Brownmiller, Susan, 1935-

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Susan Brownmiller (born February 15, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American feminist journalist, author, and activist best known for her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.

Brownmiller argues that rape had been previously defined by men rather than women, and that men use it as a means of perpetuating male dominance by keeping all women in a state of fear. The New York Public Library selected Against Our Will as one of 100 most important books of the 20th century.

Brownmiller was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Mae and Samuel Warhaftig, a lower-middle-class Jewish couple. Her father was a salesman in the Garment Center and later a vendor in Macy's department store, and her mother was a secretary in the Empire State Building. She later took the pen name Brownmiller, legally changing her name in 1961.

In 1972, Brownmiller signed her name to the Ms. campaign “We Have Had Abortions” which called for an end to "archaic laws" limiting reproductive freedom; they encouraged women to share their stories and take action.

She describes herself as "a single woman", even though "I was always a great believer in romance and partnership." "I would like to be in close association with a man whose work I respect," she told an interviewer, attributing her unmarried status to the fact that she was "not willing to compromise."

As a child Brownmiller was sent to the East Midwood Jewish Center for two afternoons a week to learn Hebrew and Jewish history. She would later comment, "It all got sort of mishmashed in my brain except for one thread: a helluva lot of people over the centuries seemed to want to harm the Jewish people. ... I can argue that my chosen path – to fight against physical harm, specifically the terror of violence against women – had its origins in what I had learned in Hebrew School about the pogroms and The Holocaust."

She had "a stormy adolescence", attending Cornell University for two years (1952 to 1954) on scholarships, but not graduating. She later studied acting in New York City. She appeared in two off-Broadway productions.

Brownmiller's path into journalism began with an editorial position at a "confession magazine". She went on to work as an assistant to the managing editor at Coronet (1959–60), as an editor of the Albany Report, a weekly review of the New York State legislature (1961–1962), and as a national affairs researcher at Newsweek (1963–1964). In the mid-1960s, Brownmiller continued her career in journalism with positions as a reporter for NBC-TV in Philadelphia (1965), staff writer for The Village Voice (1965), and as a network news writer for ABC-TV in New York City (1966–68).

Beginning in 1968, she worked as a freelance writer; her book reviews, essays, and articles appeared regularly in publications including The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Daily News, Vogue, and The Nation. In 1968, she signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

Brownmiller volunteered for Freedom Summer in 1964, wherein she worked on voter registration in Meridian, Mississippi.

Returning to New York, she began writing for The Village Voice and became a network TV newswriter at the American Broadcasting Company, a job she held until 1968. She continued to write and speak on feminist issues, including a memoir and history of Second Wave radical feminism titled In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (1999). Her papers have been archived at Harvard, in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Against Our Will (1975) is a feminist book in which Brownmiller argues that rape "is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." In order to write the book, after having helped to organize the New York Radical Feminists Speak-Out on Rape on January 24, 1971, and the New York Radical Feminists Conference on Rape on April 17, 1971, she spent four years investigating rape. She studied rape throughout history, from the earliest codes of human law up into modern times. She collected clippings to find patterns in the way in which rape is reported in various types of newspapers, analyzed portrayals of rape in literature, films, and popular music, and evaluated crime statistics.

Against Our Will was a highly controversial book. Brownmiller's basic premise was contested by some sections of the left wing, who considered it untrue that "all men benefit" from the culture of rape, and who believed rather that it was possible to organize both women and men together to oppose sexual violence. The book also received criticism from Angela Davis, who thought Brownmiller disregarded the part that black women played in the anti-lynching movement and that Brownmiller's discussion of rape and race became an "unthinking partnership which borders on racism".

In 1995, the New York Public Library selected Against Our Will as one of 100 most important books of the 20th century.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Tobias, Sheila. Papers, 1947-2005. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn [Videotape collection] [videorecording], 1984-1990 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund. [Videotape collection: reels 1-48] [videorecording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn McFarlane, Heather. Papers, 1969-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1935-2000 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1914-2007 (inclusive), 1973-2000 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of, Sojourner, (inclusive), (bulk), 1920-2004, 1975-2002 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1935-2000 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Esquire, Inc. Records, 1933-1977 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Judson Memorial Church Archive, 1838-1995 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Papers, 1947-2005 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Esquire, inc. Esquire, inc. records, 1933-1977. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Phyllis Chesler Papers, 1968-1990 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Esquire Magazine. Esquire Magazine records, 1933-1977. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Cohen, Marcia. Papers, 1967-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series V., Editor Files, 1873-1984 (bulk 1960-1980). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Rich, Adrienne Cecile. Papers, 1927-1999 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Records. Series VII., Other Department Files, 1916-1996 (bulk 1943-1969). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Brownmiller, Susan. Papers, 1935-2000 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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correspondedWith Fritz, Leah person
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correspondedWith Gloria Steinem person
associatedWith Gornick, Janet C., person
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associatedWith Gornick, Vivian, person
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associatedWith Grambs, Marya, person
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associatedWith Hanisch, Carol, person
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associatedWith Hawley, Nancy, person
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associatedWith Koedt, Anne, person
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associatedWith Kollias, Karen, person
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associatedWith Komisar, Lucy, 1942- person
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associatedWith Lemisch, Jesse, 1936- person
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associatedWith Lynden, Pat, person
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associatedWith March, Artemis, person
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associatedWith Martin, Del, person
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associatedWith Mayerson, Charlotte, 1927- person
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associatedWith Mayfield, Lee, person
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associatedWith McFarlane, Heather. person
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associatedWith Norsigian, Judy, person
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associatedWith Nussbaum, Hedda, 1942- person
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associatedWith O'Reilly, Jane, person
associatedWith O'Reilly, Jane, interviewee person
associatedWith O'Sullivan, Elizabethann, person
associatedWith O'Sullivan, Elizabethann, interviewee person
associatedWith Owings, Alison person
associatedWith Owings, Alison. person
associatedWith Peslikis, Irene, person
associatedWith Peslikis, Irene, interviewee person
associatedWith Pincus, Jane, person
associatedWith Pincus, Jane, interviewee person
associatedWith Pizzey, Erin, 1939- person
associatedWith Pizzey, Erin, 1939- person
associatedWith Ramos, Sandy, person
associatedWith Ramos, Sandy, interviewee person
associatedWith Redstockings, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Redstockings, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Rich, Adrienne Cecile. person
associatedWith Rothaizer, Susan, person
associatedWith Rothaizer, Susan, interviewee person
associatedWith Rush, Florence, 1918- person
associatedWith Rush, Florence, 1918- person
associatedWith Russell, Diana E. H., person
associatedWith Russell, Diana E. H., interviewee person
associatedWith Sanford, Wendy Coppedge, 1944- person
associatedWith Sanford, Wendy Coppedge, 1944- person
associatedWith Sarachild, Kathie, person
associatedWith Sarachild, Kathie, interviewee person
associatedWith Sauvigne, Karen, person
associatedWith Sauvigne, Karen, interviewee person
associatedWith Schultz, Marilyn, person
associatedWith Schultz, Marilyn, interviewee person
associatedWith Sheila Tobias person
associatedWith Sheila Tobias person
associatedWith Shelley, Martha, person
associatedWith Shelley, Martha, interviewee person
associatedWith Shulman, Alix Kates, person
associatedWith Shulman, Alix Kates, interviewee person
associatedWith Shumsky, Ellen, person
associatedWith Shumsky, Ellen, interviewee person
associatedWith Sloan-Hunter, Margaret, 1947- person
associatedWith Sloan-Hunter, Margaret, 1947- person
associatedWith Smith, Judy, person
associatedWith Smith, Judy, interviewee person
associatedWith Sojourner (Cambridge, Mass.) corporateBody
associatedWith Soler, Esta, person
associatedWith Soler, Esta, interviewee person
associatedWith Stearns, Nancy, person
associatedWith Stearns, Nancy, interviewee person
associatedWith Steinberg, Joel Barnet, 1941- person
associatedWith Steinberg, Joel Barnet, 1941- person
associatedWith St. Joan, Jacqueline, 1945- person
associatedWith St. Joan, Jacqueline, 1945- person
associatedWith Susan Brownmiller person
associatedWith Swenson, Norma, person
associatedWith Swenson, Norma, interviewee person
associatedWith Tobias, Sheila. person
associatedWith Van Gelder, Lindsy, person
associatedWith Van Gelder, Lindsy, interviewee person
associatedWith Vaughan, Sharon Rice, person
associatedWith Vaughan, Sharon Rice, interviewee person
associatedWith Warrior, Betsy, person
associatedWith Warrior, Betsy, interviewee person
associatedWith Waters, Chocolate, person
associatedWith Waters, Chocolate, interviewee person
associatedWith Waters, Mary-Alice, 1942- person
associatedWith Waters, Mary-Alice, 1942- person
associatedWith Webb, Marilyn, 1942- person
associatedWith Webb, Marilyn, 1942- person
associatedWith Weisstein, Naomi person
associatedWith Weisstein, Naomi. person
associatedWith Willis, Ellen, person
associatedWith Willis, Ellen, interviewee person
associatedWith Women Against Pornography corporateBody
associatedWith Women Against Pornography. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Brooklyn NY US
Socialist Republic of Vietnam 00 VN
Subject
Rape victim services
Rape
Wife abuse
Pornography--Social aspects
Rapists
Abortion--United States
Sex discrimination against women
Jewish women
Demonstrations
Feminism
Journalists
Feminists
Authors, American
Civil rights
Family violence
Violence
Abortion
Authors and publishers
Occupation
Editor
Feminists
Journalists
Authors
Activity

Person

Birth 1935-02-15

Female

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 85772678