Irene Stuber: Raising Hell on the Web

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Last year Irene Stuber took a good look at the World Wide Web and found a man’s world. Amidst the clamor of gun control activists, religious conservatives, progressive political parties — just about any group with a point of view — she found that the women’s side of the story was in danger of going untold. So Stuber, a 67-year-old retired Florida newspaper journalist, launched her own women’s Web nexus, Catt’s Claws, and women’s voices got a little bit louder.

“The same thing was missing on the Internet as was missing in our daily newspapers and news magazines: information about what is happening to women in the U.S. and the world,” says Stuber. “For example, monthly I have been posting information about an abortion pills method that is legal and available today. I post information about condom use, birth control, etc. Each month women write amazed. This may be ‘old’ information, but women don’t have access to it in today’s society.”

In Stuber’s eyes, the new media provided a unique opportunity for women to discuss their local problems and put them into a global perspective. Catt’s Claws set out to do just that.

“While reading our newspapers, we may think ‘Oh my, how awful’ about one murder after a lengthy stalking in our hometown and see it as an isolated miscarriage of justice,” she says. “Catt’s Claws, by showing the same thing is happening in Wyoming, New York, California, Alabama, and Iowa, reveals that there is a pattern of discrimination and abuse of women and children’s rights and safety — an institutionalized abuse that is not being addressed by our government and law enforcement agencies.”

Indeed, Catt’s Claws has been the chronicle of ‘herstory’ on the Web, and has been a source of inspiration to a younger generation of women Web publishers.

Laurie Mann, a 30-something feminist who coordinates the Women Leaders Online Web site, says Stuber is “my role model as I age — an interesting/take-no-prisoners woman who won’t kowtow to anyone and who will grow and change with the times.”

Stuber says that she chose her role model for the same reasons. “That’s why I named my column after Carrie Chapman Catt, who was so single-minded in her drive towards women’s enfranchisement that we got it. She marched into Congress and into the state legislatures and into the White House and confronted men face to face.”

Catt’s Claws is put together by a “cast of thousands,” says Stuber, since much of the content comes from the more than 150 email messages she receives every day. With an invisible budget, (in fact, much of the cost has come out of Stuber’s pocket), the site has a voluntary workforce, comprised of a proofreader, a mailing list administrator, and a Web designer. “My work is limited to gathering the information, writing it, and then sending it to a few people who then do the major distribution,” she says.

Catt’s Claws began as a “protest” against the National Organization for Women’s absence from the Internet, Stuber says. An active member of NOW, she began petitioning them to build a Website in July of 1994. Nothing happened.

“In January of 1995 I said ‘to hell with them’ and launched Catt’s Claws.” Six weeks later, NOW launched their site.

Stuber says that sometimes her family has told her that she “should be sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair instead of in front of a computer screen raising hell with the status quo.”

Let’s take up a collection for a laptop.

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