Ti-Grace Atkinson

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Ti-Grace Atkinson
Grace Atkinson

(1938-11-09) November 9, 1938 (age 85)
  • Activist
  • writer
  • philosopher
Years active1968–1974
Organization The Feminists (1968–1971)
Movement Radical feminism
Charles Leeds Sharpless
(m. 1956;div. 1962)

Grace Atkinson (born November 9, 1938), better known as Ti-Grace Atkinson, is an American radical feminist activist, writer and philosopher. [2] [ page needed ]


Early life and education

Atkinson was born on November 9, 1938 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, into a prominent Cajun Republican family. [3] Her father, Francis Decker Atkinson, was a chemical engineer for Standard Oil, and her mother, Thelma Atkinson, was a homemaker. [4] [5] Named after her grandmother, Grace, the "Ti" is Cajun French for petite, meaning "little". [6] [7] She traveled extensively in her childhood, and attended multiple schools in Europe and the United States. [7] Atkinson married her high school boyfriend, Air Force captain Charles Leeds Sharpless, whom she divorced around 1961 or 1962. [4] [3]

Atkinson earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1964. While still in Philadelphia, she helped found the Institute of Contemporary Art, acting as its first director. Atkinson was also a sculpture critic for the periodical ARTnews, as well as a painter, and associated with artists such as Elaine de Kooning. [8] In 1969, a photograph of Atkinson was published in a series by Diane Arbus in the London Sunday Times. [9] She later moved to New York City where, in 1967, she entered the PhD program in philosophy at Columbia University, where she studied with the philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto. [10] [11] [12] She received her Master's degree in 1990, but did not complete her dissertation. [7]

Atkinson later moved on to study the work of Gottlob Frege with philosopher Charles Parsons. She taught at several colleges and universities over the years, including the Pratt Institute, Case Western Reserve University and Tufts University. [13]


As an undergraduate, Atkinson read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex , and struck up a correspondence with Beauvoir, who suggested that she contact Betty Friedan. [14] Atkinson became an early member of the National Organization for Women, which Friedan had co-founded, serving on the national board, and becoming the New York chapter president in 1967. [15] Her time with the organization was tumultuous, including a row with the national leadership over her attempts to defend and promote Valerie Solanas and her SCUM Manifesto in the wake of the Andy Warhol shooting. [16]

In 1968, she became critical of the organization's inability to confront issues like abortion and marriage inequalities; she also felt it replicated patriarchal power structures, and resigned from her presidency after her proposal to abolish NOW's executive offices was defeated in a vote. [10] [17] She founded the October 17th Movement, named for the date of her resignation, which would later became The Feminists, a radical feminist group active until 1973; however, she left the group in 1971 when the group barred its members from speaking to the press. [3] By then, she had written several pamphlets on feminism, was a member of the Daughters of Bilitis and was advocating specifically political lesbianism. [18] Atkinson led and participated in protests against Richard Nixon, the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, and gender-segregated classified ads in the New York Times. [19] [20] [21] She advocated for more violent means of activism, and publicly admired the Italian-American Unity League and the Weathermen. [22] [23] Her book Amazon Odyssey was published in 1974. [24] Atkinson was involved with Sagaris, an experimental feminist summer school in Lyndonville, Vermont, in the 1970s, but left the organization with several other faculty members after the school accepted a grant from Ms. Magazine. [25]

In 1971, Patricia Buckley Bozell, a Catholic and conservative activist, slapped or attempted to slap (unclear if physical contact was actually made) Atkinson after the latter made what Bozell described as "an illiterate harangue against the mystical body of Christ". [26] [27] The incident occurred on the platform of Catholic University of America's auditorium while Atkinson was discussing the virginity of the Virgin Mary. [28]

"Sisterhood", Atkinson famously said in her 1971 resignation from the Feminists, "is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters." [29] [30] In 2013, Atkinson, along with Carol Hanisch, Kathy Scarbrough, and Kathie Sarachild, initiated "Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of 'Gender'", which they described as an "open statement from 48 radical feminists from seven countries". [31] In August 2014, Michelle Goldberg in The New Yorker described it as expressing their "alarm" at "threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender." [32]



