elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Robin Morgan (born January 29, 1941)

Robin Morgan (born January 29, 1941) is a former child actor turned American radical feminist activist, writer, poet, and editor of Sisterhood is Powerful and Ms. Magazine.

During the 1960s, she participated in the civil rights and anti-war movements; in the late 1960s she was a founding member of radical feminist organizations such as New York Radical Women and W.I.T.C.H.. She also founded the Women's Media Center.

Morgan was born in Lake Worth, Florida of Jewish ancestry. Her father was not present during her mother's travel from New York to Florida in order to give birth. Morgan grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. Her mother and her maternal aunt started her as a child model when she was a toddler. At what she and almost everyone else thought was the age of four (she was actually five years old), she had her own radio program on New York station WOR titled Little Robin Morgan. She was also a regular on Juvenile Jury playing herself. She started her most famous acting role at the age of seven/eight when she began to play Dagmar Hansen, the younger sister in the TV series Mama starring Peggy Wood that premiered on CBS in 1949.

When she left the series in 1956, Morgan was suffering from the pressures of wealth and fame, and decided she would rather be a poet/writer than an actor. She fought her mother's efforts to force her to continue acting. As a young woman she learned that her mother had conspired with her Florida obstetrician to "lose" the birth certificate and to testify under oath for an affidavit that the baby had been born in 1942. In fact, the birth had taken place exactly a year earlier. They did this in order to cover up an out-of-wedlock birth that had been ignored by the biological father, who was himself an obstetrician. The father, Dr. Mates Morganstern, eventually opened a successful practice in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He visited the infant Robin once, decided not to see her again but stored in his office a certified copy of her birth certificate. He gave it to her when she visited the office in 1961 after finding, without her mother's knowledge, a listing for a Dr. Mates Morganstern in the New Brunswick telephone directory at the library. During their 1961 conversation in his office he told Robin that his wife in New Jersey was a woman he had known since their respective childhoods in Austria, but he only knew Robin's mother for a short while in the United States.

Until Robin Morgan was 13 years old, or believed that that was her age, her mother explained the absence of a father or male guardian by claiming Robin's father had been killed in World War II. When Robin revealed she had overheard conversations between the mother and aunts that contradicted such a claim, the mother claimed the father had escaped from more than one Nazi concentration camp and she had saved his life by sponsoring his immigration to the United States where he had no family. Robin Morgan learned in 1961 that this, too, was a lie. She was crushed by her father's cold attitude during their meeting in his office, but four years later she received a surprise when he invited her and her husband Kenneth Pitchford to have dinner with his wife and two sons. Immediately after issuing the invitation by phone, Dr. Morganstern informed her that he did not want his sons to know they had a half-sister or that he had fathered an illegitimate child, so she had to pretend she was the "daughter of an old friend" while dining with the Morganstern family. She went through with the charade once but refused to do it a second time, and so she never saw or communicated with her half-brothers again. Her father visited her Manhattan home, however, sometime later in the 1960s.

When "little Robin Morgan" began to get steady work as a child model and radio commentator shortly after her mother and her Florida obstetrician's testimony that the birth had occurred in 1942, she became the breadwinner for the mother and aunt. Morgan has written that most people who enjoy watching child performers do not understand the implications of the children financially supporting their parent(s). Whenever the child disagrees with decisions that the parent(s) make, the child can become confused about why the person who provides the money cannot choose how to spend it.

For her mother and aunt, the postdating of Morgan's birth on the affidavit came in handy, causing casting directors and producers to believe the precocious child was a year younger than she actually was. During this period, Dr. Mates Morganstern, although he "rarely watched television," became aware of his biological daughter's fame via the print media, deciding that it was "none of [his] business."

When Morgan's mother, who legally changed her last name twice as a young woman, entered her early 60s, she developed Alzheimers disease. Her entire life savings, consisting of a six-figure sum that had accumulated in the bank since Morgan had worked in radio and television, was stolen by her two home caregivers. Morgan discovered this too late for police to gather evidence. The two home caregivers attended the mother's funeral in 1983, walked up to Morgan after the service to express condolences and then disappeared.

As she entered adulthood, Morgan decided to study at and was accepted to Columbia University but left before obtaining an degree, choosing to work as an agent and occasional editor at Curtis Brown (literary agents). W. H. Auden was among the writers she met there in the early 1960s.

Morgan began publishing her poetry in the early 1960s (later collected in her 1972 anthology, Monster). In 1962, she married the poet Kenneth Pitchford. She soon became active in the anti-war Left, and contributed articles and poetry to Left-wing and counter-culture journals such as Liberation, Rat, Win, and The Guardian.

In the late 1960s, Morgan was a member of the Youth International Party with Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner. However, tensions over sexism within YIP (and the New Left in general) came to a head while Morgan was becoming more involved in Women's Liberation activism. In 1968, she joined demonstrations to free Valerie Solanas (protesting the three-year sentence Solanas received for attempted murder against Andy Warhol), and became a founding member of New York Radical Women, helping to organize their inaugural protest of the Miss America pageant in September 1968.

Later in the same year she helped to create W.I.T.C.H., a radical feminist group that used public street theater (called "hexes" or "zaps") to call attention to sexism. In December 1968, Morgan and other women staged a "hex" against both the House Unamerican Activities Committee and the Chicago Eight; they argued that the men in the HUAC and the Chicago Eight played off of each other to portray the antiwar movement as the pet project of a few male "stars."

Like many radical feminists, Morgan made a decisive break from what they described as the "male Left," and put the reasons for her break into her 1970 essay for the first women's issue of Rat, "Goodbye to All That." In the same year, she edited one of the first anthologies of radical feminist writings, Sisterhood is Powerful.

Since the 1970s, Morgan has continued in her writing, editing, publishing, and feminist organizing. In addition to her poetry and frequent articles on feminist topics, she has edited two anthologies following up on Sisterhood is Powerful: Sisterhood is Global (1984) and Sisterhood is Forever (2003). She has served as a contributing editor to Ms. Magazine for many years, and served as editor-in-chief from 1989-1993.

Robin Morgan currently lives in Manhattan. Her son (with Kenneth Pitchford) is the musician and recording artist Blake Morgan. She has been open about having romantic relationships with both men and women since the 1960s. While she has identified her religion as both atheist and Wiccan, she is "deeply opposed to all patriarchal religions.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Morgan

Robin Morgan, 1992, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123977)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Saturday's Child: A Memoir by Robin Morgan
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (November 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0393050157
ISBN-13: 978-0393050158
Amazon: Saturday's Child: A Memoir

The fascinating narrative of an amazing life: from child TV star to poet and feminist activist.

Robin Morgan is known as a prize-winning author, a political theorist, and a founder of the contemporary women's movement. But these adult accomplishments eclipsed an earlier fame. "Saturday's child has to work for a living," and Morgan has--since the age of two. She was a tot model, had her own radio show at age four, and was a child star on television, including on the popular series "Mama." Unlike most child actors, she emerged to reinvent a life filled with literary achievement and constructive politics.

Here Morgan tells the whole story--the years as a child so famous she was named "The Ideal American Girl," her fight to become a serious writer, marriage to a fiery bisexual poet, motherhood, lovers (male and female), and decades working on civil rights, the radical underground, and global feminism. This is the intensely personal, behind-the-scenes story of her life.

More Particular Voices at my website:
http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: author: robin morgan, particular voices

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