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“A Traitor to the Movement”?: A Former SDS and Women’s Liberation Activist Testifies before Congress

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded in 1962 to change the world by fostering participatory democracy and personal authenticity. Heavily influenced by civil rights organizations, SDS initially operated in inner cities and college campuses to combat racism and discrimination. By the mid-1960s, many activists focused on antiwar activities as American troop involvement in Vietnam escalated. Frustrated with male domination in SDS, leftist women formed feminist splinter groups that eventually aligned with reform organizations to create a new women’s liberation movement. In the following testimony before a 1970 Congressional committee investigating activist “subversion,” Marjorie King, a former chairman of WITCH (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—a guerilla theater offshoot of SDS) described her experiences with radical groups in the Chicago area. This hearing was held a few weeks after an accidental explosion killed three young members of the revolutionary group, the Weathermen, an offshoot of SDS, in a Greenwich Village townhouse where the group was manufacturing bombs. As violence coupled with police repression and infiltration signaled the end of a once nonviolent New Left, a new women’s movement, also inspired by the civil rights movement, gained momentum.


Mr. SOURWINE. Miss King, you live in Chicago?

Miss KING. Yes, I do.

Mr. SOURWINE. How old are you?

Miss KING. I am 19.

Mr. SOURWINE. Have you been a member of any of the so-called movement organizations, the subversive or violent organizations of the New Left, so-called?

Miss KING. I was a member of SDS, and I was chairman of the group called WITCH, which is a women’s liberation organization.

Mr. SOURWINE. What does WITCH stand for?

Miss KING. Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy From Hell.

Mr. SOURWINE. Is that organization still in existence?

Miss KING. Yes, it is.

Mr. SOURWINE. When did you first join SDS?

Miss KING. Well, I had been a member of SOC (Student Organizing Committee), a high school organization, for approximately 2 years, prior to membership in SDS, which I attained in 1968.

Mr. SOURWINE. And you were in the movement at the age of 15?

Miss KING. Approximately correct.

Mr. SOURWINE. In fact it must have been before your 15th birthday?

Miss KING. No, it was right after my 15th birthday.

Mr. SOURWINE. Right after your 15th birthday?

Miss KING. Yes.

Mr. SOURWINE. What kind of a home do you come from, what do your parents do, just generally?

Miss KING. Well, my father is an engineer, and my mother is a housewife, and they live in the suburbs, and it is a typical middle-class family.

Mr. SOURWINE. How did you happen to join the organizations you have mentioned? Can you tell us that story, how you were recruited into SOC and how you went from there into SDS?

Miss KING. OK.

Into SOC was mainly a dress code issue which was used in high school.

Mr. SOURWINE. Dress code?

Miss KING. Dress code; long hair, clothes, short skirts, whatever you wanted to wear at all in school, which was against school regulations. It was mainly school issues that were brought out, and I was against an awful lot that was going on in the school and so I because a member of SOC, and from there I became a member of SDS, through a shooting which had occurred; a friend of mine had been shot by a police officer in 1968, and at that time there was a great recruiting force of SDS workers in the community where I lived, and through their organizing we formed a youth council, after the shooting, led by SDS members. So from there I became a member of SDS. I have attended several conventions and meetings, study group meetings dealing with Lenin, Marx, Mao. From there I became a member of WITCH, dealing basically with women’s issues within the movement and without the movement, and women’s repression as women, as slaves of society and being slaves of men, and to try to overcome that through action and not through study groups. From there it led to being chairman of WITCH in Chicago, the North Side region.

Mr. SOURWINE. How many members were there in that organization of which you were the president?

Miss KING. In the North Side region there are approximately 50 women.

Mr. SOURWINE. And you were chairman?

Miss KING. Yes.

Mr. SOURWINE. At the age of what?

Miss KING. At the age of seventeen and a half, 18.

Mr. SOURWINE. What were the ranges of ages of the women in the organization?

Miss KING. Ranging from 17 to about 35.

Mr. SOURWINE. How long did you head that?

Miss KING. For approximately 6, 7, 8 months.

Mr. SOURWINE. What kinds of activity did the organization WITCH engage in?

