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International Women’s Day, 1971: Proclaiming a Women’s Declaration of Independence, hundreds of women gathered for a march at the Boston Common. They demanded equal pay for equal work, free community controlled child-care, and free medical care including abortion and birth control. The march ended with the surprise seizure and occupation of a Harvard-owned building, renamed “The Women’s Center. This action had a lasting impact, including the establishment of the longest continuously operating community Women’s Center in the United States
Determined to preserve the memory of this pivotal event, we - an historian, an archivist, and a community activist - formed the 888 Women’s History Project in 2001, to record interviews and collect related material. We felt compelled, before memories fade, to document this transformational moment in women’s history through a documentary film, LEFT ON PEARL: WOMEN TAKE OVER 888 MEMORIAL DRIVE, produced and directed by filmmaker Susie Rivo.
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Boston was a major hub of the emerging women’s liberation movement. LEFT ON PEARL reveals the confluence among the political struggles of the time, the antiwar, civil rights, Black Power, and gay rights movements with the women’s movement. The film presents the demands, triumphs, and conflicts within early Second Wave feminism, makes visible the emergence of lesbians within the movement, and raises awareness of women’s still unfinished struggle.
Through a multiplicity of voices – over 50 women were interviewed – LEFT ON PEARL explores what led women of different class, race, and ethnic backgrounds to join the Women’s Liberation Movement. With compelling, and often humorous accounts of the secret planning of the takeover. Rare archival footage, television newsreels, personal journals and photographs bring the viewer back to the time and place of that little known but highly significant action.
LEFT ON PEARL highlights several intertwined stories: the need for women’s space, the demands of the predominantly African-American Riverside community for affordable housing, and Harvard University’s expansion into working class Cambridge communities.
The 888 Women’s History Project is creating a rich archive of the development and impact of the women’s liberation movement in Boston. The entire archive will be accessible to students and the larger community through study guides and interactive media to be used in tandem with the film, LEFT ON PEARL.