Robin Morgan (born 1941), writer, editor, poet, and political activist, was one of the leading feminists in the United States.
Robin Morgan was born on January 29, 1941, in Lake Worth, Florida, the daughter of Faith Berkley Morgan. She grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, and at an early age wanted to be a doctor and a poet. "The male-supremacist society destroyed the first ambition," she once wrote, "but couldn't dent the second."
During the early 1960s, while working as a literary agent and free-lance editor in New York City, Morgan began publishing poetry. A collection of her poems from the 1960s appeared in 1972 under the title Monster. Through the 1960s Morgan engaged in leftist political activities centered around opposition to the U.S. engagement in Vietnam. She contributed articles and poetry to such left-wing journals as Liberation, Rat, Win, and The Guardian. By the late 1960s, however, Morgan's primary interest and commitment became feminism, the cause with which her best known writings are concerned. That her transition to feminism involved difficult personal change is suggested in her "Letters from a Marriage," which were written mainly to her husband (but with an eye to eventual publication) from 1962 to 1973. They were published in Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist (1977).
By the late 1960s Morgan had become active in New York Radical Women, one branch of which—the Redstockings and later the Radical Feminists—developed much of the theoretical ground for the contemporary women's movement. In particular, these women, many of whom had been active in the peace and civil rights movements, rebelled against the male-dominated "new left" in which they had been accorded second-class treatment. Morgan's article "Goodbye to All That," which appeared in 1970, was later considered a classic expression of the feminists' rejection of the male left.
The "radical feminists" came to believe that all social oppression lay in the domination of women by men. By the early 1970s Morgan called herself a radical feminist and summed up her position (in 1977) by explaining the etymology of the word "radical" as meaning "going to the root": "I believe that sexism is the root oppression, the one which, until and unless we uprootit, will continue to put forth the branches of racism, class hatred, ageism, competition, ecological disaster, and economic exploitation."
Morgan, however, remained apart from the theoretical wing of the movement and participated instead in an action-oriented group, WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell). These women engaged in "guerrilla-theater" tactics, such as demonstrating before the Miss America Pageant on September 7, 1968; protesting the New York Bridal Fair on February 15, 1969; and "hexing" Wall Street. Going Too Far (1977) includes a selection of articles Morgan wrote during this period which chronicle her feminist transitions.
In 1970 Morgan co-edited (with Charlotte Bunch and Joanne Cooke) a collection entitled The New Woman. That same year she put forth the work for which she is perhaps best known, Sisterhood Is Powerful, a massive anthology of over 50 articles and numerous manifestoes and documents written in the early years of the contemporary feminist movement. It became one of the most important sources by which feminist ideas were disseminated across the country in the early 1970s. During the rest of the decade Morgan lectured extensively both nationally and internationally, and in 1977 she became a contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. She also published another book of poems, Lady of the Beasts, in 1976.
In the 1980s Morgan put forth two important works. One, The Anatomy of Freedom: Feminism, Physics, and Global Politics, appeared in 1982. The second, Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology, was published in 1984.
The Anatomy of Freedom is a formally innovative work that combines personal narrative, fable, allegorical drama, and feminist theorizing. In it Morgan presents feminism not just as a struggle for equal rights but as a "vision" that is "crucial to the continuation of sentient life on this planet." Its most intriguing aspect is Morgan's attempt to merge the feminist vision, which she sees as integrative and holistic, with the view proposed in the new physics (quantum theory and relativity), which also, Morgan argues, mandates a holistic, contextual approach to reality. Morgan's position in this work may be labelled "cultural feminism," a view that considers women as heirs to a humane, ecologically holistic value-system, which can be a font of regeneration in a world dominated by a destructive, masculine ethic.
Sisterhood Is Global is in a sense a continuation of Sisterhood Is Powerful, but expanded to an international scope. This anthology of over 800 pages includes articles that detail the condition of women in more than 70 countries. In her introduction Morgan continues her cultural feminist perspective by noting the significance of 1984 as a publishing date. Referring to George Orwell's dystopian novel of that title, Morgan asserts that only women working together and in accordance with their historically humane and pacifist ethic can overcome the forces of Big Brother, which she sees operating globally.
Morgan's many awards include the Wonder Woman award for peace and understanding (1982), the Front Page award for distinguished journalism (1982), and the Feminist of the Year award (1990). She is a member of the Feminist Writers' Guild, Media Women, the North American Feminist Coalition, the Pan Arab Feminist Solidarity Association, and the Israeli Feminists Against Occupation.
In addition to the works identified earlier, Morgan put forth Depth Perception: New Poems and a Masque (1982). Other important articles by Morgan appear in the following issues of Ms. Magazine: August 1978, November 1978, March 1980, and December 1981. A useful history of the contemporary women's movement is Sara Evans, Personal Politics (1979). The theoretical background for Morgan's thought is provided in Josephine Donovan, Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions of American Feminism (1985). Further information on Morgan can also be found in The Writer's Dictionary 1994 edition. □