Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

I love Facebook fights. <_<

February 28, 2011

A friend of mine, generally open-minded and accepting, recently posted the Yahoo! Finance article “Ways Your Appearance Affects Your Paycheck” on his page. The article begins with the incredibly privileged statement, “How successful you become is mostly up to you. Success also depends on how you’re perceived by others. Numerous studies have shown looks can impact career advancement,” and then lists several qualities that will “earn” you a higher salary, including symmetrical features, the “right” height and weight, an “appropriate” degree of attractiveness, and so on. Cue Facebook Fight.

Me: “This is disgusting.

Me: “And the use of that picture in conjunction with this article is hilariously sad, because it’s from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Which, skewed as it is by capitalism, is still a call to value the beauty of real people instead of holding them to standards of perfection that are not only impossible to reach (or maintain), but offensive (often racist), as well.

Friend: “I didn’t think it was THAT bad. It doesn’t explicitly say, ‘If you’re prettier you get a raise.’ In fact, it even says if you’re ‘TOO pretty’ it can actually be bad. It just gives tips on what to wear and how to present yourself, and it’s not something that everyone can’t do. Like no beards, or smile, or don’t be overweight.”

Me: “‘Skinny women.’ That right there’s actually a huge chunk of what’s wrong with it. Not everyone can (or should) be the same weight. It’s not like there’s one ideal weight for everyone. This article isn’t just about presenting oneself professionally, it’s about how people with symmetrical features or the “right” body type, and also people who conform to society’s gender and sexual expectations, are more highly-paid than those who don’t measure up in terms of physical appearance and those who aren’t interested in altering their appearance, quite literally, for the Man. If two women hold the same job, should the femme one have a higher salary than the butch one? Why is salary based on appearance and personal expression? It should be about skills, qualifications, talent.”

Friend: “I do agree about the skinny women thing and I don’t think everyone should be skinny, but I do think everyone should be healthy. And I’m all for equality and self expression and individuality, and I think it’s sad that more of our society isn’t, but I think it’s on it’s [sic] way. 100 years ago, women and people of alternative ethnic backgrounds couldn’t hold the same positions as white men did. Look how much things have changed since then, our president is black (my lambo is blue), we have female senators, CEOs, etc. I think the same thing is about to happen for people with alternative sexual orientations. They just take time though.”

Me: “I want people to be healthy too. Especially the people I love. So. Is an unhealthy weight grounds for paying someone less money than a person with the same job description but a healthier weight for their body type? (And that can only be determined by a doctor, contrary to popular opinion. Not everyone who’s considered “overweight” actually is.) Is it an employer’s job to regulate the weight of their employees? Or their health? If that’s the case, what about all the people with other health issues–cancer, diabetes, pregnancy, depression, etc.? You’re right, we’ve come a long way, but there’s still much room for improvement. There are still glass ceilings that haven’t been shattered. Women can head powerful corporations, but women as a whole still earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar. If you live in the right state, you might be able to elect queer politicians, but queer kids are still being bullied to death, literally, and much of mainstream pop culture does nothing but drive home the point that people who are different are wrong. Part of the process toward social progress is fighting the harmful things we find in our culture. There WON’T be progress without teenage lesbians suing their schools for the right to wear tuxedos to prom, people refusing to participate in a system that bases worth on physical appearance over innate qualities, etc.”

THE END, he didn’t want to play anymore. v_v

Advertisements

Easy A, The Scarlet Letter, and free love

September 29, 2010

GUESS WHO FINALLY WENT TO SEE EASY A THIS MORNINGGGG.

OH WAIT, it was me.

I must say, I was super excited for this movie to come out. A mainstream movie with feminist overtones? Sounds too good to be true, right? I know. Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely several steps in the right direction, and I’m definitely purchasing it at some point because it’s a movie I know I’ll want to watch again.

The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)–from whence Easy A draws inspiration–and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy) are two of my favorite books; I see them both as feminist masterpieces ahead of their times, especially considering they were both written by men. Both are primarily concerned with a female protagonist condemned for her sexual activity, and both authors shift the condemnation onto a cruel and unfair society.

