Women of Color and Feminism in the 1970s: Data Modeling

This past weekend was pretty freaking awesome. I had a breakthrough about my map and I got to talk to someone REALLY awesome about it.
First of all, as mentioned in class during the Pecha Kucha, I’ve changed the topic of my map project.  I came into the class knowing that I wanted to explore the issues of race, politics, and health in some capacity. I have been drawn to these issues for some time now and hope to complete an Independent Study next semester exploring a specific problematic involving how racism affects Black women during pregnancy; therefore, I wanted to continue my passion for these areas in this class and get creative with what I could map and different spatial arguments I could make. So, I thought of Harlem during the Jazz Age and what community organizing was happening to address public health issues. After doing research and reading the book Building a Healthy Black Harlem:  Health Politics in Harlem, New York, from the Jazz Age to the Great Depression by Jamie C. Wilson, I realized that there wasn’t enough data of interest to me and it would be uninteresting on a map. So, I went back to the drawing board. One thing that did come up during my research was birth control politics and how Black women added their voices to the birth control debate during the 1920s and 1930s. After doing more research, I became really interested in the organizations and social networks that formed among women of color in the 1970s before and after Roe v. Wade that helped coin the phrase “reproductive justice.”
The book that has been like my Bible for this new topic is Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement by Jennifer Nelson because she takes two full chapters to chronicle the founding of two organizations formed by feminists of color in the 1970s – Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA) and the Young Lords Party (YLP), which had a strong feminist ideology although it was founded by men.  I am really interested in the specific issues that women of color organized for that added to the reproductive rights debate as well as how these social networks were formed. The book has a lot of detail on this and names over 15 women who were instrumental in forming these groups. Therefore, it is a great resource for where I can find the data I need to map this information.
See the above paper prototype I created.
Here is what I am thinking regarding data points to illustrate:

  • Specific cases of reproductive injustice against women of color in NYC that sparked these groups forming (e.g.; Carmen Rodriguez who died during saline-induced abortion in the South Bronx, which helped spark feminist ideology of YLP)
  • Organization meetings in the city (e.g.; CARASA was founded during meeting of women in the basement of the Village Vanguard jazz club)
  • Protest Locations (e.g; CUNY Medgar Evers in Brooklyn week long protest in 1978)

Here is what I was thinking for data collection:

  • Images and excerpts from CARASA and YLP publications – “Women Under Attack” and “Palante!” respectively.
  • Audio of any interviews/protests by women of color in these organizations.
  • Clips of interviews with those still living here in New York (I have interview requests with Iris Morales, instrumental in YLP, and Meredith Tax, who is actually a white woman that was a strong ally in forming CARASA)

Here are the places I plan to data mine the next couple of weeks:

  • Tamiment Library at NYU, which has a robust feminist archive.
  • Hunter College Archives, which has a wealth of information about the Young Lords Party.
  • Schomburg Center Archives in Harlem, which has a lot of manuscripts archives on CARASA.

Another awesome thing that happened this weekend was a phone conversation I had with Harriet Washington, author of the book Medical Apartheid, which chronicles medical injustices committed against African-Americans from slavery to present day. In her book, she has accounts of reproductive injustice committed against Black women throughout the United States, which was an inspiration for this prject. I was connected to her through an old colleague at the Kaiser Family Foundation. It was pretty awesome to get insight from her on my research as well as advice on how to dig through archives. So, this was a major win! Maybe I’ll be able to see her in person before the end of the semester and I can film our conversation.
That is it for now. Shannon, I would love more insight into my direction and whether or not the spatial argument of feminist of color politics in New York is beginning to be revealed.
Enjoying this process thus far!


2 thoughts on “Women of Color and Feminism in the 1970s: Data Modeling

  1. carmel,
    i really love seeing the evolution of your project — from the first conversation that you and josie and i had about your interests after the internet tour, to this awesome paper prototype!
    the way that you’ve narrowed it down and framed it — including focusing it to the “roe v wade” era — is awesome! i’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to evolve from here!
    xx ateqah

  2. This is *fabulous* Carmel. I think the “spatial story” is coming through clearly: these cases of reproductive injustice, organization meetings, and protest locations all happened *in place*. And you’ll tell us why place matters. I hope you’ll find, through mapping these sites and events, that some geographic patterns emerge — that you’ll be able to tell us how the urban context, the relationships between these locations, etc., played a role in shaping the reproductive rights movement.
    You’ll have a lot of great media — images, excerpts from publications, archival audio, audio from your own interviews (!!) — to add to your various mapped records. You’ll also want to think about what *data* you want to include: dates, names of people involved, names of relevant activist organizations, etc.?
    Your list of special collections is impressive! I hope you’re able to make full use of these great resources — but keep in mind that archival research is time-intensive. You might find that you need to delimit your focus and *sample* from each of these collections.

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