Monday, August 27, 2012

Feminist organization Teen Talking Circles to hold a benefit concert with Deva Primal and Miten and Lindsay Wagner

Teen Talking Circles, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping and supporting teenagers, is holding a benefit concert on September 9, 2012 to introduce the organization to the Southern California area.  The concert, by Deva Primal and Miten, who are known for their sacred chants, will be held at 747 Wing House in Malibu.  Constructed on the property of Tony Duquette, which burned in a 1993 Malibu fire, the house is created from a 747 recycled airplane.  Lindsay Wagner, who played The Bionic Woman on the television show of the same name from 1976-1978, will host the event.  In addition to the concert, attendees of this benefit will learn more about the organization from Teen Talking Circles’ small staff, and from teens and parents of teens who have participated in their circles and retreats.

Teen Talking Circles was created after the 1997 publication of Executive Director Linda Wolf’s book Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun: Young Women and Mentors on the Transition to Womanhood.  The book described how the author, with co-author Wind K. Hughes, led “circles”: gatherings of teen girls at which they would discuss their experiences.  The events were inspired by second wave feminist consciousness raising groups, which Wolf found enormously helpful to her development in the 1960s.  She felt that, in the 1980s (characterized by some as a period of anti-feminist backlash), these useful resources for young women had disappeared.

“[The book] sold 20,000 copies pretty quickly,” writes Wolf, who is also a professional photographer, in correspondence with CSW. “We received so many requests for information as to how we managed to have teen girls show up for 2 years, weekly, to talk (and listen) to each other, that my co-author and I developed a facilitator's training in order to accommodate the requests.” 

During the last 20 years, Teen Talking Circles has offered trainings, books, women’s retreats, and circles (for both women and men).  Recently, the Daughters Sisters Project—a program of the organization—sponsored the photography project, I Am a Full Woman.  The project, which is a candidate for exhibition at a museum in Washington, DC, includes contemporary portraits of women from all walks of life, taken by Wolf during her travels in China, Thailand, India, Mexico, Guatemala, the USA, Europe, Africa, Iran, and Israel/Palestine. 

I Am a Full Woman from Linda Wolf on Vimeo.

Deva Primal and Miten, who will be performing at the benefit, sat in one of the organization’s circles and shared some of their chants in 2007. Wolf is delighted that they’ve volunteered their time for the upcoming benefit. “Deva Primal and Miten are extraordinary influences in the movement for health and wholeness,” says Wolf, “and their sacred chants, mostly East Indian, have inspired many people.”

There are only 15 tickets left to this event!  Tickets are $90, and with additional contributions participants will have the options to tour the main house and extensive gardens with architect David Hertz and join Teen Talking Circles’ staff and participants and actress Lindsay Wagner for an intimate after-party.  

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit:, or

To learn more about Teen Talking Circles, visit their website at

View interviews with Linda Wolf and Jean Kilbourne (maker of the film Killing Us Softly, and President of the group’s board for over a decade) here:

Teen members of the Girl’s Talking Circle, the Guy’s Talking Circle, and Gender Talks Circle on Bainbridge Island, WA talk about why the organization is important to them:

-Ben Sher

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lois Leveen, whose dissertation, The Race Home: Difference and Domestic Space in American Literature and Culture, was awarded CSW’s Jean Stone Dissertation Fellowship in 1997 and the George Elliot Dissertation Prize in 1999-2000, has taken her dissertation project in a unique and valuable new direction.  Leveen, who received her Ph.D. from UCLA’s English department in 1999, recently completed a historical novel partially based on her dissertation work, The Secrets of Mary Bowser.  The novel, published by HarperCollins/William Morrow, has been selected by Target as their August book club pick, an honor that will ensure that a huge number of people will read her book.

“Buried deep in my dissertation was a brief reference to Mary Bowser, a former slave who became a Union spy,” writes Leveen, in recent e-mail correspondence with CSW.  “My life hasn’t taken the usual path of tenure-track job, although I’ve worked in education in many forms and done lots of ‘public humanities’ programs along the way.  The latest, and greatest of which is that rather than turn the dissertation into a scholarly tome, I wrote a novel…to introduce non-academic readers to Bowser, and to what her story represents in terms of the roles women played in the anti-slavery [movement].”

Leveen is thrilled that converting her academic research into a popular novel has allowed the work to reach such a wide and varied audience. 

“I am bursting at the seams at the idea that folks will be learning this bit of black women’s history, as they pick up their usual Target run of supplies,” writes Leveen.  “There are more Targets than there are Barnes and Nobles in this country, and Target book shoppers are often people who don’t otherwise wander into a bookstore.  Target lets a book club of its store employees pick each month’s selection, so it’s a populist vote in the truest sense.  Thanks to them, the nation at large will be learning some of what I learned in grad school.”

Indeed, Leveen points out that she’s still a teacher at heart.  “It's exciting to know that colleagues--including some of my fellow UCLA graduates--will be teaching the book,” says Leveen.  She has prepared an interdisciplinary teaching guide that can be downloaded from her website (see link below).