And free love? Where does free love come into this, you ask? Allow me to share with you this small snippet of glory, extracted from this book. Two of my favorite feminist heroes are introduced under this title:

Victoria Woodhull & Tennessee Claflin
Virtue: What It Is, and What It Is Not

Victoria Claflin Woodhull (1838-1927) and her sister Tennessee Claflin (1846-1923) never had been affiliated with the organized woman’s movement when they burst upon the scene in 1870 with the publication of their radical feminist newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly. The editors discussed such topics as prostitution, venereal disease, abortion, and female sexuality, and printed news about workingwomen and their efforts to organize and better their conditions. The Weekly advocated spiritualism, socialism (it was the first American periodical to publish the Communist Manifesto) and free love (a novel by George Sand was published as a serial).

The resourceful Claflin sisters, whose background included dismal poverty and unsavory careers with a “medical” road show and as clairvoyants, had recently earned a considerable fortune in New York as Wall Street’s first female stockbrokers. (Their brokerage firm was controlled by Cornelius Vanderbilt, an ardent admirer of Tennessee Claflin.) Their uninhibited sex lives, which they made no attempt to conceal, was the subject of much gossip.

Thus, when Victoria Woodhull showed up in Washington in early 1871, just as Susan B. Anthony was about to open a convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association, her presence was probably a source of embarrassment for some delegates. Opponents of woman’s rights had long used the charge of “free love” to discredit the movement, and Woodhull frankly avowed her belief in sexual freedom.

In Washington, Woodhull was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee, a privilege never before accorded to a woman. The leaders of the National could not ignore this occasion and came to hear her speak. She made a brilliant presentation, suggesting that female suffrage was already an implied right in the Constitution as a result of the use of the word “person” in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. (This was the same argument Susan B. Anthony later employed at her trial.) The women were impressed and invited Woodhull to repeat her congressional address before the suffrage convention that very day.

To criticisms about Woodhull’s unconventional sexual behavior, Elizabeth Cady Stanton replied: “We have already women enough sacrificed to this sentimental, hypocritical prating about purity. Women have crucified the Mary Wollstonecrafts, the Fanny Wrights and the George Sands of all ages….Let us end this ignoble record and henceforth stand by womanhood. If this present woman [Woodhull] must be crucified, let men drive the spikes.”

For a time Victoria Woodhull became in the press the most talked about figure of the suffrage movement. At a National convention in New York she threatened that unless Congress gave women the vote, they would set up a new government. “We mean treason,” she proclaimed; “we mean secession, and on a thousand times grander scale than was that of the South. We are plotting a revolution; we will overthrow this bogus Republic and plant a government of righteousness in its stead.” Shortly after announcing “I am a free lover!” Woodhull was on the platform at National’s 1872 Washington convention, seated between Elizabeth Stanton and the venerable Lucretia Mott.

Finally, Susan B. Anthony called a halt to Woodhull’s spectacular ascent in the movement. By this time Woodhull had convinced Stanton that the National ought to back her as a candidate for President of the United States in the 1872 election! Anthony vetoed this idea and expelled Woodhull and her followers from the next suffrage convention when they tried to wrest control of a meeting from her. Wrote Susan Anthony in her journal afterward: “Never did Mrs. Stanton do so foolish a thing. All came near being lost.”

The flamboyance and grandiosity of Victoria Woodhull tend to obscure her and her sister’s real contribution to the ideas of feminism in their relatively brief association withthe American woman’s movement. For publicly challenging the dearly held Victorian belief in purity (that is, asexuality [NOTE FROM THE BLOGGER: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. While Victorian society demanded that women display no interest in sex, the majority of them would not have actually been asexual. This, my friends, is what we call sexual repression, and it’s a Bad Thing. Don’t do it.]) of women, they were certain to be isolated and silenced. However, there is no doubt that Woodhull and Claflin gave voice to the secret longings and dissatisfactions of great numbers of women. Elizabeth Stanton wrote in her confidential diary, begun at the age of sixty-five, that she had come to the conclusion that “the first great work to be accomplished for woman is to revolutionize the dogma that sex is a crime.” Later she added, “a healthy woman has as much passion as a man.”