Miss KING. Abortion council meetings that were going on in 1968 and 1969—basically, it would be the early part of 1969, latter part of 1968; bridal affairs that were going on. We attended many bridal affairs and stating how bridal affairs are a capitalist tool to try to make you buy all these products which you don’t need; abortion council meetings—that abortions should be legalized; and the CTA fares being increased. We put a hex on the Merchandise Mart, running around in all these black costumes and hexing the Merchandise Mart and CTA.

Mr. SOURWINE. What does CTA mean?

Miss KING. Chicago Transit Authority.

Mr. SOURWINE. Why were you hexing the transit authority?

Miss KING. The train fares and the buses, general Chicago transit fares had been increased, and people couldn’t afford them, their wages weren’t going up yet the fares were up.

Mr. SOURWINE. To your knowledge, was there or is there any connection between WITCH and the Communist Party, U.S.A.?

Miss KING. No, there is not.

Mr. SOURWINE. Any connection between WITCH and SDS?

Miss KING. Almost all the women in WITCH did belong to SDS at one time, and they left SDS because there was too much pressure placed on women to do women’s roles and not to partake in male roles. So WITCH broke off. It was actually a women’s liberation group within SDS and had broken off into WITCH.

Mr. SOURWINE. Did you leave SDS when you went with WITCH?

Miss KING. No; I was still a member of SDS.

Mr. SOURWINE. What kind of organizational activity did you engage in with SDS?

Miss KING. I handled most of their bail funds.


Miss KING. Bail funds. A person gets arrested and we collect money for that person to get out, or already have money set up.

Mr. SOURWINE. How was this money collected?

Miss KING. This money was collected through phone calls. Most of the people involved had lists of names of people who were donors to the movement, and these people were called if there were any major arrests being made and money was collected from these people. I took in most of the money and made sure that the money was there and had been collected from each one of these people. I collected a few some times by myself. . . .

Mr. SOURWINE. Did you administer the bail fund for SDS?

Miss KING. I was kept in charge of it for certain times, I kept the money there and sent people to bail out the ones arrested.

Mr. SOURWINE. Did anybody make a good thing out of it for their own private profit, this collecting bail money and collecting money for other purposes than for SDS.

Miss KING. Oh, yes; right. People when they go out and collect money a lot of times they make the calls themselves to these certain people, and then collect it from them themselves. But yet what they sometimes do is that they go, they call more people than they should call, and go and collect more money than they should collect, and keep it for themselves, and turn in the amount they are supposed to turn in yet maybe they have collected three or four times more than they originally should have.

Mr. SOURWINE. Did you hear of this or do you know this took place?

Miss KING. I know of this because I have done it myself. . . .

Miss KING. Well, I left the movement, SDS, after the national convention which took place in Chicago.

Mr. SOURWINE. In what year?

Miss KING. When Weatherman and SDS RYM 2 split.

Mr. SOURWINE. This was what year?

Miss KING. This was 1969.

Mr. SOURWINE. You left the SDS in 1969, in the summer?

Miss KING. Right. It was after the summer, approximately August.

Mr. SOURWINE. And then you never were a member of the Weathermen faction?

Miss KING. No; I was not.

Mr. SOURWINE. Did you engage in any violent activity while you were with the SDS?

Miss KING. Demonstrations but that wasn’t so-called violence. I was present in the takeover of McCormick Theological Seminary, when the Young Lords took over the church. The Poor People’s Coalition in Lincoln Park Area. I was also active in the Young Lords‘ takeover of the Armitage Avenue Methodist Church. They were Young Lords’ activities, not SDS activities. SDS had been willing to help in these activities, but not in the takeover.

Mr. SOURWINE. What were you doing when you were carrying a .25 around? Was that an automatic?

Miss KING. Yes; that was just for the purpose of carrying a gun around. The area I was doing organizing work in had a lot of gangs which were not political gangs. Members of the Black Peace Stone Nation were in this area frequently and in the McCormick Avenue Church, Theological Seminary, I had been raped by two of the Cobra Stones. The Blackstone Peace Stone Nation are divided into 50 nations. One of the nations is the Cobra Stones and they were active in the takeover of the McCormick Theological Seminary and I was raped by the man who was in charge, who was leading the Cobra Stones at that time, who is now in prison for murder, and one of his war lords. From that time and approximately 2 weeks prior to that time I had been carrying a .25 on me. But that night I didn’t have it.

