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This review is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.

EDITED OUT Dale Spender There's Always Been A Women's Movement This Century (Pandora Press) £2.95

'Silence', writes Adrienne Rich in another context, 'can be a plan, rigorously executed'. The contention Dale Spender makes in There's Always Been A Women's Movement This Century is that women's silence in history and in political thought is a result of a 'plan' rigorously executed by a male-dominated culture hostile to women's criticism and subversive action. Women's attempts to shape and control their own meanings have been, in Spender's phrase, 'edited out' of the catalogue of patriarchal culture. As Rich describes it, women's thinking is made to seem 'sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own'. This has meant that every generation of feminists has tended to believe that it was the first to make radical claims for women's full humanity. As each generation has realized that it is part of a long tradition of female dissent its contributions have in turn been erased. There's Always Been represents Spender's recognition that the previous generation of feminists, women from the suffrage and citizenship movements, live and work on ignored by the mainstream and unknown to the new generation of feminists.

There's Always Been consists of a chapter on each of five such feminists. It is made up of excerpts from Spender's interviews with these women and of quotations from their published work, held together by a narrative describing the author's responses to and explanations of their ideas. What is most strongly expressed in each chapter is a sense of continuity and an answering sense of relief that ...


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