In a world that was still trying to figure out progressive definitions, Yippie Judy Gumbo, author of the recently released Yippie Girl: Exploits in Protest and Defeating the FBI, was introduced to me from a distance. “She’s a feminist,” I was told about the sister with the long flowing curls and fiery eyes.
I Meet Judy Gumbo; She Has No Idea
I was a second-generation Yippie; I had been too young for Chicago ’68 but I was fully on board with Miami Beach ’72. Both presidential nominating conventions were being held there that summer and the Yippies were planning to make their presence known. Through a short series of karmic connections, I had been brought into their broader inner circle.
I knew Judy only as Stew Albert’s wife. Stew was one of my heroes that summer so I held her in high regard, but from a distance. I never met her personally until Stew died in 2006 and I wrote to her on Facebook to convey my condolences. I told her Stew had given me the quote of the summer and words I still live by when he said to me, “We can’t lose because we’re having too much fun.” She thanked me for my kind words.
Male-Centric Yippie Meets Yippie Girl
Stew, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Rubin were the all-male voice of the Yippies to me and to the thousands of young, middle-class, antiwar, countercultural social deviants who considered Abbie and Jerry to be myths and Stew the intellectual force behind Yippie. What the Beatles were to rock music, I believed, the Yippies were to participatory politics.
The Yippie women—Nancy Kurshan, Anita Hoffman, and Judy—were seen as partners to their respective males but never as main players in their own stories.
Judy’s long-overdue Yippie Girl finally brings the female perspective to Yippie. What an inspiring story she tells, from her childhood as a red diaper daughter of an unrepentant Stalinist father and alcoholic mother in Canada; through her twenties, when she and Stew were wrongly suspected of bombing the Capitol and targeted by the FBI at the height of the antiwar movement; into the present where she reveals which main characters in her story are and are no longer still with us on this plane.
I had one ah-ha moment after another as she filled in the gaps and tied together loose ends of stories I knew only from the annals of Yippie lore: the founding of Yippie; the Abbie-Jerry feud; Stew and his best friend, Eldridge Cleaver; the Chicago trial; Jerry’s transition to becoming a stockbroker.
She can be angry, intellectual, intensely personal. She is always passionate, as when she shares the evolution of her feminist awareness and how it impacted her complex relationship with Stew, as well as, perhaps, her motivation to write this book: “Why can’t you take me seriously, Mr. High and Mighty friend of Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman? Who’s going to show up when the history is written—you, Abbie, and Jerry, that’s who! What about us women? What about me? Who do you think I am, a nobody? I’m a political person too!”
An Emerging Classic
Yippie Girl opened my eyes to the long-missing female side of a legendary movement that I knew only from the male perspective. It filled in gaps and tied together loose ends of stories I read about in underground newspapers and accepted on faith.
It is destined and deserves to be seen as a classic of the period.
Today, as a book coach and editor, I speak about writing for healing and to preserve your legacy. When you don’t tell your own story, I say, someone else will tell it for you. But it won’t be as you remembered it. Only you can tell your own story.
I’m so happy and grateful that Judy shared her story. What a loss it would have been to our understanding of the era if she had not.
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Ken Wachsberger is a book coach, editor, and the author of You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak to your group, email Ken at [email protected].