The W.I.T.C.H. movement was founded on Halloween in 1968. A group of second-wave feminists—part of the group New York Radical Women—broke away to expand the reach of their protest. W.I.T.C.H. stood for "Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell," and its members wanted to represent more than just the fight for women's rights; they wanted to support the anti-war movement, students' rights, black liberation, and more. The group would be theatrical, with every member wearing a full witch costume and remaining completely anonymous.
Many members of the original W.I.T.C.H. were practicing witches. They believed the connection between women, witchcraft, and politics was indeed very old. In Margot Adler's seminal 1979 book on paganism, Drawing Down the Moon, she writes, "Feminist Witches have stated that Witchcraft is not incompatible with politics, and further that the Craft is a religion historically conceived in rebellion and can therefore be true to its nature only when it continues its ancient fight against oppression."
For their 1969 inaugural event, members of the original group dressed in full witch garb and marched on Wall Street, to protest capitalism and place a hex on the financial district. A few months later, they released white mice at a bridal fair at Madison Square Garden to protest the traditional role of women. Other "covens" sprouted up in Chicago and Washington, D.C., before the group disbanded in 1970.
I had seen the Boston W.I.T.C.H.es myself at a few protests (and suspect that I might be socially acquainted with a few of them?). While I enjoyed their commitment to radical theatrics, I didn't realize until recently that they were upholding a specific tradition from the late 60s. If anything, that makes me appreciate them more; I always love learning when new movements aren't so new and radical after all (except when I realize why they were suppressed the first time around).
W.I.T.C.H.es Brew [Molly Birnbaum / Topic]
Wicked W.I.T.C.H: The 60s Feminist Protestors Who Hexed Patriarchy [Mary McGill / Vice]
Image: Gorilla Warfare/Wikimedia Commons (CC 4.0)