Working Womenʼs History Project
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Making Women's History Come Alive
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Events from 1995 - 2009
Read summaries of past events put on by the Working Women’s History Project and its predecessor organization, the Women and Labor History Project, between the years of 1995 and 2009.
2009 - From Bonnets to Law Briefs: A Journey of Chicago Women in Law
From Bonnets to Law Briefs: A Journey of Chicago Women in Law (Joan Morris; music Ken & Joan Morris) features stories of three pioneering lawyers: Myra Bradwell, Mary Bartelme, and Violette Anderson.
Performed first on November, 2009, at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. E. Lynn Grayson, Partner, Jenner & Block; Past Co-Chair Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women provided the keynote speech. Three activist women lawyers, each with her own specialty, described their work, and Gwen Jordan, Visiting Assistant Professor, Northern Illinois University, Department of Sociology, was honored for her work as editor of Bar None: 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois.
Performed again on March 30, 2010, at Roosevelt University. Three panelists, lawyers and activists, spoke about issues involving women who are victims of domestic violence.
2008 - Women in Policing, Educational Awareness
Women in Policing, Educational Awareness was presented at Kennedy-King College with the American Association of Women in Community Colleges on October 16, 2008. Two police officers and an attorney spoke about gender relevant issues in policing.
2008 - Breaking Barriers: Women and Health
Breaking Barriers: Women and Health was presented September 23, 2008, at Workers United. Adele Hast, co-editor of Women Building Chicago 1790-1990, spoke of early Chicago female physicians who broke down barriers to women in medicine and Helen Ramirez-Odell, Chicago public school nurse, spoke of the medical breakthrough in detecting and curing cervical cancer.
2008 - Women and Work, Climb That Ladder to Equality!
Women and Work, Climb That Ladder to Equality! featured the stories of 7 women, all of whom had worked to improve the lives of women workers: 4 pioneers–Rev. Addie Wyatt, Anne Ladky, Margaret Schmidt, and Kina McAfee–and 3 younger leaders– Lynda DeLaforgue, Jeri Fleming, Mel Ferrand.
The conference took place on March 29,2008, at Kennedy King College and was broadcast on CAN TV (ch. 21) on Saturday, December 6, 2008.
2007 - Tradeswomen: Past, Present, and Future
Gala: Tradeswomen: Past, Present, and Future, April 20, 2007, was held at Roosevelt University. It was an evening in which tradeswomen, from retirees to apprentices, described their experiences working as women in the trades and testified to the importance of Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT) in their working lives. Tamera Guilinger acted as monitor and host. Lauren Sugerman, co-founder of Chicago Women in Trades received the Mother Jones Award.
2006 - K is for Courage, J is for Justice: A Tribute to Katie Jordan
K is for Courage J is for Justice–A Tribute To Katie Jordan, was held at Roosevelt University on March 22, 2006. The play, written by Mary Bonnett and based on interviews by Joan McGann Morris, tells the story of the first African American tailor fitter at Lytton’s department store. The Reverend Addie L. Wyatt delivered the keynote address and Katie Jordan received the Mother Jones Award.
2006 - Lady Labor Sluggers: A Forum on Education and Democracy Then and Now
Lady Labor Sluggers–A Forum on Education and Democracy Then and Now, was held at Roosevelt University on September 16, 2006. Featured speakers were Kate Rousmaniere, historian, on Margaret Haley and Connie Goddard, historian, on Ella Flagg Young. Actors reenacted historical speeches given by Margaret Haley, Ella Flagg Young and Jacob Loeb. A panel speaking on present-day education issues included Marilyn Stewart, President Chicago Teachers Union, John Ostenburg, historian of the Chicago Teachers Union, and Monique Davis, Illinois State Representative and Chairperson of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
2005 - We Unite Here! Stories from the Congress Hotel Strike
Play: We Unite Here! Stories from the Congress Hotel Strike by Joan McGann Morris was staged at the WWHP Gala at Roosevelt University on April 7, 2005. The play honors the UNITE HERE Local 1 strikers of Chicago, presenting five characters who are composite figures based on interviews with 11 separate strikers. Linda Sabo, Secretary of UNITE HERE Local 1 offered remarks, and Sharon Williams (UNITE HERE) received the Mother Jones Award.
