FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

Depression Gone Swimming and Politics

April 11, 2016

Tags: election, Alice, depression

This has been the shortest span of depression I can remember, and though I don’t feel completely free, I recognized the moment when the depression began to slip away. Paul Pombo was here, to deliver my tax return, and, yes, that had something to do with the relief I felt physically, especially since he coupled his remark that I don’t owe anything with another that I ought to go to Mallorca. And as if that were not enough, my daughter Alice Jackson called soon after Paul left to tell me that she’d booked us into a resort in Florida (formerly a navy base, since Alice was once in the navy) for a week in May. “You need to get out of New York’s weather for a bit,” she said.

So is that the solution? Movement? Or is it the water promised, the swimming and the snorkeling? And what does it all mean? Or is asking for meaning a waste of one’s energies? Why not just learn to live and enjoy the act of living, yes, despite infirmities, limitations, and the loss of independence and especially the loss of being able-bodied. Would that I could. Would that I were physically stronger, even as I was two or three years ago before the knee surgery and all that followed it.

I’ve left out for the moment my metaphysical connections to the world and so let me comment on what I did Sunday and review what the day’s politics have to do with my depression. I attended a fine panel of political commentators gathered together at Roosevelt House by the Board of the Hunter College High School Alumni Association (on which I sit as secretary). They were all our own alumni—graduates from classes mainly in the 1990s: two people from the New York Times, Ian Trontz and Aaron Retica, who was a brilliant chair of the panel; Amy Davidson of the New Yorker; Jamal Greene, professor of law at Columbia University; and perhaps the best known, Chris Hayes of MSNBC. (A niggling point I will mention only is that of attire: the token woman and the token Black professor were dressed formally. The three white men might have just gotten out of bed to romp with their kids in a park. So nothing has changed in that regard: women and blacks are still expected to show up looking appropriate. White menfolks can arrive in any condition and they are accepted for the brilliant light they shine.)

And I’m not taking anything away from them: the panelists were all fine. The chair was particularly effective; Amy Davidson and Chris Hayes talked the most. And Ian and Jamal were called on for their particular expertise. And there was much talk about the impact of “movements” upon the “rules” of the two political parties, especially with regard to decisions about whether they were “free” or “locked in,” and how an electorate might respond to unseating Trump, for example, or to seating Clinton rather than Sanders.

On the other hand, I was not easy with the discussion about young women choosing Sanders over Clinton, saying that gender had nothing to do with their choice. More important, I was more than annoyed by several in the audience emphasizing that Hillary Clinton was not the “last chance” for a woman to lead this country, that Elizabeth Warren “could get a nomination in a second,” and that there were more than a dozen women in the senate with more experience and acumen than Cruz, or even than Obama had eight years ago.

All this makes me very sad. I wish I could say “energized” and ready to go work for Hillary’s election. I am convinced intellectually and emotionally that we need Hillary Clinton now, and that there is no one who combines her quality of experience, knowledge, and heart. And she clearly has the energy for the job. I would not call Bernie Sanders a windbag, though his speeches are by now tedious repetitions that anyone could offer. But he’s had no experience that matches hers not only in foreign affairs, but in the politics of a large state like New York, and in spending eight years in the White House working on many issues including health care. Nor can I see him moving his pie-in-the-sky promises into bills that would pass Congress.

I am sorry I didn’t get to say this, but I say it here: We’d be fools not to use the competence and knowledge and heart of Hillary Clinton right now. Yes, other women will follow her, but there is only Hillary right now.

Nine and a Half Turkish Lira

June 22, 2012

Tags: Alice, traveling

Yesterday I couldn’t imagine what made my handbag so heavy, and today I found hidden in it nine handsome Turkish liras and one slightly smaller marked “50,” indicating half a lira. And immediately I thought, I must want to return. Silly? Probably so, but the response is also an indication of how remarkable I found the trip, and for many reasons. After a bus tour of Northern Scotland some ten years ago, I had eschewed bus or “group” trips altogether. What changed my mind about trying again was the label Smith College: Smithies, I reasoned quite sanely, wouldn’t accept boring. And Smithies were themselves not likely to be boring. It was not much of a gamble, therefore, as I look back on my decision to take it on, despite my age and knees. (more…)

The Power of Kennedy

October 7, 2011

Tags: family, Alice, Jack, Maban, Kennedy, visiting, Yoya

I’ve admitted to occasional bouts of depression, assuaged usually by a new mind-moving project, and on occasion by dog-sitting Yoya, a delightful Maltese, whose antics are irrepressibly comic, and whose cuddling warms my heart. Last week, I discovered another possibility—house guests who included a two-year old. Four visitors arrived for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack and his wife Maban, and their daughter Kennedy who is several months past two. Kennedy was not a nay-saying two-year-old. Her approach was “let me do it”—from feeding herself to feeding others. Fearless, she fed the largest animals in Central Park’s petting zoo, one food-pebble at a time. And fearless also, she fed Yoya small bits of cheese, and thus won her attention as well as her heart. (more…)

Cleaning Up

September 21, 2011

Tags: family, Alice, Jack, Maban, Kennedy

Four members of my chosen family are coming from Mississippi and Kansas to visit for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack, his wife, granddaughter Maban, and great-great-granddaughter Kennedy. To get ready, I cleaned closets and sent off to the Hunter College library three boxes of books. And then I turned to the boxes of overflow files for which there was no room in my huge filing cabinets, and which ran the gamut from the early 1960s to 2008—all in a heap. (more…)

Hurricane, only two days after, and then a few days more…

September 1, 2011

Tags: Don and Jorge, family, Alice, Florence (granddaughter)

It’s a blue-sky day as I look out my window and remember the pouring rain and the fear. I couldn’t move the large pots of trees and shrubs into my apartment. And I worried that they might become missiles aimed at my own windows or at my neighbor’s. Don, Jorge, and Jeannette, who happened to be in my apartment , turned the table on my deck upside down and pushed some of the large pots close to the building wall. I took in the light chairs and the empty flower pots. We left the three wooden planters where they were, against the northernmost railings. (more…)

Alice is visiting

December 13, 2010

Tags: family, Alice

My daughter Alice has been here for nearly a week and I’ve been too busy to write, but here’s a very brief summary. And perhaps before I begin, I should say that we’ve been “mother” and “daughter” since 1965, though we have never signed legal papers. Then she was 17 and I was 36; you can do the arithmetic if you are curious about our current ages. The first thing we did together was drive from Mississippi’s coast north to Baltimore, which was where I was then living and teaching at Goucher College. Alice finished her last year of high school there, at Park School. (more…)

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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