The following excerpts from two articles [I’m just including the first one here] printed in Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly in 1871 and 1872 were written by Tennessee (sometimes written “Tennie C.”) Claflin, who was a better writer and clearer thinker than her more famous sister. In the first article Claflin urged women to gain their sexual freedom by defying oppressive social customs; in the second, she pointed out that woman’s economic dependence forces her to submerge her own nature and become little more than a sexual snare for men.

Words have different and sometimes contradictory meanings….These different meanings of words…reveal a whole history and a whole philosophy….Notably does this happen in respect to the words free and virtuous as applied to men and to women.

A free man is a noble being; a free woman is a contemptible being. Freedom for a man is emancipation from degrading conditions which prevent the expansion of his soul into godlike grandeur and nobility, which it is assumed is his natural tendency in freedom. Freedom for a woman is, on the contrary, escape from those necessary restraining conditions which prevent the sinking of her soul into degradation and vice, which it is all unconsciously assumed is her natural tendency. In other terms, the use of this one word, in its two-fold application to men and to woman, reveals the unconscious but ever present conviction in the public mind that men tend, of course, heavenward in their natures and development, and that women tend just as naturally hell-ward….freedom is a condition desirable and favorable for men, because men are naturally good, and require only the opportunity to show that fact; but a condition undesirable and unfavorable for women, because women are naturally bad, and require only the opportunity to show their innate tendency to vice or wickedness.

Insulting as this estimate is to our sex, it is the basis on which the whole question of social freedom is argued by the outside world. It is naively and continually assumed that if social restraints were removed, all women, the mothers and sisters and wives and daughters of our virtuous male citizens, would immediately and incontinently go to the bad. Men are every day virtually saying this of their own mothers, and women are thoughtlessly chiming in and pronouncing the ban of reprobation upon the name of their own womanhood….

In the same striking way the two uses of the word virtue tell the same sad tale of the popular estimate of the character of nature of the two sexes.The very word virtue is, I believe, partly derived from the Latin vir,the distinctive name of man, and meant originally “manliness.” It was natural in a crude age that all questions of womanliness should be left out of account. Even in respect to man it was the warlike quality of mere physical strength which was first prized, and which first received the name of virtue. We retain this general idea of strength or efficiency as the first meaning of virtue still, as when we speak of the virtue of a medicine, of a public measure, and the like. But in this more spiritual and cultured age, virtue, as applied to man, has risen to a higher degree of significance, and now means moral goodness, or a general conformity of the whole life to high moral ideas and purposes. But, applied to woman, it is confined to a narrow and insulting specialty. It means that woman has never been approached in a special way by man, and nothing but that. Apart from that special idea of virtue, the woman may have all the nobler qualities of her sex–be a pattern of generosity, inspiration, religious emotionality even–and yet she is not virtuous, and never can become so; but if she is sound in that matter, she may be a virago, a thief, or a fiend, but she is perfectly virtuous–she possesses that which is “prized above rubies.”

All this is simply execrable. It is degrading, insulting mockery to define female virtue in this way, or in any way different from man’s virtue. And women are constrained to accept these disparaging discriminations by an organized social opinion which is excessively tyrannical. From the mere imputation of impropriety in this one particular women shrink and cower with the most abject terror. This slavery to opinion must be abolished; women must vindicate their right to an absolute freedom in their own conduct, exceptthat they shall have no right to encroach on others. The revolt against any oppression usually goes to an opposite extreme for a time; and that is right and necessary. We cannot render the terms “libertine”and “rake” as opprobrious as men have made “mistress” and “courtesan”….Let us, then, resort to the opposite tactics, and take the sting out of these bad words by having a consciousness of rectitude, and then not shrinking from any imputation whatever. The world enslaves our sex by the mere fear of an epithet; and as long as it can throw any vile term at us, before which we cower, it can maintain our enslavement. It is not “freedom” alone, but every other epithet intended to degrade, that women must grow strong enough to defy before she will be free. I do not mean that she shall be what these words are meant to convey, but merely that she shall let the world know that female virtue means hereafter something different–that it means, in a word, just what would make a man virtuous and good. He or she who would be free must defy the enemy, and must be ultra enough to exhaust the possibilities of the enemy’s assault, and it will not be until women can contemplate and accept unconcernedly whatsoever imputation an ignorant, bitter, lying, and persecuting world may heap on them that they will be really free.

