Women Leaders and Activists
Experiences of Women Leaders and Activists as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
Describe one of your best/worst experiences as a leader/activist.
 

Narrator: Linda B. Rosenthal
Interviewer: Meredith Miller


MM: In your community, what were the advantages of being a woman? And were there any disadvantages or obstacles you had to overcome?

LBM: Let's go first to the disadvantages. When I ran for the legislature in 1978, on the back of my literature said that I was married and have 3 children. The question asked when I campaigned door to door, some folks would ask, 'Who's taking care of the kids?' 'Aren't you neglecting the children?' They had finished school by that time and sure, I am out there running for the legislature, but there were other issues. I am a feminist. I believe in equality for men and women and I happen to be pro-choice. Firmly. I do not go and put a big sign on me, but that is my belief and when asked about it I will respond in an appropriate situation. It is not appropriate for Maricopa; we do not do anything in that area but in the legislature you do. Just because it is a hot issue, and the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was a hot issue in '78 and yes, I believe in it and still do because women are not in the constitution, damn it! And so there was that hype, so sometimes a disadvantage. Other times women even, older women of that time (in '78 I was a lot younger, 33 years old actually)--I am going to be 73 years old, so that is a long time ago. Women, old women liked the idea of women needing to get out there because men haven't been doing such a great job. So it was good to see women [running for the legislature]. Some women that get into that position do not want to help other women along. They have the Queen Bee syndrome. 'I am here, I don't want to help anyone else get up here.' There are still plenty of people who are like that. People do not understand that there is plenty of room for another brain, for another worker bee, and there does not have to be only one. So those are pluses and minuses of being a woman in my field.

Narrator: Susan Bachus
Interviewer: Jacey Henderson


JH: Describe one of your best experiences during your time in the Mahanh Club. What was one of your worst experiences?

SB: I would say that the best experience would be when I hand out the scholarship money at the high school. The look on that student's face is just so rewarding. I would like to point out a second one. When I work with Save the Family and hear all the testimonials from the women and the people we have helped, it just makes you feel like you have done something good and rewarding. We know after helping those people that we have done something amazing for those in need. There aren't really any bad experiences I have experienced yet.

Narrator: Terry Saba
Interviewer: Blair Kowalinski


BK: What was one of your best experiences during your time as a
community activist?
TS: Seeing the growth in the schools and having a tiny part, and now
it's just mushrooming. From the 70's to 80's there weren't that many
schools in Chandler.

Narrarator: Martha Goddard
Interviewer: Hannah Myers


HM: Describe your best and worst experiences.
MG: I got into fighting sexual abuse because I was sick of seeing women, especially children go through all of that pain, with often times no conviction of the culprit. There was no way to collect evidence properly of a rape at that time and the only test they were using then was similar to a papsmere. This was later taken to a lab, but by then nothing had been preserved well enough. My colleagues and I knew this must change, so we started researching and put together the first rape kit. After all this work in the particular field, I finally came to the point where I knew I had to reveal that I had been sexually assaulted myself. I was sick of it being some big secret, and still am to this day. It was very painful to re-live my past, but it was so beneficial for so many rape victims.

Narrator: Sandra Simmons
Interviewer: Lia Troisi


LT: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist. What was one of your worst experiences?

SS: Well being the expert on that [Supreme court case to change statutory and case law for rape victims] was fun. Dealing with the legislature, those were great successes but I wouldn't say they were fun. It's much more difficult. It's not easy to get on a plane, go to the courtroom, and sit there talk about what I knew about rape, and have that go down on record. It made a difference without having to and knock on doors and write letters and stand up to a committee. When we were doing that back in the 70s, I was challenged by being calling Ms. I called myself Ms. and the elected officials were really not very respectful. I'm really glad things have changed for women. The things that I used to advocate were considered radical, and now so much of that has come to pass. It's so much easier for women now, to have a career or stay home or do whatever they want to do. That was the whole point; people are allowed to have choices and just because you're a woman, you shouldn't be put in some little box with somebody else deciding what is going to be nice for you. You should create your own little box! Or live outside the box. It's been really wonderful that some things have changed and race relations have gotten better, not that everything is perfect. There is still a ways to go. And still things that need to happen.

