National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Ken Burns and Feminism’s ‘Fore-Mothers’

BY Susan B. Anthony

April 16-22, 2000 Issue | Posted 4/16/00 at 1:00 PM

 

In a March 27 article called “The Censoring of Feminist History” Village Voice columnist and jazz historian Nat Hentoff criticized a series on the early feminists by documentarian Ken Burns entitled Not for Ourselves Alone for not telling the whole truth about the early American feminists.

“I asked Ken Burns if he had known of their [the early feminists'] pro-life views. ‘Yes,’ he said unhesitatingly. ‘But I thought it really important to show the connection between the women's and the abolitionist movements. How Frederick Douglass, for instance, so strongly stood up for a woman's right to vote.’

“‘But in your research,’ I told Burns, ‘you couldn't have missed how often and fiercely they fought against abortion.’ Burns did not deny that they did, but he insisted that what he calls 'the largest social transformation in American history’ should not, in his documentary, have been ‘burdened by present and past differing views on choice.’

“I respect Burns a great deal, but his use of the word ‘choice’ indicates to me where he's coming from on the subject of abortion. Both [Susan B.] Anthony and [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton believed unequivocally that in an abortion the unborn child does not have a choice of whether to continue living. Feminists for Life of America … has protested this exclusion of a belief that meant so much to Anthony and Stanton.”

Cited by Jewish World Review, March 27