Author’s Spotlight: Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism

Written by Tamar W. Carroll, College of Liberal Arts

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Attending graduate school, Tamar Carroll visited the Smith College Archives in Northampton, Mass., expecting to research and write about feminist Gloria Steinem. But first, the archivist shared papers about a Brooklyn-based feminist group named the National Congress of Neighborhood Women.

“I found it fascinating,” said Carroll, now an assistant professor of history at RIT. “It was all unexpected, all of these coalitions between groups that were supposed to be at odds with each other. To find white and black women collaborating, to find Catholic women who were supposed to be opposed to feminism was really interesting. I wanted to look at other examples of coalitions between unlikely allies.”

The culmination of Carroll’s research resulted in Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism, a book that focuses on three grassroots movements that empowered people for social change in New York City.

“I look at the ways they were trying to foster participatory democracy, grassroots activists partnering with professionals to achieve better results,” Carroll said.

The programs Carroll researched include Mobilization for Youth, a demonstration project for the War on Poverty, which generated programs such as Head Start and Legal Services for low-income Americans; The National Congress of Neighborhood Women, in which displaced homemakers united with feminist activists and established the first publicly-funded domestic violence shelter in New York state; and the AIDS Coalitions to Unleash Power (ACT UP), an AIDS awareness organization and Women’s Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!), which fostered in a coalition between gay men and reproductive rights feminists in the 1980s and 1990s.

“These are stories of ordinary people who changed their world, and I hope readers will be inspired by their examples,” she said.