s1803 - The Politics of Women's Businesses

Saturday, June 3, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
BRESL 29 (Hofstra University)
Melanie Susan Gustafson, University of Vermont

Session Abstract

This panel focuses on ways women create and utilize their businesses to reflect and advocate for feminist and political causes. One study analyzes the work of African American hair-care entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker and how she transformed her apolitical profit-making business activities into the catalyst for black women’s feminist empowerment.The second study explores the fashion and business innovations of Eleanor Churchill and examines how creative and business decisions reflect larger changes in the United States at various intervals in the period between 1922 and 1962. The third study examines the history of the Bloodroot Collective -- a group of four radical feminists who rejected social convention for the counter-normative unknown by opening a restaurant and bookstore in Bridgeport, CT in 1977. The oppositional lives these women cultivated allowed them to live out their their radical feminist ideas daily and separately from the misogynistic and homophobic culture they were trapped in. The final study explores the politics of recent maternal commodity activism through a study of American cloth diapering, and considers baby-related labor (including the creation of diapers) in domestic settings.

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