Jane

My article on the historical memory of the 1970s underground abortion collective known as "Jane" was published in the Autumn 2017 issue of Signs. Link

Abstract: "In the early 1970s, before the passage of Roe v. Wade, an underground feminist group in Chicago performed an estimated eleven thousand illegal abortions. Women’s liberation groups formed abortion referral services across the country, but the Abortion Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, known colloquially as “Jane” after the pseudonym its members adopted, was distinct, and its story has lingered in feminist consciousness while others have not. Members eventually performed abortions themselves, despite lacking formalized medical training, putting the procedure into women’s own hands. As the pro-choice community began to fear the erosion of abortion rights, Jane stories gained new currency as tales of women’s resilience in the face of unjust legal restrictions. This essay explores how Jane’s story has been told, beginning just after the group’s dissolution in 1973 and ending in the present—when the group became part of the consciousness of a new generation. Jane members took an increasingly active role in telling their story through interviews and memoirs. Younger women in turn represented them in a variety of media that serve as sites of intergenerational communication. These include documentaries, zines, blogs, and a play. I argue that while Jane members and their contemporaries have been concerned with fashioning their historical legacies, their audience of younger women has eagerly adopted and interpreted their story on their own terms. In this process of remembering, Jane stands as a case study in both the making and using of second-wave feminist history."