Women Against Imperialism Timeline

July 24, 1974

The Weather Underground produces and distributes 5,000 copies of Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. A collectively produced manifesto articulating multiple political visions and amalyses, the book advocated mass participation in anti-imperialist struggle led by people of color, understood as "internally colonized groups," resulting in the overthrow of the United States government. The document inspires the name for the above-ground organization, Prairie Fire (originally the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee or PFOC). 

Jan 30 - Feb 1, 1976

The National Hard Times Conference is organized by the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee and the Weather Underground Organization. At the Chicago gathering, a Black caucus and a women’s caucus organize to confront Weather, drawing attention to the contradiction between the work of Weather and the principles promoted in Prairie Fire. In recent political documents, Weather had privileged organizing the white working class at the expense of antiracist and antisexist organizing initiatives. This confrontation, calling out racism and sexism within the organization, marks the beginning of the end of the Weather Underground.

1979

At the “Boston Conference,” where anti-imperialist organizations and cadres had gathered, Black lesbian feminist poet and activist Pat Parker calls for women’s organizations to form in anti-imperialist movements. Women of Prairie Fire, attending the conference, decide to create a women’s organization to enhance their ability to “bring feminism to the anti-imperialist movement and anti-imperialism to the feminist movement.”

1979-1983

The women’s caucus of Prairie Fire in the Bay Area form the early phase of Women Against Imperialism; each year, on March 8th, they gather a coalition of organizations for a march and rally in honor of International Women's Day, an event they would continue to organize annually in San Francisco for the next decade.

1982-1983

Women Against Imperialism launch the campaign, “Don’t Join the Force Behind the Star,” in response to San Francisco Police Department's recruitment of women police officers.

April 1982

 WAI releases the pamphlet “The Issue of Zionism in the Women’s Movement,” voicing a feminist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist form of anti-Zionism. One month after this publication, Israeli Defense Forces invade and occupy southern Lebanon. At the same time, the Jewish Feminist Conference, meeting at the Women’s Building in San Francisco, creates a site where Zionism and anti-Zionism are represented and debated among Jewish feminists. While the conference produces no collective statement against Israeli violence, Women Against Imperialism rallies outside the building to distribute anti-Zionist literature. They are yelled at—and even spit on—by some conference attendants. In July, WAI’s anti-Zionist statement is published in Off Our Backs, retitled as “Taking Our Stand Against Zionism and White Supremacy;” it is juxtaposed against the Yiddish study group, De Vilde Chayes’ “Open Letter,” which explicitly argues in defense of Zionism and against Women Against Imperialism.

May 1985

The FBI arrests The North American Anti-Imperalists Marilyn Buck, Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, Alan Berkman, and Elizabeth Duke, naming them “The Resistance Conspiracy.” This resulted in their case, and related cases, spurring forms of public advocacy through which anti-imperialist feminism, lesbian feminism, a broad coalition of revolutionary socialist, antiracist and anti-imperialist movements met and mixed.

1986-1988

Out of Control: Lesbian Committee to Support Women Political Prisoners forms. Instigated and led in part by ex-political prisoner Bo Brown, several founding members were also members of WAI and Prairie Fire. For their major work during the first several years, OOC waged an ultimately successful campaign to close the Lexington Control Unit, where political prisoners Susan Rosenberg, Silvia Baraldini, and Alejandrina Torres were incarcerated in a sensory deprivation and isolation facility. Out of Control continued its work to support women political prisoners for the next two decades, campaigning for the release of Linda Evans, Marilyn Buck, the MOVE women prisoners, and many more.

December 1989

WAI shuts down the military recruiting office on Market Street in San Francisco, entering the building by posing as Christmas carolers. Protesting US sponsorship of counterrevolutionary violence in Nicaragua and El Salvador, WAI members enter the office, overturn furniture, and cover the walls with their own signage, including a banner reading “Arena + U.$. = Murder in El Salvador.” Outside, protesters gather, leaving stickers and flyers on the windows and walls reading “Lesbians and Gays Say US Out of El Salvador! The FMLN Will Win!”, “Women Resist! Stop All Ollie Norths,” “Who’s the Real Terrorist?” and “Defend Women’s Liberation in Nicaragua!”

1991

To draw attention to Operation Desert Storm, WAI stage the “Women’s Emergency Response Protest”, where 800 women gather and march on Van Ness Avenue, chanting against war and sexist violence, and in support of the Palestinian Intifada. An 18-foot-high “Wall of Resistance”, created out of sheets, forms a space for protesters to highlight issues including violence against women, US militarism, homelessness, and health care access.

August 1992

In response to federal changes in abortion laws, including the imposition of a 24-hour waiting period, WAI, ACT-UP Women’s Caucus, and Women’s Health Action and Mobilization protest “the death of Roe v. Wade” with the “Furious Funeral From Hell,” creating a 2-and-a-half hour procession through the city, including 35 coffin-covered cars that wound through the streets of San Francisco. At the end of the motorcade, 150 women “invade” and block access to the Bohemian Club, a men’s only establishment, where President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George Bush Sr. and Richard Nixon are members. In this action, WAI and their fellow activists expose the male-dominated elite that made decisions affecting women’s health and limiting reproductive justice, while staging a public ritual of feminist mourning and rage.