activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words


February 20, 2018

Tags: friends, health

It’s the Monday (Feb 19?) after a week of informal reunions with people I feel close to but don’t see often, itself an understatement. I can’t remember the last time, for example, I saw Nancy Hoffman, with whom I edited a volume of stories about Women Working for a huge Feminist Press project of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was one of a dozen books funded by Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and the NEH, and it is still in print and still used in schools as a text. Nancy has worked on high school education projects for many years, and for many of which she also served on the Feminist Press Board of Directors. She was at Brown University when that institution decided to buy my papers and the Feminist Press papers.

Deborah Rosenfelt, lately a retired professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, was my student at Goucher College, and later, a staff member and an author at the Feminist Press, and of course Debby and Nancy were friends. They have made some plans to work together again on the disposal of my papers at Brown, where Nancy was working as assistant to the university’s president when I agreed to sell my papers and the Press’s to Brown. As some of you know, there has been no work on my papers at Brown.

Both of these women know Ellen Bass, the poet and the Goucher student with whom I edited the first No More Masks! She was absent this week, but plans to be here in New York in April, and perhaps we’ll have another reunion then.

Of course it’s wonderful for me to enjoy such occasions.

This one began in part as a mutual interest in hearing Marilynne Robinson speak at the 92nd Street Y about the new volume of essays she was publishing. And we did that, after a festive dinner. Nancy, Debby, and I were joined by my daughter-in-law, AnnJ Gumbinner, and by Elyse Hilton, a student of Ellen Bass’s. Elyse was the initial instigator who bought tickets to the lecture for me and for herself many months ago. Had I been my once normal self, we would have continued the festivities that evening after the lecture. But I was tired after the exertion of the dinner and the walk to the lecture hall as well as the lecture itself. Frankly, it was not really a “lecture.” Robinson read from a few pages of printed text and then sat on stage with a man who asked several questions while “Y” staff collected other questions from audience members.

Frankly I cannot remember one question or one answer, but I was glad to be there and glad to have sight of Robinson’s voice and demeanor. And Elyse gave me a copy of the essays which I will write about when I can. Most of all, I am glad to report that I enjoyed the evening and suffered no ill effects afterwards. Maybe I am coming back to “normal.”

11 a.m., Thursday, February 15, 2018

February 19, 2018

Tags: health, Alzheimer's

Haven’t been here for too long, and I want to record that I actually went out of the house for two events, theatre events, I mean. Last Saturday to Encores for a medley of old musicals that was very enjoyable. And of course it was wonderful for me to actually get out of this apartment at last. And on this past Tuesday, again with Helene, I saw Eve Ensler’s latest one-woman play, a battle with cancer. She did it alone on a 90-minute staged performance, elegant, amazing, terrifying, and exhausting.

No incident on Saturday, but scary incidents on Tuesday: frozen legs at the house so that Toni, the afternoon doorman, had to lift me up and place me into the Carmel limo. Yes, he’s very strong. Once in the car, I couldn’t help worrying about how I would get out of the car. But then I could, and I could make my way into the theatre. And just when I thought all was well, since all I had to do was go up one step to my seat, I was frozen again, and could not lift my leg up the one step to my seat. So then a kind usher gave me a seat in the front row by asking people to change with me.

I watched the play’s 90 minutes with unswerving attention. Yes, I took a couple of those pills the neurologist suggested I take an hour before theatre begins. And that worked well enough for me to enjoy the play right to the end. “Enjoy” is the odd word here, since the enemy was cancer and the text was explicit, cruel, tortured, tense, without a second of relaxation. It was an amazing performance, grueling for the actor, and without a whisper anywhere in that hushed audience.

And now I am thinking about going to a lecture by Marilynne Robinson at the 92nd Street Y, not only with Elyse Hilton who bought our tickets more than a month ago, but also with daughter’-in-law AnnJ, and with former Goucher student Debby Rosenfelt, now retired professor at the University of Maryland, and former co-editor Nancy Hoffman, who used to be a Feminist Press Board member, perhaps even a founding Board member, and for decades one of the people closest to the reformation of U.S. high school education. AnnJ was quick to find a restaurant nearby, so that we can have a bit of time together before the lecture. And next time I will write about Marilynne Robinson.

Written February 15; revised February 17

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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