Susan Brownmiller (born Susan Warhaftig, February 15, 1935) is the author of “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape,” which has been cited as one of the first books to redefine rape as a political issue rather than an individual crime, and which catapulted the feminist anti-rape movement into mainstream consciousness.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Brownmiller joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1960, and was one of a thousand white volunteers in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and CORE-organized Freedom Summer in 1964. While in Mississippi, she wrote her first piece for the Village Voice, where she worked as a reporter. In 1966, Brownmiller moved to Jane Street in Greenwich Village. What Brownmiller has called her “feminist baptism” took place at a New York Radical Women meeting, held at the now-demolished St. Denis Hotel at the corner of East 11th Street and Broadway — shortly after the group’s famed protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.
Brownmiller’s book “Against Our Will” was published in 1975. It confronted a number of widely accepted myths about rape, and emphasized that rape was an act of power and an essential part of structural, patriarchal domination of women. The book was deeply influential in the second-wave feminist movement, and helped catalyze the first marital rape laws in the United States, passed in the late 1970s. However, the book was also critiqued by feminists of color such as Angela Davis and bell hooks for perpetuating longstanding racist ideas about sexual violence.
Brownmiller was also the author of “Waverly Place,” based on the murder of a child in Greenwich Village. The book was published in 1989 by Grove Press, which had deep roots in the neighborhood south of Union Square between Greenwich Village and the East Village.