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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Refusing to be the other: Barbara Deming's experiments with nonviolence
by Updegrove, R. L., Ph.D., Northern Arizona University, 2014, 285; 3633678
Abstract (Summary)

Barbara Deming was active in the U.S. nonviolent movement from 1960 until her death from cancer in 1984 at age sixty-seven. A complex understanding of the intersections between gender, sexuality, feminism, and nonviolence can be gleaned by following her pilgrimage through nuclear disarmament activities, the African American Freedom Movement, the efforts to end the war in Viet Nam, Women's Liberation Movement actions, and her involvement in the Gay Liberation Movement. Deming had become well-known by the mid-1960s as a journalist for The Nation, an associate editor of the pacifist magazine Liberation, and the author of Prison Notes (1966), the first of her eight books. Despite her name recognition at the time and the leadership roles she often took in these social movements, she has nearly disappeared from the historical record.

Deming's story has been both preserved and erased because of her focus on integrating nonviolence with feminism, lesbianism, and androgyny in the 1970s and 80s. Deming identified as a lesbian as a teenager, but being white and upper-class shielded her from some oppression. By the 1970s she came to see her gender and sexuality as central to her involvement in the nonviolent movement. As she began living openly as a lesbian and writing about the connections she saw between feminism and nonviolence, she gained a new audience, primarily women, while losing the wider readership she had cultivated in the 1960s. Some men in the nonviolent movement continued to support her work, but it was pacifist women and those in the Women's and Gay Liberation Movements who helped archive her papers at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute.

Understanding Deming's activism helps to explain the oppressive role of heterosexism in the United States and highlights the possibilities and limitations of merging feminism and nonviolence, a strategy that has been neglected by historians of peace and feminism. Reclaiming Barbara Deming's perspective expressed in a quarter-century of writing about nonviolence, and investigating the continuity and change of her arguments, reveals a hidden history of the Women's Liberation Movement and the broader nonviolent movement.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Danielson, Leilah
Commitee: Ahluwalia, Sanjam, Martel, Heather, Sargent Wood, Linda
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Peace Studies, History, LGBTQ studies
Keywords: Barbara deming, Feminism, Nonviolence, Pacifism, Queer theory, Sexuality
Publication Number: 3633678
ISBN: 978-1-321-13792-7
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