us a bit about yourself.
Allen: I am the mother of three daughters...
estrogen rich environment at my house! They are ages 15, 13 and
9. I have been married to a wonderful husband for nearly 18 years
and we complement each other well!
I am a self taught artist
and, for the past 6 years, I have run my own art business called
Flying Woman Designs out of my home. (www.flyingwomandesigns.com).
did you start up FMAH discussion? Was there a particular event that
influenced your decision to launch it?
began FMAH in 1995 -- that means that next year we'll be TEN years
old. That seems impossible!
I began the discussion
list because I was feeling quite isolated with my third baby at
home and my best friend had just moved out of town. The Internet
was a very new entity at the time and I searched all over it for
like-minded women who were raising their children at home but staying
connected in the world.
I looked into several
different newsgroups for parents but either found lots of flaming
or lots of recipe sharing. Neither was what I was looking for.
So I put the word out
that I was interested in starting a listserv for Feminist Mothers
at Home. I did’t have a hard and fast definition of what the
list would be but I knew that I just wanted it to be for women who
were at home who continued to think and stay involved in the world.
Women who didn’t always fit the mainstream motherhood “movement”
at the time. I immediately had a response from others who were interested.
Then all that was left was to find out how, indeed, to run a listserv
and get things started.
Some of those charter
members from 1995 are still on the list and have become some of
my dearest friends.
the discussion still active?
yes. A little less traffic now than a few years ago but the list
has evolved into a very comfortable community of really amazing
A lot of the women see
each other in person as well. The list has evolved into really a
big group of women friends all over the globe. From annual “retreat”
weekends for whoever can attend to just the impromptu get together
with a few list members -- some very important friendships have
mothers, on average, have participated in the FMAH discussion over
the course of time?
most we ever had at one time was 125. Now we have between 85 and
topics are popular in the discussion? How does the feminist framework
influence the ongoing dialog?
In the early
days the discussions were often very political and world-event charged.
We still discuss current events, politics and feminist/women’s
issues, but we also discuss each other's joys and concerns about
motherhood and our families.
It really has been great
to see our children grow— many of us started with little ones
who are embarking on teenager-hood. We've watched one member's daughter
graduate high school and college.
A number of the women
have entered the paid workforce either full or part time but still
have so much to offer to those who are still in the trenches changing
diapers or dealing with temper tantrumming two year olds at home.
been some of the hottest topics of the FMAH discussion?
of the hottest topics have been those that are emotionally charged.
Abortion. Breastfeeding. Those kind of issues that are very personal
and emotional have become heated in the past.
you ever discuss political activism? If so, what kind of issues
are participants interested in?
number of women are politically active in various aspects of women's
issues and working on campaigns.
been any downside to operating the FMAH discussion?
No, not really. I can't begin to say how much this community has
enriched my life. Any small problem I've had to deal with has been
outweighed by how much I have come to depend on having this “family”
group discussion services like YahooGroups
now available, have you ever considered switching the venue so more
women could join the discussion?
use a free service at the moment and that has no bearing on the
decision to keep the group small. The size of the group has been
as high as 125— but we found that the volume of postings would
just get too great with our subscriber list that high. Since I have
closed down the list to new subscribers, we have settled in to being
a pretty tight-knit group and we like it the way it is. Occassionally
I will let a new person in— especially if they send me a particularly
appealing email or if they know a current member.
you have any sage advice for other feminist mothers who would like
to start an online discussion group?
Allen: Set ground rules. I have a few— not many— that aren’t
negotiable. They range from absolute list privacy and respect for
all to no recipe sharing. I also think it is good to have some control
on the list rather than just opening it up to the general public.
Because we have always been a closed list, FMAH hasn't been taken
over by flamers or spammers. It has kept a really nice community feel.
mmo : February 2004