Mr. SOURWINE. Off the record.

(Discussion off the record.)

Senator COOK. Back on the record.

Mr. SOURWINE. Did you report this attack to the police?

Miss KING. No, I did not. You can’t very well report something to the police if you are in an organization involved against the police. It sort of defeats your whole cause.

Mr. SOURWINE. What organization do you mean that was against the police?

Miss KING. WITCH. At that time I was chairman of WITCH, if I recall right. . . .

Miss KING. People in the movement do not have a permanent address. They are more or less shifted from one movement house to another.

Mr. SOURWINE. What is a movement house?

Miss KING. A movement house is an apartment rented by a movement person.

Senator COOK. Sympathizer.

Miss KING. Or someone who is active within the movement, and movement people stay at this house and live at this house.

Senator COOK. How many of these have you lived in?

Miss KING. Approximately eight. . . .

Mr. SOURWINE. How were these movement houses maintained? Who paid the rent, who took care of the expenses and where did the money come from?

Miss KING. One of the SDS committees is the labor committee which was headed by Noel Ignaton and from this you do—if you are in the labor committee, you basically go into a factory and you do labor organizing and you work in a factory, and you use the money that you work for to pay the rent while there are other people who have part-time jobs, work at day labor places where you work for only one day and they use that money to buy food with, et cetera. . . .

Mr. SOURWINE. Now, you said there was one person who worked; you mean one person worked and made money for the purpose of maintaining the movement house?

Miss KING. Right.

Mr. SOURWINE. The other people who lived there did nothing about raising money to maintain the movement house?

Miss KING. There is one person works full time but that might only be for a period of maybe 2 months, and then another person goes out and gets a full-time job unless the previous person has done very good in his labor organization in whatever factory he is involved with.

Mr. SOURWINE. How about the other people who use the house?

Miss KING. The other people have money from somewhere. A lot of them have money that they have saved prior to being in the movement, and do have bank accounts of some type, and take out money from their bank accounts. It doesn’t take very much money to live within the movement. . . .

Senator COOK. Did you find, for instance, in SDS, in WITCH, in the Young Lords that as soon as they became organized or as soon as they became established that it was easy for them to get any of the narcotics they wanted?

Miss KING. Yes, especially “speed,” because you need that—if you get up at 7 o’clock in the morning, and you have a study group meeting that meets at maybe 11, 12 o’clock that night, and it might last until 4 the next morning and you have to get up at 7 o’clock again most of the people do get very addicted to using “speed.” It is a physically addicting drug.

Senator COOK. Let us talk about these study groups. Just tell me the course of the study group. Tell me the discussions you go through, tell me the activities of the individuals, who some of the people were that conducted the study groups that you attended, for instance.

Miss KING. OK. . . .

Senator COOK. Now, give me the basis of these discussions, what was discussed, what the basic concept of these discussion groups was, was it a participating thing that would take you from midnight until 4 o’clock in the morning to see just exactly what they were.

Miss KING. Every month you are given a list of books that you have to read, and the chapters that have to be read by every study group meeting that you have to have prepared, and any questions at all that you may have.

Noel Ignaton presents at the beginning of every meeting a resume of what actually—I will give you an example: “Wage, Labor and Capital,” written by Lenin.

OK. He presents you with the general outline of what the book is about. Then from there it is a participating thing between all members that are involved in the study group. Everyone gives their own idea of what they thought this book was about, and their arguments about it and things like that and you just argue it until you get straightened out, until everybody has the same idea about what the book was about. . . .

Mr. SOURWINE. You were present at a number of demonstrations?

Miss KING. Right.

Mr. SOURWINE. You only ran into the police twice and only once in a violent way?

Miss KING. I particularly don’t like jail for any type of reason at all. I have no feeling whatsoever of wanting to be jailed. So I always had a feeling that before something was going to start, either instigated by the police or instituted by the movement I would leave.

Mr. SOURWINE. Well, now, you were a leader in the movement, were you not?

Miss KING. No, not really.