And this in a nutshell is what Easy A is all about. Treat yourself. <3

Are we “less happy” because of feminism? Not a bit of it.

November 1, 2009

[“Women, if you’re happy and you know it…” by Ellen Goodman]

Not long ago a group of writers decided to publish a book of essays we called “Feminism Made Me Happy.” It was an in-your-face title, a deliberate attempt to counter the narrative we all knew by heart. The one that kept describing how the women’s movement had left us stressed out, discontented, wrenched from home, hearth, and motherhood to struggle and fail at doing it all.

Life and writers being what they are, we never did the book, but we have had some terrific lunches. Now we are due for another one, because we are in the midst of another dust-up over research published under the (too) provocative headline: “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.”

Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, partners in marriage and research, dove into the data and came up with numbers suggesting a decline in women’s happiness or, to be more precise, in their “self-reported subjective well-being.” In 1972, women were four points more likely than men to describe themselves as “very happy.” Today they are one point less likely than men to check that box.

This is hardly proof of a mass depression, but the story fueled the predictable debates on websites and talk shows. The controversy pitted those who blame declining happiness on too much change against those who blame it on too little change. And those, of course, who just blame the  messengers.

Stevenson and Wolfers should have known they were walking into this propeller when they linked the women’s movement and happiness together. The paradox, as this pair framed it, was that despite all the improvements in women’s lives during the last 35 years, despite barriers that went down and opportunities that went up, women weren’t “self-reporting” greater happiness.

Our lunch group could have warned the researchers against one sentence that truly raised hackles. “As women’s expectations move into alignment with their experiences,” they speculate, “this decline in happiness may reverse.” Oh, goodie, lower your expectations and get happy, gals?

In fairness, the researchers didn’t pin the decline in happiness–oops, “self-reported subjective well-being”–on any specific ideology or social change. It affected married and single, parents and nonparents, working and stay-at-home mothers alike.

Indeed, Stevenson, a new mom, says she was surprised by the paradox. “I look back and think, ‘Oh my God, I have to be happier than my mother. I have so many more choices,'” she said. She and her husband pulled many strings to unravel the happiness conundrum. Have we doubled the areas in which women are expected to perform brilliantly? Are women now given more permission to express rather than repress unhappiness?

Women aren’t nostalgic for the old days. If anyone is, just watch a few episodes of “Mad Men” as an antidote, with its suffocated Mad Wife Betty Draper and its slapped-down Working Woman Peggy Olsen. If you prefer nonfiction, leaf through the early chapters of Gail Collins’s history of “When Everything Changed” to those magical yesteryears when a flight attendant was weighed, measured, and hired to be a flying geisha.

Going forward to the past won’t bring a grin to our lips–excuse me, a self-reported sense of well-being to our database. Happiness is a pretty elusive state and an even more elusive research subject. We are, as they say, happy as our least happy child and insecure as our retirement fund. As for linking happiness and social history, today’s flight attendant isn’t going to wake up every morning and assess her own well-being in comparison to her 1970s predecessor any more than I wake up grateful not to walk 4 miles in the snow to school. It doesn’t work that way.

Feminism made me happy? Not, I assure you, in a permanent state of good cheer. It opened doors. It opened our eyes–to everything including what still needs to be done. The women’s movement never promised us a rose garden or a warm bath of contentment. It offered a new way to understand the world, a lens on injustice and a tool to use in the pursuit of happiness. It’s a work in progress.

That’s happiness? Close enough.

The gospel according to Harper Lee

October 2, 2009

“Arthur Radley just stays in the house, that’s all,” said Miss Maudie. “Wouldn’t you stay in the house if you didn’t want to come out?”

