Voices from and about the 1970’s women’s rights movement
A Researcher at Halmstad University Edits a New Anthology
Eva Schmitz researches in sociology at the Halmstad University. She is also one of the founder members and coordinators of the newly started forum for gender research at the University (see separate article). Furthermore, Eva Schmitz is also currently involved as one of the editors behind the anthology "A Thousand Sisters Made Demands – memories from the 1970’s women’s rights movement". The idea for the anthology came about when Eva Schmitz was attending a conference in Oxford 10 years ago, while she was working on her thesis about the history of women. "I came to hear about “The Feminist Memoir Project” where 30 women in the USA had written their own personal accounts regarding their commitment to the women's rights movement. At that time I was doing interviews for my thesis. It then struck me that I could do a similar project in Sweden", says Eva Schmitz. Eva Schmitz contacted her friend Ingrid Sillén, who has a publishing firm, and explained her idea. Together with Vera Almroth and Eva Lindqvist, they started a group which went out with an appeal in Sweden. The appeal was to share their experiences of the 1970's women's rights movement to help contribute to an anthology. The response was amazing, many were eager to participate. No funds were available so the editing was done thanks to personal commitment and interest whenever a moment of free time was found. "We worked on it when we found time. Many thought it was fun and people's contributions started to roll in. We had to sift through them, and of course not everybody's contribution is in the book", says Eva Schmitz. A total of around 40 women and 2 men described their accounts and the reasons why they joined the movement and what it meant for them. "For many this was a revolutionary and important time of their lives that greatly affected many people. The fact that women work is considered natural today just as kindergartens and parental leave for fathers. This was not the case just a few decades ago. Much of the progress is thanks to the women's rights movement", Eva Schmitz emphasizes.
Capture the spirit of the times
In the book “A Thousand Sisters” the editors wanted to capture the spirit of the times and portray the independent women's movement, not the party-political version. What was it like in the 1950's and 1960's? What influenced the women to become organised? And how was it possible? People who started movements such as Grupp 8 (Group 8), Kvinnoligan (Gang of Women) and Arbetets Kvinnor (the Women of Work) are to found in the book. "Each person has mentioned something that she or he considers important. Everyone has their own personal experience on why they became involved in the movement."
Other similar books have recently been published, but why are they to be found just now, do you think?
"Is it possible that a period of time must pass before historic events can be written? When I wrote my thesis, I presumed that the women's rights moment was already documented, however, this was not the case," says Eva at the same time emphasizing the importance of having the memories documented and told. "It is important that the youth of today can read about the events that took place. We have not solely done the book for ourselves even if it is a trip down memory lane. First and foremost it is important and interesting documented reports available for today's youth of both sexes, telling just what happened."
The young generation
Eva Schmitz also points out that it is a way of creating a dialogue with the youth of today, being able to tell how the movement grew and how dedicated women – and men – contributed in changing the terms and conditions for people. "Their accounts must not be forgotten or ignored", Eva Schmitz points out. To get some feedback from one of the desired target groups, the editors contacted 22 year old Maja Heide for her help. Maja Heide then read and commented on the sent-in contributions, as the anthology started to take place "Her points of view and thoughts were of great value and made us realize that the young generation really have an interest in the women's rights movement and how it grew." LENA LUNDÉN
Footnote. Eva Schmitz is currently writing a popular version of her thesis; Systerskap som politisk handling, kvinnors organisering i Sverige 1968 till 1982 (approx. Women Take Political Actions, the organisation of women in Sweden from 1968 to 1982).
New anthology. Eva Schmitz got the idea for the anthology “A Thousand Sisters Made Demands – memories from the 1970’s women’s rights movement” ten years ago when she was doing her thesis on the history of women. Photo: IDA LÖVSTÅL