Community Organizing

In their 1998 paper, Stall & Stoecker identified two main types of community organizing styles: the Alinsky style, based on the principles of 1930s organizer Saul Alinsky, and women-centered (or coalition building), which is derived from the organizing practices of women and people of color. As Stall & Stoecker describe it it, “the Alinsky model begins with ‘community organizing’–the public sphere battles between the haves and the have-nots. The women-centered model begins with ‘organizing community’–building expanded private sphere relationships and empowering individuals through those relationships.” Working at the same time as Alinsky, Clara Shavelson mixed both of these methods in her career, organizing women in her neighborhoods to a fair amount of success. READ MORE


Activism and Motherhood

Women’s roles in society diversified in the 20th century, but motherhood and domestic duties remained the primary role for most women. The idealized roles for women that focuses on the domestic sphere has roots in upper-middle-class Victorian England. The emphasis on the domestic creates certain expectations for women: that they will first and foremost be mothers, that they will cook and clean and shop and take care of the family. In the United States, the domestic has been a rallying point for women’s engagement in the public, political sphere since the Revolutionary era. Yet the call to public action through the domestic can be an area of tension as traditional household and parental duties conflict with political work outside the home. Clara Shavelson’s life is no exception, and these tensions are evident in her life and work. READ MORE

New York City

In a city as large and diverse as New York, the neighborhood becomes the locus of power. Clara Lemlich Shavelson understood this, and used it to her advantage. The density of neighborhoods, and the tendency for people to live near others with similar backgrounds can be worked to the organizer’s advantage. After she left union and suffrage organizing, Shavelson’s organizing was conducted in along two interconnected lines—location and identity. With her eye always on the end goals, Shavelson leveraged these two aspects of life in New York City to great effect. READ MORE

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