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In Love and Struggle: Letters in Contemporary Feminism

posted on 2023-06-08, 08:34 authored by Margaretta JollyMargaretta Jolly
Do you think I can be a feminist mother? Did I make you and your kisses up in my mind? Will you join our military protest at the gate? Will you feed the kids when I'm in prison? Why did you ignore black women in your supposedly feminist book? Are you able to forgive me for breaking off this correspondence because you are a man? During the women's movement of the 1970s and 1980s, feminists in the United States and Britain reinvented the image of the woman letter-writer. Symbolically tearing up the love letter to an absent man, they wrote passionate letters to one another, exploring questions of sexuality, separatism, and strategy. These texts speak of the new interest women began to feel for one another and the new demands and disappointmentsthese relationships would create. Margaretta Jolly provides the first cultural study of these letters, charting the evolution of feminist political consciousness from the height of the women's movement to today's email networks. Her book follows several compelling feminist relationships sustained through writing and confronts the mixed messages of the open letter that complicated political relations between women (one of the most famous examples being Audre Lorde's 'Open Letter to Mary Daly', which called out white feminists for their implicit racism). Jolly recovers the unsung literature of lesbianism and feminist romance, examines the ambivalent feelings within mother-daughter correspondences, and considers letter-writing campaigns during the peace movement. She concludes with a discussion of the ethical dilemma surrounding care versus autonomy and the meaning behind the burning or saving of letters. This fascinating glimpse into womens intimate archives illuminates one of feminism's central concerns that all relationships are political and uniquely recasts a social movement in very emotional terms. "This is a smart and savvy book and a fascinating study of what letters have meant to women as writers and readers over the last four decades. Situating letter writing as both demand and gift and mapping the feminist ethic of care that developed from this vast personal archive, In Love and Struggle is essential reading for feminist cultural projects." Julia Watson, The Ohio State University.


Publication status

  • Published


Columbia University Press






Gender and Culture List

Department affiliated with

  • Centre for Community Engagement Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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