THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
“In Organizing, You Have to Take the Long View.”
Interviewed by Judy Waxman, Oral Historian, March 2023
JS: My name is Janet Selcer, and I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in the mighty Midwest.
JW: And when was that?
JS: 1948. This year I will be 75.
JW: Tell us a little about your childhood, ethnic background, neighborhood, siblings, that kind of thing.
JS: I grew up in South Euclid, Ohio, which is a near suburb of downtown Cleveland. I have one brother who’s a bit older than me. I grew up in a Jewish family, and that was an influence in my life. I don’t think anybody in my family was terribly religious, but like a lot of Eastern European Jews, they had a very strong cultural tie to Judaism. And, as died-in-the-wool liberals, my parents did impart to me the notion that in Judaism, what you do to change the world is the most important thing.
I grew up thinking there was no heaven and hell and what you do now, in the course of your life, is what makes you a good person. It’s sort of a requirement of living a good life. My parents were both union members. My mother was a teacher for her entire career, and she worked while we were growing up. They were unionized. I am guessing at that time it was the American Federation of Teachers. My father had a job that most people might not equate with unionism, which is that he was a violist in the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, known as the Cleveland Orchestra, to be exact.
He did that for his entire career. But when he started, and throughout most of the time that he was in it up until, say, the ’60s and ’70s, that was not a job like it is now. Now, orchestra members are well paid and they’ve, through unionization, bargained for good working conditions. But at the time in Cleveland, although the Cleveland Orchestra was a premier organization, one of the supposedly top five orchestras in the country, they didn’t have a pension plan. They didn’t have a full year of work because they had not yet built a summer home for the orchestra. The pay was low, and my father, in fact, always had a second job. He sold clothing in the May Company department store, men’s clothing.
So, I learned of that. That was important. Not only was I kind of filled with classical music, but during the time I was still at home, the orchestra went on strike two times, and my father was one of the union activists in the orchestra. So, I remember doing things like making picket signs with my mother at the kitchen table, and also listening to my father and our family friends who were in the orchestra have these vehement arguments and discussions about what they should be doing.
So that too, was an influence on me then. There were other kinds of influences. I always remember that my father insisted I take typing in high school, and he told me, that way I could always get a job. Little did I know that that was pretty much the only job I could get as a young person, when I finally did move to Boston and became working age. So that’s a little bit about where I’m from.
JW: What led you to the so called second wave of feminism?
JS: I actually think I missed a lot of the direct influences that a lot of students in my generation were influenced by. I did start college. I went to college for three years in Wisconsin. But in ’68 and ’69, when things were really bursting in the student movement, and in the beginnings of the women’s movement, I was not that political. I went overseas to live for almost a year, partly as a program from college and partly just because I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to come back.
And then when I came back, I had a lot of family issues and illnesses to deal with, and I dropped out of college. So, I wasn’t really part of the student movement. I kind of missed the first phases of the women’s movement, I’d say, and that lasted for another period of time.
But although, I think despite my parents’ liberalism and messages to me about taking action in the world, something about their liberalism didn’t explain the world to me. And so, when I was about, I’d say, 22, 23, I started really learning about socialism and other ways of thinking about what was wrong with society. It was really the first time I began to think about the difference between individual problems, and problems that are systemic within society. And that did include women’s issues as well.
At that time in my life, I knew some people that were quite involved in the women’s movement, at least with women’s groups, which were everywhere at the time. But I didn’t really have a lot of that kind of experience until I decided that what I wanted to do was to organize.
I moved to Boston in 1969. As I said, I had a job as a clerical worker. Though I worked at many places over a number of years, I worked several times for Harvard University. Where much later, the slogan “We Can’t Eat Prestige” became the new truth, which I experienced firsthand. I had a job there, where I started a petition about some work conditions that everybody didn’t like.
I was called into the personnel person’s office at five minutes of five on Friday, which is the typical time to get fired and they said, “You don’t seem to be happy here.” And that was a code expression [for] you’re fired. That just contributed to my growing sense that where I belonged was doing something about the experiences I had as a clerical worker.
Boston at the time, and still, really, ran on a paper economy. It wasn’t a big manufacturing city like others I’d grown up with, like Cleveland. And really, the banks, the insurance companies, the investment firms, the law offices, universities, publishing firms, they were all running because of office workers. And yet the pay, and the treatment were pretty poor.
There was something about getting dressed up, going downtown if it was a downtown office, and looking nice, that I think drew a lot of particularly young women, particularly probably working-class women, who are now experiencing a job that might be very different from their parents, whether they were factory workers or whatever.
It seems somehow, like it should be prestigious and good. You got to wear pantyhose every day. It just was a different kind of experience. And yet, I think under the influence of the women’s movement, which had started to change culture and started to change certain assumptions about what was okay and what was not in people’s view of women, although certainly that hasn’t ended.
Women felt ignored, put down, belittled. I had a boss that didn’t recognize me on the street when I said hello to him. It was that little in his mind who worked for him. Women were often training men to be their own supervisor, clearly able to do that job themselves but not given it. I think the whole issue of respect on the job, let alone working conditions that people faced, were very much influenced by the women’s movement.
Although most of the clerical workers I work with through 9 to 5 would say to you when you sat down with them, “I’m not a women’s liber,” they want to make that clear, then there would be a long list of things that they would summarize by saying, “I know it’s all because I’m a woman.” That was good enough for us. As a premise of organizing, you start where people are at. And it was clear that these young women and older women too, knew the score. But they had to express it in their own way, in the way they felt comfortable.
I guess I can say that my real involvement in the women’s movement started when I came to the 9to 5 office after I got fired from Harvard, and knocked on the door. There were two people there in this tiny little office in the YWCA. It was right across the street from the John Hancock building which had just renovated with these all-glass windows but the windows kept popping out. There was some design flaw and they would fall right in the street by our office. We eventually took that as a symbolic notion about our strength and the weaknesses of that industry.
So, there were only two people there. They were just about to launch the organization. It hadn’t been started yet, although there had been a group that had done some planning about how they might start. And one of the women that I worked with for the next ten years went to a training school for organizers called, The Midwest Academy in Chicago. [She] came back with what we hoped would be all the answers, and I basically said, “This is what I want to do. Can I do this?”
At the time, only one person was getting paid. The other one was still working part time, also at Harvard, and I was getting unemployment payments because at the time, even if you got fired from a job, you were eligible for unemployment and I don’t believe that’s true anymore. So, it was really by the seat of our pants, but they said, “Sure.” And I remained at 9 to 5, started in Boston, became a national organization, organized a union parallel for the next ten years.
JW: Who were the other women?
JS: The other two women were Karen Nussbaum and Ellen Cassidy. We worked our brains out. It was all we wanted to do. And like a lot of organizing jobs, it was so demanding. We just spent our life in that very cramped little office and became each other’s right hands and work buddies. And I still know them both.
JW: So where did you organize? How did you start?
JS: We started with a newsletter, the 9 to 5 News. And we would get up really early and just fanned out in front of the subway stops all over Boston, and would hand out this newsletter in the freezing cold, with wind making them fly away and some people turning them down, men giving us very funny looks. But after a while, women would give these little smiles and say, “Oh, I’ve read that” and take them.
It just tried to reflect back to women what we had experienced and what they were probably going through, no matter what office they worked in. Because I think what we often ran into was the fact that people appeared to be apathetic. Women appeared to have the feeling you can’t fight City Hall.
But it seemed to us that behind that, was a kind of fear and inexperience with collective action. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, but they needed their jobs, they wanted their jobs, and they weren’t sure what to do with it. [They] felt they couldn’t complain for fear of retaliation. And so, I think that we needed to legitimize the fact that we could make change and raise expectations – that we deserve change.
And so, one of the first things we did was create a Working Women’s Bill of Rights. We listed, I can’t remember, 10 or 13 points that covered everything from wanting job postings so that people would know where the openings were and could apply for them. An end to sexual harassment, and that was something that was not talked about at the time but was rampant in the office world. Demanding respect on the job, higher pay, pensions, contributions for childcare. It ran the gamut. But what we found was that these were the things women talked to us about. When we passed out newsletters, there was always a little tear slip that said, “Want to know more about 9 to 5?” and you could send that in.
We did a lot of surveying at the beginning of 9 to 5. We created surveys asking about women’s experience and problems. Again, there was a thing you could cut off and send in saying, “Would you like to know the results of this survey?” And we got those slips of paper back.
If we did, and if the person listed their phone number, we would call them and ask them to meet us at lunchtime, on their lunch hour, just to hear a little bit more, hear the results of the survey, whatever, something low key. And we ended up having two to three lunches a day because we would go from place to place, and that’s really where we got the content for the Bill of Rights.
We started keeping records. We didn’t really have a plan of action, but we decided we would have a meeting that made public the Bill of Rights and invite as many of the people that we met as we could. [We had] no idea whether or not it would come off, but we publicized it in the media. We had some women, and others who were allies but known in Boston come and speak there, and we set up a bunch of chairs in a room at the YWCA, and I think well over 100 people showed up.
Some of the people that we met, some of the women who we talked with time and time again were willing to speak at this event. One of the things that we did constantly is work really closely with women that started to get involved so that incrementally, they could take on more and more responsibilities and really try to cultivate them as leaders. They gave totally wonderful speeches, and it sort of took off from there.
We divided into committees for different industries. I was the staff person for insurance and banking, which I thought was great because it was sort of the belly of the beast. Karen organized in universities, which was probably a better place to organize because just due to some of the veneer of openness at universities, they were more in a corner as far as retaliation and other things, and people were able to get a little more active. Ellen worked particularly in the publishing industry, and we went on from there.
JW: Did you have some connection with Jane Fonda and that group on the movie 9 to 5?
JS: Yes, that came much later. I’ll come back to that. First of all, I think the most important thing we could do was teach people that collective action could work. And so, we would organize campaigns and target a company, and try to win any small victory and then really publicize it like crazy because we knew we weren’t going to change everything all at once. But we absolutely needed to have women experience what it was like to be able to do something.
Really, it was the power of the media. A lot of humor, making fun of what was going on in the office. A lot of outrage that people could express, but also getting to know people on the inside of those companies who would pass us information about things that were going on. And they would feel like, “I can’t be out in front of the company doing anything, but I can surreptitiously tell what’s happening.”
But we had other members not related to that company, that felt free to go to the company and picket in front of it, pass out flyers, do more surveys, reveal the results. And it totally freaked out management. They acted from the beginning like we were one step away from being a union, which we were not.
JW: Oh, you were not?
JW: Tell me why not.
JS: Well, this was our theory at the time. We felt like this is just the beginning. Unions had shown pretty much zero interest in organizing office workers. We learned that later when we did form a union, and interviewed a lot of union people to make a decision about which union we want to affiliate with for this branch of what we were doing.
People that we sat down with said, “We would organize office workers if I had a girl to do the typing. Then I would have more time to organize office workers.” And other less mentionable phrases. I guess I can mention them in this context. “Women think with their cunt, not their mind,” was another thing that somebody said to us face to face.
But in any case, they had not started organizing in the office workforce and had a lot of stereotypes about why that wouldn’t work. And as I said, women were just being introduced to the idea of taking any kind of collective action at all. And it was our belief that having a direct-action organization, one that would use other kinds of approaches and pressures, whether it was legal enforcement of equal rights laws that were already on the books, that used information that would embarrass companies, and having that kind of experience of taking collective action was a preliminary step before that would happen.
JW: Can you give me one example, one anecdote about a win you had?
JS: Well, we had campaigns. We were pretty cheeky about it. We really felt that we could take on, and should take on, the big guys. We had year-long campaigns against First National Bank of Boston. We had a campaign against John Hancock. Modest demands like post jobs. And after a number of actions and going to state and federal regulators and looking into the company’s affirmative action plan and trying to get them to put pressure on the company.
We didn’t really pursue legal processes because that would get us involved with more individual women. It was often geared towards helping people get out of the clerical workforce. That wasn’t our goal. We wanted to make the clerical workforce a good place to work for women that were in it. But that kind of pressure really helped.
And after doing those kinds of things, in the case of John Hancock, they posted jobs. One day they just started posting jobs and all our contacts inside started calling us and telling us about this. And then we absolutely claimed that victory saying, “Thanks to everybody for what they’ve done. John Hancock has just started posting jobs.” And we would leaflet that in front of the company. We would tell the media about it, and then we went on to raises.
In the case of John Hancock, they gave, I can’t remember but it was a substantial raise, like a 10% increase across the board for women, and it was really because they were scared. They didn’t want this to go anywhere. And so, the idea was to buy off people. They even became the first company we knew of to start a fund for offsetting some of the costs of childcare. I don’t think that developed industry wide but at that time, [it was] something that they did. So that was one example.
JW: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. I was just curious were jobs posted for men and women separately at the time?
JS: Oh yes. Thanks for reminding me. I can’t believe this now, but in the Boston Globe for example, or the Herald, there was a help wanted men and a help wanted women’s section. Unbelievable. Or, all too believable. But that was for getting a job. For inside the company, they didn’t really do that. It would have been illegal, and they certainly had that much sense. They couldn’t say, “This job, no women need apply.”
But as I said, there were office workers that were very experienced. Often [they] were doing that job without recognition and pay, and then they would hire a young man, often younger than the women in charge and that person would have to train the young man into that job position. It’s just so insulting. And the victories we won; we were very aware that they weren’t like a contract. They weren’t enforceable. I think we knew, and believed, that to lock those kinds of things in for long term change, you would need to have bargaining rights.
But, for the sake of creating change and creating a different kind of culture. For the sake of scaring bosses silly, which did happen. They even organized themselves into the Boston Survey Group and an organization called the Vault, where we were able to prove that they were doing wage fixing. It was kind of like price fixing, but they compared notes. We’re not supposed to share information about your pay.
That was one of the things that was really hard to break through until women who were members of 9 to 5 started saying, “I am going to talk about that.” And of course, that was because all sorts of bad information came out about how there were not salary structures and pay scales that were fair. Then, we learned again, through internal memos that people would slip to us from inside their company, that there were these organizations, and they were looking at pay scales industry by industry.
And at the time, great attorney general Frank Belotti took it up and basically said that it was illegal to do this. That was another change. Can’t say for certain that they didn’t keep doing it, or disbanded those organizations, but they publicly were told not to do it anymore.
JW: And what year was that?
JS: I think that must have been 1977, ’78. I worked locally in Boston for the first five years I was with 9 to 5, but after about five years we started getting letters and phone calls from all over the country from groups of women that wanted to become 9 to 5, or they wanted to start a 9 to 5 in in their city.
And at the time, there were only maybe two organizations. Us in Boston, and an organization called, Women Employed in Chicago. They had a slightly different focus than us. Maybe, I can say, a little bit more oriented towards women being able to access management jobs. But we decided that we could expand.
At that point, Karen Nussbaum and I became part of the national staff, which initially, was us. We began answering women and because we had good grant funding, we were able to travel to where they were and with our Midwest Academy training, help them learn about starting an organization and how you could do that. And that became my job for the second five years of my time at 9 to 5, as the director of organizing and training.
I would travel a lot to these other locations and work with both the staff members and the women that were becoming leaders. I would also have weekly phone appointments with all the directors of the organizations. It started out slowly, but we ended up with about 18 chapters around the country in many large cities. It was more around that time that Jane Fonda came into the picture.
Karen Nussbaum had a tie with Jane Fonda because Karen had been very active in the anti-war movement. And as you may remember, so was Jane Fonda. Jane was aware of what Karen was doing now, and at one point asked, “What can I do to help?” And Karen said, “Well, why don’t you make a movie?” and that was something that she was interested in doing.
She didn’t, I don’t think, start out knowing it would be a comedy, but I think when she found out all the stories about the treatment of office workers, she thought, “People aren’t going to believe this unless it’s funny.”
It was a great thing, because she did her homework. She talked to our members for good chunks of time. She went to Cleveland; she came to Boston. By that time, we’re holding yearly working women’s summer schools. The early ones were at Kent State, then they went to Bryn Mawr College. Our staff and members from all around the country would come for three days.
For a lot of women, this was the first kind of conference they had been to. It was filled with workshops, speeches, skits. We had the habit of using a lot of music. We always changed the words to songs and did a lot of singing with people, often highlighting a national campaign.
Our campaigns became more national and at one of them, Jane Fonda came, spoke to members again, and gave a speech at that summer school. And then, when they actually had the set up for starting the film, we were asked to consult on the set. One of our staff people went there and because I was working with our Los Angeles Working Women’s Organization, I went there too. And what we were able to do with Jane Fonda, is that she agreed to do what we called, Brown Bag Lunches for Women Office Workers.
In each city that she went to, and she went to a number of them, she would attend a rally that we organized for women. Of course, we always got very good publicity, but when Jane Fonda was the guest at a Working Women’s lunch, literally a thousand people would come. It just publicized what we were doing even beyond our wildest dreams. She also allowed us to have premieres of the movie in different cities to raise money. So, it was a big contribution. The stories involved were ones that came out of the mouths of members of 9 to 5.
JW: I am really curious about your songs. Do you have a stanza or something you can remember?
JS: Yes. Well, the oldest song and maybe my favorite was to the tune of, you may not know this but, Charlie on the MTA.
JW: Oh, sure, I know it.
JS: It was a very popular song about the Boston subway system. And in it, Charlie gets on and somehow, he just can’t get off because he doesn’t have the fare to get off and on. But we changed the words to that. Let me see.
Let me tell you the story of a woman named Susie who applied for a job one day.
They tested her for typing, for shorthand and speed writing,
Then they gave her the lowest pay.
Then the chorus was:
We type and file nine to five, yet we barely stay alive,
Working from day to day.
Well, we’ve done a day’s work in the offices of Boston,
And it’s time we got a day’s pay.
It goes on for a lot of verses. We also changed the words to the labor song, The Banks of Marble, which I think Pete Seeger sang. I don’t know whether he was the first one. And that was like:
The banks are made of marble,
Women work on every floor.
And it’s time we got together,
That’s what nine to five is for.
And went on and on. It’s just a kind of solidarity and spirit. [I’m a] strong believer in music for movements.
JW: Yes, it’s fun. But it’s very real in what you’re singing about. We need a day’s pay. That’s really great. Well, then you left 9 to 5. Is that what happened?
JS: I did. Can I tell you one more thing before that? I just wanted to make clear that when we did approach unions about creating a union, we kept those two organizations separate. 9 to 5 continued as a nonunion direct-action organization. And the union, which we called in Boston, Local 925, organized separately. Although obviously they got a lot of contacts from us and the staff sort of crossed over. Some 9 to 5 staff became the union staff. So, people were very familiar with what places looked like they might organize, but they were kept separate.
And then eventually, the union that we chose was Service Employees International Union, SEIU. They were very open to organizing unorganized workers along with one or two other unions. They were the one that was willing to give us the most latitude in how we organized. And we really saw ourselves bringing together the women’s movement and the labor movement.
We perceived that the women’s movement had a lot to say and a lot of influence, but was mostly, or at least partially in good part, attended to by more middle class and more white women and we wanted to change that.
The labor movement, meanwhile, wasn’t organizing women workers and didn’t understand that the issues were somewhat different, but they were real and important. So that’s why I think we certainly had a feminist slant, whatever we called it, and we had a labor slant. And the idea was to bring those things together and create a powerful women’s organization where women were the leaders and the staff people. And SEIU really bought into that.
JW: And does the group still exist?
JS: Well, it does. 9 to 5 exists and its sort of broadened. It does different work than what I was familiar with. It’s not just organizing office workers. It’s taking up issues of low income and poor women more generally. It has a couple of offices in the country.
What happened to 925, the union, was the result of a number of factors that were basically beyond our control. You can build a movement, but you have to have the right conditions to have it really take off. And if those conditions change, you may suffer the consequences.
What happened, was that first of all, office work became much more automated and the typing pool and the individual secretary for a boss began to change as computers were introduced. Also, there was a lot of globalization. And as has happened in other manufacturing industries, some of the work that office workers did, went overseas. Like call centers and data entry systems.
And probably most prominently, there was a really ferocious anti-union busting effort on the part of employers. To my knowledge, it was at that time that union busting firms became big business, and it remains true to this day.
It was during the Reagan administration. A lot of anti-union things happened there. And that was true, like in the airlines industry with the pilots’ strike that he completely put down – that happened to organizing efforts. So eventually, quite a number of years later and after I had left 9 to 5, the national district had to disband.
There were thousands of members, but not enough to sustain it and they were siphoned off into other SEIU locals. There is a large Local 925 that still remains in Seattle because there was a successful union drive at the University of Washington. And also, they did childcare organizing among childcare workers. Those union units still remain and they’re very strong. So Local 925 does exist there.
JW: I see. So, whatever is left is part of SEIU.
JS: Yes. And other unions eventually did get into office organizing, so there are some locals. Public sector office workers were, and increasingly got organized, but private sector office workers, which is what we focused on, did not in the large numbers that we had hoped.
JW: Very interesting. Well, you say the times change, or changed. That was amazing. So, what do you go on to do after that?
JS: Well, I left 9 to 5 about two weeks before my first child was born. I was also ready at that point to move on for a variety of reasons, and I ended up staying home with her for a year. Then my son was born and there was this six-year period of time where I worked part time.
But the other really significant experience I had came a bit later when they were school age. And that is, I went back to school and got my bachelor’s degree, which I had not felt I needed. I felt like everything I wanted to learn I’m learning from what I’m doing. But I became very interested in school reform, and parent involvement in schools and the achievement gap.
