Women’s History Month is always a special time for me. Knowing how we got the vote is very important now, as American women go to the polls in a critical presidential primary. But I’m also excited to have lived through the second wave that is now history.
The veterans of the feminist wars have been collecting stories of challenges we faced. And, I’ve just gotten word that the Veteran Feminists of America posted an interview Mary Jean Collins did with me. Here’s the link and here’s my story: http://www.veteranfeministsofamerica.org/vfa-pioneer-histories-project-lois-herr/
Just finished reading The Dakota Winters, an engaging book not just because of the story line but also because it’s set in Manhattan’s upper west side in 1979, which coincides with the time of my memoir-in-progress. A novel by Tom Barbash, The Dakota Winters story touches many places and events familiar to anyone who lived or worked in New York City then.
See my review on Goodreads at
Thanks to #JenniferHaskin for pushing me to get back onto social media with my reading and writing!
The photo above is LOWER Manhattan, and the tall white building on the right is the center of my crossbar tandem experience – the Pearl Street location of what was then New York Telephone. And yes, it will be featured in my memoir along with the telephone people I worked with there.
I’m now at work on a MEMOIR, a new genre for me.
Coming of age in the 1950s, I was programmed for a traditional female path – marriage and teaching. Life didn’t turn out that way. I left teaching after one year of 7th grade language arts and began a career in telecommunications. It was the Bell System back then and while I started in a traditionally female job – technical editing – my path took some interesting turns.
By 1970 I was alert to the feminist movement and called myself a corporate feminist, bound to change the company, and I would do so. In the 1970s I was part of a collaborative and sometimes underground effort to change AT&T’s employment practices; that I documented in Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Workplace (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2003).
I didn’t ignore my career; I moved up the corporate ladder in Corporate Planning, Treasury, Corporate Policy Seminars, New York Telephone Network, AT&T Marketing, and NYNEX Access Services. Mid-career I went off the beaten path and spent a year working for the Ford Administration in Washington DC.
The New York Telephone Company experience was not a normal career step, and it is the subject of my memoir.
In retirement I have continued to blaze trails – living on a farm for 12 years and then being an active participant in political campaigns for 15 years. Those experiences will have to be the subject of another book.
I’m hoping to learn about memoirs as I write and have participated in Author Learning Center webinars. I’m trying to figure out how to communicate with other authors on Goodreads. This is challenging.
I recently added my personal journals to the family archives. The words in those journals follow me on adventures through various jobs, some in hostile territory. Does anybody else remember what it was like having the audacity to claim we could manage in traditionally male work environments? I wrote about it. But I also wrote about the joys (and lessons) that came with leaving the corporate world for a farm of my own. So much more material to work with.
As I read my journal along with the writings of my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, I see that we all had the quiet audacity to take on challenges and build our own lives, not always according to traditional patterns.
Happy Holidays to my readers! I wish to everyone a new year of peace and happiness.
A year has gone by without another book published. That’s because I have been very involved with local politics. Whatever your party, it is important to pay attention to local municipal leadership. What happens in your town really does make a difference. I am on my local borough council, and I work with others in our county to get good people elected. Someday maybe I’ll write about politics.
My next writing projects revolve around existing books – first, making a version of Women, Power, and AT&T for the general market rather than the academic world it was created for. What happened to women in the corporate world in the 1970s is still relevant whether you are talking about job discrimination or sexual harassment. Of course, in 1970 we didn’t even have the words “sexual harassment.” I think the story will sell.
The other project is taking Dear Woman of My Dreams and creating a small cast play.
Much of my writing depends on notes, letters, and diaries from my family archives. I’ve just re-read my own journals from the 1970s and 1980s when I was on my corporate career venture. What a mind-bending experience! Of course I recognize myself and what I wrote about, but some of the perceptions I had then aren’t exactly as I remember them now. My diary files go back to my great grandmother and the 1890s.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy new year, looking to the future with hope and to the past with respect.
Thanks to Northern Lebanon Rotary and Rotarian Litz, there’s a youtube of my talk about Dear Woman of My Dreams:
I’ll be looking for other opportunities to share both “playing with archives” and my mother’s 1923 diary as published in Dear Woman of My Dreams!
Among the treasures in my family archive are lots of recipes! Here are two from my great grandmother Rebecca’s notebook for you to try out over the holidays. She assumed you’d know what to do with the ingredients.
“Rocks” were a common cookie project for young folks in the 1890s, like fudge was for my teenage baking years in the 1950s.”Lottie” is Rebecca’s daughter, and the cake is good.
Lately I’ve been talking with people about how every family has stories but the documents that describe them may be scattered and even lost. Anyone who has diaries and letters can pull them together and stitch a tapestry that others can enjoy viewing. I’ve started with my mother’s 1923 diary. Gradually I will introduce the family to the world.
Next will be a story about my grandmother Gertrude Hassler’s two years at Cumberland Valley State Normal School (now Shippensburg University) from 1898 to her graduation in 1900. For input I have letters she wrote home, letters her family wrote to her, and letters from her friends. Often the letters sent home were addressed to “Dear Ones Home,” which may become the title of the next DEAR book!
Here’s her graduation picture:
Beginning to follow the author’s life path by promoting my books in talks and other venues – Elizabethtown Fair and Barnes&Noble.
Later this week I’ll be at the Milanof-Schock Library talking about the story behind Dear Woman of My Dreams. Then next week it’s the Elizabethtown College event!