As I mentioned in my last post, the first, brief New York Times review of Sisterhood Is Powerful singled out for special praise “Naomi Weisstein’s classic ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female,’ a devastating critique of sex-bias in experimental psychology.”
I was intrigued by the reviewer’s use of the term “classic.” How had Weisstein’s essay, originally read (per the copyright notice) at the American Studies Association at UC Davis on October 26, 1968 (Sisterhood 228), become a “classic” by 1970? A classic of what? A classic for whom? And Weisstein was a neuropsychologist — what was she doing at the American Studies conference anyhow? (I’m not complaining — just wondering!)
So I decided to try to find out what I could about the career of Weisstein’s essay apart from its anthologization in Sisterhood. As it turns out, that 1970 publication represented not only the first of multiple anthologizations of the essay but also one of the earliest of subsequent versions of the text itself. Many of those early iterations of Weisstein’s frequently revised and expanded paper – including what I understand to be the first version, the paper as presented at the American Studies conference and as anthologized in Sisterhood – were published and distributed by the New England Free Press.
In WorldCat and in online booksellers’ inventories, I found a variety of publication dates for Weisstein’s essay as a NEFP pamphlet, ranging from 1968 to 1971. However, some of the publication dates were bracketed and/or flagged with a question mark, indicating that no date itself was visible on the document.
What to make of this variety of dates associated with “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche as Scientific Law”? I wasn’t sure. So I dropped a line to my pal Jesse Lemisch, Naomi Weisstein’s life partner (now, sadly, her widower) asking if he could offer any more clarity on the publishing history of Naomi’s essay as a pamphlet, and how that publication related to the timing of the essay’s appearance in the 1970 anthology. He offered what information he could recall, and put me in touch with Jim O’Brien, a New Left historian and activist and longtime editor/publisher at the New England Free Press.