The original women of Fly by Night Women’s Printing Collective were: Alice Embree, Rita Starpattern, Cynthia Roberts, Melita Abrego and Missy Bondy. Rita Starpattern passed away in 1996 and Cynthia Roberts passed away in 2018. Both are remembered by their lasting impacts on the Austin community and by their friends and family.
Rita Starpattern (left) and Alice Embree (right) accepting a check for Red River Women’s Press, Fly by Night’s successor, in 1977.
“Alice told me she was starting a women’s press collective & had been working on soliciting financial donations.” Melita Abrego.
Fly by Night Women’s Printing Collective was the brainchild of Alice Embree. She was involved in multiple avenues of activism during this time, including working for The Rag, Austin’s underground newspaper. Alice has recently published a book, Voice Lessons. She was kind enough to do an email interview with me, the transcript for which can be found under “Alice’s Interview”.
“Rita Starpattern was a phenomenal person & an excellent artist. She turned down a scholarship to a prestigious art institution to attend the University of Texas. Rita was a real shero during the mass murders by Charles Whitman on the UT Tower in 1966 or 67 & is featured in a recent award-winning documentary on the shooting.” Melita Abrego.
Starpattern also founded Women & their Work, a nonprofit art exhibition that displays Women’s art. It is located at 1311 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702.
Melita Abrego is one of the founding members of Fly by Night. She was taking printing classes at Austin Community College when Fly by Night formed and became one of their printers and binders.
She was involved in mutliple avenues of activism including acting with the “Bertolt Brecht Memorial Guerilla Theater that created plays about current global political events & acted on street corners, UT campus & other places.”
Melita was kind enough to do an email interview with me, the transcript for which can be found under “Melita’s Interview”.
Melita Abrego (left) and Cynthia Roberts (right) at Fly by Night’s headquarters, 1975.
“Cynthia Roberts founded the women’s bookstore with donations from friends & relatives. Cynthia was another printer; I considered the main one. I saw her there the most.” Melita Abrego.
Cynthia was a main member and crucial printer at Fly by Night. She was involved in other activism which included being one of the founders of Common Woman Bookstore, a feminist bookstore, now BookWoman located at 5501 N Lamar Blvd #A-105, Austin, TX 78751 and run by another founding member, Susan Post.
Melissa “Missy” Bondy was a student at the University of Texas at the time of her involvement in Fly by Night. She was a part-time printer for the Collective and had worked at another alternative press in her hometown of Madison. While in Austin, Melissa also wrote articles for The Rag.
She was a longterm Longhorn, getting her Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D from UT. Melissa is now a professor of epidemiology at Stanford University, where she continues her activism work by studying health disparities in glioma and breast cancer.
Melissa was kind enough to do a Zoom interview with me, the transcript for which can be found under “Melissa’s Interview”.
Special Mentions: Robin Birdfeather & Susan Post
Robin Birdfeather was an Austin transplant who became heavily involved in both the women’s movement and the LGBTQ+ movement in the 70s. As a lesbian and a mother, Birdfeather faced discrimination from both communities but never stopped fighting for the improvement of women and LGBTQ+ lives everywhere. Robin was kind enough to do an email interview with me, the transcript for which can be found under “Robin’s Interview”.
Susan Post is one of the original members of Common Woman Bookstore and the only member left. She currently runs BookWoman, the successor to Common Woman. Fun fact: the original Common Woman Bookstore was run out of Post’s home!
“Alice Embree, Cynthia Roberts & I were students at Austin Community College in Austin at the East Austin campus around 1973. One day Alice told me she was starting a women’s press collective & had been working on soliciting financial donations.”
Thank you to Robin Birdfeather, Alice Embree, Melita Abrego and Susan Post for sharing with me their memories and memorabilia relating to Fly by Night and 1970s Austin activism.