Sex and Caste at 50

Chicago JOIN

In the summer of 1965, Hayden followed the suggestion that whites should organize other whites.  While continuing to be paid by SNCC, she participated in SDS’ Economic Research Action project.[1] Hayden worked in Chicago on JOIN, an effort to create an “interracial movement of the poor.”[2]  Hayden attempted to organize white “women, mostly on welfare, mostly southern,” by relying on their “existing ties in the community.”[3]   As she noted in an essay for the SDS Bulletin,   “These women are ‘on the bottom’ but have some other woman to whom they can turn when some guy beats them up, the kids are sick, the check is late.”[4] When JOIN Member Dorothy Perez, along with organizers Hayden, David Wheeler and Richard Rothstein, was arrested on June 22, 1965 for staging a sit-in at a local welfare office, Perez’s sympathizers went “to jail with her and [others] went down and picketed with her and backing her up in this way got her demands” met.[5

While this protest confirmed Hayden’s belief that women’s ways of community organizing were superior to those of the men, who admitted to making little progress of their own that summer, Hayden still faced a dilemma.  The women she sought to organize were victims of abuse at the hands of the very men that the SDS male workers hoped to organize.  In both the article she wrote for the SDS Bulletin and in an interview published in New Left Review, Hayden only alluded to these problems briefly.

“All of these women have had horrible histories with their husbands, personal histories. … they share these horrible relationships with men—like they have to call on someone to run to the corner to call the cops because she is being beaten up.”[6]

However, in 2014, Hayden explained she was “at a loss as to how to raise this contradiction for discussion on the project and remembered thinking “it was foolhardy of me to try to organize women alone and on my own. I needed some help. …  A Kind of Memo] was the result.”[7]

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