The ironically named Second Congress to Unite Women took place at an intermediate school in Chelsea during the weekend of May 1-3, 1970. I will never forget the intensity of the emotions that were released at the Congress—some of them directed specifically toward me.
Two dozen “Lavender Menace” T-shirts had been dyed and silk-screened at Ellen Broidy’s apartment. Even counting the Vassar students who were coming down for the action (Rita Mae had read her poetry at Vassar to great effect), the Radicalesbians did not expect to exceed that number. Ellen Shumsky got a shirt with scrunched-up letters. Artemis March, arriving with her cartons of “The Woman-Identified Woman,” got stuck with a shirt that came out bright fuchsia. On Friday morning Michela Griffo and Jessica Falstein talked their way into the school, claiming they had been sent by NOW to check out the auditorium’s light board.
Four hundred women were in their seats for the Friday night opening session, listening to the welcoming address, when Michela, hiding backstage, shouted, “Jessie, the lights!”
The auditorium was plunged into darkness. When the lights went back on, seventeen Lavender Menaces were on the stage and Martha Shelley had grabbed the microphone. Posters lined the sides of the hall: TAKE A LESBIAN TO LUNCH. LAVENDER JANE LOVES YOU. WE ARE ALL LESBIANS. LESBIANISM IS A WOMEN’S LIBERATION PLOT.
Jennifer Woodul, one of the Vassar students, watched in amazement as women unknown to the planners climbed onto the stage to join them. Others, some very well known to them, simply got up from their seats and formed an orderly line down below at the open mike. Sidney Abbott watched Ivy Bottini of NOW slowly made her way down the aisle. Then she spotted Kate Millett.
“I know what this oppression is all about—I’ve lived it,” Millett said softly when it was her turn at the microphone.
The Lavender Menaces held forth for two hours that night, and conducted consciousness-raising workshops during the next two days of the conference. Artemis March sold out her supply of “The Woman-Identified Woman.” A bunch of women, straight and gay, caroused happily on Saturday night at an all-women’s dance at the Church of the Holy Apostles. Lesbians would be silent no longer in the women’s movement.
Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution