"Women of the Whitney Biennial," T: The New York Times Style Magazine, 2.28.2010. Photo: Jason Schmidt.
(from a feminist “retrospective”)
© Lorraine O’Grady 2004
IT BEGAN as an interview for a student paper. . . .
Thu, Sep 23, 2004 16:42
Hey Grama Rain
For my Labor study: Women and Work, I have to interview 3-5 of my female family members and write a report on each, and I would like you to be one of them. These are the questions:
~What kinds of paid jobs have you held, approximately how old were you when you held them and what work did they entail? (in school and as an adult)
~What concerns if any, did you have in any of these jobs about working conditions, wages, benefits, hours, relationship to family responsibilities, sexual harassment, etc.?
~Was there any resistance within your family to you holding any of the jobs?
~Why did you choose these jobs?
Thanks so much. If you don't have the time to answer the questions its ok i know your a busy lady, but i would be so grateful if you did. My paper is due the 30th next week so i need it before then. Thanks again
Thu, Sep 23, 2004 21:33
Wow, C., that's a tall order. You have no idea how many jobs I've had! I'll do my best to get it to you by late Monday.
Sun, Sep 26, 2004 23:16
I finished it a little early. It's almost 9 single-spaced pages and only takes me up to 1972 (with a couple of flash-forwards to about 1990). I enjoyed writing it, and I even learned a few things. I didn’t specifically answer your questions, I had to ground them in the overall picture. But somewhere in there, I'm sure you'll find stuff you can use for your paper. Hope you get a good grade!
Mon, Sep 27, 2004 8:12
Thank you soooooo much! Wow that’s a lot of info. I better get started. I'll let you know how i do.
IN THE END, C. forgot to tell me her grade. I only recently learned that she’d received an A.
As for me, at about 1972 in my reply I ran out of time and energy. I tried to do a few flash-forwards but didn't mention being a rock critic, and hardly discussed being an artist. One of these days, I'll put down the whole story....
My First Job
When I started college in 1951, I was going to major in History. But after a course in Central European history, I knew I’d never be able to read fast enough. I couldn’t stop sub-vocalizing! So I decided to major in Spanish Literature. But after I got married and had a baby, I realized I would have to get practical. So I switched to Economics because I thought that would give me better job prospects. In my senior year, I went on a few interviews through the Career Center at Wellesley. But they weren't too interesting. In those days, it seemed like the majority of recruiters, even at a high prestige women's college like Wellesley, were fashion retailers. I went through the motions. I got dressed up, took the train to New York and talked with the people at Bergdorf's and Alexander's (opposite ends of the fashion scale). But it was clear, women retail buyers could only go so high. You would spend most of your life in dreary back rooms on the store floors, talking to low-level vendors with carpet fleas biting your legs.
That’s when I decided my training and interests were best suited for work in the government. It was the only "equal opportunity" employer at the time and, amazingly, it paid better than any of the other jobs. You took an exam and if you passed, you were in, even if you were a black female. This was 1956, and at that time, the Federal Government had an elite entry program called the Management Intern Program. You had to take a special exam in addition to the regular entry exam....
© 2009 Lorraine O'Grady | All rights reserved.