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Marlene Fried interviewed by Joyce Follet, August 14-15, 2007

 File — Box: 20
Link to transcript of Marlene Fried interview
Link to transcript of Marlene Fried interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

In this oral history, Fried recalls the loneliness of growing up as an only child and details the conventional class, gender, and racial norms that shaped her world in the 1950s. She describes her involvement in cultural and social movements of her day, with telling anecdotes of political experiences in New Left and women's liberation groups, personal life in a communal household, and professional challenges as a pioneering radical female academic. Her story highlights setbacks and breakthroughs in the struggle to sustain race- and class-conscious reproductive activism over the last 30 years. Fried also assesses her role as a white ally in a movement increasingly led by women of color and as a mentor to younger activists. (Transcript 110 pp).

Dates of Materials

  • August 14-15, 2007


Conditions Governing Web Access

The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that it may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Marlene Gerber was born June 6, 1945, the only child of Max Gerber, a Russian immigrant, and Ethel Kalinsky of Chicago. Her parents, who had grade school educations, owned and ran a small women's clothing store together. She grew up in a middle-class Jewish family of shopkeepers in Philadelphia.

Marlene graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, a public college-preparatory school, in 1963, and attended Northwestern University for two years before entering a brief first marriage and moving to Ohio. She earned a B.A. in Philosophy (1966) and an M.A. in Philosophy (1968) from the University of Cincinnati, where she was the only woman in her graduate program. She earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Brown University in 1972, then taught at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (1971-72), Dartmouth College (1972-77), and Bentley College (1977-86). Since 1986 she has been Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP) at Hampshire College, where her areas of specialization are reproductive rights and feminist philosophy. She has been married to William (Bill) D. Fried since 1970. They have two sons.

Fried considers herself an "accidental activist" initially and attributes her politicization to the vibrant social movements of her college years. She has continuously combined social activism and academic work. In the 1960s and 1970s she engaged in anti-war and civil rights protests and was active in the New American Movement. She and her husband Bill lived in a communal household in Boston. As one of the first women in philosophy, she struggled against sexism and other hierarchical practices in higher education and became a founder of the Rhode Island Women's Union and the Society of Women in Philosophy.

By the late 1970s, Fried was devoting her energies to socialist feminist reproductive rights work. She was involved in the Abortion Action Coalition and in the Massachusetts Childbearing Rights Alliance. She became a local and national leader in the Reproductive Rights National Network (R2N2), co-founder and board member of the Abortion Access Project, founding president and board member of the National Network of Abortion Funds, and co-founder and president of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. Fried is a member of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective and is currently participating in the Hyde-Thirty Years is Enough! Campaign to reverse the Hyde Amendment and restore public funding of abortion.

Fried's board memberships have included the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights, the General Service Foundation, Raising Women's Voices, and the Committee for Women, Population and the Environment.

From her base at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, Fried continues to teach, organize, and write about abortion and its place in a comprehensive plan for reproductive health and social justice. She is the editor of From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement (1990) and co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (2004), which won the 2005 Gustavus Myers Book Award.

Language of Materials