Alice Walker and Womanism

Womanism is a theory developed by Alice Walker in 1982. Alice is a black woman who was born in Georgia in 1944. She grew up with her parents and two brothers. Her parents were sharecroppers so she was poor. When she was eight years old she was shot in the eye, an injury that shaped most of her childhood. It made her very self conscience, as a result she took solace in her writing. Alice Walker graduated from high school as the  class valedictorian and went to Spelman College, but soon transferred to Sarah Lawrence College to expand her studies in Africa. Fast forward a couple of decades, Alice was a vital figure in the civil rights movement. She knew she was a gifted writer and used that talent to reach black people. She wrote her first major novel in 1982, but before The Color Purple, there was In Search of our Mother’s Gardens. Which introduced the idea of Womanism.

Womanism was derived from the term Womanish, meaning grown or you are acting in a manner that is older or more mature than your age, “Womanish,’ then, represents an attitude or orientation toward life of strong-willed, opinionated self-confidence. Within black communities, even young girls are referred to as womanish, that is, behaving like, or assuming the responsibilities and prerogatives of, older, adult females. In fact, black females necessarily assume adult roles and develop a maturity at very young ages.”(e.g. Deborah K. King, Womanish, Womanism, Womanist, Studies Encyclopedia). The idea of Womanism has been evident in the lives of all black women, young and old, for decades. Alice Walker decided that in 1982 she should propose the theory to the masses, through In Search of our Mother’s Gardens, where she said “1. From womanish.  (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e. frivolous, irresponsible, not serious.)  A black feminist or feminist of color.  From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman.  Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior.  Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one.  Interested in grown up doings.  Acting grown up.  Being grown up.  Interchangeable with another black folk expression: “You trying to be grown."  Responsible.  In charge.

It was a theory designed to empower the black woman. There was nothing in place to support black women and the cultures and traditions that they brought to this country. “3. Loves music.  Loves dance.  Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness.  Loves struggle. Loves the Folk.  Loves herself.” Not only did black women bring a fresh style of dance, visual art, music and literature to this country, but they also brought their physical features. Black women were and still are put down for their bodies, but their bodies were a defining feature that was latter taught to be embraced by black women. Womanism is all about recognition, the movement knows that so much contributed to the success of black women in this country. “2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength.  Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually.  Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.” It is crucial to acknowledge the struggle and appreciate the contribution. It recognizes the gender roles of black women but also a woman’s ability to love other women both platonically and sexually.

  • Contributor last name, contributor first name. "Womanist, Womanism, Womanish." In Women's Studies Encyclopedia, ed. Helen Tierney. Greenwood Press, 2002. today's date <>

  • Walker, Alice. "Womanism." In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Print.

  • "Who Can Be A Womanist?" Gradient Lair -. 29 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <>.

Timeline of Alice Walker

  • Born February 9, 1944

  • In 1952 she was shot in the eye with a BB gun. The gun left a scar which made her self conscious. She took solace in her writing.

  • In 1961 she was admitted to Spelman College and began classes. She later transferred to Sarah Lawrence.

  • In 1965 she graduated and published her first short story.

  • In 1666 she became a civil rights activist

  • After college she worked as a social worker and an advocate for human rights and published her first collection of poetry in 1968.

  • In 1973 she published several more collections and became a huge voice in the black feminist movement.

  • In 1982 she published the Color Purple, arguably one of her most popular pieces.

  • In 1983 The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and The National Book Award for Fiction.

  • 1983-2015 Walker continues to be an activist and a powerful voice in feminism. She uses her writing and voice to raise awareness and advocate for women’s rights, especially in the black community.

Creative Piece

My idea for a creative piece is a website about Alice Walker and her contributions to the Feminist community. The link to my website is below and I will have it displayed during the Museum walk on my laptop. Website link: