Sex and Caste at 50

A Kind of Memo is ...

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On November 18, 1965 Casey Hayden and Mary King mailed a "kind of memo" addressed "to a number of other women in the peace and freedom movements.”  

 Retrospective linkages have led scholars to position A Kind of Memo as a diatribe against the movement, as a plea for more power for women, or as a manifesto for a new movement.  However, Hayden, who described the memo as her "last action as movement activist, rejects all those interpretations.[1]

“[O]n a train ride back east from Berkeley … en route to a labor organizing workshop at Highlander in the fall of 1965,” Casey Hayden set down her thoughts for other women in the peace and freedom movement.[2]  Hayden, a well-known white activist in SNCC was also one of a handful of women at the center of the early days of SDS.   Her marriage finally acknowledged as over after a long separation, and her most recent foray into organizing raising more questions than hope, the words were the last “grasping out” for her beloved community.[3]

After a stopover in Statesville, North Carolina, where Hayden and fellow SNCC worker Mendy Samstein considered working on a labor campaign and she penned quick letter to SDS in support of their recent position against the war in Vietnam, Hayden headed to Virginia.[4] There, her friend and sister in SNCC, Mary King  “signed on and helped … finalize and distribute” the document she had drafted.[5]   

A Kind of Memo was mailed to a small circle of friends, but quickly passed from hand to hand, circulated in mimeographed form, and eventually reached a wide audience in the New Left when it appeared, retitled as Sex and Caste, in the April 1966 issue of Liberation.[6]

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