Narrator: Cindy Barnes Pharr
Interviewer: Trevor Frost


TF: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist and one of your worst.
CBP: I think one of the best experiences was the night of our dedication of the new park and my father had just had quadruple bypass surgery and should have died from several heart attacks but he was there the night of the dedication just a few weeks after his surgery. My father was so much a part of me volunteering and would bring the tractors out to laser the soccer fields or mow the weeds or teach me how to irrigate or work on his lawn mower or build something. He was a key part of my volunteer efforts with the soccer park. To be there at the dedication with 400 soccer parents, I had a grade school band come and play, I had Pres. Laddie Coor the previous president of ASU come and was a guest speaker and he talked about the quality of life and what it was like to work with volunteers and the government. He gave a very moving speech to all of us that made us appreciate what we had built in the Town of Gilbert and how difficult it had been for so many years to get the park built for the kids. But that was probably the highlight of my life because as we got closer and closer to the park opening I honestly thought my father was going to be dead from the heart conditions. To see him up there on the stage was awesome and we gave him the Phillip Barnes volunteer award and named an award after him that we now give out every year to an outstanding volunteer. My father was the epitome of volunteerism in Queen Creek. But to see that and to see all the parents happy and appreciative was probably the best thing.

The worst experience I think that I had in my community activity was-- well it's really difficult because honestly there's been several of them. Not everyone wants to realize that you're doing this work for free and they do have a concept of what it's like to do these volunteer roles. Some people just want to say no to you because it's easier to get the job done for them and they don't want to work with you. I think one of the most difficult things that I've seen is that the parents take for granted what the volunteers do; they don't appreciate it. They think we are all paid and we work 24-7 for them seven days a week.

Another frustration was one time we had a huge rain and I was out there and I fenced off a whole parking lot with all this caution tape. I had a woman drive right through the caution tape in her suburban; she didn't observe anything and parked right out there. She got her car stuck and tore up the whole thing. I'm standing out there screaming at her. She just ignored me and I said "Didn't it ever occur to you to obey the signs and stuff?" She just said, "Nope I just needed a place to plark and she was really mean to all of us. She finally got the car out and said she'd never come back. I learned then at a young age working with the community that people are going to do what they want unless you educate them. You have to tell them how much you've put into this and what it's taken so they can feel a part of that community and take ownership. When I learned that, from several lessons volunteering in the town, it became easier and easier to volunteer because I don't know if I would have not quit in those early years when I was in my early 20's if I didn't understand that. I had some great women mentors on the soccer board that took me under their wing as my older sisters and I had a mom that was a professional woman who kept saying: "Keep volunteering; you're going to learn from all these experiences and it's going to make you a better person." I could take an experience I had with soccer as a HOA president and I could put it back to the corporate business world that I work in now. So nothing, all my experiences always went back to help to build on others. So I think that the most frustrating was just learning how to deal with people and that some people were going to be very very selfish. If you kept with a positive outlook and showed you couldn't get down and you showed the benefit of it you slowly could turn those people's minds. You might not turn all of them but you might be able to turn some of them.

