Grassroots A Field Guide for Feminist Activism

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards; With an Introduction by Winona LaDuke

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

336 Pages



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Whether you are a student or a stay-at-home mom, an artist or a corporate professional, Grassroots illustrates how anyone, no matter how much or little they believe they have to offer, can become an activist. This ever-timely guide shows that even small, seemingly minor efforts have the potential to produce a sea change in our lives—and in our world.

Passionate activists/feminists who've traveled the globe from Green Bay to Havana in their efforts to raise awareness, Baumgardner and Richards, co-authors of the acclaimed Manifesta, know that whether one is concerned about the environment, human-rights violations in Tibet, the WTO, sweatshop labor, or the ongoing repercussions of the war in Iraq, we all possess the tools needed to make a difference. Based on the authors' own experiences and those of the large number of everyday activists with whom they work on a regular basis, Grassroots shows how to move beyond passive activism—such as monetary donations and writing congresspeople—to make a far-reaching impact from a personal vantage point.

Drawing heavily on individual stories as examples, Grassroots brims with clear guidelines and useful models and methods for activism. (The book's two appendices offer a "glossary of the most useful forms of activism" and a "chapter-by-chapter resource guide"—and a detailed bibliography and full index are also included.) At last, here is an accessible guide to both setting and achieving realistic goals by identifying and focusing on the resources most readily available to you—be it the office copier, the campus quad, or the family living room.


Praise for Grassroots

"Warm [and] engaging."—Jessica Clark, In These Times

"The strength of Grassroots is not only in Baumgardner and Richards' recognition that many women want to contribute for social justice in ways that can't easily be confused with paying a cell-phone bill; it is also in their recognition that lasting social change rarely comes solely from above."—Laura Ciolkowski, Chicago Tribune

"If the question is 'What can I do to help?' this book is an answer."—The Ottawa Citizen

"Have you ever wanted to make a difference but didn't know how? Grassroots is the book you've been waiting for. Using examples drawn from progressive and feminist campaigns all over the country, veteran activists Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards explain how to organize your friends, your community, and most important, yourself."—Katha Pollitt

"To that nice young woman in Liberty, Missouri, who asked me how she could become a world-changing activist: Read Grassroots!"—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

"A booster shot of inspiration, Grassroots reaches out to activists of all generations. Baumgardner and Richards have not only shared the secrets of their own and others' success—just as important, they've recorded the mistakes they've made . . . By showing the fits and starts of real-life activism, Grassroots will help readers to both sustain their enthusiasm for social justice work and be more effective as a result."—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes

"Grassroots contains useful informatin about how to create change in our communities, and is a inspiring reminder to exeryday citizens that with the right tools they can transform their communities. This terrific book is an important addition to the field of community organizing."—Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation

"In this unquestionably useful, undoubtedly feel-good guide to feminist activism, the authors of Manifesta reveal how women can effect change without being highly experienced (suburban teenagers and investment bankers can do it), morally irreproachable (one can protest Nike's labor practices and still wear its shoes), or dull and unfashionable (Legally Blonde's Elle Woods is an activist—albeit a fictional one) . . . The authors' warm, encouraging tone and examples of everyday people doing good—themselves included—are inspiring. 'You don't have to take the world on your shoulders—you just need to take advantage of the opportunities your life provides for creating social justice,' they insist. Lauren, a 33-year-old writer at Smart Money, decided to join a lawsuit against her insurance provider for refusing to subsidize birth control; Allison started a feminist group to fight stereotypes at her Santa Barbara high school; Nisha makes queer-friendly films about South Asian women. Profiled along with many others, these women each embody Baumgardner and Richard's eloquently argued claim that 'activism should be of you, not outside of you.'"—Publishers Weekly

"This book starts with the comforting presumption that one need not be a vegan, tree-hugging, round-the-clock meeting-goer to be an activist. Instead, Baumgardner and Richards offer anyone interested in improving the world in small but significant ways to effect social change. Regardless of one's area of interest—whether it's assuring access to abortion, stopping rape, helping welfare recipients, or legalizing gay marriage—the authors detail ways to formulate campaigns and set tangible goals. Multiple examples flesh-out abstract theories, and a comprehensive appendix provides novices with the contacts they'll need to test the waters . . . Their recognition that everyone can do something is refreshing. What's more, their definition of feminism is so inclusive it's bound to resonate: 'Feminism is the movement toward full political, economic, and social equality for men and women.' Would-be agitators, look no further for the sass, savvy, and skills you'll need to begin. Highly recommended."—Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY, Library Journal

"Instructive anecdotes, garnered from the authors' own experiences and those of women they've known, illustrate some successful tactics of feminist activists. As they did in Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, Baumgardner and Richards address women in their 20s and 30s who make up what is known as feminism's 'Third Wave.' The present work is designed to provide specific, useful answers to their questions, many originally voiced to Richards's online 'Ask Amy' column. The first chapter describes the authors' attempt in 2002 to reinstate New York City's recycling program: the steps they took, the mistakes they made, and the take-home lessons they learned from the experience. Subsequent chapters address, in order, high-school students, college students, women just out of school, and working women. Each begins with personal essays by the authors, usually written individually but sometimes jointly, in which they place themselves back in the milieu of the target audience. These are followed by stories about feminist activists in that demographic, describing the ways they've worked to bring about social change and the advice they have for others who want to do likewise . . . Many would-be feminist activists will probably be most reassured by the final chapter's message—activism should be of you, not outside of you—and by its examples of small forms of activism in daily life. An appendix provides a substantial chapter-by-chapter resource guide listing helpful publications, organizations, Web sites, checklists, and action plans."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


chapter 1
Why the World Needs Another Advice Book
"How do we bring attention to [an] issue and make change, not just discuss it, not just march about it, but make change?"
--Ruby Dee, actor and activist

Read the full excerpt


  • Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards; With an Introduction by Winona LaDuke

  • Jennifer Baumgardner is a former editor at Ms. She writes regularly for The Nation, Jane, Glamour, National Public Radio, and Out. She is the author of Look Both Ways.

    Amy Richards is a member of the advisory board at Ms. She also heads the Third Wave Foundation, an activist group for young feminists. She is the author of Opting In.

    They are the co-authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, as well as the founders of Soapbox, Inc., a speakers' bureau representing outspoken experts with a progressive take on current events and culture.

  • Jennifer Baumgardner Ali Prince
    Jennifer Baumgardner
  • Amy Richards Frederique Merck