“Yessum, but I’d wanta come out. Why doesn’t he?”

Miss Maudie’s eyes narrowed. “You know that story as well as I do.”

“I never heard why, though. Nobody ever told me why.”

Miss Maudie settled her bridgework. “You know old Mr. Radley was a foot-washing Baptist–”

“That’s what you are, ain’t it?”

“My shell’s not that hard, child. I’m just a Baptist.”

“Don’t you all believe in foot-washing?”

“We do. At home in the bathtub.”

“But we can’t have communion with you all–”

Apparently deciding that it was easier to define primitive baptistry than closed communion, Miss Maudie said: “Foot-washers believe anything that’s pleasure is a sin. Did you know some of ’em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me me and my flowers were going to hell?”

“Your flowers, too?”

“Yes ma’am. They’d burn right with me. They thought I spent too much time in God’s outdoors and not enough time inside the house reading the Bible.”

My confidence in pulpit Gospel lessened at the vision of Miss Maudie stewing forever in various Protestant hells. True enough, she had an acid tongue in her head, and she did not go about the neighborhood doing good, as did Miss Stephanie Crawford. But while no one with a grain of sense trusted Miss Stephanie, Jem and I had considerable faith in Miss Maudie. She had never told on us, had never played cat-and-mouse with us, she was not at all interested in our private lives. She was our friend. How so reasonable a creature could live in peril of everlasting torment was incomprehensible.

“That ain’t right, Miss Maudie. You’re the best lady I know.”

Miss Maudie grinned. “Thank you ma’am. Thing is, foot-washers think women are a sin by definition. They take the Bible literally, you know.”

“Is that why Mr. Arthur stays in the house, to keep away from women?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me. Looks like if Mr. Arthur was hankerin’ after heaven he’d come out on the porch at least. Atticus says God’s loving folks like you love yourself–”

Miss Maudie stopped rocking, and her voice hardened. “You are too young to understand it,” she said, “but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of–oh, of your father.”

I was shocked. “Atticus doesn’t drink whiskey,” I said. “He never drunk a drop in his life–nome, yes he did. He said he drank some one time and didn’t like it.”

Miss Maudie laughed. “Wasn’t talking about your father,” she said. “What I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. There are just some kind of men who–who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

[Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird]

“Female Pastors: Making Progress…?” [by Elizabeth Felder]

September 29, 2009

From the magazine Gospel Today, 9.28.09.

Although female senior pastors continue to face a glass ceiling, a recent study reveals that women in the pulpit have made substantial gains over the last 10 years.

According to a new Barna Group survey, the number of female senior pastors doubled between 1999 and 2009. In 1999, 5% of senior pastors of Protestant churches were women. Today 10% are women.

The survey also revealed that over the last 10 years, the average age of female pastors increased from 50 years of age to 55; and women in the pulpit are disproportionately more educated than their male counterparts. In fact, 77% of female pastors have a seminary degree, while only 63% of male pastors have graduated from seminary.

Despite their educational advantage, female pastors continue to earn less money than male pastors. The current compensation package for women in the senior pastorate is $45,300 vs. $48,600 for men. The Barna study noted, however, that although men have seen a 21% salary increase since 1999, the wage gap between the sexes has diminished over the last 10 years–with female pastors earning 30% more than they did 10 years ago. In the past, male pastors were compensated (on average) $6,900 more than women. Today the gap has narrowed by almost half to $3,300.

In the study, Barna Group noted that congregational sizes have contributed to the salary variation between female and male pastors. Men, disproportionately, lead larger churches with an average of 103 adults in attendance each week. Female pastors, however, have a median attendance of 81 adults each week.

You can read more articles here, if you like.

It’s a hammer of justice, it’s a bell of freedom.

September 17, 2009

Jen Nedeau of womensrights.change.org says:

“This just in–Mary Travers–of Peter, Paul & Mary has passed away tonight. We don’t talk that much on change.org about how women can bring truth to the female experience through their music, but Mary Travers was definitely one of those women who could translate the needs and wants of women through her voice and spirit.

