Anti-Abortion Activism in the Stacks, circa 1980s

If you’re like me then you have many, many files on your desktop that contain photos you know you want to share with the world, or at least the handful of people who care. Today, I want to share some gems of guerilla anti-abortion activism I happened upon when doing research at my university’s library. I was browsing the collection of feminist theory and gender studies and picked up a copy of Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970). Here’s what I found in the first chapter I looked at:

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I did my dissertation on the rhetoric of anti-abortion activism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, so this was intriguing. Based on its placement, it didn’t appear to me that there was any particular reason this stamp was next to the particular language on this page. It seemed like the person who stamped it just wanted it to be one of the first things that the reader saw when s/he opened the book. Referring to abortion as the “silent holocaust” comes right from John Joseph Powell’s 1981 book Abortion: The Silent Holocaust. I was curious about whether or not other books in this section were spared this branding. Here’s what I found:

This is from Edward J. Barton’s The Sexual Arena and Women’s Liberation (1978)

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Jessie Bernard’s Women, Wives, Mothers: Values and Options (1975)

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      Janet S. Chafetz’s Masculine/Feminine or Human?: An Overview of the Sociology of Sex Roles (1974)

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      Jo Freeman’s The Politics of Women’s Liberation: A Case Study of an Emerging Social Movement and Its Relation to the Policy Process (1975)

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Janet Z. Giele’s Women and the Future: Changing Sex Roles in Modern America (1978)

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman isn’t even spared! Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women As a Factor in Social Evolution (1899)

 

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       Emma Goldman’s The Traffic in Women and Other Essays on Feminism (1971)  *you have to look closely but it’s there

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Lois Gould’s Not Responsible for Personal Articles (1978)

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     Emily Hahn’s Once Upon a Pedestal (1974)

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          Blanche G. Hersh’s The Slavery of Sex: Feminist-Abolitionists in America (1978)

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Impact ERA: Limitations and Possibilities (1976)

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       Gerda Lerner’s The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History (1979)

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       Keith E. Melder’s Beginnings of Sisterhood: The American Woman’s Rights Movement, 1800-1850  (1977)

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     Mary Vetterling-Braggin, Frederick Elliston, and Jane English’s Feminism and Philosophy (1977). Love the dialogue here.

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          Lionel Tiger and Heather T. Fowler’s Female Hierarchies (1978)

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         And this is where it ended.   This activist graduated or left school, and so the books published the later 1980s onward are stamp-free.

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One thought on “Anti-Abortion Activism in the Stacks, circa 1980s

  1. This is absolutely fascinating! I’ve bookmarked it and may assign this post in some of my classes. This is one of the interesting pre-digital means for readers to take some form of agency, even in this crude and wrong-headed way. I’ve often thought about something called “rhetorical marginalia” (which may be a term that exists), as a way of thinking about the material reading practices. For a much more benign example, I frequently consulted a book about 18thC Drama at the UMD library: at various points, someone had written “No!” or written a X out to the side. This forces us think about all kinds of different contexts, and some fascinating speculations. I’d love to know if this happened anywhere else. I really hope you make a project about this!

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