 and demonstrated for peace and civil rights. In the early 1970s, Deming became a feminist, came out as a lesbian, and concentrated her efforts on women's and lesbians' issues.

Portrait of Barbara Deming
Portrait of Barbara Deming, 1966. Barbara Deming Papers.

Barbara Deming's writing career began in the 1950s, and she published articles in the New Yorker, Vogue, Voices, the Nation, and Liberation.

In 1959, inspired by Mohandas Gandhi's writings, Deming became politically active, advocating nonviolence in all spheres of life. She was active in several peace organizations, demonstrated for peace and civil rights, and was jailed several times for acts of civil disobedience, including demonstrating at the Pentagon in October 1967 in opposition to the Vietnam War and participating in last part of the Feminist Walk of the New York City Women's Pentagon Action, organized by the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice in 1983.

In the early 1970s, Deming became a feminist and came out as a lesbian. She concentrated her political efforts on women's and lesbians' issues. In the late 1970s, Deming founded Money for Women, which provided grants and loans to feminist projects in arts and education. After her death, in 1984, this program was renamed the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

A prolific author, Deming published the following works:

  • Prison Notes. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1966.
  • Running Away from Myself: A Dream Portrait of America Drawn from the Films of the Forties. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1969.
  • Revolution and Equilibrium. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1971.
  • Wash Us and Comb Us: Stories by Barbara Deming. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1972. Drawings by Jane Watrous.
  • We Cannot Live Without Our Lives. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1974.
  • Remembering Who We Are: Barbara Deming in Dialogue with Gwenda Blair, Kathy Brown, Arthur Kinoy, Bradford Lyttle, Susan Sherman, Leah Fritz, Susan Saxe. No place: Pagoda Publications, 1981. Cover by Jane Gapen.
  • We Are All Part of One Another: A Barbara Deming Reader, edited by Jane Meyerding with a foreword by Barbara Smith. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1984.
  • Prisons That Could Not Hold: Prison Notes 1964–Seneca 1984. San Francisco: Spinsters Ink, 1985. Includes reprint of Prison Notes. Also republished with additional material by University of Georgia Press, 1995.
  • A Humming Under My Feet: A Book of Travail. London: Women's Press, Ltd., 1985. Drawings by Jane Gapen.


01 / 02