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Interview with Lorena Weeks, November 9, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:02 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Well, it's November 9th, 2009, and we're here at the home of Lorena Weeks in Wadley, Georgia, and my name is Kathleen Clark.

GPS: Wadley, Georgia
Map Coordinates: 32.870, -82.404
00:00:27 - Working multiple jobs to support younger siblings / Beginning of career with Southern Bell

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Partial Transcript: Where would you like to begin?

Well, should I begin, oh, when I started to work with the telephone company?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks describes her early years at Southern Bell. She explains that after graduating high school, her mother passed away, and she worked multiple jobs (including at a shirt factory and a restaurant) to support her young siblings.

Keywords: 1940s; Atlanta, Georgia; Louisville, Georgia; Nancy Hanks II; Outside Plant Clerk; Southern Bell; Swainsboro, Georgia; Wadley, Georgia; equal opportunity; family; gender discrimination; shirt factory; telephone operator; train; women's rights; work

00:04:11 - Challenging Southern Bell after they denied Weeks a switchman job

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Partial Transcript: So, I worked there until, oh, Johnson signed that Civil Rights--Title VII of the Civil Rights Act into Law.

Segment Synopsis: Weeks describes the process of applying for jobs within Southern Bell and her "bid" for a switchman position. She discusses her determination to challenge the company's decision to reject her application on the basis of her of gender. Weeks also talks about how hard her mother worked to care for four children as a single parent.

Keywords: 1960s; 1964 Civil Rights Act; Atlanta, Georgia; EEOC; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.; Keith MacDonald; Louisville, Georgia; Lyndon Johnson; Title VII; Wadley, Georgia; Washington, D.C.; gender discrimination; gender roles; social change; switchman; trade unions; upward mobility; women's rights

00:09:33 - District Court decision and Weeks' subsequent appeal

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Partial Transcript: Uh, after the phone company wouldn't let me have the job and the union wouldn't back me in it, I got--like I said I got in touch with Washington, D.C., and then Keith MacDonald came down and investigated, and they still wouldn't give me the job.

Segment Synopsis: Weeks describes the tactics used by Southern Bell to defeat her case in District Court and explains the steps she took to appeal the decision. As news of her case spread, Sylvia Roberts of the National Organization for Women (NOW) began working with Weeks on her appeal.

Keywords: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; District Court; Frank Scarlett; Georgia Commissioner of Labor Rule 59; Harry Moore; Jerry Hadaway; Los Angeles, California; Lyndon Johnson; Marguerite Rawalt; National Organization for Women (NOW); Savannah, Georgia; Swainsboro, Georgia; Sylvia Roberts; appeal; feminist movement; litigation; relay timing test set; trial; women's rights

00:17:33 - Impact of the case on Weeks, her family, and her faith

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Partial Transcript: What was that like for your family at the time? What did your husband think of all this?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks describes her motivations for appealing the case and the ways her activism affected her professional and personal life. She talks about not wanting to bring home the stress from her case. Weeks relates a story of getting suspended from work for challenging her supervisor after losing the District Court case.

Keywords: Billy Weeks; Bruce Weeks; CWA; Communications Workers of America; EEOC; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Georgia Rule 59; Iris Weeks; Jacksonville, Florida; Jefferson County; Jenny Weeks; Marguerite Rawalt; Mule Train; Sylvia Roberts; UGA; University of Georgia; William B. Clark; activism; backlash; faith; family; feminism; litigation; relay timing test set; suspension; tax commissioner; trade unions; women's rights

00:25:59 - Winning case at the appellate level

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Partial Transcript: And Judge Bell--uh, in Atlanta--Griffin Bell, who was Jimmy Carter's attorney general when he was in--um, is the judge that listened to it.

Segment Synopsis: Weeks describes her interactions with judge Griffin Bell of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and his ruling that ultimately ensured she could begin work as a switchman. She discusses her reaction to winning the discrimination case.

Keywords: 1960s; 1970s; Atlanta, Georgia; Billy Weeks; Christmas; Georgia Rule 59; Griffin Bell; Jimmy Carter; Los Angeles, California; Macon, Georgia; Nancy Hanks II; National Organization for Women (NOW); Southern Bell; Sylvia Roberts; appeal; backpay; court order; faith; feminist movement; gender discrimination; hearing; poverty; prayer; prejudice; relay timing test set; rural letter carrier; switchman; train; work

00:32:44 - Working as a switchman after winning the case

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Partial Transcript: You won the case and you got on the job, but then did you need to go to school or did they--were you on the job the next day?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks discusses her return to work at Southern Bell--as a switchman--and the treatment she received from coworkers and supervisors. She talks about how they treated her poorly at times and once tried to get her transferred but she decided not to file additional grievances. Weeks also mentions the compensation she received from Southern Bell.

Keywords: Dublin, Ohio; EEOC; ESS; Electronic Switching System; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Griffin Bell; Jerry Hadaway; Johnny Garrick; Louisville, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Social Security; Sylvia Roberts; Waynesboro, Georgia; backpay; gender discrimination; switchman; workplace

00:41:50 - Activism / Family / Working with NOW

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Partial Transcript: What do you think, if you were gonna, you know, what do you want young women today to know about what you did back then and--?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks discusses the loneliness that accompanied her activism and mentions some of her family members. She also mentions leaders she worked with through NOW.

Keywords: Aileen Hernandez; Betty Friedan; Jenny Weeks; Marguerite Rawalt; Middle Georgia College; Muriel Fox; NOW; National Organization for Women; Southern Bell; Sylvia Roberts; UGA; University of Georgia; activism; education; family; feminist movement; grandchildren; loneliness; nursing; women's rights

00:44:51 - Appellate court decision / Work with NOW after winning the case

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Partial Transcript: Well, Lorena, I was just thinking about, um, that second trial with the--at the appellate level. And I was wondering what you remember about, um, the way that Sylvia argued your case and what kinds of evidence you brought in or--you brought in the typewriter, right?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks discusses her Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case. She describes some of the work she did with support from NOW after winning the case, including testifying before the FCC in Washington, D.C.

Keywords: Alexander Lawrence; Atlanta, Georgia; Beth Weeks; Court of Appeals; District Court; FCC; Federal Communications Commission; Frank Scarlett; Griffin Bell; Los Angeles, California; NOW; Nashville, Tennessee; National Organization for Women; Savannah, Georgia; Southern Bell; Sylvia Roberts; Washington, D.C.; feminist movement; gender discrimination; relay timing test set; testimony; trial; women's rights

00:52:17 - Early life, school, and parents' deaths

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Partial Transcript: Well, I also was wondering, um, we don't have to talk too much about that this but I was thinking about, um--if you could talk just a little bit about back when you were a little girl. What--what was Wadley like then? What do you remember?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks discusses her childhood, the hardships her family faced after her father died when she was 9, and the struggle of raising her younger siblings at age 18 after her mother's death. She describes a love of school and her teachers. She talks about her relationship with her brother.

Keywords: 1930s; 1940s; Augusta, Georgia; Betty Weeks; Columbia, South Carolina; Jean Rivers Chernansky; Jefferson County; Louisville, Georgia; Ms. Murphy; Ms. Sims; Nell MacBride; Parlene Weeks; REA; Richmond County; Roger Mudd; Rural Electrification Administration; activism; childhood; church; development; education; explosion; family; father; gender roles; grocery store; infrastructure; life insurance; military; mother; nursing; sawmill; shirt factory; work

01:01:47 - Working while raising three children

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Partial Transcript: Then I tried to make a nurse out of my youngest daughter, and that didn't go through either. Jenny ran away from nursing school.

Segment Synopsis: Weeks explains how she continued to work at Southern Bell while raising three children. She discusses her children and their personalities and relationships.

Keywords: Billy Weeks; Bruce Weeks; Gideon; Iris Weeks; Jenny Weeks; Middle Georgia College; UGA; University of Georgia; cheerleader; children; church; education; family; homecoming queen; maternity leave; split trick; work

01:07:40 - Meeting husband, William (Billy) Weeks

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Partial Transcript: Sounds like--sounds like your husband--sounds like Billy really--well, you were gonna tell a story about when you met, actually.

Segment Synopsis: Weeks tells the story of how she met her husband, Billy.

Keywords: Billy Weeks; husband; marriage; night telephone operator; pay phone; switchboard

01:10:22 - Gender issues in the workplace / Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well, are there any things that people feel they'd like to--to ask?

Is there anything we haven't asked you that you wanna--that you wanna tell us about?

Segment Synopsis: Weeks discusses some ways in which women still face discrimination in the workplace. She asserts the importance of women knowing their rights. She talks about how her faith motivates her.

Keywords: 1964 Civil Rights Act; God; Title VII; activism; equal pay; faith; feminism; gender discrimination; litigation; women's rights; work