"If the 1960s were the time for intellectual exploration of feminism, it was the next decade that formulated solutions."
WICHITA, Kan. - International Women's Day, March 8, is a good day to review Radiating Like a Stone: Wichita Women and the 1970s Feminist Movement, a compilation of essays by women who were active in the Wichita women's rights movements in the 1970s. The book, edited by Myrne Roe, covers a wide variety of issues that came to the forefront, not just in Wichita, but across the country, as women came together to deal with "needs not being addressed or services not being provided."
Roe says in the Foreword that an August 2009 meeting sponsored by the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood, the purpose of which was to develop strategies for lobbying the Kansas Legislature, provided the impetus for the book. She left the meeting aware that younger people had no idea what their mothers and grandmothers had done in the women's rights movement. After discussing the project with her writing group, many of whom had been activists in the '70s, Roe decided to go forward with the book. The purpose for the book is two-pronged: to educate younger people about the early women's rights movement and to allow those women involved in that movement to preserve their memories for future generations.
Many of the essays deal with the Kansas Women's Weekend. Maraglee Pilkington Wright's essay, "Kansas Women's Weekend," gives a good picture of what happened that weekend. While Diane Lewis, one of the Weekend organizers, hoped for 2,000 people to attend, some 4,100 people showed up. Wright wrote, "It was impossible to accommodate everyone who wanted to be in a workshop or on the floor with the registered delegates at any one time."
One complication was that several anti-ERA forces showed up and did their best to cause conflict. In the end, though, Wright saw the Weekend as a success. She quotes a letter to The Wichita Eagle, written by League of Women Voters member Ruth Richards, who claimed that the gathering had "educational value" for women. This, even given that many of the conflicts that surfaced that weekend are still in play today.
This book is a gift to all who value equal rights for women. Included in the book is Anita Skeen's poem, "On Vicki's Porch," from which the title of book is taken. Skeen is a former Wichita State University professor now at Michigan State University, She and the other women whose work appears in this book are icons of a time of radical and miraculous change, not just in Wichita, but in America. Radiating Like a Stone captures the energy and optimism of a transformational time for women.