Institutional Scholarship

Bridging the Movement: A Geography of the San Francisco Women's Building

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dc.contributor.advisor Friedman, Andrew, 1974- Mayer, Emily 2014-07-23T16:06:29Z 2014-07-23T16:06:29Z 2014
dc.description.abstract This thesis maps the history of the San Francisco Women's Building, the first women-owned and -operated community center in the United States. Telling the chronology of the Building but also situating it within the long narrative of "women's space," this thesis demonstrates how the shape of the Building was the product of particular configurations of feminism arising from the radical proximities of the San Francisco Bay Area. Traversing New Left collectives, women-only conferences, lesbian bars, and small offices, the activists in San Francisco Women's Centers (SFWC), the organization that bought the Building in 1979, sought to use the Building to respond to the possibilities and limitations of the spaces populating the landscape of their lives. Marking a moment in which many groups involved in women's liberation turned to non-profit status, this thesis wrestles with the simultaneous onset of institutionalization and a burgeoning Third World women's critique of separatist space and feminist politics. As this thesis situates the Building at the convergence of these two phenomena, it argues that the shape and place of the Building enabled women to produce a new kind of social and political space unprecedented within the movement. In structuring the staff's daily struggles with the varied dynamics of power and race, the architecture of the Building made possible a truly integrated yet difficult activism that sought to speak directly to those made most vulnerable by the racist and sexist climate of the state in the eighties. While actively displacing many women disillusioned with the premium put on a "correct" way of doing politics, SFWC moved towards a vision of the Building as a haven from a hostile political climate and the embassy of a counter state. By drawing a concurrently narrower and more expansive political map, the Building paved the way for a language of conservative backlash yet also preserved the radicalism of the earlier years of women's liberation. Armed with the privilege of privately owned space, activists at the Building remade the contours of feminist and progressive politics. Illustrating how the San Francisco Women's Building structured a lived experience of a "bridge," this thesis provides a window into the sites that produced and transformed the women's movement into and through the eighties.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh San Francisco Women's Building -- History
dc.subject.lcsh Women -- Services for -- California -- San Francisco -- History
dc.subject.lcsh Feminism -- California -- San Francisco -- History
dc.subject.lcsh San Francisco (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc
dc.title Bridging the Movement: A Geography of the San Francisco Women's Building
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Haverford users only

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