Abby Rockefeller (ecologist)

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Abby Rockefeller
Abigail Aldrich Rockefeller

1943 (age 79–80)
Alma materNew England Conservatory of Music
Parent(s)David Rockefeller
Margaret McGrath
RelativesSee Rockefeller family

Abigail Aldrich Rockefeller (born 1943) is an American feminist, ecologist, and member of the Rockefeller family. She was a member of Cell 16, a radical feminist organization, in the 1970s. She also founded the Clivus Multrum company, which manufactures composting toilets.

Early life and education[edit]

Abby Rockefeller was born in 1943, the eldest daughter and second child of David Rockefeller and Margaret McGrath. She has an older brother, David Jr., and four younger siblings, Neva, Peggy, Richard, and Eileen.

She attended the New England Conservatory of Music in the early 1960s, where she encountered teachers critical of social inequality in the United States. This experience led her to embrace Marxism, the politics of Fidel Castro and ultimately radical feminism.[1]

Radical feminism[edit]

She joined the Boston-area female liberation movement led by Roxanne Dunbar, which subsequently changed its name to Cell 16.[2] Along with the other Cell 16 members, Rockefeller promoted self-defense for women and became skilled in karate in response to the frequent street harassment and sexual assaults women endured at the time. They set up a Tae Kwon Do studio in Boston and taught hundreds of women who, in turn, taught other women, becoming pioneers in self-defense for women.

After reading Cell 16's radical feminist publication, No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation, Rockefeller decided to join the organization. In issue 6, "Tell A Woman", published in May 1973, she contributed an article called "Sex: The Basis of Sexism",[3] which posited that one driving force in sexism was male desire to access and control female sexuality for their own ends.[4] After being infiltrated by Trotskyites and FBI agents, Cell 16 disassociated from its splinter group Female Liberation, which was providing a front for recruiting aspiring feminists to Trotskyism.[5][6][7][8]


In the 1970s Rockefeller turned her attention to environmentalism, focusing on human waste. Rockefeller was the first American to install a composting system in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, even though the technology had been around since the 1930s.[9] In 1973, she founded the Clivus Multrum company to manufacture composting toilets.

As of 2005, Clivus Multrum was still the "largest distributor of composting toilets for public use in North America".[9]


  1. ^ Echols, Alice (1989). Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 158, 163, 211. ISBN 9780816617876. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  2. ^ Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.
  3. ^ "No More Fun and Games, A Journal of Female Liberation". Green Lion Press. Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  4. ^ Gorman, Hollis (January 16, 1975). "Feminist Says Physical Desire Is Cause of Female Oppression". The Harvard Crimson.
  5. ^ Rosen, Ruth (2000). The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America. Viking. p. 242. ISBN 978-0670814626. The FBI was apparently able to recruit informers to attend meetings and report back to the FBI with ease. Bureau files contain summaries of feminist meetings with such subversive aims as, 'They wanted equal opportunities that men have in work and in society'.
  6. ^ The Other Woman, a Toronto-based feminist newspaper with cross-Canada circulation "Infiltration of the Women's Movement by the LSA/YS" Issue: Nov.-Dec. 1973.
  7. ^ Davidson, Sara (1969). "AN 'Oppressed Majority' Demands Its Rights". Life.
  8. ^ Densmore, Dana, ed. (1 October 1968). Complete set of No More Fun & Games. Cell 16. ISBN 1888009306.
  9. ^ a b McCandlish, Laura (22 May 2005). "Indoor composting toilets waste not, want not". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 September 2021.