2004 - Si Se Puede! It Can Be Done!
Play: Sí Se Puede! It Can Be Done! (Mary Bonnett) is a tribute to Dolores Huerta, co-founder and Secretary-Treasurer of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, was performed in 2004.
2004 - Alice Hamilton - Fighting for Worker Safety
Alice Hamilton, Fighting for Worker Safety by Mary Wehrle tells of Dr. Hamilton’s long fight for worker safety in industry. It was performed at the 7th Gala at Roosevelt University on March 4, 2004. Alice Dan, a women’s health care advocate and recently-retired head of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Illinois, received the Mother Jones Award. She spoke on her work to encourage women’s health research and use it to improve women’s lives.
2003 - Addie Wyatt - Life Can Be Better
Play: Addie Wyatt–Life Can Be Better by Alma Washington was staged at the WWHP Gala at Roosevelt University on March 27, 2003. It tells the story of a Chicago leader, Addie Wyatt, who was active in the Civil Rights movement and the women’s movement after becoming a force in the labor movement. Katie Jordan spoke on Reverend Wyatt’s influence on labor and also presented Reverend Wyatt with the Mother Jones Award. Albertina Walker closed the evening with some of her famous gospel songs. The play was also performed at the Chopin Theater on September 10, 2003.
2002 - Working Without Uniforms
Play: Working Without Uniforms is a moving performance piece featuring stories of Chicago Public School Nurses, collaboratively developed under the direction of Robin Bennett from Jones Academic Magnet College Preparatory High School and Sandra Marquez, Associate Director of Teatra Vista. The piece is based on Working Without Uniforms: School Nursing in Chicago 1951 – 2001 by Helen Ramirez-Odell. It was presented at Roosevelt University on October 9, 2002. Remarks were made by Dorothy Marks, chair of CTU School Nurses Committee, Margie Schaps, President of the Illinois Women’s Health Coalition, and Helen Ramirez-Odell. The event was later shown on CAN-TV, Channel 19; dramatized readings were presented at Women & Children First Bookstore (March 4, 2002), at Barbara’s Bookstore (July 1, 2002), and at Montgomery Place Retirement Community (November 16, 2002) to honor Mildred Catchings, a retired school nurse. Les Orear spoke on that occasion. On April 26, 2003, Loyola University hosted a celebration of 100 years of school nursing. Ramirez-Odell introduced her book and Mary Bonnett, Brigid Gerace, Dorothy Marks, and Mary Wehrle delivered dramatic readings from the book.
2003 - An Evening of Women’s History: Lucy Parsons, Alice Hamilton and Agnes Nestor
An Evening of Women’s History: Lucy Parsons, Alice Hamilton and Agnes Nestor was performed on August 19, 2003, by Alma Washington, Mary Wehrle with David Rosenblatt, and Mary Bonnett at Women Alive! A Legacy of Social Justice, an exhibition honoring contemporary Chicago-Area Women held at Archeworks from June 22 – August 24, 2003.
2002 - Hungarian Heartbeats in America: A Tribute to Yolanda Hall
Hungarian Heartbeats in America: A Tribute to Yolanda Hall in Half Notes, a staged reading by Mary Bonnett, was put on at the Gala at Roosevelt University on March 14, 2002. Yolanda (Bobby) Hall, the major founder of the Women and Labor History Project which later became the Working Women’s History Project, and a lifetime activist for social justice, was awarded the Mother Jones Award. The Keynote Speaker was Margaret Blackshere, President, Illinois AFL-CIO.
