“I belong to the third wave…I was an active organizer, ” Rita Mae Brown, Furies member, stated in one of her articles for The Furies. She said this in reference to the discontent she felt towards the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the dissatisfaction felt by Brown and other women provoked them into further activism.1 In their collective, the Furies were deliberate about the forms of programming which were film series, teaching classes, publishing the periodicals and holding study groups and workshops.2 These forms of activism are personal, fostering closer relationships between the Furies and the women that they are servicing, which was contrary to the larger activities of the Women’s Liberation Movement. This sense of intimacy would better allow them to create a community. This relational attitude would have allowed the Furies the ability to spread feminist consciousness as participation in these events was voluntary, and the women who attended were already responsive to the ideas of radical lesbian feminism.
In the spreading of the feminist consciousness, the Furies were concerned with the development of ideology, as expressed by Furies’ member and writer Coletta Reid, “If the Lesbian/Feminist Movement is to avoid repeating the same mistakes, we have to start making ideology the priority of our small groups. We need to know what institutions are most important to keeping men in power and where they are vulnerable. We have to understand how the power of men is built on the oppression of women.”3 Women who were involved in the workshops and study groups thus would have been given an active role in shaping the ideology seen by the Furies as crucial to the movement. Engagement in the workshops and study groups not only bolstered the ideology but also reinforced the community. Yet despite issues with the Women’s Liberation Movement’s practices of exclusivity, the Furies practiced some of their own by having events that prohibited heterosexual women from attending.4
An additional form of public outreach was that the film series the Furies held that were hosted in lesbian bars throughout the city.5 Yet it is public outreach aimed at specific people, as in lieu of targeting heterosexual women to change their mind. In this instance, they were occupying spaces that were intended for lesbians, which ensured their separatism as they were interacting likely solely within women in these places.
The classes taught by the Furies included self-defense, basic home repairs, and instruction on English and Spanish.6 Each of these subjects, it is argued by the author of the Furies historical site nomination, addresses the idea of self-reliance as an aspect of liberation.7 This assertion is back by writings in The Furies, such as Charlotte Bunch said: “We must get rid of our oppressed female identities and behavior.”8 Self-reliance as liberation is one aspect of the classes as activism but so to was the idea of combating oppression. The repeating themes in the periodical writings are class, separatism, feminism, and ageism. Arguably, one method of addressing the oppression is through solidarity. The classes are on general knowledge subjects, which depending on experiences, would be a knowledge that all women would need in spite of class, age, or race. Allowing for the class to be a combination of class, and racial backgrounds It was not until the Furies had formed a collective that they had begun learning how to process their privileges.9 Similarly, classes gave women outside of the Furies an opportunity to connect with women of different backgrounds and reflect on their own privileges.
Activism was one facet of the Furies Collective. An activism which was personal and community-based, and inhabited lesbian or women’s spaces. Unfortunately, the women had issues with the projects that they were included in; primarily the inability dedicate themselves to the multiple activities of the group.
1 Rita Mae Brown, “Out of the Sea of Discontent,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 5, 1972, 16.
2 Mark W. Meinke, “Furies Collective,” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Historic Preservation Office, July 1, 2015, 12, 15-16.
3 Coletta Reid, “Ideology: Guide to Success,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 3, March 1972, 6.
4 Anne Valk, Radical Sisters: Second-Wave Feminism and Black Liberation in Washington, D.C, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois, 2008).
5 Valk, Radical Sisters.
6 Meinke, “Furies Collective,” 12.
7 Meinke, “Furies Collective,” 12.
8 Charlotte Bunch, “Perseverance Furthers: Women’s Sense of Self,” The Furies, vol. 2, no. 1, February 1973, 3.
9 Ginny Berson, “Slumming it in Middle Class,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 3, March 1972, 13.