Towards a Female Liberation Movement
A former UF political science professor best characterized Gainesville, Florida in the 1960s as "The Berkley of the South."4 The small southern college town's progressive politics contrasted greatly when compared to its neighboring confederate counties and states thanks to the activism of local citizens.
Anti-war and desegregation were the two main issues of the decade, although a more subtle movement was forming against homophobia in response to the Charley Johns Florida Legislative Invesigation Committee that harassed gay and lesbian teachers, professors, and students in Gainesville and like cities in Florida from 1956 to 1965.3
Women, mainly those associated with the University of Florida, participated in voter registration and desegregation efforts in Gainesville and its surrounding areas. Around the same time, racial tensions intensified when a handful of African American students were admitted to the University of Florida in 1958, sparking protests and a riot.
One of the African American students, along with white civil rights ally Judith Brown, founded a first student civil rights organization at UF during that time, known as the Student Group.UF professor Marshall Jones and his colleague Ed Richard would supervise the group.
The Student Group organized sit-ins, marches, and boycotts throughout Gainesville, especially at the College Inn Cafeteria and the Florida Theatre, two racially segregated institutions that would not integrate until the late 1960s. It was through the Student Group that UF student Judith Brown and Beverly Jones, wife of Marshall Jones, would meet.
Beverly Jones and a group of professors' wives would co-found the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights organization in 1963 in an effort to propel the static movement forward. Meanwhile, that summer Judith Brown would join activists Betty Wright and Patricia Due Stephens in Congress on Race Equality (CORE) projects throughout North florida.13 Both women's involvement in civil rights activism would equip them to soon become the leading writers of a feminist revolution.
Beverly Jones, frustrated with the unequal gender relations in her marriage and the way in which men ignored women's politcal ideas at meetings altogether, would sit down to write "Towards a Female Liberation Movement" in 1968.
Judith Brown would join her to write the second part of the position paper that same year and would urge Jones to finish her section in time for the first national Women's Liberation meeting in Sandy Springs, Maryland where the paper circulated from one feminist's hands to another and became nationally acclaimed as "The Florida Paper."1