Friday, April 23, 2010

Credit Long Overdue

Below: Lorena Weeks poses with the poster advertising Thursday's screening!
On Thursday, April 22nd, thirty people gathered in the Russell Library auditorium for a screening of Lorena Weeks: Georgia Woman, Trailblazer for Justice! Russell Library's Head of Access and Outreach, Jill Severn, provided an overview introduction to the event and Kathleen Clark, Professor of History at UGA, spoke about the events that led to documenting Lorena's story on film.
Below: Kat Clark introduces the film
In 1966 Ms. Weeks applied for a promotion at her longtime employer, Southern Bell. The position, that of a switchman, promised an increase in pay and a significantly shorter commute to work. Despite her seniority with the company, she was denied the promotion because she was a woman and it was a job reserved for men. Weeks knew about the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed by President Lyndon Johnson and felt that Southern Bell had violated her rights under the law, which specified that an employer could not discriminate on the basis of sex. After years of appeals, Weeks won her case in 1972. She became a switchman at Southern Bell, a position she held until her retirement in 1981 after more than thirty years of service to the company.

Below: Ms. Weeks mingling with attendees after the screening.
Following the screening, attendees rose for a standing ovation -- turning to face Lorena Weeks, who was seated near the back of the audience; long overdue praise for her contribution to the rights of women in the workplace. Weeks informally answered questions from the crowd and mingled with attendees, many of whom thanked her individually for taking a stand for women everywhere. To the surprise of many, Weeks mentioned that until the filming of her oral history last fall, she had rarely spoken about her struggle to anyone - not even to her two daughters.

Before the conclusion of the afternoon, Severn proudly announced to the crowd that Lorena Weeks will donate her papers, which document her five year legal battle with Southern Bell, to the Russell Library! As a staff, we look forward to this new addition, and in the meantime urge visiting researchers to utilize user copies of the Weeks oral history film or stream the full interview HERE.

And speaking of the film...In the clip below Ms. Weeks describes how she began her employment with the telephone company and her application for promotion to the position of switchman in 1966. Weeks recalls that upon losing her bid for promotion she sought help from her union and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but was ultimately told that she would have to take her case to court to find justice. On May 18, 1967 Weeks filed a suit against Southern Bell.

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

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