Narrator: Shirley Tung
Interviewer: Katharine Couitt


KC: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist. What was one of your worst experiences?
ST: Well probably the best experience is when you see these folks years later and they express a lot of gratitude and it makes you feel like it was all worthwhile. I guess the worst experiences would be the times you get arrested for different things. We did a protest in Washington and that was when we were trying to stop the Iraq war in the beginning and we put bread in front of the White House and said "bread not bombs". They arrested all but five of us, and that was the worst of times. It was still fun. I don't even constitute that being worst of times anymore because we did get arrested quite a bit at the nuclear test sight in Las Vegas. We are trying to stop the bombing, and just recently, I don't know if you know this because a lot of newspapers don't tell you a lot of things unless you're into the progressive people. Progressive people will tell you about these things, but the president did this; he decided he would explode an 800 kiloton bomb above ground to see how far it would penetrate. He was trying to look to see if he could touch any of the nuclear weapons Iran had under ground. But if you do that in Nevada where already there is nuclear dust in the air it's going to contaminate all of Las Vegas. Anyways the land there belongs to the Shasham Indians, so we gather there four or five times a year anyways to protest. They are always doing nuclear testing underground, but this one was going to be above ground; this was just seven months ago. They have the audacity to call it divine straight, straight is the binding that holds bombs together. A couple thousand went out to protest and try to stop it. The Indians, all the different tribes, came together and they did their ceremonies and again trying to prevent the destruction of mother earth. It was successful because the administration backed off and said, "We'll do it later." Now they are thinking of doing it in New Mexico instead of in Las Vegas, but again they are going to meet up with as much confrontation as before. You never hear about this in the normal news, you don't hear these things, but when you're in a progressive group you hear all these things and have to participate. It's one way to stop it and we were successful in stopping it. Well, stopping it temporarily.

Narrator: Cynthia Dunham
Interviewer: April Rigler

AR: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist. What were one of your worst experiences?
CD: Winning elections is fun!! You know, when I think about all the thousands of people we have been able to have a positive effect on, that is probably the greatest satisfaction you can have. All of the things that I wanted to do when I took office, I was able to get done before I left. I can't take credit for all that, because you don't do anything by yourself. You are only as effective as you can mobilize the people around you to achieve your goal. It is certainly with the efforts of many, but that was very, very rewarding. A lot of the things we wanted to do through the general plan update that we got sued and couldn't do by eventually getting people elected that would make decisions that we wanted. We were able to change every one of those as the cases came across our desk to how we wanted it to occur if we had been successful with the general plan update. That was good news. Now what's happened since, I have no control over; the citizens are apart of it. I guess that is all I can ask.

The worst experience was when I got sued over Bible Week. That was because I was very na´ve when it comes to being in court and the whole legal process. Fortunately I have not had a lot of experience in that; it has usually been my volunteer work that I ever even needed to go to court. When I received the injunction, it was actually written unconstitutionally and was later changed, but that original injunction, charged me as mayor, but it also charged me as a private individual for something that I did as mayor and also prohibited me from using any town resources to defend myself. I gave away a business to serve an elected office and we are known for our community service, not our particular personal wealth. When you're looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially, that it would cost to hire attorneys and see this case through, it was a pretty frightening thing. I knew in my heart what was right and I fortunately had a husband who said "Ok, you are part of this decision too, because they are suing me, as an individual, that exposes you and our family, our home, everything. What do you think?" My choices were that we proceed with a lawsuit and defend myself or we drop it. And then they can basically do what they want. I also knew at the time that all of the other mayors in the country were sent letters, saying that look at what we are doing in Gilbert and if you go ahead and try to issue this proclamation then we are coming after you. It's like ok, we will draw our lines in the sand and we will fight that battle here. So my husband was incredibly supportive. There are not many guys that would do that, and we kind of jumped off that cliff together. And fortunately there was an organization called the AILJ (American Institute for Law and Justice) who is used to going up against the ACLU, that's who was suing me, so they took up my case, at their cost, which was huge. Needless to say, after that experience my husband and I made sure that our homeowner's policy was increased to cover private litigation, because if you are going to do community work, you're going to have some exposure and we don't want to get caught short again. That was probably the most difficult, because I didn't have the resources. In fact, the person who had helped write that injunction was one of my fellow council members and he knew that I didn't have the resources to fight it. He had them write it that way because they wanted to use my lack of personal resources as a way of stopping me. I just really think that's not fair, not only was it somebody that I knew personally and was intent on doing this, and his motivations were his own motivations. It was one of those moments in your life where you really test who you are and what you're really committed to. We won!

