RADICAL WOMEN AND THE RANKIN BRIGADE
Pam Allen, New York
The Jeanette Rankin Brigade made very clear to radical women our lack
of organization and our lack of program to take advantage of the opportunities
which the Brigade presented us.
was especially evident when a significant minority of the women at the
March, angry at what they felt was a sellout by the Brigade's leadership,
made two abortive attempts at organizing civil disobedience-carrying signs
in defiance of a police edict and confronting Congress on the Capitol
steps. Both attempts failed because no one was clear about the reasons
for the actions or committed enough to do them alone if necessary.
But the anger which lay at the base of these actions remained and was
carried over to the Congress. There, a caucus called by the radical women
of New York and Chicago to discuss methods and purposes of organizing
women was attended by many of these women.
had come to talk and had no ready program for these women to channel their
feelings into constructive action. So, they left our caucus, and unable
to carry on a debate on the floor of the regular Congress, called a Counter-Congress
in an adjoining room.
women left the Congress because they were interested in more than words.
They were angry and wanted to "do something." Several of the
radical women who attended their Counter-Congress felt the mood was that
they did not want to talk about long-range organizing, but short-range
action. An attempt to organize the Counter-Congress failed because we
could not offer this kind of program.
They wanted action, not rhetoric, and we had no action to offer. We did
not know how to channel their energy so we met together to do some hard
thinking in where we wanted to take ourselves, as well as other women.
We felt it important to set up contacts so that next time we would be
We learned a great deal from our experience at the Brigade. We became
very aware of how disorganized radical women
are and of our tendency to come to a moderate action with a great deal
of anger and no clear plan of action. We now realize that we must differentiate
between militancy for its own sake and militancy which has a goal.
Altho we missed an opportunity to do some valuable organizing because
we were not prepared, I think we used our energies well by dividing into
two groups. Some of our women attended the caucus to discuss structure
and organizing while others went to the Counter-Congress to talk to the
militant women there.
a result, we did firm up organizational plans and we did reach some new
women. Perhaps we shouldn't expect more from our first time.