Leveen emphasizes that her achievements have been strongly influenced by CSW and its efforts to bolster the work of graduate students.  She writes: “I remain indebted to the support you provided, long before I ever imagined I’d be a novelist.”

Visit Lois Leveen’s
Download Leveen’s teaching guide for The Secrets of Mary Bowser:
Visit Lois Leveen on facebook:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Report from the Field: Women at the 2012 Summer Institute on American Philosophy

From July 15 to 22, I attended the Summer Institute on American Philosophy an annual program of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, in Eugene, OR. My paper, ”Reading Dewey Reading Addams as Philosopher” (concerning John Dewey, the late nineteenth–early twentieth-century philosophy professor, and Jane Addams, the famed co-founder of the pioneering community center called "Hull House"), was scheduled in a session titled “Feminist Pragmatism.” I pointed out (with specialized input from Charlene Seigfried of Purdue University in the audience and Marilyn Fischer of the University of Dayton as the chair) how in his invited preface to a reprint of Addams’ book on her pacifist activities in World War I, Peace and Bread in Time of War, Dewey shows how Addams’ pacifism differed from that of her colleagues by being at bottom philosophical and suggested that this was a way to get pacifist skeptics to reconsider her argument in the book for giving up traditional political ways to organize international government and replace them with democratic methods inspired by the immigrants’ organizations at Hull House.

My fellow presenter in the session, Katherine Logan of the University of Oregon, gave a learned, relevant paper around the topic of so-called work/life balance in the serious, little-studied work of legal scholar Joan Williams. This presentation led to a very suggestive discussion about how second wave–type feminism is now marginalized in the academy despite the fact that its goals have only been partially achieved. The session was the only session of eight on women philosophers; however, one of the three sessions featuring dissertations-in-progress, which is a regular feature of SIAP, included “The Contested Environmental Voice: Pragmatism and Feminism,” by Tess Varner of the University of Georgia. One of the three sessions featuring books in progress, also a regular SIAP feature, showcased a textbook, to be titled American Philosophy: A Tradition of Resistance, on American philosophy since the 1890s by Erin McKenna and Scott Pratt. The text includes numerous women, familiar and unfamiliar, in every chapter, including Sojourner Truth, Margaret Sanger, Martha Nussbaum, Angela Davis, and Gloria Anzaldua. More importantly, one of the three plenary sessions involved a woman philosopher: “Rereading Dewey through Addams,” with Marilyn Fischer of University of Dayton and Amrita Banerjee of Oregon State University. Fischer’s scholarly yet daring paper suggested among other things that in some respects Dewey’s work was conservative, a claim that inspired energetic discussion.

Most importantly of all from the point of view of feminism, a woman philosopher by herself was the topic of the two-part keynote by Charlene Haddock Seigfried, Purdue University. Prof Seigfried, a distinguished William James scholar who opened the discipline of American philosophy to feminist scholarship in 1991 by asking the question, “Where are all the Feminist Pragmatists?”, and by showing a way to answer it in 1996 with her book Feminism and Pragmatism: Reweaving the Social Fabric. Seigfried’s two-part address—“Claiming Authority: Jane Addams Constructs a Social Self,” on the autobiographical opening chapters of Twenty Years at Hull House, and “The Social Self in Addams’ Prefaces and Introductions,” on Addams’ other nine authored or co-authored books—was drawn from chapters of her book in progress. Clearly, Jane Addams received a gratifying amount of attention at the event; however, there was a general lack of attention to other women philosophers.

A plenary seminar on Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke,“Critical Pragmatism and Insurrectionist Ethics,” did mention a few women, including Maria Stewart and Lydia Maria Child, as insurrectionists. Another book-in-progress session, by Professor Doug Anderson of Southern Illinois University, was about Common Sense Saints: Fuller, Marley, Anzaldua, and Thoreau, a book that includes Margaret Fuller and Gloria AnzaldĂșa as titular subjects on a level with Marley and Thoreau. Unfortunately, my own paper was scheduled at the same time so I was unable to attend. Although women presenters were unusually well represented in the most dignified places, more female voices would have been welcome in the sessions. There may be a connection between the lack of visibility of women philosophers (other than Addams) and the comparative lack of women who submit proposals. Male outnumbered female attendees twice over. Although not explicitly about women philosophers, next year’s plenary sessions, “Feminist Interpretations of William James” by Shannon Sullivan and “Indigenous Philosophy,” may inspire more proposals about feminist philosophy and (indigenous) women philosophers respectively. Altogether, SIAP 2012 was an inspiring, educational, and enjoyable intellectual experience.

—Carol Bensick

Carol Bensick is a CSW Research Scholar. Her current research project, titled “The Rise and Stall of Feminist Women's History of Philosophy: Help from the Archives of Julia Ward Howe,” concerns a female philosopher. Detailed primary and secondary texts pertaining to Julia Ward Howe prove that the work of women who read, taught, discussed, and even published on great texts of philosophy with elite university faculty could vanish with their deaths not because their philosophy itself had been discredited or refuted but for no other apparent reason than that their gender caused discomfort, displeasure, or disapproval in their contemporaries—including their own children. This project will document Howe's work and legacy.