Thursday, February 27, 2014

How can we pass the torch when we don’t even know who we are?

"In January, 1969, on a trip to Washington, D.C., Firestone and a couple of other women knocked on the door of Alice Paul, who had written the original Equal Rights Amendment, in 1921, and who was then in her eighties. She ushered them into a dark parlor, where old National Woman’s Party literature was spread out on the tabletops. “She was very suspicious of us,” Barbara Mehrhof, one of the visitors, recalled. Paul pointed to a wall of framed oil portraits of formidable-looking women—all suffragist leaders—and demanded that they identify them. “We didn’t have any idea,” Mehrhof said. “Which was just emblematic of the whole problem: how can we pass the torch when we don’t even know who we are?”"


Firestone was buried, in a traditional Orthodox funeral, in a Long Island cemetery, where her maternal grandparents are interred. Ten male relatives made up a minyan. None of her feminist comrades were invited. “At the end of the day, the old-time religion asserted itself,” Tirzah said. Ezra gave a eulogy. He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as an insurance salesman, but he hadn’t spoken to Shulamith in years, and he broke down several times as he told how she, more than anyone else in the family, had tended to him as a child and taught him compassion. He recalled a story she told him when he was a boy, about a man on a train who realized that he had dropped a glove on the platform and, as the train left the station, dropped the other glove from the window, so that someone could have a pair. Then he lamented Shulamith’s “tragic” failure to make a “good marriage” and have children “who would be devoted to her.”

When Tirzah’s turn came to give a eulogy, she addressed Ezra. “I said to him, ‘Excuse me, but with all due respect, Shulie was a model for Jewish women and girls everywhere, for women and girls everywhere. She had children—she influenced thousands of women to have new thoughts, to lead new lives. I am who I am, and a lot of women are who they are, because of Shulie.’ ”

- Susan Faludi: "Death of a Revolutionary: Shulamith Firestone helped to create a new society. But she couldn’t live in it"

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