Thursday, September 16, 2010

40 Years After Women's March for Equality & `Rat' Takeover--Part 2

In late 1975, Redstockings self-published 5,000 copies of their theoretical journal, Feminist Revolution, which contained an article, titled “Gloria Steinem and the CIA;” and, on March 15, 1976, Redstockings signed a contract with Random House for Feminist Revolution to be published intact. But when the book was finally published by Random House in February 1979, according to an article by Nancy Borman--titled “Random Action: Whatever Happened to `Feminist Revolution’?"—which appeared in the May 21, 1979 issue of The Village Voice, “the chapter on Gloria Steinem and the CIA had been deleted in its entirety.”

According to the September 1979 issue of a Manhattan newspaper on the Upper West Side that was then published by the Columbia Tenants Union, Heights and Valley News, the chapter on Steinem and the CIA was “axed following complaints and threats of libel suits from an array of well-heeled, well-connected (and mostly inter-connected) individuals, corporations, and foundation-grant-funded women’s organizations.;” and “both the Village Voice and Heights and Valley News, two of the New York City newspapers that” broke “the near total media blackout on this information,” were apparently ”subjected to written threats of libel suits in an effort to stop publication of articles they were planning on the Redstockings case,” from Steinem’s attorneys.

And on September 6, 1979, a letter which was signed by at least 70 radical feminist activists (such as former New York SDS Regional Activist and novelist/poet Marge Piercy) also stated:

“We feel that we must respond to the latest in a series of attempts to suppress inquiry into the details and nature of Gloria Steinem’s association with the Central Intelligence Agency. We are alarmed that the most visible commentary on these events has come from several well-known figures in the feminist movement who not only condone but endorse this suppression. Because feminism’s appeal and impact spring from a fundamental intellectual honesty, it is particularly distressing that the suppression of dissent may be seen as some kind of official feminist position…

“…Gloria Steinem, Clay Felker…and Ford Foundation president Franklin Thomas were among those who threatened to sue for libel if Random House allowed the CIA chapters to be published in the Random edition of Redstockings' Feminist Revolution…The offending chapters were deleted. Thus, Steinem and her powerful supporters successfully used the threat of litigation to exercise prior restraint over publication…

“All this legal harassment was in response not to any actual instance of false, malicious defamation, but to the potential raising of embarrassing questions about some feminists’ relations with the power elite…

“…There is an urgent need for wide-ranging debate in the feminist movement on such questions as:

“…Is there a conflict-of-interest problem that our movement needs to solve—as other movements have tried to solve it—when movement representatives accept positions on the government or corporate side of the bargaining table? Are `right-wingers’ the only reason for the growing number of setbacks for women? Or is the feminist movement failing to discuss its own serious mistakes? Does dependence on government and corporate funding and foundation grants increase or decrease the effectiveness of feminist groups? Does it distort their politics and activities?...”

But in 1993 the Ms. Foundation for Women, for example, accepted the following three grants from the Ford Foundation: a $4.5 million grant for an “endowment campaign;” a $500,000 grant for “enhancing operational capacity” and a $45,000 grant for an “endowment feasibility study.” And by the early 1990s one of the daughters of the now-deceased Texas oil billionaire H.L. Hunt was sitting next to Gloria Steinem and a Rockefeller Family & Associates associate named Elizabeth McCormack on the Ms. Foundation for Women’s board of directors. As the Fall 1992 Newsletter of the Ms. Foundation, for example, noted:

“Nine years ago, Helen and Swanee Hunt, two sisters from Dallas, decided to start a foundation…Today, Helen is an active member of the Board of Directors of the Ms. Foundation for Women…Helen Hunt has made many leadership gifts to the Foundation. Most recently, her gift will enable us to allocate a portion of each…grant we give…for work with the Media…The Ms. Foundation for Women is proud to have the leadership and commitment that Helen Hunt has given us.”

