Women Leaders and Activists
Experiences of Women Leaders and Activists as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
What began your interest in serving the community?
 

Narrator: Mary Tucker
Interviewer: Cara O'Dowd


CO: What kinds of jobs have you held? How did you become involved in the Right to Choose movement?

MT: At first I was an executive secretary. Then I was a stay at home mom for 10 years; that was the hardest job I ever had. And then I had my fourth pregnancy. My 3rd child was 2 years old; I had an IUD that failed me. It was early 1972. I was in such denial. It was my husband who pointed out that I was late with my period. When the pregnancy was confirmed, I was extremely upset that I was pregnant for the 4th time. But I was aware of the Supreme Court decision which had just been passed on Roe v. Wade. I went to go see my minister. This had to be early '73 or late '72. He was a Unitarian Universalist minister. He had been part of a network of ministers who counseled pregnant women and help them find safe and legal abortions. At that time in Phoenix, Dr. Wexler and Bob Camus, were allowed to perform 10 early abortions per week at Phoenix Memorial Hospital. But you had to see a psychiatrist. It cost $50.00. Then the psychiatrist would verify you had to have an abortion for your mental health.

I went to see a midwife at Planned Parenthood. So the initial exam was at Planned Parenthood. I was scheduled with the 2 doctors and told about the required psychiatrist appointment. I asked why I had to see the psychiatrist first, given the recent Supreme Court decision. And the nurse was kind of snotty. She said "Well I'll talk to the doctors." Bob Camus talked to their attorney and the hospital and they realized that they didn't need that step any more. So after that, they stopped requiring the psychiatric appointment and women didn't have to do that anymore. I felt really good about that because they were the only ones really performing abortions at that time.

So of course my minister and my family supported my decision, my brothers, their wives, my women's group at church, all supported me. I had a legal abortion. A year later, my minister was asked to organize Arizona Right to Choose. His name was Jeremy Brigham. And because I had come to him for counseling, he asked me to help. I became Speakers' Bureau Chair. And I started speaking and booking other speakers in high schools around the Valley. And eventually I became president of the board and became the first paid director of Arizona Right to Choose. That was sometime in the 1970s. That's the job I had after being a stay at home mom for ten years.

Interviewer: Esther Baca
Narrator: Rita Bresnahan


EB: What began your interest to be involved in the community?
RB: I had a sense of obligation and it's really what keeps me moving. All of my jobs have been service jobs. I felt like I was helping in at least some small way. And I think that's what we're here for: to help each other, work for each other, to make things better.

Interviewer: Betty McAllister
Narrator: Mary Black


BM: What began your interest in being involved in the community?
MB: Fortunately, I had the experience of growing up in the '60s in Louisiana; well I don't know if fortunately is the right word, but I went to a small grade school which was predominantly black at the time. It was an interesting experience, I didn't know anything different at the time. All the teachers are black and the children are black, and I had a strong family support system and then of course my church. I had a strong school support system going to a small school called Jasper Henderson Elementary and then to Jasper Henderson High (it was all one campus) and then later I went to a predominantly African-American college Grambley State University and just had a wonderful experience there. I think because of my growing up, my setting, the era, and the educational experiences, I just had so many positive role models. It challenged me to do more and to be the best I can be.

BM: Did you have any hopes and dreams of what you wanted to do?
MB: You always have favorite teachers and my high school English teacher was so stimulating. Mrs. Hanes knew how to get the best out of her students. At that time I got very involved in speech and drama due to her inspiration. I thought my career was going to go into acting and drama. What happened was she left the school, and I didn't connect with the new teacher. And then I ended up by the time I got to college, we were way into the late 60s. We were right in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone in the college was so well-respected, everybody there wanted to make a difference. We all believed that we had this opportunity. I really believed that, so I changed paths going into social work and trying to make a difference in somebody's life. I thought this career would be the chance to make a difference in someone's life. By the time I got to college, my interest in acting seemed trivial. I had been exposed to so much more in college and now I had a clarity about what was going on in the world.