Pamphlets and book chapters

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  1. 1 2 Collection: Papers of Ti-Grace Atkinson, 1938–2013, Harvard Library.
  2. Wilkinson, Sue; Kitzinger, Celia (1993). Heterosexuality: A Feminism and Psychology Reader. Sage Publications. ISBN   0-8039-8823-0.
  3. 1 2 3 Buchanan, Paul D. (2011). Radical feminists : a guide to an American subculture. Internet Archive. Santa Barbara, Calif. : Greenwood. p. 100. ISBN   978-1-59884-356-9.
  4. 1 2 Carll, Johanna; Dalton, Margaret (2017). "Papers of Ti-Grace Atkinson, 1938-2013". Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  5. Kwon, Sarah (January 6, 2016). "Ti-Grace Atkinson, at home in Cambridge, adds cause to radical feminism: Housing". Cambridge Day. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  6. "An 'Oppressed Majority' Demands Its Rights", by Sara Davidson, Life Magazine , 1969. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
  7. 1 2 3 David De Leon (1994). Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism. Greenwood Press. ISBN   0-313-27414-2.
  8. Fahs, Breanne (2011). "Ti-Grace Atkinson and the Legacy of Radical Feminism". Feminist Studies. 37 (3): 561–590. ISSN   0046-3663. JSTOR   23069922.
  9. Rabinowitz, Paula (2001). "Medium Uncool: Women Shoot Back; Feminism, Film and 1968 — A Curious Documentary". Science & Society. 65 (1): 72–98. doi:10.1521/siso. ISSN   0036-8237. JSTOR   40403885.
  10. 1 2 Lynne E. Ford, "Ti-Grace Atkinson" entry, Encyclopedia of Women and American Politics, Infobase Publishing, January 1, 2009, pp. 40–41, accessed August 2013.
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  12. "Conference, Photo Exhibit To Mark 40th Anniversary of Spring '68". Columbia College Today. March–April 2008. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
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  14. O'Dea, Suzanne. From Suffrage to the Senate: an encyclopedia of American women in politics, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 1999.
  15. Movement Chronology, Civil War-Present, wfu.edu. Accessed January 20, 2022.
  16. "Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. | The Dobkin Family Collection of Feminism". www.glennhorowitz.com. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014.
  17. Brownmiller, Susan (March 15, 1970). "'Sisterhood is Powerful'". The New York Times . p. 230. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  18. Kate Bedford and Ara Wilson Lesbian Feminist Chronology: 1971–1976 Archived 2007-07-17 at the Wayback Machine
  19. Kennedy, Florynce (1976). Color me Flo : my hard life and good times. Internet Archive. Englewood Cliff, N.J. : Prentice-Hall.
  20. Simpson, Ruth (1977). From the closet to the courts : the lesbian transition. Internet Archive. New York : Penguin Books. ISBN   978-0-14-004353-2.
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  23. Churchill, Lindsey Blake (2005). "Exploring Women's Complex Relationship with Political Violence: A Study of the Weathermen, Radical Feminism and the New Left". Digital Commons at University of South Florida. Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  24. Linda J. LeMoncheck (1997). Loose Women, Lecherous Men: a feminist philosophy of sex . Oxford University Press. p.  229. ISBN   0-19-510555-9. Amazon Odyssey Grace Atkinson 1974.
  25. "The Women Activists Found Little Peace At Bucolic School". The New York Times. August 29, 1975. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved January 24, 2024.
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  29. Faludi, Susan (April 15, 2013). "Death of a Revolutionary". The New Yorker.
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  31. Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of 'Gender'", at Meeting Ground online, August 12, 2013, updated with more signatures September 20, 2013.
  32. Michelle Goldberg, "What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism", The New Yorker , August 4, 2014.