I’ve been a busy girl:
My life path has led me from music, media and motherhood to the creation of an international museum in New York City. The seeds of activism were planted in early childhood and have culminated in large-scale professional projects aimed at improving the lives of women. By going back to school I intend to develop a relationship with The Graduate Center of New York and further my credentials. I am committed to earning a Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies so that I can deepen my knowledge base, advance my writing skills, and teach others.
I grew up during the height of the second wave feminist movement. My bookshelves were lined with Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness, Open Marriage, and Our Bodies Ourselves. I took inspiration from the women’s agenda and pursued an education in the fine arts. A passion for music and theater propelled me through high school and college. As an actor, I starred in Lysistrata, The Crucible, and The American Dream. Through these activities I was able to examine women’s power, or lack of it, as it played out on the stage.
After graduating college, an internship at the Julliard School led me to the post-punk movement in New York City. I teamed up with a group of male musicians blithely called the “Girlfriends” and created the alt-gender-bending identity of Peter Blue at a time when masculine tendencies dominated the social hierarchies. My early music career included two Billboard dance records, one MTV Basement tape award, a “Best of Unsigned Bands in NYC”, and a record deal. I was a “Certified Artist” in NYC circa 1985. This was a process whereby artists submitted their work, and if approved, gained access to special privileges and honorariums.
I continued to embrace music and explore gender roles, and during the period of 1989-1994, I gave birth to three sons and a daughter. Shortly after my last child was born, I developed a life-threatening autoimmune illness. The diagnosis, and the subsequent period of reflection and observation, inspired me to create a rock musical project called Housewives On Prozac (HOP). The intention of Housewives was to forge an opening for cultural commentary on the experiences of being a mother. The name was derived from observations of women perpetuating retro stereotypes in suburban culture. I noticed the prevalence of Prozac and other mood-altering drugs. For some of my peers, prescriptions purported to offer an antidote to the banality of raising children. I found it disturbing that many women felt they had more in common with 1950’s housewives than they did with second wave feminists after starting families. The HOP band met with acclaim in the press, and on the stage. A “New York Times” review for the project gave way to Off-Broadway equity productions in 1998 and 1999. The band continued to play large-scale events including the Oakland Art & Soul Festival and New York Pride Rallies. This was the first Mom-Rock identified project. Putting background music to life’s ups and downs became a way of life.
After observing the resonance of the Mom-Rock phenomenon, I decided it was important to open the doors of opportunity for others. The first Mamapalooza Festival was conceived and produced in 2002. This innovative festival concept was intended to pave the way for a new genre of art and culture focused on amplifying the voices of women who were mothers. Hundreds of performers were able to organize and participate in performances around the world. Thousands of families were able to access free parks-sponsored events. These events were flanked by information for families including The Planned Parenthood Mobile, domestic violence prevention teams, and other family services. Sponsorships ranged from the YWCA to the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty. The festival won many awards and garnered press attention. This wave gave rise to an entire movement of mom-branded business, art, and blogs. A film called Momz Hot Rocks, chronicled the Mom-Rock movement and captured interviews on CNN, Good Morning America, and NPR. Through various media outlets, including my own radio show, and performances with Code Pink in front of the White House, I continued to promote women in the arts while examining feminism and motherhood. The National Organization For Women (NOW-NYC) awarded me the Susan B. Anthony citation in 2009 for work benefitting women and girls.
After lecturing at a series of women’s conferences about music, media and activism, I realized a more lasting vehicle for social change was needed. In 2003, I began to sketch out a vision for the first ever Museum of Motherhood. Focused on the unpaid, often marginalized work of caregivers, I wanted to examine women, mothers and families from a cultural, historic, economic, and global perspective and see more feminist-informed, real-world applications for empowering women after they became mothers. The anchor for the museum was education. I had witnessed the social, political and emotional challenges women faced. Knowledge seemed to be the most essential activator. Research in the area was limited. Dissemination and discussion was largely missing. The Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) opened its doors to the public on Labor Day 2011. I quickly realized it wasn’t just mothers who needed to access information and education. It was the entire next generation of parents-to-be.
Soon after the museum opened, a robust team of academic advisors joined M.O.M. and integrated their students into internships. We began processing up to sixty youth a year, including high school, college and graduate degree students. Many of the younger students were male, which I found intriguing. After developing courses in the area of Mother Studies, and outlining chapters of a book encompassing the museum curriculum, I began teaching at the museum. Then I realized a Master’s Degree would increase my theoretical understanding, while awarding me the necessary credentials to become an educator in other environments. Last summer I took a graduate level course in Feminist Theory with Jocelyn Fenton Stitt (author of Mothers Who Deliver, SUNY Press, 2010) at Minnesota State University, Mankato online. The material was deeply inspiring. I felt as if I finally the right lyrics to put to the background music of my life.
I am applying to the Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies Degree Program at CUNY in order to work within the community I grew up in. I am incredibly inspired by people like Barbara Katz Rothman pushing the mothers-in-society agenda forward. Also of great interest to me are areas of academia focused on sociology, eco-feminism and women in history. I would like to concentrate my next-stage career on writing, teaching, and pursuing long-term educational alliances for the Museum. The Center For Women and Society is especially relevant with regard to this. I am interested in developing relationships and networks that will help make more online degree courses available in Mother Studies. I hope by furthering my education I can push for better policies, platforms, and agendas that address the evolution of individuals and families. This is what motivates me, and what has compelled me commit to pursuing a graduate degree at CUNY.