The personal and professional papers of writer, organizer, and leading women’s movement activist Meredith Tax came to the Sallie Bingham Center in 2010. To celebrate the acquisition of this extensive collection the Center will host a symposium in Tax’s honor on April 13 and 14 called Acting Across Borders: The Future of the Feminist 1970s. Along with Meredith Tax, distinguished African scholar and activist Patricia McFadden will present the keynote address of an event that aims to grapple with how the interventions and methodologies of the women’s liberation movement inform current and future social justice movements. In anticipation of her trip to Duke, Meredith took a few minutes to share her reasons for putting her papers here and to give a sense of what people can expect to learn at the symposium.
Why did you decide to put your papers in the Bingham Center?
I investigated several feminist archives and chose the Bingham Center because it had a much more energetic and activist approach to archival work than I saw elsewhere. I want my papers to be used not only by scholars but by young people who want to learn from the history of earlier social movements. Because the Bingham Center does outreach to inform students about its collections and gives fellowships for researchers to work in its archive, I think my papers will be most accessible there.
What would you tell students about the upcoming symposium celebrating your work?
We are at the dawn of a period of increasing political activism. Attendees at this symposium will learn from the life stories of people who shaped the women’s movement here and internationally. Speakers will talk about their own work and life experiences. They will discuss the way issues of race and class impacted the relationship between feminism and the left, the development of ecofeminism and international women’s movements, and the centrality of questions of sexuality, gender, and LGBT rights. Feminists from Southern Africa, Algeria, and India will discuss their own rich and complex confrontations with sexism, nationalism and religious fundamentalism. These stories will show that, contrary to the right wing myth that feminists are white middle class women who are just out for themselves, feminists in the US and elsewhere have always grappled with issues of race and class, war and peace, nationalism and the environment, and that these efforts continue from one generation to the next.
What are some of the topics you plan to address in your keynote speech at the symposium?
I will tell the story of my life, from a childhood shaped by the sexism of the 50s to the early days of the Boston women’s movement, battles within the left and my own struggle to overcome the ignorance resulting from class and race privilege, my participation in the reproductive rights movement, and my work in International PEN (Postsecondary Education Network International) as part of a global movement for women’s human rights which must go on in this new period to link the struggle for social and economic justice and sustainability with the fight against all forms of fundamentalism.
For more information on Meredith Tax, check out her website. And be sure to register here to come to the Acting Across Borders symposium on April 13 and 14, 2012. Registration is free and open to the public!