activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

End of (Another) Year Letter

December 17, 2012

Tags: election, family, traveling

Dear Friends:

Had I written this a month ago, or even a week ago, it might have been cheerful. But after still another murderously deranged young man, it’s hard to write even a sentence that does not contain a scream. What kind of society breeds, even fosters, such behavior? What kind of world allows the mother of a 20-year-old who did the killing to own three or four guns, at least one of them an automatic capable of shooting a roomful of people multiple times without reloading? What kind of world allows that mother not to know that her troubled son will seize these guns, kill her, and then go to a school and kill 20 young schoolchildren, a school principal, a psychologist, and several other teachers? My letter will go to many of you in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. You don’t have this problem, though some of you, as in Israel for example, do have many civilian gun owners. I ask you, in some desperation, What is wrong here? And can it ever be fixed?

I will stop and get to my news. I and many friends spent the better part of the year working for and worrying about the reelection of President Barack Obama, and we were much relieved to be rid of the possibility of a Romney victory. I am still moderately optimistic about what President Obama can do in the four years ahead of us, though we have enormous problems, given the money that still funds such reactionary anti-labor legislation as was recently passed in Michigan. And though I vowed to give only one paragraph to the murders above, can the President do anything to tighten gun registration laws, as well as to ban automatic weapons from civilian use?

Some of you know already that I had a worrisome medical problem that needed immediate surgery, and that was delayed by Hurricane Sandy. Though many victims of Sandy are still homeless, I was declared free of cancer, six weeks ago. During the next six weeks, I hope to return to the gym and the swimming that has kept me moderately fit.

Family news: Daughter Alice has moved to Topeka, Kansas for six months to care for Jack and Maben’s baby Mina, now nearly six months old and sister to Kennedy, now three. And Jack and Maben have moved into a new house. Granddaughter Doctor Florence moved to New York in July to work as a resident in radiology/oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital. Son David, now Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times and daughter-in-law AnnJ have moved into their new home in Washington, D.C. Their daughter and my granddaughter Miriam will finish Yale in June and take up a lab job at NYU here in New York. Goddaughter Marietta, a tenured professor at Catholic University in D.C., is now on sabbatical and will be coming to live with me here in New York while she acts in a one-woman play being written for her. So, yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, including lots of company here in New York City. In the aftermath of Sandy and my surgery, Don Thomas, Jorge Cao, and Yoya, their Maltese, came to stay with me for four days, since they live in lower Manhattan where there was no electricity. For me, all joy and laughter, far better than pain killers.

Kennedy, Alice, and Mira
Kennedy, Alice, and Mira

Baby MiraKennedyYoya
Baby Mira

Travel news: In June, with daughter Alice, I took a Smith College trip to Turkey for two weeks, truly a holiday, though quite strenuous for me. And less than a month later, in July, I spoke at a fascinating conference of and on international women writers held in Taiwan. For 2013 I have few travel plans, but I continue to enjoy connecting people I know here in the U.S. with people in Vietnam, Kenya, or other places. I trust also that some of you will make your way to New York, and allow me the pleasure of a visit. Argentina’s Gloria Bonder will be here in January.

I thought I would end on a pleasant note, but it’s impossible for a news junkie like me to stop worrying about friends in Cairo, Alexandria, and Tel Aviv, as well as the fires burning in Syria and continuing to burn in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, not to mention areas of China including Tibet. What keeps me sane can be described briefly as history, especially of the last 60 years, since my memory is still sharply operative about what I thought in the 1960s and how my own ideas shifted. I remember when I first realized that laws alone were insufficient to make change, that education keen enough to change human consciousness was at least as essential. And how slowly does change occur? Yes, that’s what is so hard. I will be 84 next birthday. Will I live to see at least a year without multiple shootings like this one in Connecticut?

With affection to all of you from Florence


  1. January 18, 2013 12:03 AM EST
    So glad to read your blog. It has been over 54 years that I have heard anything about you. I don't know if you remember me. I am Jack's first wife.
    - Goldie
  2. June 24, 2013 6:25 PM EDT
    Just a note about gun ownership in Israel. According to GunPolicy.org, the number of guns owned by civilians in Israel is 7.3 per 100 people. The number of guns owned by civilians in the U.S. is 101.05 per 100 people. And gun licensing and regulation is much stronger there than in the U.S.
    - Roslyn Lang
  3. August 7, 2013 11:19 AM EDT
    - Luella Bandstra
  4. April 26, 2017 5:28 AM EDT
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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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