In 1989 a book by Vance Packard, titled The Ultra Rich: How Much Is Too Much?, estimated that “at one point in the early 1980s the money of families created by H.L. Hunt amounted to $6 or $7 billion” and in 1986 the New York Times estimated that the total assets of the Helen and Swanee Hunt (and their brother Ray Hunt of Dallas) was around $2 billion. Besides helping to fund the Ms. Foundation for Women in the early 1990s, Swanee Hunt also contributed $251,000 to the 1992 presidential campaign of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband, prior to being named U.S. Ambassador to Austria by Bill Clinton in 1993. And by December 2009, the Ms. Foundation for Women was distributing over $4 million in grants each year and the value of its endowment had increased to nearly $24 million.

Coincidentally, in the late 1990s some of the material in the 250 boxes of Ms. magazine archives donated by the magazine to the Smith College library’s Sophia Smith Collection in Northampton, Massachusetts still contained “restricted material” that a woman anti-war activist and this Movement writer were still not allowed to examine. But some of the “restricted material” was briefly described in the typed index of the Ms. records which the woman anti-war activist and this Movement writer were allowed to look at. The “restricted material” contained in box 115 of the Ms. archives included Gloria Steinem’s 1971-1977 correspondence, material on the Ms. Foundation, Women’s Action Alliance annual meeting reports for the years 1980 to 1982 and “Gloria Steinem—correspondence clippings, 1971-1982.” The “restricted material” in Box 62 was described as “Gloria Steinem speaking request—fee correspondence” for the years 1973 to 1976. And the “restricted material” in Box 132 included material on Gloria Steinem’s 1970 to 1981 appearances, more material on the Ms. Foundation and more Steinem correspondence. In the course of examining the typed index of the Ms. records, the woman anti-war activist also noticed the following hand-written note on one page: “Material re: Redstockings events & Elizabeth Harris restricted.”

In her 1997 book Inside Ms.: 25 Years Of The Magazine And The Feminist Movement, former Ms. editorial staff member Mary Thom claimed that the Independent Research Service entity “had been founded by former National Student Association [NSA] officials”—not by Steinem; and that “Steinem learned of the CIA financing from NSA people.” Yet in a February 21, 1967 New York Times article which confirmed the Ramparts magazine disclosure, Steinem had told the Times that: (1) the CIA had been “a major source of funds” for the Independent Research Service since its formation in 1958; (2) “she had talked to some former officers of the National Student Association, who told her CIA money might be available;” (3) she “was a full-time employee of the service” until 1962; and (4) “The CIA’s big mistake was not supplanting itself with private funds fast enough.”

Under Steinem’s leadership, the CIA-funded Independent Research Service had, according to Ramparts magazine, “actively recruited a delegation of hundreds of young Americans to attend” world youth festivals in Vienna in 1959 and in Helsinki in 1962 “in order to actively oppose the communists;” and important officers and ex-officers of the CIA-funded National Student Association “were very active in the Independent Research Service activities in Vienna and Helsinki.” At the 1962 Helsinki Youth Festival, the Independent Research Service distributed a daily newspaper, The Helsinki News, which was printed in five languages. The Helsinki News was apparently edited by Clay Felker—the New York magazine editor who would later fund and distribute Ms. magazine’s initial December 1971 sample issue as an insert in his patriarchal New York magazine.

Also attending the 1962 Helsinki Youth Festival with Steinem was Barney Frank, who subsequently became an aide to Democratic Boston Mayor Kevin White and then a long-time Massachusetts Democratic representative in Congress. As The Pied Piper: Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream by Richard Cummings would note in 1985:

“Barney Frank at Harvard had been with the Independent Research Service delegation to Helsinki, an operation which, by Frank’s own admission, he clearly understood was CIA-backed. Frank joked about the role of fellow delegate Gloria Steinem, whom he described as `running around at nightclubs set up by the CIA in Helsinki, helping to win over Africans.'”

Steinem was “on the agency’s payroll” for 4 years, according to America’s Other Voice: The Story of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty by Sig Mickelson. And in late February 1967, the then-32-year-old Steinem had told Newsweek magazine:

“In the CIA, I finally found a group of people who understood how important it was to represent the diversity of our government’s ideas at the Communist festivals. If I had the choice, I would do it again.”

In November 1968, Steinem then apparently attended a meeting in New York City of Redstockings to gather material about the new wave of feminism for her magazine column in Clay Felker’s New York magazine. (end of part 2)

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