Hi, my name is Emma and I’ve been an intern at the Freedom Archives for the past two months. I started my internship hoping to educate myself more on past struggles and to learn how to organize more meaningfully in the future. During my summer here, I spent a lot of time with the extensive Women Against Imperialism collection, looking through meeting notes, pamphlets, posters, newsletters, reading group materials, and more. Women Against Imperialism (WAI) was a group stemming from the women’s caucus of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. WAI consisted of white women who sought to bring the perspective of the feminist movement to that of the anti-imperialist movement and vice-versa. They functioned as a collective, working with and learning from other groups. Active in the Bay Area from the 1980s-90s, WAI held demonstrations and marches, supported various actions in the Bay, and held other cultural/educational/community events. WAI defined imperialism as capitalism grown to a world scale and recognized it as a patriarchal system depending upon the oppression of all women. WAI made it clear that their goal was not to become equals to white men within the US war machine, but rather to fight alongside Third World liberation movements, understanding their struggles as interconnected.
WAI aligned themselves with women in the Philippines, Palestine, and Guatemala suffering from US militarization. They fought against the forced sterilization of women in Puerto Rico and low-income Black women in the US. They showed up for local Chinese seamstresses when they were denied wages by luxury dressmaker Jessica McClintock. They mourned the deaths of women caused by a lack of safe abortions during the “Furious Funeral from Hell”. They hosted letter-writing events and fundraisers for women political prisoners. And they used their whiteness to their advantage when they snuck into and trashed military recruiting offices under the guise of Christmas carolers. Rather than using other peoples suffering as a launching pad for their own advancement (think assimilation type “Female cops = equality”), WAI recognized that even they as white women would not truly liberated from male supremacy/homophobia until all of US empire was dismantled – and that this could only be achieved by following Third World women already in revolutionary struggle.
Being Asian American, I thought that the Asian American collection would have the biggest impact on me, but WAI’s basis for solidarity with other people helped me kind of see outside the framework of ‘representation’. I feel that I initially placed overt importance on finding and reading about the radical history of people ‘like me’ ONLY BECAUSE I saw our shared identity as the most important thing tying us together. However, WAI emphasizes the significance and power of solidarity that is built by forming connections between different struggles. WAI’s analysis of others liberation being necessary for their own has made me rethink my own work and positionality as I continue to build with others.