Narrator: Susan Bachus
Interviewer: Jacey Henderson


JH: What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?
SB: As long as I can remember, I have always been involved in my children's school activities. Also when I was younger I was involved in youth groups, not only as a participant but as a mentor. I got involved in Mahnah Club because a friend of mine was in this organization and they were strictly a non-profit, serve the community kind of organization. The Mahnah Club is a women's organization that took its name from the Hopi word "Mahnah," meaning "leading women of the tribe". It is a one on one community service agency, and that is why I decided to get involved in this certain organization.

Narrator: Terry Saba
Interviewer: Blair Kowalinski


BK: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations or efforts to better the community. What began your interests in being involved in the community?

TS: I started helping with my children in schools, PTA, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, and then on to other things.

Narrator: Cynthia Dunham
Interviewer: April Rigler


AR: What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community?
CD: My family.

Narrator: Donna Ellsworth-Bolen
Interviewer: David Kerzie


DK: You were selected to do this interview because of your involvement in community organizations, grassroots organizations, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives of its citizens?

DEB: Chandler was an agriculture town when I was young. Everything was agriculture and my husband had an agriculture company called Farm Right, and we found out that if the farmers didn't make it, then no one made it. If they made money they spent it and if they didn't then no one made money.

So I got my real-estate license in 1954 and I started contacting all the economic development departments of the banks, the state and county to try to get some credible industry into Chandler. I was then asked to join an organization, AAID, Arizona Association for Industrial Development, now called ED, Economic Development. I was the first woman asked to join because I was contacting all the economic development departments. And as a result of that I was able to bring credible industry to Chandler. I was able to bring in two mobile home manufactures, Redound and one other that I can't remember the name of, as well as Intel. Intel was to choose between Albuquerque and Arizona. And they were already putting one in Phoenix, so I convinced them to put one here.

One of the members of AAID was Rick Ireland and he was with the Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix. He called me and said we have a large company that I know you'll be interested in. So he brought them over and they looked at Chandler and really liked it. We ended up getting the first Intel and now we have the largest Intel in the world. After that, I worked with Gould, Air Products and Motorola. We put them on the south side of town. Back then, Price Road ran alongside the reservation so we realigned it to run right in front of Motorola. Then I sold the Sun Lakes properties. I think that Sun Lakes is really what helped to upgrade the south part of Chandler. Since then I think that the south side of Chandler has really improved.

Narrator: AZ
Interviewer: Gabi Porter

GP: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations, grassroots organizing, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?

AZ: Well, this was when I was living in New York in 1969. There were two things going on: Stonewall [a three-day long riot between gay and transgendered bar patrons and the New York City police that is heralded as the spark that ignited the gay rights movement]. I came out during that year, during Stonewall, right before. I wasn't a feminist yet, so I spent a year not being a feminist, just being a gay person. And then I met some radical feminists who were also gay, and it blew my mind. And so that immediately, I went in a straight line to the most radical position you could have, which was separatism, and it hadn't really been invented yet in a way. So, I met a lot of the big so-called stars of the movement in the early seventies. When you live in a place like New York, it is easy to meet people that are activists, and so I met a lot of them, and I was influenced profoundly by a lot of them, and that's how I got interested.

Narrator: Sue Sossaman
Interviewer: Jessica Rogers

JR: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations, grassroots organizing, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?

SS: I thought it would be interesting to work with people and make their lives better. When I first started doing that, there was nothing in Queen Creek. It was a very small community, so my activities were mostly in Chandler. Right after we moved back here [to Arizona] all of my friends, or most of my friends that lived in Chandler attended church there, so I was asked to join the Junior Women's Club and that started out us helping people.

Narrator: Shirley Tung
Interviewer: Katharine Couitt


KC: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations, grassroots organizing, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?

ST: First of all, when you're working with battered children you start thinking about how you can affect change in society. I think I was very much concerned about what was happening in the world when the US was bombing El Salvador in Guatemala everyday and for no really apparent reason. I felt I had to be involved to try to stop those types of unjust killings. It is still happening today only in another part of the world. I became very much of a pacifist trying to stop or convince North Americans to vote because it seemed like most of the people here are asleep and as long as it doesn't affect them they don't seem to be so concerned. So my idea was to try to be involved as much as I could to at least get people thinking about some of these issues. I think not only does it affect your own mind but certainly at that time, I didn't want my own children to go off to war in Central America. To me I thought it was an unjust place of complication of violence. So that's when I began doing a lot of work with sanctuary movement. We were trying to help the people who were fleeing the violence. They were coming here and of course they were coming illegally, so we gave them sanctuary. I don't know if you know that movement; it was a movement that was started in the late 70's, early 80's and was really to help Central Americans who were fleeing the violence from their own country. The government said that was of course illegal, but there was a president Dave Calf from the UN that said that the refugees that were fleeing for their life for political reasons or religious reasons, had a right to asylum. We went on those premises and so there were fourteen denominations that were involved in that movement. We were moving people across the country which was then called the "underground railroad" and then as that evolved and other things happened, then there were more issues that came up and evolved again.

Narrator: Cindy Barnes Pharr
Interviewer: Trevor Frost


TF: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations, grassroots organizing, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?

CBP: My interest in being a part of the community took place when I was in a class at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. I think it was called Reading 101. The teacher was Wanda Mathews who I know has since retired from the college but she had a requirement that you could get extra credit if you volunteered in the community and I was one of those kids that needed extra credit. I wanted to make sure I got all A's and B's so I always went over and beyond. I volunteered being the soccer coach of a girls' recreational team because I loved to play soccer as a little girl, and I never thought there were enough girl coaches. It was always men, and many men that never even grew up in the sport. I thought I loved this, and I want other little girls to see that I could play this and as I went through my college degree a lot of the classes required community service, service learning hours, and I really learned that I enjoyed this. My parents were extremely supportive of me volunteering so much that they paid all of my college costs so I never had to worry about a job, and they wanted me to just study and volunteer and do something in the community.

But really what got my interest, that got me more involved in the Gilbert community was when they started to build homes across the street from where I lived and I wasn't going to be able to ride my horse in those fifty acres anymore. So I went to the mayor and the city manager and asked how I could have trails throughout this neighborhood. I did whatever the mayor told me to do to file the legal protests and make a spectacle of myself to where the developer would listen to me and put in horse trails. That neighborhood now is a model example of horse trails throughout the community. The neighborhood is called Ashland Ranch and our neighbors ride on that horse trail every day, and it just reminded me that if you can speak up and talk to the right people you can make a difference for everyone.

Narrator: Sandra Simmons
Interviewer: Lia Troisi


LT: You were selected for this interview because you have been involved in community organizations, grassroots organizing, or in efforts to better the community. What began your interest in being involved in bettering the community or individual lives?

SS: I was thinking about key times in my life that had an influence on me, and when I was in eighth grade in Illinois there wasn't a lot to do there, but at the school there were playgrounds and there were athletic fields and paved blacktops. In my grade, the girls were not allowed to use the athletic areas, that that was for the boys; and somebody, not me, but somebody got the idea to stage a protest. This was in 1961, and they had us all bring our dolls to school. If they were going to treat us like children and send us to the playground area then we would just bring our dolls and act like children. That got us all called to the principal's office, but that made an impression on me.

Also, I went to church and a teacher there gave me a book called, Black Like Me. In my little town, it was pretty much white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant; there were two Catholic families, there was no Jewish families, and no one of color. So she gave me this book about this guy who goes down to the south and pretends to be black and how he is treated in the south as a black person, when he is a white person. What difference should it make? That made a big impression on me. That sort of awakened my social consciousness.

Photos courtesy of the families.

Back to Community History Home

Mary Black

Terry Saba

Cynthia Dunham

Arrested participant of Stonewall Riot.

Shirley Tung

Cindy Barnes Pharr

Sandra Simmons Vietnam Protest