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Abstract

The field of community organizing would be wise to heed the words of Abigail Adams to her revolutionary husband, John. Contributions of women activists have been virtually ignored by the field of social work. Consequently, social work has a diminished knowledge base and has alienated large numbers of talented women. Ironically, both the past and the future of community organizing are tied intimately with the action of women. Foremothers include Jane Addams, Dorothea Dix and Lillian Wald. Current trends suggest that "women's issues," such as poverty, the family and reproductive rights, will be on national, state and local agendas for years to come. In order to prepare for the future, we need to understand the talents of the past and present.

This paper explores the experiences of women activists, primarily in the labor, peace and feminist movements. A number of salient themes, generated in interviews with and presentations by women activists, are identified. Suggestions are made as to how and why these themes should be integrated into community organizing practice. Given that a personal research goal of the author is to generate a community organizing theory based on the experiences of women, the discussion of themes is preceded by a newly developed analytical framework for collective practice. This project also represents a preliminary attempt to weave qualitative research methods, feminist thought and women's experiences into an understandable and meaningful whole.

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