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The idea to have a Kate Millett Festival was born in Florida during a 4 hour car with Sheila Tobias. She and I had just attended a stimulating VFA conference at Rollins College near Orlando and we were now headed South in my Prius. Kate Millett, a very old and close friend of mine, was on both our minds during that trip: I had just been given the first, newly established VFA Kate Millett Award for my work in feminism; and Sheila, who had long admired Kate, was interested in knowing more about her from my perspective.

"You know what I'd love to do," Sheila said, breaking one of the rare silences in the car. We had been chattering away for a few hours by then. "Let's do a Kate Millett Festschift!" The exotic word-and the thought--were delicious. "It should be simple enough," she went on enthusiastically. "I've got an assistant who can help with the research. We'll cobble together book reviews, essays, critiques of her work, maybe have an academic panel. It's pretty straightforward, easy actually."

A Festschrift? Mentally, I chewed on the word, knowing I was in dangerous territory. Imaginative language sometimes makes my mouth water and is the ultimate seduction.

But I fought back. "It's doubtful that I'll have the time," I said weakly.

Eleanor Pam, young feminists and (holding candles) Shelby Knox and Kate Millett.

...feminists of all generations should hold onto their torches and never give them up, but share and increase the light.
~ Gloria Steinem

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Eleanor Pam: This is not a Festival, I thought. It's a love-fest! (photo Joan Roth)

for many decades and were substantial activists and/ or scholars and artists in their own right: Among them were Linda Clarke, Ann Keating, Madelaine Gins.

Some who were unable to attend because they were out of town sent greetings and congratulations to their old friend, Kate. Yoko Ono delivered hers personally via video that was projected onto the huge back wall of the stage. Robin Morgan chose Gloria Steinem as her conduit, writing a warm and funny letter that Gloria introduced as "fanf***ng fantastic!" and which Gloria then read to the group with great brio.

The audience was amazing too, radiating good will and feminist energy, and comprised of many distinguished activists, including Charlotte Bunch, Noreen Connell, Judge Emily Goodman, Lilly Rivlin and Florence Howe. Although I couldn't see faces from the brightly lit stage, I could feel the vibrancy and love in the room, could hear the audience cheering, clapping and laughing throughout the multimedia program of music, videos, ceremony and speeches. This is not a Festival, I thought. It's a love-fest!

A LOVE FEST FOR KATE MILLETT

June 24, 2012

By Eleanor Pam

I don't remember how it happened, but here I was, six months later, standing on a stage as MC-on my birthday no less--looking out at an overflow crowd of more than 200 feminists from all over the world gathered at Judson Church in Manhattan. They were all there to pay homage to Kate Millett's life and work. This was also an historic event, a joyous reunion of friends and comrades-most of them, iconic pioneers of Second Wave Feminism. It was bittersweet, perhaps the last time that all of us would be in the same room at the same time. And we all knew it, sensed it, and appreciated the moment. This event had morphed into something that went well beyond Sheila's original idea of a sweet little scholarly project about Kate's work. The room was alive with history.


Although I designed the program and knew the shape of the schedule, all this womanpower felt unreal-an out-of-body experience. I introduced and called to the stage one incredible speaker after the other. Each delivered eloquent tributes to Kate: Gloria Steinem, Alix Kates Shulman, Phyllis Chesler, Susan Brownmiller, Barbara Love and Terry O'Neill, President of NOW. Other speakers, close personal friends of Kate, followed in quick succession.


Although these had less name recognition they were women Kate had known