Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Furies Collective

Furies basement, 221 11th Street SE (1972)
The Furies Collective

Location: 221 11th Street Southeast, Washington, DC, USA--and two other locations (see below)

Opened: Spring 1971

Closed: Late spring 1972/Summer 1972

From the Rainbow History Project:

The Furies collective, one of whose main sites was at 221 11th St SE, was, along with the Gay Liberation House and the Skyline Collective, among Washington, DC's best known communal living groups in the early Seventies.  The twelve women meeting on 11th Street SE constituted an important experiment in lesbians of diverse social and economic backgrounds living together and working to make their political and social beliefs a day-to-day reality.  Most of the members of the collective wrote for the newspaper.

From January 1972 until mid-1973, the collective published its groundbreaking newspaper, The Furies, and distributed it nationally.  The Rainbow History Project has an incomplete collection of original copies of the newspaper.  Many of the articles from the newspaper were reprinted in Women Remembered, Class and Feminism, and Lesbianism and the Women's Movement.  (The last two books are in the collection of the Rainbow History Project).  When the collective disbanded in late spring 1972, "the core of the newspaper staff decided to continue the paper as a project separate from the collective."

There is a lot more fascinating material at the Rainbow History Project link above, so make sure you visit.

According to Julie R. Enszer, the "work and words" of the Furies had a "profound effect on lesbian-feminism," even though the "publication and as a political formation lasted only two years."

Here is a selection from her essay:

In the spring of 1971, amid the excitement of the growing Women’s Liberation Movement in the United States and the energies of gay liberation, a group of women in Washington, DC formed a collective called The Furies. Twelve women initiated the collective and over two-dozen women were involved in the collective while it was active between the spring of 1971 and the summer of 1973. Furies members included Charlotte Bunch, Sharon Deevey, Rita Mae Brown, Nancy Myron, Jennifer Woodul, Joan Biren, Helaine Harris, Susan Hathaway, and Ginny Berson. Three locations in Washington, DC were the site of many of the meetings of The Furies: 1861 California NW, 217 12th St SE and 221 11th St SE.

The Furies also published a newspaper, titled The Furies: Lesbian/Feminist Monthly. The first issue of the newspaper, dated January 1972, outlined their commitment to “the growing movement to destroy sexism” and to “building an ideology which is the basis of action.” It described the collective as “lesbians in revolt” and recounted the genesis of their name from the ancient Greeks. Also included in this first issue were articles highlighting feminist organizing in other locations around the country and an article about Queen Christina of Sweden as an example of the feminist and lesbian power the group wanted to mobilize. These types of articles—ideological pieces, feminist histories, and political and social analyses—appear throughout the newspapers.

There is a fair amount of research and political critique on the Furies, both pro and con. I'm not going to begin to try to summarize all that here, but I encourage you to do your own searching if interested.

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