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The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band
by the CWLU Herstory Website Editorial Committee

The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band played feminist music for an all too brief time from 1970-73. People who recall their live performances speak of the incredible energy unleashed by the band. With their sister band, the New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band, they released a vinyl LP called Mountain Moving Day in 1972.

According to Naomi Weisstein, who played keyboards with the group, she first conceived of the idea of a women's rock band when she tired of hearing pop music glorify the subjugation and degradation of women. As a founder of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, Weisstein wanted to reach out to young women and at the same time, educate the CWLU membership about the importance of feminist culture.

The Band's first public performance in Grant Park consisted of 12 singers and 4 guitarists and was generally regarded as a musical disaster. The band's utopian belief that any woman could play music proved to be illusionary. Eventually the line up solidified as Susan Abod (bass, vocals), Sherry Jenkins (guitar, vocals), Patricia Miller (guitar, vocals), Linda Mitchell (manager), Fania Mantalvo (drums), Suzanne Prescott (drums). and Naomi Weisstein (keyboards).

Band members tried to turn the star culture of rock music inside out. They actually tried to start musical performances on time. They rapped with their audiences, asked them what songs they liked and turned their amplifiers down to a reasonable human level. They combined guerilla theater with music as Susan Abod describes:

"We did the Kinks 'You Really Got Me' but with a whole new set of lyrics that started with Man,' instead of 'Girl,'and we pranced holding our 'cocks' like Mick Jagger, or whatever rock star we found really annoying, and it would just look ridiculous. And the audience was totally into the guerrilla theater of it. They'd shriek and grab at our legs like groupies. It was so much fun, laughing at a culture that had kept us down."

The Band went on tours through the Midwest and the East Coast, inviting women to join them who were willing to help with equipment and do a little partying. They played for audiences as varied at the Second Annual Third World Transvestite Ball, and to fourteen-year-old black girls at a summer camp for inner-city children.

The Band dissolved in 1973 for a complex set of reasons. As Naomi Weisstein notes, "This fact is not unusual; it even happened to the Beatles."

The Band had made musical history, probably the first feminist rock band ever, and the ancestor of the RiotGrrls. Lilith Faire, LadyFest and today's hard driving woman centered rockers.

"A lot of women came up to me after our shows and said,'I want to do that,' remembers Susan Abod, "and we tried to make them understand that they could. Any of them could. And I think a lot of them did."

See also: Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band in the Gallery section for more information.