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In this piece I attempt a taxonomy of the many ways women are commonly forgotten, including ways in which they themselves sometimes prefer to disappear. I urge remembering (the women active in Civil Rights, the generations of suffrage activists, the lost women founders), but I also, finally, accept forgetting. Nothing is more galvanizing than trying to learn from a next generation how they shape a life in politics now, and nothing more urgent than trying to join them as they struggle to Occupy our changing world.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Ann Snitow spent six years pulling memoirs out of the humble, the busy, the still passionate, and the disaffected – all were feminist activists in the US in the l970s. Using the research of William Hirst, this piece explores the general weaknesses of memory but adds examples of how women’s activism has usually been aggressively forgotten: in men’s accounts of the 1960s; in the founding myth of the New School for Social Research; in heroic tales of the struggle for Civil Rights; and in narrations of women’s early participation in psychoanalysis (as described by Nancy Chodorow). Adding to this catalog of the mechanisms and motives for forgetting women activists, Snitow identifies another layer of difficulty: Women of the third wave had a principled stance against being remembered or lionized as individuals. Their values stipulated that no one woman should stand out as special, a leader, a spokesperson.

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