The 1970s saw incredible advancements in public engagement with, and recognition of, women’s rights. This flowering of second-wave feminism had a far-reaching impact on American society. What was it like for women who participated in the counterculture during that time? What challenges did they face, and what opportunities did they find? How was women’s experience in Vermont unique, and what did it share with the rest of the country? How does it relate to the current generation of young women? In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March), we presented this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont" at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Rescheduled (due to winter storm) to Wednesday, March 22nd at 6:00. This event was moderated by Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society's Public Program Coordinator, and featured Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society. A truly engaging and provocative discussion!
Watch the video of this event, thanks to Central Vermont Community Television.
Event Speaker Bios:
Euan Bear - was born in New Hampshire, moved to Vermont in 1977 to work with the lesbian collective Redbird, and has been here ever since. Over the last 40 years, she has been part of the editorial committee of CommonWomon, Vermont’s first women’s newspaper; wrote and edited for the Vermont Vanguard Press, and for Out in the Mountains, Vermont’s lgbt newspaper; and editor and author for the Safer Society Program and Press, among other jobs (factory worker, dishwasher, food service cook, housecleaner…). She has been a stalwart activist for women’s and lesbians’ rights, most recently at the January March and Rally in Montpelier. Listen to Euan's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Bridget Downey-Meyer – was a member of the Mount Philo Inn from 1969 to 1973, a collective in Charlotte, VT. Her experience includes working with draft resisters to cross into Canada, the establishment of the People's Free Clinic, and alternative schooling with an emphasis on experiential learning for children. Listen to Bridget's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Louise Andrews – was a member of Earthworks, a commune in Franklin, VT and worked on their alternative newspaper. She participated in women’s conferences and consciousness-raising during this time, and grew as a feminist. She learned about working with animals and growing, producing and eating healthy food while at Earthworks, as well as participating in Unity Players, a political street theatre group. Listen to Louise's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Melinda Moulton – while working at Harvard with Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and father of the Human Genome Project, Melinda joined in the antiwar and civil rights protests of the time. She met her future husband and eventually moved into a tent in Huntington, Vermont in 1972, and lived with her infant and partner with no running water, no phone, no TV until they built their own stone house, inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing. She collected 36 truckloads of stone with a baby on her back. Fast forward to the early 80s: She provided the leadership to produce a 25-year incremental redevelopment project for Burlington’s waterfront and pioneered new concepts in environmental and socially conscious redevelopment. Listen to Melinda's story here on VPR's No Make Up podcast.
Verandah Porche - with a group of friends from Boston in 1968 she founded a commune in Guilford Vermont called Total Loss Farm, a haven for artists and writers, where she still lives. The farm evolved into a nonprofit, the Monteverdi Artists Collaborative, which hosts residencies, readings, exhibition, and seasonal community events. She’s published three books of poetry, The Body's Symmetry, Glancing Off, and Sudden Eden, and works as a poet in residence, performer, and a writing partner. She was among the founders of the Brattleboro Women's Crisis Center and served on the board for 15 years. Listen to Veranda's VPR commentary here, addressing the national social media firestorm resulting ifrom her question to veteran journalist Gay Talese.
Along with the Vermont Historical Society, our women's history month event collaborative partner for many years, we're honored to work with Vermont Public Radio which has offered a corresponding themed commentary series for many years.
Cyndy Bittinger: Counterculture Women In Vermont
View highlights from the study here.
View the full study here.
The Vermont Commission on Women received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau to study the feasibility of a paid family and medical leave program in Vermont. This study was conducted by IMPAQ International, in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the UVM’s Center for Rural Studies, and Lake Research Partners and completed in 2016. Elements of the study included: a cost-benefit analysis; financing, eligibility, and benefit modeling; an implementation feasibility analysis and public opinion surveying; an economic-impact analysis and profiles of families; and both a survey and focus groups of Vermont employers. We hope the findings enrich and inform policy conversations.
