Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers (web)

Download PDFby Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English

An early 1970s left feminist interpretation of Malleus Maleficarum * is the centrepiece of this essay by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English. Witches, Midwives and Nurses explains how the American medical profession came to be dominated by rich, white men. It sets the tone for a dark story of the co-optation by men of medicine as practiced by women from the earliest times and the subsequent alienation, persecution, and subjugation of such women with the rise of the male-dominated “medical profession.” The tragic irony of this tale is that all the good about that profession came from the independent “wise women” of olde.

Originally published by The Feminist Press at CUNY.

 “To know our history is to begin to see how
to take up the struggle again!”


Women have always been healers. They were the unlicensed doctors and anatomists of western history. They were abortionists, nurses and counsellors. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, travelling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lectures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbour to neighbour and mother to daughter. They were called “wise women” by the people, witches or charlatans by the authorities. Medicine is part of our heritage as women, our history, our birthright.

Today, however, health care is the property of male professionals. Ninety-three percent of the doctors in the US are men; and almost all the top directors and administrators of health institutions. Women are still in the overall majority — 70 percent of health workers are women — but we have been incorporated as workers into an industry where the bosses are men. We are no longer independent practitioners, known by our own names, for our own work. We are, for the most part, institutional fixtures, filling faceless job slots: clerk, dietary aide, technician, maid.

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“Separate and Equal”?: Mujeres Libres and Anarchist Strategy for Women’s Emancipation (web)

Download PDFMartha A. Ackelsberg

Anarchist insistence that revolutionary movements can develop effectively only if they speak to the specific realities of people’s lives leads logically to the conclusion that a truly revolutionary movement must accommodate itself to diversity. It must reflect an understanding of the life experiences of those who participate in it as a first step to engaging them in the revolutionary process. The need is particularly acute, and the strategic issues especially complex, in the case of women, whose daily life experiences in many societies have been, and continue to be, different from those of men.

In the early years of this century, Spanish anarchists – male and female – articulated a vision of a non-hierarchical, communitarian, society in which women and men would participate equally. And yet, in pre-Civil War Spain, most women were far from “ready” to participate equally with men in the struggle to realize that vision. Although the organised anarcho-syndicalist movement (the Confederación National del Trabajo [CNT]) oriented itself primarily to workplace struggles, the majority of Spanish women were not engaged in factory work. Many of those who did engage in paid labour – mostly in the textile industry – worked at home, for piece rate wages, and were not unionised. Women who worked and had families continued to do “double duty” as housewives and mothers. The particular forms women’s oppression took in Spain kept women effectively subordinated to men even within the context of the revolutionary anarchist movement.

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The Kronstadt Rebellion: Still Significant 90 Years On (web)

Download PDFby Shawn Hattingh (ZACF)

Over the last few years, many on the left have been trying to formulate a vision of socialism based on democracy. As a consequence countless papers and talks have been produced internationally about how socialism needs to be participatory if true freedom is to be achieved. Some have given this search for a form of democratic socialism evocative names, such as ‘Twenty-First Century socialism’, ‘socialism-from-below’ and ‘eco-socialism’. In South Africa the desire for a democratic socialism has also inspired initiatives such as the Conference for a Democratic Left (CDL); while even the South African Communist Party has outlined a need for a more participatory socialist agenda. (For a further elaboration on the CDL, and its resultant formation of the Democratic Left Front see the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front’s statement at www.anarkismo.net/article/18858)

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