Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America, 1st Edition

By Stephanie Gilmore


182 pages

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Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America offers an essential perspective on the post-1960 movement for women’s equality and liberation. Tracing the histories of feminist activism, through the National Organization of Women (NOW) chapters in three different locations: Memphis, Tennessee, Columbus, Ohio, and San Francisco, California, Gilmore explores how feminist identity, strategies, and goals were shaped by geographic location.

Departing from the usual conversation about the national icons and events of second wave feminism, this book concentrates on local histories, and asks the questions that must be answered on the micro level: Who joined? Who did not? What did they do? Why did they do it? Together with its analysis of feminist political history, these individual case studies from the Midwest, South, and West coast shed light on the national women’s movement in which they played a part.

In its coverage of women’s activism outside the traditional East Coast centers of New York and Boston, Groundswell provides a more diverse history of feminism, showing how social and political change was made from the ground up.


Groundswell is an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship that focuses on the women’s movement at the local level…By focusing on NOW at the local level, Gilmore persuasively demonstrates that even within the marquee organization of the second wave, feminism was always a complex, multifacetedmovement driven by the desires and needs of women in each local organization.’ - Melissa Estes Blair, Warren Wilson College

'Groundswell shifts our attention away from a nationally focused narrative about feminism in the 1960s and seventies—since this tends to focus on leaders, texts, and legislative accomplishments—and toward the often-unexplored yet countless ways that feminist activists around the country challenged discriminatory institutions and practices in their communities…[and] by making visible the grassroots activism that transformed cities across the country, Groundswell makes a valuable contribution to that past.' - Amy Kesselman, Women's Review of Books

'With Groundswell, Gilmore has produced an interesting work of comparative analysis that demonstrates the important role of “location” in shaping feminist agendas and shines a spotlight on the rank-and-file women who sustained the movement over the course of its inevitable ebbs and flows.' - Babette Faehmel, Schenectady County Community College

Table of Contents

  1. Beyond the Friedan Mystique: The Importance of Grassroots Feminism
  2. In the Midst of "the world-wide revolution of human rights": Creating the National Organization for Women
  3. Feminist Activism in Memphis: Beyond the Liberal/Radical Divide
  4. Feminist Theorizing, Feminist Activisms in Columbus
  5. A Liberal Feminist Front of Progressive Activism in San Francisco
  6. Learning from Grassroots Activisms in the Past

About the Author

Stephanie Gilmore is Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Dickinson College. She is the editor of Feminist Coalitions: Historical Perspectives on Second-Wave Feminism in the United States.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
HISTORY / Social History
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Feminism & Feminist Theory
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies