Jen Smith

Jen Smith, 2011

Jen Smith is an artist, musician, zine editor, and activist from the United States.

Jen Smith is credited with being the inspiration behind the term Riot Grrrl and being one of the architects of the movement. Writing in Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital, Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins report that while living in Washington, D.C., Smith reacted to the violence of the Mount Pleasant race riots in the Spring of 1991 by prophetically writing in a letter to Allison Wolfe, "this summer's going to be a girl riot." Other reports say she wrote, "we need to start a girl riot."[1]

That summer, Olympia, Washington, students Wolfe and Molly Neuman, editors of Girl Germs zine, to which Smith had contributed, moved to Washington, D.C. Having already formed their band Bratmobile, they asked Smith and Christina Billotte (of Autoclave and Slant 6) to join, and the band released one cassette tape, called Bratmobile DC, with this line-up.

As written about in Bikini Kill zine by Kathleen Hanna, Jen proposed they all collaborate on a zine called Girl Riot, which would serve as a networking forum for young women. Molly Neuman began the zine, released under the title riot grrrl, with contributions from Smith, Wolfe, and the members of Bikini Kill.

At the end of the summer Bratmobile returned to Olympia and Jen Smith stayed behind to edit a zine called Red Rover. A number of issues were released before, in 1993, she began a new zine, an offshoot of Red Rover, called Another Lo-Fi Xtravanganza.[2] The zine also became a small record label, releasing cassettes by artists such as Wandering Lucy.

At the same time, Smith began a band with Donna Dresch and Nikki Chapman called Rastro! The trio, with Smith on guitar and vocals, Chapman on bass, and Dresch on drums, released two songs on compilations by independent record labels such as Simple Machines. After this band broke up, Smith moved to Olympia, Washington where she recorded Boot Party with Dub Narcotic Sound System, and began the Cha Cha Cabaret, which she hosted under the persona of "Miss Lady Hand Grenade" in 1996 and 1997. Participating artists included Miranda July, Mirah, Flying Tigers, Old Time Relijun, Simplement Jacques, Nikki McClure, The Lookers, The Skirts, and Panties, and all appear together on the K Records compilation Chez Vous.[3] Cha Cha Cabaret toured the country, adding musicians such as Sharon Cheslow while in San Francisco.

In the 2000s, Smith returned to San Francisco, where she joined with ex-Circus Lupus member Seth Lorinczi[4] and ex-Electrolettes member Julianna Bright to begin the band The Quails.[5] The band toured with Sleater Kinney, Aislers Set and The No-No's. They released three CDs, as well as zines and projects such as the comic book Bon Soir and a mini-opera CD under the name 'Marzipan Ponce'.[6]

After this band broke up, Jen Smith devoted herself to her artwork. She has exhibited across the country, collaborating with artists such as LTTR, and having her own solo exhibitions.

In 2008, she appeared in the feature film The Lollipop Generation by G.B. Jones [7]


with Bratmobile

Was from Portland, OR. 1981

with Rastro!

with Dub Narcotic Sound System

with Cha Cha Cabaret

with The Quails





  • Andersen, Mark and Jenkins, Mark, Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital, Akashic Books, 2003, ISBN 1-888451-44-0
  • Drake, Jennifer and Haywood, Leslie, Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminist. University of Minneapolis Press, 1992. pgs 226-238
  • Isaksen, Judy, "Identity and Agency: Riot Grrrls Jouissance", Enculturation, Vol 2, No. 2, Spring 1999
  • Kearney, Mary Celeste, Girls Make Media, CRC Press, 2006 ISBN 0-415-97278-7
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