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Paula Kamen Biography by Paula Kamen(1999)

I stumbled upon the CWLU's rich history while starting to research my play, Jane: Abortion and the Underground, in 1992 (which officially opened in Chicago in fall 1999). In Northwestern University's Special Collections Library, I found Jenny Knauss' original documents -- including actual protests and internal memos about "The Abortion Seven" -- which I incorporated into the play's text. I was also thrilled to find an original CWLU Rock Band album in an Oak Park bookstore several years ago (which someone borrowed and sadly lost), which intrigued me about its past.

I then had a chance to study CWLU in detail moderating a panel in March of 1999 of CWLU alumnae. I learned how this vital and pioneering group was a model for others across the country. As a person who specializes in documenting feminism over the generations, I value the legacy of CWLU to young feminists. In this very individualistic society often stripped of feminist politics that challenge the status quo, their pioneering and courageous group teaches us about the power of the collective, about organizing.

My play Jane was about the feminist abortion service (affiliated with CWLU) that made illegal abortion -- one of the most treacherous, frightening experiences imaginable -- into a safe, supportive one. From 1969 to 1973, the women of Jane -- mostly housewives and student radicals -- performed more than 10,000 abortions on a wide diversity of Chicago women, operating as "the best kept secret" in the city.

As a journalist, my work documents Generation X women's attitudes. My first book (now out of print but available on this site) is Feminist Fatale: Voices from the twentysomething generation explore the future of the women's movement, which documents the strange phenomenon of young women believing in feminist principles but refusing to identify politically with the movement.

My second book, 7 years in the making (!), Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution, is due to come out with NYU Press this fall. It gives the first "big picture" view of a generation's changing sexual expectations, transformed beyond the surface by feminism, jobs and education. Feel free to email me about any of this at PaulaK2289@aol.com or visit my website at www.paulakamen.com .