Veteran Feminists of America


Report to VFA Board

“Labor & the Women’s Movement:  The untold story and why it matters” was a VFA event held at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis, MO,
on September 27, 2014.  This is a report on the results of that event.

VFA Treasurer Pam Ross lives in St. Louis, and she suggested a VFA event focused on the labor movement to be held in St. Louis.  The VFA events committee worked with Pam on the planning and execution of the event.  That committee is chaired by Sheila Tobias and includes VFA board members Mary Jean Collins,
Mary-Ann Lupa and Kathy Rand.

As we began work on the event, we learned of leading historians who had studied and written extensively on the subject of women and labor.  We were able to secure several of them with payment of their expenses only – we paid no speaker fees.  We created a program that was designed to interest both feminist and labor audiences.

A complete agenda for the event is included in this report.  But some of the highlighted speakers include:

  • Keynote speaker Brigid O’Farrell, author of Rocking the Boat – Union Women’s Voices, 1915-1975
  • Lunch speaker Dr. Alice Kessler-Harris of Columbia University, one of the nation’s leading historians on women and work
  • Closing speakers Dr. Emily LaBarbara Twarog, University of Illinois, and Mary Anne Sedey, St. Louis employment discrimination attorney

There were three panel discussions:

  • Bringing the history to life, featuring Muriel Fox, Sheila Tobias, Brigid O’Farrell, Katie Jordan and Carol King
  • Using the courts and the law in the fight for equality, featuring Mary Anne Sedey, Mary Ziegler, Katherine Turk, Lisa VanAmburg and Sally Barker
  • Connecting the movements:  organizing for justice at work, featuring Heather Booth, Karen Nussbaum, Emily Zuckerman, Carmen Berkley and Sarita Gupta

See the agenda and the event program book for more information about all these outstanding speakers and panelists.

The evening cocktail reception and dinner were a salute to local and national feminists and labor activists.  Sheila Tobias presented them with the VFA medals.  Honoree biographies were provided at the table.  The dinner speaker was Maggie Ellinger-Locke, a local third wave feminist.

We designed a distinctive logo for the event.  We created a special website:  We used the site to update event details and as the major vehicle for event registration.  We also created a unique email address for contact:

We were eager to have good attendance at the event, especially given the caliber of speakers we had, so we put forth a good deal of effort in recruitment:

  • We worked with Jan Cleary to send regular eblasts to the VFA Constant Contact list
  • We had an existing list from the 2012 Alverno event; we updated it and sent regular eblasts to that list via our dedicated website
  • We created lists of history and women’s studies programs at colleges throughout Missouri and in nearby states; we sent them frequent notices
    about the event and speakers
  • We reached out to women’s history and labor programs through H-Net, H-Women, H-Labor and Labor Online
  • We reached out to women’s organizations, labor organizations and labor unions throughout Missouri
  • We created event fliers for both labor and academic audiences and made sure they had broad distribution

We obtained media lists from two labor contacts and sent several news releases about the event to a wide range of media contacts throughout Missouri.  We sent a media alert the day before the event.

We wrote and produced a 48-page program/ad book that was distributed to all attendees as well as donors.  We produced a bibliography of key books on our subject, including the speakers’ books.  We arranged for the event to be videotaped and photographed.  A set of five DVDs containing all the presentations is available for $25 from Pam Ross.


  • A total of 155 people registered for the event.  That included 27 students and 12 VFA Board members.
  • After all expenses, we estimate that the event will raise approximately $3300 for VFA.
  • 17 people joined VFA as a result of the event.
  • Through the event, we introduced VFA to some key people, including Brigid O’Farrell, Alice Kessler-Harris, Emily LaBarbera Twarog, Carmen Berkley and Sarita Gupta.  We also created excellent synergy between VFA and the labor movement that we can build on in the future.
  • Feedback from attendees and speakers was very positive.  We asked attendees to complete an evaluation form, and the average rating was 9.6 (out of 10).

Based on our outreach, news about the event appeared in the following:

  • Pam Ross was interviewed by Brenda Fraser on “Alive to Thrive” radio show on September 12.
  • Emily LaBarbera Twarog was interviewed by DJ Wilson on “Collateral Damage” on KDHX community radio on September 15.
  • Brigid O'Farrell was interviewed for the “Feminist Magazine” radio program on September 23.
  • Alice Kessler-Ross and Mary Anne Sedey were interviewed by Don Marsh on "St. Louis on the Air" on KWMU (St. Louis Public Radio) on September 24.
  • An article promoting the event appeared in the St. Louis Labor Tribune on August 11.   An article reporting on the event ran on October 21.
  • Announcements of the event ran on H-Net (3 times), H-Labor and Labor Online.
  • Announcement of the event was featured on the website of CCWH (Coordinating Council for Women in History).
  • Announcement of the event was featured in the July issue of the Wisconsin Labor History Society Newsletter.
  • An article reporting on the event appeared in The Cutting Edge, published by the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis .


Feedback from Event Speakers

I was honored to be invited to speak to such an amazing group of women. Emily Zuckerman, panelist

Thank you for including me in the wonderful conference. Veteran Feminists of America is an amazing group of women and it was wonderful to have labor women remembered and present.  I was also very impressed with the young scholars and loved the combination of real life stories and on-going research. Brigid O’Farrell, speaker

I very much enjoyed the meeting.  Thank you for making everything so smooth—this was an inspiring group. Alice Kessler-Ross, speaker

Thanks for inviting me.  It was a great conference. Karen Nussbaum, panelist

That was easily one of the most inspiring conferences I've attended. I met many amazing women and learned a great deal. Mary Ziegler, panelist

Congratulations on a well-organized, fun and inspiring conference – no easy task, I know. Thank you for including me.  Carol King, panelist

First let me say what a great conference. I enjoyed every minute.  GOOD JOB!  Katie Jordan, panelist

Thank you! I enjoyed it immensely. Emily LaBarbera Twarog, speaker


Selected attendee comments:

 Good speakers, great information, very well-organized.

 Thank you for an inspiring day!

 Excellent content – very inspiring!

 The speakers, topics and content were interesting and thought-provoking.

 Wonderful panelists!

 It’s so great to hear all the history and to hear from the women who paved the way for me!

 All the speakers were excellent and well-versed on their topics.

 This was an excellent opportunity and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here. It was so eye-opening and motivating as a young scholar focusing on the challenges women face in the labor market.

 Fantastic speakers, wonderful organization, substantive discussion.

 Broadened my knowledge and understanding of our history (labor and feminism), which will help in planning for the future in a combined effort for social justice.

 Great to bring together activists in the feminist and labor movements, groups that don’t always have a lot of interaction.

 As a student given the incredible opportunity to attend this conference, there is a lot of imperative information I can not only apply to my own platform but spread at my school.


The agenda for the day follows, along with selected media coverage and event announcements.



9:00- 9:15 am


  • Pam Ross, Treasurer, Veteran Feminists of America
  • Hon. Kimberly Gardner, Missouri State Representative

9:15-10:00 am

Introduction of keynote speaker – Mary-Ann Lupa, VFA Board member

Keynote address – Brigid O’Farrell, author, Rocking the Boat - Union Women’s Voices, 1915-1975 and She Was One of Us:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker

10:00-11:30 am

Bringing the history to life:  the stories of Dorothy Haener, Catherine Conroy, Caroline Davis, Rev. Addie Wyatt, Millie Jeffrey

Moderator: Muriel Fox, VFA Chair, NOW co-founder

  • Sheila Tobias, VFA vice president, author, “What Really Happened to Rosie the Riveter”
  • Brigid O'Farrell
  • Katie Jordan, Workers United/SEIU, President of CLUW, Chicago chapter
  • Carol King, producer of “Passing the Torch:  The Women’s Movement in Michigan”

11:45 am - Lunch

Introduction of lunch speaker – Kathy Rand, VFA Board member

Lunch speaker - Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History, Columbia University; author, Gendering Labor History

1:15-2:45 pm – Using the courts and the law in the fight for equality

Moderator:  Mary Anne Sedey, St. Louis employment discrimination attorney

  • Mary Ziegler, Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Law
  • Katherine Turk, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina; author, Equality on Trial: Sex and Gender at Work in the Age of Title VII
  • Lisa VanAmburg, Missouri Appeals Court Judge
  • Sally Barker, St. Louis labor lawyer


3:15 – 4:30 pm – Connecting the movements: organizing for justice at work

Moderator: Heather Booth, activist/organizer, VFA Board member

  • Karen Nussbaum, Director, Working America; a founder, 9to5
  • Emily Zuckerman, Vice President, Catalyst; author, “Beyond Dispute:  EEOC v. Sears and the Politics Of Gender, Class and Affirmative Action, 1968-1986”
  • Carmen Berkley, Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Director, AFL-CIO
  • Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs With Justice

4:30 – 5:15 pm

The future for labor and women’s rights

Introduction of closing speakers – Mary Jean Collins, VFA Board member

  • Emily E. LaBarbera Twarog, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois School of Labor & Employment Relations
  • Mary Anne Sedey, St. Louis employment discrimination attorney

5:30 pm

Cocktails and Awards dinner - honoring national and local labor leaders as well as local and national feminists

  • Welcome – Eleanor Pam, VFA President
  • Dinner speaker – Maggie Ellinger-Locke, third wave feminist and attorney

Presentation of VFA Awards – Sheila Tobias, VFA Vice President