Follow the path of the barefoot frontrunners as I did, and the miracle of life as we know it reveals itself. These women without the benefit of ground established by society or politics took their claims to equality within the leadership of the women’s movement, or like Eleanor Roosevelt into the public view with a demand for women’s rights. But it is the women who followed the distant but persistent notion of what it was to be a free woman that established the new roles of both men and women, and the living of the principles of freedom and choice.
The history, conditions of change and timeline of social, sexual and political directions taken by these women who proceeded the baby boomers are the path I found. There is the recognition that the issues of feminism are not specific to men or women, but to social justice and equity, opening the possibility for dealing with world issues around those in power and the powerlessness.
It was in the 1960’s, the reality of civil rights, women’s rights and the right to protest a war in Viet Nam provided the canvas from which personal human rights were gained by those excluded from power. The unraveling of the patriarchy and rigid sex and class difference gave way to a new way of living as a man, as a woman and as a minority in this country. But the ethos spread all over the world and women all over the world are in gradual states of achieving more liberty, more dignity, and more choice about how they live their lives on a continuum of human rights around the world. Not just far away, but in segments of the population here in Oakland, or Richmond or Pakistan or India, the women who come forward break ground, functioning barefoot, -without a layer of protection from the society or from the political or moral structure present within the culture that has not broken from the issues of sexism and classism.
The memoir aspect of Barefoot Frontrunners is to emphasize that for many of us, we weren’t aware of what was happening politically for women, but just lived through a period of change and transformation within the structure of our lives. This work offers a context of the history of those women, and how sexual freedom allowed their full entry into all aspects of participation. The stories convey the experience of the process from which freedom is chosen, and is in honor of the women who came before us. Each woman individually made her choices that brought us to the shifts in the conception of who women are to themselves and the world around them. Given the conservative across the board effort to reduce women’s rights, this book is to give a view of all that has been gained and must not be lost. Eternal vigilance and compassion for all women, all people excluded from the option of living their lives freely and at choice-that would be the best benefit to engaging in Barefoot Frontrunners: Women, Sex and Power.
Peggy Reskin, BA University of California; Berkeley & MA Program Pacific School of Religion.