Following the disbandment of the collective, a new project called Olivia Records emerged. Established in 1973 in Washington DC, the project began with 5 women named Cyndi Gair, Helaine Harris, Ginny Berson, Meg Christian, and Judy Dlugacz. Among the artists that recorded with them were Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, and Mary Watkins. Cair, Harris, Berson, Christian, and Dlugacz wanted to connect with women through music and sought to produce music that did not discriminate against marginalized groups.1
Olivia Records addressed the anxieties voiced in several articles of the final issues of the Furies as women asked what’s next in the women’s movement, and what needed to be considered further. In an interview with Off Our Backs, a prominent feminist magazine at the time, Gair, Harris, Berson, Christian, and Dlugacz stated their answer: “…we thought the way for women to get power was through economics, by controlling our own economic situation.”3 Olivia Records constructed by the same radical feminist ideology that fueled the group the Furies carried over some similarities. Within both organizations, there was an emphasis on economics especially class and power. In the quote above there seems to be a broad idea about empowering all women to have the ability to claim economic independence and this broadness does extend throughout the interview. Yet like the Furies, the ideas of Olivia Records passionately stress class consciousness and enabling working-class women. Enabling working-class women according to The Furies writer Sharon Deevey involved learning how to process class privilege: “About a year ago I joined a Lesbian collective that lived together one painful week and broke up, largely because several of us had not dealt with our class privilege.”4 For the women of Olivia Records, this took form in the insistence that “People will be paid on a basis of need…” which takes on a more practical approach, rather than cerebral ideas the Furies advocated.5
A key similarity is challenging power in economic structures. There isn’t much difference between this statement by Furies writers Lee Schwing and Susan Hathaway “The concentration of huge amounts of capital in corporations places tremendous amounts of power in the hands of a few white heterosexual men who control them” and this one by former Fury and Olivia Records Founder, Ginny Berson “…but it means all money goes back into the company…it does not go to shareholders.”6 Both statements voice the antagonism the women felt at the oppression of women, and that economics is a facet of that. Olivia Records embodied this by producing music that connected to women through music.7 Olivia Records a company founded with great intention, made certain their profits went directly into the hands of the artists and into the creation process.8
Embedded into Olivia Records is separatism. The Furies believed that “Separatism from men is essential to the feminist struggle and will be for many years to come,” even after the dissolve of their collective.9 To an extent, this idea seeps into Olivia Records as well. This idea is what some historians argue is a characteristic of radical lesbian/feminist ideology: a culture which would replace the male-dominated one.10
The institution of Olivia Records is a legacy of the ideals upon which it was founded. Unlike the Furies and other radical feminist projects Olivia Records did not fail.
1 “the muses of olivia: our own economy, our own song” Off Our Backs, vol. 4, no. 9, August-September 1974, pp. 2.
2 “the muses of olivia,” 2.
3 “the muses of olivia,” 2.
4 Sharon Deevey, “Such a Nice Girl,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1971.
5 “the muses of olivia,” 3.
6 Lee Schwing and Susan Hathaway, “Corporate Capitalism: Survival of the Richest,” The Furies, vol. 1, no. 2, 17 and “the muses of olivia,” 2.
7 “The muses of olivia,” 2.
8 “the muses of olivia,” 2-3.
9 Charlotte Bunch, “A Letter to the Staff,” The Furies: The Final Issue, vol. 2, no. 3, 10.
10 Verta Taylor and Leila J Rupp, “Women’s Culture and Feminist Activism: A Reconsideration of Cultural Feminism,” Signs, vol. 19, no. 1, 1993.