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Kate Grover

Kate Grover is a doctoral student in American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include twentieth-century American popular and musical culture with a special focus on women in rock culture and feminist rock music. In addition to her graduate studies at UT, Kate volunteers as a counselor and workshop leader with Girls Rock Austin, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and girls through music, education, and performance.

"Recovering Histories of Feminist Rock: The (Almost) Forgotten Story of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band"
In the early 1970s, a group of women’s libbers sought to transform rock culture from the inside out. Their name? The Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band (CWLRB). Founded by Naomi Weisstein as a work group of the socialist-feminist Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU), the CWLRB was an all-woman band that performed nationwide at coffee shops, college campuses, and other small venues from 1970-1973. By writing songs about women’s experiences, recording an album with their sister group, the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band (NHWLRB), and adopting sonic techniques and performance styles that they felt would not alienate women, the CWLRB pushed back against the sexism of 70’s “Cock Rock” and positioned rock music as a tool for spreading feminist ideals.

Despite their unique experiment in rock and roll feminism, the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band has received scant attention, scholarly or otherwise. Although popular writing on the CWLRB exists—thanks in part to a 2005 Rounder Records compilation featuring music from the CWLRB, NHWLRB, and Le Tigre—the band still remains largely absent from public memory. This presentation recovers the CWLRB’s story to complicate understandings of “women’s culture” and “women’s music” in the 1970s by revealing a feminist, all-woman band that did not have separatist goals. Furthermore, this presentation considers how the CWLRB’s lyrics, sound, performance, and paratexts (CWLU position papers, published articles, etc.), while rooted in the concerns and aesthetics of the American Women’s Liberation Movement, are also connected to the Riot Grrrl punk rock feminism of the 1990s. The CWLRB challenges the categorical constructions of Second and Third Wave feminism by reminding us that multiple generations have resisted the sexism of rock culture throughout time, and allows us to conceptualize a broad and multifaceted history of feminist rock music in the United States.