“I grew up in San Francisco. I listened to the music of the ’60s in order to understand what came before me in the neighborhood I grew up in–the Haight-Ashbury. The death of Mary Travers reminds me again of how much time has passed since that revolutionary era and makes me yearn for the next cultural uprising to come–one that includes music, politics, and a desire for peaceful change.”

“OH NOOOOO!!!!”

September 16, 2009

That was literally my (audible! My dad, who’s across the house, asked me what’s wrong) reaction to this sad piece of news:

Mary Travers, a Member of Peter, Paul and Mary, Has Died at 72

Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and lived in Redding, Conn.

The cause was cancer, said Heather Lylis, a spokeswoman.

Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager straight from the clubs and the coffee houses that nourished the folk-music revival.

“She was obviously the sex appeal of that group, and that group was the sex appeal of the movement,” said Elijah Wald, a folk-blues musician and a historian of popular music.

Ms. Travers’s voice blended seamlessly with those of her two colleagues, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, to create a rich three-part harmony that propelled the group to the top of the pop charts. Their first album, “Peter, Paul and Mary,” which featured the hit singles “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer,” reached No. 1 shortly after its release in March 1962 and stayed there for seven weeks, eventually selling more than two million copies.

The group’s interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” translated his raw vocal style into a smooth, more commercially acceptable sound. They also scored big hits with pleasing songs like the whimsical “Puff the Magic Dragon” and John Denver’s plaintive “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Their sound may have been commercial and safe, but early on, their politics were somewhat risky for a group courting a mass audience. Like Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was outspoken in her support for the civil rights and antiwar movements, in sharp contrast to clean-cut folk groups like the Kingston Trio, which avoided making political statements.

“There was a real possibility that we would lose the entire Southern market over the issue,” Ms. Travers told Robbie Woliver, the author of “Hoot!: A Twenty-Five Year History of the Greenwich village Music Scene,” an oral history. “But we felt that the issue was more important than the Southern market.”

Peter, Paul and Mary went on to perform at the 1963 March on Washington and joined the voting-rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

Over the years they performed frequently at political rallies and demonstrations in the United States and abroad. After the group disbanded, in 1970, Ms. Travers continued to perform at political events around the world as she pursued a solo career.

“They made folk music not just palatable but accessible to a mass audience,” David Hajdu, the author of “Positively Fourth Street,” a book about Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and their circle, said in an interview. Ms. Travers, he added, was critical to the group’s image, which had a lot to do with their appeal. “She had a kind of sexual confidence combined with intelligence, edginess and social consciousness–a potent combination,” he said. “If you look at clips of their performances, the camera fixates on her. The act was all about Mary.”

Mary Allin Travers was born Nov. 9, 1936 in Louisville, Ky. When she was 2 years old, her parents, both journalists, moved to New York. Almost unique among the folk musicians who emerged from the Greenwich Village scene in the early 1960s, Ms. Travers actually came from the neighborhood. She attended progressive private schools there, studied singing with the renowned music teacher Charity Bailey while still in kindergarten and became part of the folk-music revival as it took shape around her.

“I was raised on Josh White, the Weavers and Pete Seeger,” Ms. Travers told The New York Times in 1994. “The music was everywhere. You’d go to a party at somebody’s apartment and there would be 50 people there, singing well into the night.”

While at Elisabeth Irwin High School, she joined the Song Swappers, which sang backup for Mr. Seeger when the Folkways label reissued a collection of union songs under the title “Talking Union” in 1955. The Song Swappers made three more albums for Folkways that year, all featuring Mr. Seeger to some degree.

She had no plans to sing professionally. Folk singing, she later said, had been a hobby. At local clubs, friends like Fred Hellerman of the Weavers and Theodore Bikel would coax her onstage to sing, but her extreme shyness made performing difficult. In 1958, she appeared in the chorus and sang on solo number in Mort Sahl’s short-lived Broadway show “The Next President,” but as the ’60s dawned she found herself at loose ends.

“I was a bad waitress with a private school education, which meant that I was illiterate,” Ms. Travers told The times in 1994. “And I certainly couldn’t type though my mother suggested I learn. I think her quote was: ‘Mary, get a job. No one ever made a living singing folk songs.'”

