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    Our Exciting Birth
By Robyn Bahr
Spring 2016 On Our Way Newsletter
The Women's Center


888 Memorial Dr.
On March 8, 1971, at the burgeoning of the women's liberation movement, several hundred young activists marched from an International Women's Day rally on the Boston Common into Cambridge, and ended up seizing a Harvard University building in the name of feminism. They called it "The Women's Center." They guarded the doors, keeping watch for Harvard officials, police, and media attempting to draw them out for trespassing. And they endured disconnected heat, electricity and water, protesters, eviction threats and more, to take a stand and demand justice.

Today, on Pleasant Street, the Cambridge Women's Center still upholds the legacy of these radical actions.

On March 8, 2016, exactly 45 years after this historic event, we had the opportunity to attend a special preview screening for supporters of Susan Rivo's energizing documentary, "Left on Pearl," an account of the occupation from the voices of the diverse women —undervalued college students, newly liberated lesbians, restless homemakers and many others —who took over 888 Memorial Drive calling for women's rights and social change.

Rivo's work is an achievement of found footage (many of the images painstakingly gathered from library archives and even rescued from trash), fully immersing us into an era of upheaval that feels remarkably familiar given today's political climate. With the aid of a revving '60s blues-rock soundtrack, Rivo deftly interweaves reels of 1960s and 1970s feminist activism with dozens of contemporary interviews, painting a rich portrait of the oppressive culture that led to the women's liberation movement , and what made Cambridge and the Boston area so integral to its beginnings.

The Women's Center still stands for the empowerment of all women. We're a space that honors the needs of women in 2016 —whether through art, emotional support, advocacy, or time to just be.

Before the screening, hundreds of women (many of them now into their 70s and 80s) gathered at the Kendall Square Cinema, about two miles from where the action took place nearly half a century ago, reminiscing about the work they or their friends did to usher feminism into the modern conversation. For me, witnessing this was akin to attending a college reunion of people who graduated from your alma mater a lifetime before you even enrolled, before you were even born. These women took part in the second wave of feminism that I have benefited from all my life. What they have forgotten, I have yet to learn. And there is still much work to be done.

—Robyn Bahr is a member of the Women's Center's Board of Trustees


For more information about the film, visit leftonpearl.org.

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