Leslie Carlson Interview
Leslie Carlson recounts her experiences as an active participant in second-wave feminism, women’s liberation movements, and in the media during the 1970s in Tucson. Carlson remembers the period as a time of alternative institution creation on the part of women’s health and a time of reclaiming child work – much of today’s work in these areas emerged from activities done during the 70s.
Women were breaking into fields they hadn’t been employed in before amid a tense atmosphere of harassment, and she was no exception. She recalls the invention of portable video, which brought agency to those like her who went on to make and edit videotapes. Carlson also joined the local PBS station in Tucson, where she gained valuable media experience. Interesting organizations outside the traditional corporate structure were created by the tightly bonded feminist community here, as well.
Carlson speaks of organizing a women’s astrology collective in addition to a women’s media group named Tucson Feminists in Media, the latter of which was founded in around 1975. This organization filmed video newsletters - brief stories which outlined the latest developments in local feminist groups – that were exchanged with similar groups in both New York and Los Angeles. Carlson was just as active in Take Back the Night during the 1980s, which she describes in detail.
The concept of a nourishing space was another development for Tucson feminists. Envisioned by Katharine “Kittu” Riddle (the mother of Dorothy Riddle, who appears in the "Feminists in the Media" exhibit), these resembled retreat centers in some ways in that they were places where women could go for physical or spiritual healing and treatment.
While this period of time was politically challenging, it was simultaneously a remarkable era that brought together women from around the city and around the country who forged lifelong bonds with fellow members. Many things we today take for granted, such as female news anchors, was forever changed by second-wave feminism. Carlson feels privileged to have experienced 1970s/80s feminism in Tucson, that she embraced it, and was a part of it; she describes it as a blessed experience, though she remains humble and points to the highly collective nature of the movement and activities.
Leslie Carlson is also featured in the Wingspan Community Center Exhibit on the AQA website: