Women’s Liberation at the University of Chicago, 1969

Last year, I blogged about a 1970 critique of sexism at the University of Chicago. Just now, I opened up the anthology in question, Sisterhood is Powerful, and discovered another neat document: a feminist political manifesto issued on the occasion of protests against the firing of Marlene Dixon, a Marxist feminist professor.

I especially liked its capacious theory of women’s freedom.


February 1969

During sit-ins and other protests at the University of Chicago over the firing of Professor Marlene Dixon, a radi­cal feminist, for her political ideas:

What does women’s freedom mean? It means freedom of self-determination, self-enrichment, the freedom to live one’s own life, set one’s own goals, the freedom to rejoice in one’s own accomplishments. It means the freedom to be one’s own person in an integrated life of work, love, play, motherhood: the freedoms, rights and privileges of first class citizenship, of equality in relationships of love and work: the right to choose to make decisions or not to: the right to full self-realization and to full participation in the life of the world. That is the freedom we seek in women’s liberation.

To achieve these rights we must struggle as all other oppressed groups must struggle: one only has the rights one fights for. We must come together, understand the common problems, despair, anger, the roots and processes of our oppression: and then together, win our rights to a creative and human life.

At the U of C we see the first large action, the first impor­tant struggle of women’s liberation. This university—all uni­versities—discriminate against women, impede their full intellectual development, deny them places on the faculty, exploit talented women and mistreat women students.

(From Sisterhood is Powerful, p. 531.)

The summary judgment about sexism in all universities is quite striking as well. Clearly, in some ways gender relations in universities have changed immensely since 1969. But at the same time: the themes of the critique still resonate today.