Living for Change: Autobiographies of Women in Radical Social Movements Womst. 0963 section 001/002 Spring 2013

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Living for Change: Autobiographies of Women in Radical Social Movements Womst. 0963 section 001/002

Spring 2013

Instructor: Siobhan Brooks

Office: 819 Anderson Hall

Office Hours: Tuesday 2-3 and by appointment 215-204-6953
Course Description
This class aims at broadening our understandings of women’s involvement in and influences on U.S. political culture by reading life narratives of women in social movements. The focus will be in particular on movements that usually are not associated with women’s political and cultural work, such as Native American Rights, Brown Power, Asian American Rights, Movements, Black Power, anarchist and workers’ movements, and the Religious Right. Autobiographical writings will also help us understand the role women’s narrative tradition has played in the social, literary, and historical perspectives. Questions we will explore include: Why did these women get politically involved? How were their experiences in social movements shaped by their gender? What is their cultural and political legacy? Why did they write about their life, and why do we read their narratives?
Course objectives
The goals for this course is for students to be able to:

  • Describe historical developments that have shaped today’s political movements in terms of gender.

  • Analyze the relationship between gendered political participation and ideas of citizenship.

  • Critically utilize the Internet as an information-based resource and social space.

  • Appreciate how social movements influence their lives and those of others in terms of gender.

  • Understand the impact of radical social movements on traditional gender relations.

  • Evaluate the contribution of women to political movements.

  • Argue a position regarding women’s (and men’s) choices and means to impact social change: in economic and social terms, in terms of race relations, in regard to gender identities and sexualities, and in terms of changing gender relations.

  • Comprehend connections between personal experiences and social/political processes.

Syllabus subject to change
Required Books for Course
Books available at Zavelle Bookstore

Elaine Brown A Taste of Power

Emma Goldman Living My Life, Volume 1

Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman

Grace Lee Boggs Living for Change.
Book on Blackboard
Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story
Expectations/assignments and assessment

To accomplish these objectives, students will engage in small group work, be responsible for homework assignments, discuss ideas in groups, formulate responses to the books we read and generate discussion questions, write, summarize, and analyze specific texts that they are introduced to in the course of the class. Since not everyone is comfortable speaking in a large class, students will also use the web-based discussion board for comments and questions on readings and lectures.

Late Papers will be marked ½ grade down, unless instructor has granted student can turn in paper late. Papers are to be turned in as a hardcopy and brought to class.
Disability Statement: This course is open to all students who meet the academic requirements for participation. Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.
Policy on Cell Phones: Cell phones, pagers and beepers must be turned off during class except with special permission from your instructor.
Statement on Academic Freedom: Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The University has adopted a policy on Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy # 03.70.02) which can be accessed through the following link: 
Attendance Policy: As you can see from the Class Participation and Course Grading Formulas, attendance is very important to your success in this class. You will be excused your 3 lowest class participation grades (which could be absences) in the course grading process, but no more. For every 3 absences (for a class meeting 3 times a week, 2 absences for classes meeting fewer than 3 times a week) beyond the first three absences, your course grade will be lowered by one letter grade (e.g., from B- to C+.) Absence due to illness still means that you are not participating in class. (Use your three "free" absences for illness!) If you are sick, you can still get your homework points by turning in your homework with a friend; in addition, if you turn your homework in even when you can't attend class, you can get 1 class participation point for that day It is your responsibility to keep track of your absences to know when you are in danger of incurring the absence penalty. Keep track of your own absences on the student record sheet so you can monitor your grades for the course. Students with an emergency (e.g., death in the family, illness, automobile accident) may have an excused absence, but if such absences amount to more than 20% of class hours for the semester, students should consider the possibility of withdrawal from the class.

Group Presentation

Prior to discussing an autobiographical writing from within a particular social movement, a group (3-5 students) will formulate and present a political manifesto that clearly expresses the political goals and concerns of that radical social group in a 15-minute presentation. Students are encouraged to use visual and audio aids in their presentation, as well as integrate Internet technology, and popular culture.


Students will have two formal writing assignments. Both are critical essays (5 pages) which are comparative discussions of two of the autobiographies we read during the semester.

The final grade will be determined by (in %)

  • Class participation 10%

  • Critical discussion questions 20%

  • Group presentation 20%

  • Critical essays 50%

Week 1

January 22nd Introduction to the course: What are radical social movements?

Why is gender relevant?
January 24th Life Narratives: Autobiography and Memoir as Medium to Read

(and Write) Social Histories

What are autobiographies? Who writes autobiographies? Are autobiographies

historical documents?
Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for

Interpreting Life Narratives, pp. 1-48 on Blackboard
Gloria Anzaldua “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women

Writers” From This Bridge Called My Back. Black Board

Week 2

Emma Goldman Living My Life, Volume I (1931)

January 29th Pp. 1-150

January 31st Pp. 150-195

Week 3 February 5th Pp. 372-412

February 7th Pp.460-469, 487-503 Film about Emma Goldman


Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power (1992)

Week 4 February 12th Pp. 1-104

February 14th Pp. 105-155

Week 5

February 19th Pp. 185-208, 328-354

February 21st Pp. 356-376, 437-450
Week 6 February 26th Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974) Black Board Yuri Kochiyama Passing it On. Reflections on Malcolm X Black Board

February 28th Film “Black Power Mixtape” First paper Due

Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman (1990)

Week 7 March 5th 3-72

March 7th 73-128

Week 8 Spring Break March 10-17th

Week 9 March 19th Pp. 128-198

March 21st Pp. 199-263

Week 10 March 26th Excerpts of Winona LaDuke on BlackBoard

March 28th Films: The West: Ghost Dance

The Spirit of Crazy Horse

Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story (1977
Week 11 April 2nd Pp. 1-100

April 4th Pp. 100-156 Film for the Bible Tells Me So

Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change 1998.
Week 12 April 9th 1-43

April 11th 45-74

Week 13 April 16th Pp. 75-116

April 18th pp. 117-140

Week 14 April 23rd pp. 191-208

April 25h pp. 241-272

April 30th Excerpts from Cherrie Morgan’s “A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness.” Andre Lorde Second Paper Due
Week 15 Group Work for Presentations

Presentations May 9-15th

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