Reason and Radicalism: The History of Donna Allen and Women's Activism in Media

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Walker, Danna L
Beasley, Maurine H
This dissertation is a study of Donna Allen, the founder of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press and Media Report to Women, a feminist newsletter on women's efforts to influence the mass media. Allen lived from 1920 to 1999. My intent is to assess Allen's influence in the women's movement as it related to media. I show that her life can be used to illuminate the origins of significant feminist activism and thought in the communication field and in communication academia. I wrote a biography of Allen in relation to her work in founding the institute and MRW. By tracing Allen's participation in the feminist movement within communication, I analyze what actions activists took and why, as well as what the goals of feminism in activism and scholarship within communication were in the last part of the 20th century. I document the efforts of feminists to change mass communication theory and education, and I highlight the praxis of feminist communication the publications of feminist journalism. I also show how Allen linked women in a global effort to gain access to technology and use media to produce social change. I conclude that Allen was a leader in what I call mediafeminism, a movement by women as communicators and networkers to take action on media in the way that the ecofeminist movement takes action based on women's connection to the environment. By examining Allen's life and her work in communication, this dissertation contributes to a burgeoning area of research into the effort and impact of women's media activism over the last three decades on media reforms, public perceptions, media technology, and communication history and education.