Our 8th biennial legislative lunch took place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017. This event is sponsored by donations to the Vermont Commission on Women Education and Research Foundation.
This year’s event featured an address by newly-elected Vermont Governor Phil Scott. Governor Scott thanked VCW, “…for the great work they’re doing to educate us on the status of women in our state and push for changes in how we think and act in our own daily lives.” He spoke about the need to close the gender wage gap, “I’m proud that here in Vermont gender inequality and the wage gap is not as extreme as it is throughout the rest of the country, but inequality, and any gap at all, is unacceptable. This is an issue of fairness that must be addressed by leaders at all levels in business and in government.” Governor Scott went on to focus on supports for our state’s working women, “Supporting women in the workforce is about more than equal pay. Policymakers and businesses in general should also identify other ways to make it easier for women to join the workforce: flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and more accessible affordable quality child care. And I understand this last point (child care) is a major barrier, sometimes affecting decisions about leadership roles and work schedules, while ultimately results in lower pay.”
VCW’s Chair, Marcia Merrill welcomed attendees, introducing the Commission to new policy makers and elected officials, and reminding those who were re-elected of our resources and focus. Marcia stated, “While women’s participation in the economy is strong, there are improvements yet-to-be made and barriers yet-to-be removed to facilitate full and equal access to economic security in our state. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with you in this effort.”
VCW Executive Director Cary Brown highlighted a “sneak preview” of data on Vermont women in leadership from research currently being conducted through Change The Story VT, a multi-year initiative by the Commission, the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women. The “sneak preview” heralds Vermont as a national leader in gender parity among state legislatures, with the highest percentage of women legislators, as well as women in many leadership positions. Read the sneak preview here. The document includes the unfortunate fact that just one woman currently holds statewide elective office, and that Vermont is one of only two states that have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Commissioner and pediatric nurse, Danielle Martel, closed the event by leading an interactive dialog about the women’s issues policymakers hearing about from constituents. The subjects brought up by participants included equal pay for comparable work, salary negotiation, cultural repression of girls, women running for boards and commissions, improving revenues in VT by decreasing the wage gap, the need for state agencies and departments to collect gender disaggregated data, adequate and reliable retirement income, aging demographics increasing the numbers of women as unpaid caregivers, and the gender wage gap.
Mark your calendars: Wednesday evening, March 15th 7 pm at Goddard College in Plainfield
In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March), we'll present this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970’s Vermont". Many of the features that are today considered quintessentially Vermont – politics, local food movements, offbeat culture – have origins in this period. Plan to join us that evening, and in the meantime, check out VHS’ multi-year research project on this influential decade in Vermont: http://vermonthistory.org/research/vermont-1970s.
Nearly 400 women from across New England attended this biennial gathering to discuss policy solutions that address inequality and help to close the wealth gap.
Participants learned about state and regional strategies to advance policies that can increase economic security for all women and their families, with a particular focus on low-wage workers and other vulnerable groups, as per the conference theme: “Expanding Opportunity and Building Equality for Women and Girls of Color.”
Participants were treated to a keynote by historian, professor and former Chair of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, Dr. Mary Frances Berry. Featured speakers included Alison Quirk, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources and Citizenship Officer of State Street Corp., and a suprise personal appearence by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Afternoon breakout sessions focused on research, policy and legislative approaches to five different issue areas identified by the Call to Action document created at the last conference:
Paid Family and Medical Leave
the Early Care and Education Workforce
the Elder Care Workforce
Recovery for All? A Snapshot of Women’s Economic Status in New England: Released at the Conference, this report compares and contrasts earnings data and explores policy solutions in VT and neighboring states.
The New England Women’s Policy Conference was hosted by: the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, in conjunction with Planning Committee members:
Vermont Commission on Women
Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors
Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women
Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
New Hampshire Women’s Foundation
Rhode Island Commission on the Status of Women
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts