This curation examines the discussion and activism surrounding sterilizations of women of color during the Second Wave Feminist Poetry Movement. As reproductive freedom became an important feminist issue, sterilization was widely supported due to its low-cost and procedural simplicity. Yet, at the time, sterilizations were disproportionately affecting women of color. It was estimated that around 20 percent of all married Black women were sterilized by 1970, 30 percent of Puerto Rican women were sterilized by 1974, and 24 percent of all Native American women of childbearing age were sterilized by 1976 (Davis120). Many of these women did not understand that the procedure was irreversible. Thus, in the early 1970s, many feminist publications began to label these mass sterilizations as genocide. This exhibit explores the importance of reproductive rights for every woman as defined by Margaret Cerullo’s “Hidden History: An Illegal Abortion” and Lucile Clifton’s “the lost baby poem.” It delves into the impact of mass sterilizations on women of color through poetry by Kristen Lems and Chicana/o poets including Donna James and David Hernandez. It also looks into how feminist publications like Big Mama Rag, the Amazon, and Triple Jeopardy began to report on and challenge the flaws within medical practices in the United States.
– Marta Symkowick
Davis, Angela. “Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights.” Woman Race Class, Vintage E-Books, 1981. pp. 117-127