Meredith Tax ’64, a writer and political activist, passed away at 80 years old on Sept. 25. Tax was involved in multiple causes including anti-war movements and social feminist organizations.
During her time at Birkbeck, Tax discovered activism and became part of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Tax did not finish her dissertation at Birkbeck and instead returned to the United States in 1968 to pursue movement work and writing in place of an academic career, according to her biography page.
Tax continued her anti-war activism in the U.S. as a part of Bread and Roses, according to her biography page. The Bread and Roses movement was established in the late ’60s forming from a coalition of smaller, regional groups, according to Chapter 3, “Learning about Racism: White Socialist Feminism and Bread and Roses” in The Trouble Between Us, on white and Black feminist movements.
Bread and Roses was composed of social feminists who were also fighting for anti-capitalism and anti-racism, according to the chapter. The movement attended to build an interracial movement however ultimately failed in creating solidarity between women of different races and classes.
Tax became the leader of Bread and Roses and she made it a point that, “[Women] can not talk of sisterhood without realizing that the objective position in society of most of us is different from that of welfare mothers, of the black maids of our white mothers, and women in 3rd World countries. Sisterhood means not saying this is our fight, but making it our fight.”
Tax acknowledged in her activist work that despite being put at a disadvantage on the basis of her sex, she was at an advantage due to her “class and race created privileges,” according to a journal article on white and Black feminist movements.
Bread and Roses was an organization primarily composed of wealthy white women, many of whom were educated and raised in segregated regions, according to the chapter. Tax argued during her time in the organization that they must consciously raise awareness about class and race, in addition to their arguments on the basis of sex. These key points were what Tax tried to integrate into the organization’s political activism.
Tax went on to leave Bread and Roses to join a “Marxist-Leninist ‘pre-party formation,’” according to the chapter. Tax was also a member of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union and was the founding co-chair of the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization abuse (CARASA)—a group focused on reproductive rights.
Tax also was a founding chair of the International PEN’s Women’s Writer’ Committee—a group that promotes issues in the world written by female writers. She was also the founding president of Women’s World Organization for Rights, Literature and Development (WORLD)—a global free speech network active until 2009 aimed at bringing attention to the silencing of activists speaking of gender inequality. Tax was also a co-founder and chair for the board of the Centre for Secular Space—a think tank and advocacy group.
During her time as an activist, Tax wrote a number of pieces of literature as well. Her first most notable work was “Women and Her Mind: the Story of Everyday Life” which she wrote in 1970, according to a page on Tax by the Jewish Women’s Archive, the work “is considered a founding document of the women’s movement.”
Tax wrote other pieces including The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880–1917, Rivington Street, Union Square, Families and A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, according to her Wikipedia page.
Tax graduated with a degree in English as a part of the university’s 12th class.