Lisa Levenstein is Director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She specializes in twentieth-century US women’s and gender history. Levenstein is the author of A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia and They Didn’t See Us Coming: The Hidden History of Feminism in the Nineties.
What happened to feminism after Women’s Lib faded from the headlines? Most assumed that activism fizzled in the 1990s, that feminism had splintered into factions—or had disappeared altogether. The front of Time Magazine asked, “Is feminism dead?” Some claimed the movement had become irrelevant, selling individualism dressed as “girl power.” But the feminism that has shaped the consciousness of millions of people today had distinct roots in the ‘90s. In They Didn’t See Us Coming, historian Lisa Levenstein argues we have missed many of the most vital contributions of the movement because we’ve been looking in the wrong places.
Lisa Levenstein reframes highly charged debates over the origins of chronic African American poverty and the social policies and political struggles that led to the postwar urban crisis. A Movement Without Marches follows poor black women as they traveled from some of Philadelphia’s most impoverished neighborhoods into its welfare offices, courtrooms, public housing, schools, and hospitals, laying claim to an unprecedented array of government benefits and services. With these resources came new constraints, as public officials frequently responded to women’s efforts by limiting benefits and attempting to control their personal lives.
“The smartest work I’ve read on how social movements have changed since the ‘60s. This is the vital backstory to the massive Women’s March of 2017, the #MeToo movement, and the capacious yet unsung organizing that is changing our world for the better.”
Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
"Lisa Levenstein adds a critically important chapter to the history of feminist activism by recovering the powerful intersectional voices of the 1990s. This book will shift our thinking about the evolution of modern feminism and is essential reading for anyone who cares about feminism or social justice."
Premilla Nadasen, author of Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement
"Lisa Levenstein’s poignant history of the change-makers in 1990s feminism shows how movements are made and sustained. They Didn’t See Us Coming is an important and compelling new account that brings this vital activism to life—and encourages us to learn from the work of these women."
Daisy Hernandez, coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism
“Lisa Levenstein has written a moving and exciting new history that captures the global roots of today’s feminism. This remarkable book lifts up the stories of women who blazed their own trail, and together changed the world.”
Loretta Ross, coeditor of Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundation, Theory, Practice, Critique
"Lisa Levenstein offers a refreshing and groundbreaking account of the feminist movements of the 1990s. She foregrounds the global arena and women of color to underscore how intersectional analyses of inequality fundamentally shaped women's movements, ideas, and strategies. This book introduces us to compelling people searching for ways to make a more just society."
Judy Wu, author of Radicals on the Road
"A sweeping and beautifully written account of a feminist movement that too many of us assumed had faded away. Lisa Levenstein reveals how a multiracial and global coalition of women kept feminism vibrant and alive, and shows that it was these women who made it possible for us to imagine a more just and equitable future today."