Document Type

Book Chapter


Women's Studies


In this paper, I have argued that the family can sow the seeds of feminism through the lived feminism of its members, even when tho se members are not activists . I also argue that it is essential for us to tell our mother line stories if we are to fully comprehend where we wish to stand as feminists. Narrative is always political, and narratives of the past-our individual pasts and our collective pasts-require a theoretically grounded reader in order to be fully understood. Fredric Jameson put s it thus: "Only a genuine philosophy of history is capable of respecting the specificity and radical difference of the social and cultural past while disclosing the solidarity of its polemics and passions, its forms, structures, experiences, and struggles, with those of the present day". Jameson contends that only Marxist philosophy is adequate to the task of excavating the "political unconscious" in order to uncover its "socially symbolic acts". He emphasizes that the public/private distinction is important in such an analysis, as any analysis that maintains a public/private distinction in fact clouds the underlying politics that shape and produce behaviors in the "private realm." But I would suggest that feminists have long understood a similar logic by virtue of the recognition that "the personal is political." For Black women this knowledge was always present due to their lived experience (Collins 9). For many white Second Wavers, this critical reading ability was developed via consciousness-raising groups-they learned to decolonize their consciousnesses and frame their stories in a way that would be most beneficial to themselves and the women who shared their political aims.

The earned result of such excavatory work is clarity about who we are, where we stand, and what strengths we may draw upon. In my case, the ashes covering my great-grandmother's life are thick and have yielded but a few lentils for me to find. But they have been fruitful lentils nevertheless. The lived feminisms of my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother cleared the ground for me to stand upon. I'm standing on that ground, from which I've swept away as much ash as I can, and I can feel the lentils like pebbles beneath my feet.


Original Book:

Source Data

Reimer, V., & Sahagian, S. (2014). Mother of Invention: How Our Mothers Influenced Us As Feminist Academics and Activists. Toronto: Demeter Press.

Rights Management

Janice Okoomian