Eventually, I started an organization here, actually in Brookline, where nobody thinks there’s low-income students, but in fact, there’s quite a lot of public housing called, Steps to Success. It still exists 20 years after it was started. I began it and worked on it for, I’d say, 15 years of the 20 years I was part of the school system.
It was a comprehensive program that wanted to change the direction most of the kids that were in public housing were going, because many of their parents were immigrants, working more than one job just to put food on the table.
Almost all of them didn’t have a college education themselves, and certainly not the money to pay for one, or the information to know what to do to prepare kids for it. So, 9 to 5 sought to change that by providing programming for those kids that would get them onto college campuses as young as fifth grade and give them exposure to opportunities through after school programming, summer internships that were paid as jobs, and very close counseling from our staff. We had offices in the school and they worked with students starting in fourth grade and going through high school graduation.
Then eventually, we started a college success initiative and staff people followed them right through college. And the post-secondary education, whether it was college or something else, went from about 30% of these students even applying to college, to now for many years, currently, 90 some percent of students go to college. And in the high 70s complete it within four to six years, which is way higher than the average for that income grouping of kids. So, I won’t go on about that. But I really took my organizing experience; it’s a lens that I generally see things through.
We organized a high school leadership team of our students and trained them like we trained office workers to be able to speak in public, to figure out how to reach out to their fellow students and get them involved, all the things that we would do with our members.
And we also started a parent council and basically listened to what parents were concerned about. A lot of times it was special education classifications that knocked their kids out of scheduling for things that would have put them on a different kind of track.
And with them, it was the same thing. They hadn’t done anything like this before, but we had meetings with the superintendent and also took them to college campuses so they could learn about what was going to be involved and how to fill out financial aid forms and all that kind of stuff. So that was work that I loved, and between 9 to 5 and that, I feel like I was very fortunate to have the working career that I had.
JW: And you did what your Jewish cultural background dictated. It sure sounds like it to me. That’s great.
JS: And I’m still doing it. Though now as a volunteer in retirement with a different set of purposes and goals.
JW: What are you doing as a volunteer?
JS: Well, I have become very involved with an organization called Movement Voter Project, MVP for short. It’s a national organization that raises funds for grassroots local organizations, primarily in communities of color and among youth. What it brings to them is funding, so that they can continue to figure out what the issues are in their own communities with MVP supporting them.
The overarching goal of the organization is to create a progressive movement in the country. But it also, if they didn’t already have that, brings them all the training in capacity building they need to participate in elections. And get their members to understand the different issues that they campaign about all year long, are also tremendously affected by who’s in office. Going from school committees and sheriffs and attorneys general, all the way through the presidential election.
They target particularly really close elections, which we’re now all more familiar with than we were before, given the current situation in swing states. Where a turnout of unlikely voters, marginalized voters, can completely make the difference and we’ve seen that happen time and again.
The polls are often of already registered voters. They completely miss all the people that haven’t been registered because primarily they’ve given up on elections having anything to do with them in their lives. But when they’re organized about issues that they identify in their own neighborhoods, and have the same experience we’re talking about with 9 to 5, have an experience of collective action and seeing that there can be at least some shift in power, then they’re much more likely to vote.
And I count on that for keeping us out of deep trouble that will come in the next election. Our role as volunteers is not organizing. We’re not in those communities and we have more privilege than many of the people in those communities do. We are essentially creating a movement of donors, people that we reach out to, to raise money.
JW: Do you reach more women, do you think? Are women more likely to get involved in that sort of thing?
JS: Well, actually when I think of our volunteer hubs that are doing this work, it’s pretty equal. I think women are drawn to it for sure, and there’s a lot of leadership from women in the organization both on our volunteer side and the organization’s staff. But I think just because of the threats we’re under right now to the rights of so many people and to democratic institutions, it has spanned interest to everyone. People are more concerned than they would be previously, I think.
JW: Yes. I wondered if you had any closing remarks.
JS: Sometimes you work really hard and you win some, and then you see things fail. We were very interested as we did this work in labor history and women’s history and the civil rights movement, and we knew we were standing on the shoulders of all those organizations and people that came before us.
We could see that there was a cycling of events and that they came in waves. They could be very strong. They had huge influence in inching forward on equal rights, and then there’s a backlash. I think the thing I’d say is that in organizing, you absolutely have to take the long view, and realize that as long as there are inequities, there’s going to be a fight. And drawing people into that fight is what’s important. I just keep hope that eventually we will win.