Mr. SOURWINE. You were a WITCH?

Miss KING. I was a leader in WITCH.

Mr. SOURWINE. Isn’t it characteristic of the leaders of organizations in the movement?

Miss KING. The more times you are arrested—

Mr. SOURWINE. To stir things up?

Miss KING. Right.

Mr. SOURWINE. And duck?

Miss KING. Right.

Mr. SOURWINE. You have done this a good many times yourself?

Miss KING. I sure have.

Mr. SOURWINE. And somebody else took the rap?

Miss KING. Yes. The basic thing for the movement is that the more times you are arrested the better qualified you are for becoming a leader within the movement. That is really one of the characteristics.

Mr. SOURWINE. Well, is that why the leaders stir things up and then duck?

Miss KING. But then there are a lot of times when there are police, I have seen this happen myself, when there are police that are dressed as regular movement looking people, you know, blue jeans and that and stir things up. But then I have also seen—well, it is really the movement people who do stir things up and say this is so-called “pig harassment.” . . .

Mr. SOURWINE. All right. Let me ask you, there was an article that appeared in the Chicago paper by an anonymous individual on radical returns to establishments and to real freedom and in it is a phrase—and I would like if you have any idea of what this individual meant to tell me what it really means—and it is this: “You know the cops don’t have to do a damn thing but sit by and watch. The whole movement is eating itself up.”

What does that really mean?

Miss KING. What I think that means is that if you ever worked within the movement and you have seen, you have lived in movement homes and you have talked to movement people, there is so much discrepancy right now going on as to who is a cop and who is not a cop. People think that maybe 95 percent of the whole movement are cops so they are afraid to tell anybody anything. That is why any action at all that is planned is not planned a year ahead of time. It is maybe planned a week ahead of time or a couple of days ahead of time before anything is done. It is, you know, like a scare on an airliner. It is a cop scare and a lot of people right now have, most of the members, main members in the movement have, all got Federal charges on them. What good is it going to do them if they are going to be spending time in prison? It is scaring a lot of kids from joining the movement. They are seeing a lot of kids getting arrested and they don’t like getting arrested.

Mr. SOURWINE. These organizations that you have talked about, the fact that they seek to take over the government, what were the moral standards within these organizations?

Miss KING. Very low.

Mr. SOURWINE. Would you expand on that?

Miss KING. OK, moral standards. Decency is in a way, I suppose, frowned upon. I mean if you walk into a meeting of some type, a movement meeting wearing a dress they consider you a capitalist. You know, you could not wear a dress, which I like wearing. You have to wear your grubby blue jeans or something. It is all right for girls to sleep around with whoever they want. It is sort of encouraged in the women’s movement especially, sleeping around with different guys to prove your freedom as women is just as great as a man’s freedom. I agree with that to a certain extent but to a girl who is just becoming involved, who has never done that, it is like a great blow to her mind. It can totally tear her up inside because of the way she has grown up. And she will never look forward to a totally happy life whatever, I can assure a girl of that. Say rape. If a girl is raped, it is brought up in front of whatever organization she belongs to. It is brought up in front of their—what you might call executive committee, the main people in control of that organization, and they don’t do anything about it, nothing whatsoever. You would have to resort back to your old friends that you had, that you know are your friends, to help you do anything at all, and you can’t resort to the police in any way. You can’t do anything. You are stuck.

Mr. SOURWINE. How about punishment within the WITCH organization?

Miss KING. Within WITCH, it is not bodily harm. It is more or less the mental treatment that you are given which I think is a lot worse than any type of physical treatment that you are given. You come into the movement believing in the movement, and they make you look as though you are a renegade of the movement. They denounce you wherever they possibly can as being a renegade of the movement. If you lived within the movement for a certain amount of time that can be detrimental to you within the movement. That is the basic type of punishment that there is for women and I know that is true of other organizations, not just the women’s organizations. Besides having sometimes bodily harm done to people. But basically, I think it is more or less a mental treatment, being called a traitor to the movement, a traitor to your people.

Source: Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Extent of Subversion in the “New Left”: Testimony of Marjorie King and Mike Soto; Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 91st Cong., 2d sess., Part 3, March 31, 1970 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1970).