Narrator: Pam Petty
Interviewer: Summer Rohde
SR: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist. What was one of your biggest challenges or worst experiences?
PP: Actually, the worst experience was some church work that happened in the 70's. The congregation that we belonged to was a very active congregation. All the women were feminist, and the men were all lawyers. It was a very progressive congregation. We were invaded by the INS, because they thought we were sheltering illegal immigrants. They sent in a man with the name of Jesus Cruz into our worship service, and this was an evil, evil man. He was hired by the feds, and he came to our worship service wearing a bug. Later, we heard in some sub sequential events that had to do with some people that were accused, tried, and convicted for helping refugees. They were accused of helping illegal immigrants, kind of like what the folks are doing down in Tucson now. No one in our congregation was charged, and no one was really doing anything active. They were just sympathetic. But what happened was we read the transcripts from his body bug, and he was actually in the courtyard with our children, in the bathrooms with our children. We could hear it in the transcripts. It was the scariest thing. So anytime you get involved with political activism you subject yourself to people like that. Especially, if you're going up against something as powerful as the U.S. government.
SR: How about one of your biggest challenges?
PP: Well, you know you're doing something that is really frowned upon, especially in the beginning. I remember one woman. I had just finished my MA, and I was at a tea with my mother. A traditional tea, where they sit at the big long table, and at the end you have the oldest women. The most senior, the most respected, pours the coffee and the second most respected pours the tea. And everyone goes by and takes their cups and they pour it. And that is how you honor them. It's the old classic having a tea, and I was at this with my mother. The two older women were pouring and we were standing around drinking cups of tea. My mother says to Mrs. Bilby who lives in Prescott, "Pam just finished her master degree." Mrs. Bilby says to me, "So what are you going to do with it, hang it over your sink." I just said, "I don't know." You know she did not approve, she did not approve. Then when I became a teacher I would get this question, it didn't happen once I became a college teacher. But when I was a high school teacher I would get this question from women who were not working, or working at home. The question would be are you still teaching. I would think what an odd question. You wouldn't ask a man that. I was asked so often that I swore that I would get a nametag that says, "Yes I'm still teaching." It was so odd, it was so odd. It had to do with maybe the profession that I'm teaching. But I think it had to do with the fact that I was a woman. Are you still teaching? Because that's something that woman so often did as interim work, you know like before their children were born, and after their children were born. So that is the way it was viewed
SR: Did you have any good experiences?
PP: Oh, of course I have lots of good experiences. I think what you're going to get out of me, and people like me is-- we are doing what the day brings. So, because we were employed and we were raising families, that limits the amount of time you could be on the streets. Through our churches and some organizations that we were in we are going to do a little bit here and there. You know, show up at a protest or a peace rally. That you can do. What you can't do is big time work like being on the board of Planned Parenthood. Well, I guess I should bring it back to the career.

Narrator: Mary Lou Timma
Interviewer: Kandi Kastl-Manuel


KKM: Describe one of your best experiences during your time as a community activist? What was one of your worst?

MT: I can go back to my working experiences when I was teaching; it was great! When I first started teaching it was in reading readiness for the children that they call "emotionally immature". They can't go into first grade successfully and I had 12-14 to work with. That was really so rewarding because they were so lovable and in need of the attention and it was just a wonderful two years. It was a federally funded program and it was cut out so I was without a job. They transferred me to a first grade class with 29 rambunctious little kids; I spend a year and a half at that job. This was the worst experience of my life. The principal was on my back all the time because I was allowing the children to have more freedom. I wasn't being rigid enough; I was too liberal with them, and I was allowing them to have their way. The principal was right across the hall so she was on me all the time because I wasn't having them sit there in their seats, keeping quiet and not moving. To me that wasn't the way I wanted to relate to children in the first grade; so in the middle of year I took leave and left that position. I felt at this time it a big failure. I had received a lot of compliments and recommendations from the previous principal, but the other was just a complete flop, so that was good and bad. Frequently I substituted in Dearborn, and that was good, I enjoyed it. They called me in the morning or the night before and let me know where I was going to be the next day; and gave me a choice when I got in the system a little bit, so I enjoyed that. When the receptionist at my current husband's dentist office retired, I went to work with him.

Photos courtesy of the families.

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Rosenthal retires Knudson

Terry Saba

Sandra Simmons Vietnam Protest

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Shirley Tung

Cynthia Dunham

Pamela Petty