Ode to Flo (1929-2020)
Florence Howe (Feminist Press)

Florence Howe, a co-founder of the Feminist Press, died on September 12 at the age of 91. Owing to her efforts, such classics of early feminist writing were republished, such as Rebecca Harding Davis’s 1861 Life in the Iron Mills and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 The Yellow Wall-Paper. Other authors championed by the Feminist Press include Agnes Smedley, Paule Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston and Tillie Olsen. The full Los Angeles Times Associated Press obituary can be read here. The poet uses the Yiddish word “chutzpadik,” which means “nervy.”

Ms. Florence Howe showed ’em why
While it had always paid to be a guy
Her Feminist Press reversed the flow
Creating currents of cultural undertow
As she spun sweet Lit. from distaff flax
(Staving off zealous males’ attacks by
Marrying and unmarrying her first three
While earning an English M.A. degree)
Flo sowed the seed of women’s writing
Uncovered hoards of scripted lightning
Published work that disturbed the quiet
By Willa Cather, Alice Walker, Pussy Riot
Now “Me Too” has made its presence felt
But in days of yore when cards were dealt
Over the green felt smoke of poker tables
And “women of note” were Betty Grables
Some chutzpadik girls from Hunter College
Took on the dukes of accepted knowledge
And with passion, strategy, guts and cunning
Got the “other half’s” cognitive motor running.

—September 14, 2020


Peter Lownds
Peter Lownds

Peter Lownds is an author and translator living in Los Angeles.