By chance, Albert Grossman, who managed a struggling folk singer named Peter Yarrow and would later take on Mr. Dylan as a client, was intent on creating an updated version of the Weavers for the baby-boom generation. He envisioned two men and a woman with the crossover appeal of the Kingston Trio. Mr. Yarrow, talking to Grossman in the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, noticed Ms. Travers’s photograph on the wall and asked who she was. “That’s Mary Travers,” Grossman said. “She’d be good if you could get her to work.”

Mr. Yarrow went to Ms. Travers’s apartment on Macdougal Street, across from the Gaslight, one of the principal folk clubs. They harmonized on “Miner’s Lifeguard,” a union song, and decided that their voices blended. To fill out the trio, Ms. Travers suggested Noel Stookey, a friend doing folk music and stand-up comedy at the Gaslight.

After rehearsing for seven months, with the producer and arranger Milt Okun coaching them, Peter, Paul and Mary–Mr. Stookey adopted his middle name, Paul, because it sounded better–began performing in 1961 at Folk City and the Bitter End. The next year they released their first album.

Virtually overnight Peter, Paul and Mary became one of the most popular folk-music groups in the world. The albums “Moving” and “In the Wind,” both released in 1963, rose to the top of the charts and stayed there for months.

Ms. Travers, onstage, drew all eyes as she shook her hair, bobbed her head in time to the music and clenched a fist when the lyrics took a dramatic turn. On instructions from Grossman, who wanted her to retain an air of mystery, she never spoke. The live double album “In Concert” (1964) captures the fervor of their performance.

On television the group’s mildly bohemian look–Ms. Travers favored beatnik clothing and Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey had mustaches and goatees–gave mainstream audiences their first glimpse of a subculture that had previously been ridiculed on shows like “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

“You cannot overemphasize those beards,” Mr. Wald said. “They looked like Greenwich Village to the rest of America. They were the first to go mainstream with an artistic, intellectual, beat image.”

Although the arrival of the Beatles and other British invasion bands spelled the end of the folk revival, Peter, Paul and Mary remained popular throughout the 1960s. The albums “A Song Will Rise” (1965), “See What Tomorrow Brings” (1965), and “Album 1700” (1967) sold well, as did the singles “For Lovin’ Me” and “Early Morning Rain,” both by Gordon Lightfoot, and Mr. Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In.” The gently satirical single “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” (1967) reached the Top 10, and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (1969), their last hit, reached No. 1 on the charts.

Mr. Yarrow, in a statement on Wednesday, described Ms. Travers’s singing style as an expression of her character: “honest and completely authentic.”

Mr. Stookey, in an accompanying statement, wrote that “her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy–occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright.”

In 1970, after releasing the greatest-hits album “Ten Years Together,” the group disbanded. Ms. Travers embarked on a solo career, with limited success, releasing five albums in the 1970s. The first, “Mary” (1971) was the most successful, followed by “Morning Glory” (1972), “All My Choices” (1973), “Circles” (1974) and “It’s In Everyone of Us” (1978).

Ms. Travers’s first three marriages ended in divorce. She is survived by her fourth husband, Ethan Robbins; two daughters, Erika Marshall of Naples, Fla., and Alicia Travers of Greenwich, Conn.; a sister, Ann Gordon of Oakland, Calif.; and two grandchildren.

Peter, Paul and Mary reunited to perform at a benefit to oppose nuclear power in 1978 and thereafter kept to a limited schedule of tours around the world. Many of their concerts benefited political causes. “I was raised to believe that everybody has a responsibility to their community and I use the word very loosely,” Ms. Travers told The Times in 1999. “It’s a big community. If I get recognized in the middle of the Sinai Desert I have a big community.”

It was a faithful community. Musical fashions changed, but fans stayed loyal to the music and the political ideals of the group. Ms. Travers once told the music magazine Goldmine, “People say to us, ‘Oh, I grew up with your music,’ and we often say, sotto voce, ‘So did we.'”

Now go away and leave me alone with my record player. I’m mourning.