About The Northwest Women's History Project

History of the History ProjectspacerMembers of the History Project
group portrait
Sarah Cook recently retired from the Academic Book Center where she worked for the last twenty-five years. For the last ten years her activities have centered around the First Unitarian Church, where she has been one of the volunteers in the book store. She has also served on the Adult Religious Education Committee for many years. She has been married to her wonderful partner, Shirlee, for the last seven years -- and maybe someday this will be recognized legally by Multnomah County. Their home life revolves around the needs and whims of their dog, Lucy. Gardening and photography fill up whatever time is left.
Susan Feldman's involvement in the production of Good Work Sister has been a continuing thread in her 25-year career as an urban planner for the City of Portland.It allowed her to participate in the transformation of the final remnants of shipyard life into a 21st century urban environment--what were once shipyards are now proposed for high rises; the site of Vanport shipyard worker housing is a restored natural area; and the Kaiser daycare site is now in industrial use. She and her husband, 2 teenage children, and 2 dogs live in a 120-year-old Victorian home in Northwest Portland.
Barbara Gundle is still a professional freelance photographer here in Portland, as she was when Good Work, Sister! was originally produced. She has helped raise two biological children and three step children, all five of whom are adults now and leading their own lives. She travels internationally once or twice a year with her husband (who is also a photographer) to produce new work and experience the world. They exhibit and sell their photography at large urban, juried fine art fairs around the country in the spring and summer months. (Their photography website is www.smallplanetphoto.com.) They also co-publish a national guide to art fair information for fine artists and craftspeople, called The ArtFair SourceBook.
back:  Amy Kesselman, Sandy Polishuk, Madeline Moore, Sarah Cook, Tina Tau McMahon, Barbara Gundle     front:    Susan Feldman, Barbara Whittlesey-Hayes, Lynn Taylor, Karen Wickre
VaLera Washburn was not present.
   photo by Barbara Gundle 1982
Amy Kesselman is Professor of Women’s Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is the author of Fleeting Opportunities: Women Shipyard Workers in Portland and Vancouver During World War II and Reconversion (SUNY Press, 1990) and co-editor with Lily McNair and Nancy Schniedewind of Women: Images and Realities: A Multicultural Anthology (Mayfield, 1995 and 1998; McGraw Hill, 2003) as well as several articles on the history of U.S. feminism. She is currently working on a book on women’s liberation in New Haven, Connecticut.
Madeline Moore directed a teacher-training program aimed at involving more people of color and women in the study of math and science for a number of years. She has also done non-profit administration and fundraising. Currently (and she says this is her last career!), she is a Certified Financial Planner (tm), specializing in socially responsible investing.
Sandy Polishuk used her interviewing experience from Good Work Sister! at KBOO FM community radio station in Portland where she hosted a public affairs program, conducted numerous live on-air interviews, and worked on the news. She keeps the books and writes the checks for the Northwest Women’s History Project and taught oral history at Portland State University where she was a vice president of her teachers’ union (AFT). She is the author of Sticking to the Union: An Oral History of the Life and Times of Julia Ruuttila, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2003.
Tina Tau McMahon is happily parenting two daughters from China, with her husband Neal. She is writing and publishing (three books of poetry, and one spiritual memoir, so far). She is involved in her Friends Meeting, works as a spiritual director and teaches The Work of Byron Katie. She also unravels her dreams, rides her bike, and dances a little in the kitchen.
Lisa Siegel is a long time fan of the Northwest Women's History Project who has recently come on board to design this web site. When she is not sitting in front of a computer making graphics, animation and web sites she is sitting in front of a computer reviewing Washington State highway plans.
Lynn Taylor is a licensed clinical social worker working in the field of aging. Listening to life stories has always held a fascination for her. She lives in a 104 year-old Victorian house with her husband Peter, two sons, Eli and Gabriel and a cat named Silver. Eli is now in college, Gabriel is finishing eighth grade, and Peter teaches at the university, so her family is always in school! Most recently, she has been involved in hospice work, the Jewish Renewal community, and lots and lots of gardening.
VaLera Washburn completed her B.S. degree while raising two kids, worked in non-profit management, co-owned and operated a small business and learned humility and fear from its failure, and patience and perserverance from surviving. Starting over, learning and using office skills as a temp and in a large medical university setting, VaLera works in women’s health research as a data and administrative specialist. A love of art and developing skills over past 10+ years in colored pencil has led VaLera to current work with acrylic on mylar.  
Barbara Whittlesey now lives in Arizona with her husband Jeff Zauderer, a Tai Chi instructor. She works at the Honors College of the University of Arizona. After work you might find her folkdancing, singing with Mzekala Balkan women's chorus, or dancing with the Veils of Mystery, a dance cooperative of uncooperative women.
Karen Wickre’s interest in communicating stories has served her well in the business world. Not long after Good Work, Sister! was produced, she moved to San Francisco and has worked in Bay area technology-related businesses ever since. She has worn many hats--creative director, executive producer, content, strategist, freelance writer--all of them reflecting her interest in writing, editing, organizing, and presenting information. Today she is a senior editor at Google. She still considers the Pacific Northwest an elemental home.

The history of The Northwest Women's History Project

History of the History ProjectspacerMembers of the History Project
During the late 1970s, in the Portland, Oregon, area, a number of grassroots groups were doing oral histories of local activists. The process of interviewing people to document events, movements and everyday lives of people offered an alternative approach for many of us who had studied more traditional history.

The Northwest Women's History Project began in 1978 in a member's living room. Amy Kesselman, one of our founding members had previously taught a class in women's oral history, and Madeline Moore, another founding member, had been an eager student. At that first meeting, Amy described the many students in her women's history class who, as part of the assignment to write about their mothers and grandmothers, had brought in stories of women who worked in the shipyards during WWII. A little research informed us of the large number of women who had worked at the Portland, OR shipyards during World War II.
Portland, with its history of shipbuilding during World War II, provided fertile ground for an oral history project that would give insights into what life was like for the thousands of women who came here to work during that time. We decided we wanted to learn first hand what that was like for those women. The group also realized that time was running out, as many of the women were in their seventies, eighties and nineties.

In response to one article in the Oregonian and various neighborhood and union newsletters, over 200 women called us indicating that this was an important experience for the women workers. We briefly interviewed 200 women on the phone and conducted in depth interviews with thirty women who we thought represented a cross section of the shipbuilding experience. Through the interviews, we were able to explore issues such as sexual harassment, sexism and racism in the unions and on the job, childcare, and on the job training.

Using the technology of the time, one of our members, Barbara Gundle, a professional photographer took still photos of the women, which we combined with historical photos and the taped interviews to develop a slide tape show, later converted to a video. Now, the product is available to you in DVD format.

Northwest Women's History Project
PO Box 5692
Portland, Oregon 97228

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