2001 - Women of Heart and Steel
Women of Heart and Steel featured the storiesof three trade union women–Florence Criley, Alice Peurala, and Sylvia Woods in a multi-media piece by Lisa Layer, Joan McGann Morris, and Mary Bonnett with music by Ken Morris. The stories came primarily from Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary edited by Rima Schultz and Adele Hast. It was presented at the gala at Roosevelt University on March 15, 2001, where Rima Schultz, the keynote speaker, was given the Mother Jones Award. The play was later performed at the Chopin Theater on Sept. 25, 2001, at St. Xavier College on November 21, 2001, and at Indiana University Swingshift College in Gary, Indiana, on March 27, 2004. It was also shown on CAN TV-Channel 21.
1999 - Penned in a Suitcase-A Tribute to Marjorie Stern
Penned in a Suitcase-A Tribute to Marjorie Stern, the first chairperson of the American Federation of Teachers Women’s Rights Committee and founding member of CLUW, was writtenby Mary Bonnett based on oral history interviews by Paula O’Connor of the American Federation of Teachers. It was performed at Harold Washington College during the Coalition of Labor Union Women national convention on Sept. 1, 1999. Gloria Johnson, President of CLUW spoke and presented Marjorie Stern with the Mother Jones Award.
1997 - The Thread that Binds
The Thread That Binds by Mary Bonnett, tells the stories of Agnes Nestor from the Women’s Trade Union League in Chicago & Lillian Herstein from the Chicago Teacher’s Union, the first woman on the Executive Board of the Chicago Federation of Labor. Agnes Nestor was portrayed by Brigid Duff Gerace. It was performed at the 2nd Gala held on Nov. 13, 1997, at Roosevelt University. The Gala was entitled “Tapestries and Voices.” It featured the stories of 150 years of working women’s struggles for equal rights through drama, song and images. Peggy Lipschutz created chalk-talk drawings to accompany Kristen Lems’ songs. Portions of the stories of Lucy Parsons and Jennie Curtiss were portrayed by Alma Washington and Laura Sollman St. John. Norma White, CTU Vice President, spoke and Helen Ramirez-Odell (Chicago Teachers Union) received the Mother Jones Award.
1999 - Union Train
Union Train is a musical play by Joan McGann Morris (music by Ken Morris) that is based on oral histories of Chicago trade union women collected by the WLHP oral history project. The play presents the 1997 Teamster’s union UPS strike and the story of Vicky Starr, lifelong labor activist. It was performed at the Gala on March 25, 1999, at Roosevelt University. Professor Patricia Simpson spoke and Karen Asuncion (International Association of Machinists) received the Mother Jones Award. The play was later performed at the Bucktown Arts Festival on August 27, 2000.
1997 - A Spotlight on Oral
On April 27, 1997, WLHP together with the Chicago Area Women’s History Conference and the Center for New Deal Studies, held a workshop at Roosevelt University on conducting oral histories. Paul Buhle of Brown University spoke and Rima Schultz presented a special oral history award to Betty Balanoff, director of the Labor Oral History Project at Roosevelt University from 1971 – 1985.
1996 - Come Along and Join
Come Along and Join by Kathlyn Miles is based on the histories of Chicago’s Lucy Parsons, Jennie Curtiss, Bessie Abramowitz-Hillman, Margaret Haley and Mother Jones. Mary McDowell, Elizabeth Maloney and Dolores Huerta were also included in the play.
A staged reading was held Feb. 20, 1996 at UNITE. WLHP’s first Gala was held on Sept. 25, 1996, at UNITE Labor Auditorium. Mollie West (Chicago Typographical Union) and Vicky Starr (union organizer featured in “Union Maids”) were honored. The first Mother Jones Award was presented to Sandra Ellison, OPEIU. Karen Nussbaum, Director of the Working Women’s Department AFL-CIO, was the keynote speaker.
Portions of “Come Along and Join” were featured at a celebration of International Women’s Day at Chicago Teachers Union on March 12, 1996.