Oral Histories

Interview of Betty Brooks

Feminist activist in anti-rape work, women’s sexuality, and feminist theology. Co-founder of the Rape Crisis Hotline and Women Against Sexual Abuse. Co-founder of the Califia Community. California State University, Long Beach educator in the Women’s Studies Program.
Women's Activist Lives
Social Movements
Women's Issues
McKibben, Susan
Brooks, Betty
Persons Present:
Brooks and McKibben.
Place Conducted:
Brooks’ home in San Clemente, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Susan McKibben; M.A., Education, UCLA; Ph.D. candidate Education, UCLA; Graduate Research Assistant, Center for the Study of Women, UCLA. McKibben prepared for the interview by reviewing journal articles (e.g. Frontiers) and newspaper articles (e.g. Los Angeles Times) about Brooks’s anti-violence work, her teaching at California State University, Long Beach and surrounding controversies. She also read Juliane Bartolotto’s M.A. Thesis, An early history of women's studies at California State University, Long Beach:1968-1976. An available on-line edition of Brooks co-hosting an episode of the Feminist Magazine on KPFK Pacifica Radio was also reviewed.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Brooks was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
3 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Women’s Activist Lives in Los Angeles is a series of interviews done by graduate research assistants under the auspices of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women. The series addresses the diverse ways in which women’s social movement activities affected public policy and transformed civic institutions such as education, social services, and the art world in Los Angeles. Several of the oral histories also focus on individuals who were involved with the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives, which the Center for the Study of Women was involved in bringing to UCLA Library Special Collections at the time the oral histories were being done.
Brooks' birthplace and year, family, and neighbors—racial segregation and attitudes about it—church involvement and the effect of the church on Brooks' thinking—Brooks' parents, their backgrounds and relationship—parents' work, chores, and home life—parents' expectations of her—things Brooks did for fun—school experience and school sports—school segregation—Brooks' school experiences—leadership and Girls State—mother's expectation that Brooks go into teaching—school sports in town and girls' athletics—mother's teachings and local attitudes about boys, relationships, and sex—dating—ideas and expectations about marriage and motherhood—Brooks' mother's teachings about independence—going to Centenary College—participation in top-level touring choir—touring with the USO in Korea, Japan, and Okinawa—college studies—meeting her husband—marriage—thoughts on athletic funding for girls—moving to California— Brooks gets work as a girls' Physical Education teacher and her husband goes into the Marine Corps.
The Brookses move to Norwalk, California—Brooks begins teaching high school Physical Education in Downey—earns Master’s degree in Physical Education at California State University, Los Angeles—Brooks’ involvement in shifting girls’ P.E. from “play days” to more competitive sports—benefits of sports and P.E. for girls—Title IX—funding issues and girls’ sports—challenge in developing women’s coaching—teaching at San Fernando Valley State University—race and class divisions in the area—Brooks has a son, David—substitute teaching in juvenile facilities—Brooks’ work on the United Church of Christ Task Force on Women—creating Califia and teaching self defense there—becoming involved in self defense and anti-rape work—setting up the first rape crisis hotline—teaching self defense classes—controversy about Brooks’ self defense classes at California State University at Long Beach—nature of the Women’s Studies program at California State University at Long Beach—discussions and challenges of creating radical community at Califia—Brooks’ thoughts about separatism vs. pushing against the system.
“The personal is political”: the importance of women’s everyday life activities—Brooks’ method of teaching self-defense and how she interacted with her students—institutionalizing women’s athletics and other programs—getting her Ed.D. [Doctor of Education] at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality—how the church helped her develop and progress—Brooks’ advocacy in the United Church of Christ to ordain and hire women ministers—sex and sexuality education in the church—Brooks’ sexuality as a journey and her open marriage—how her relationships affected her activism—more on her classes at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality—teaching courses in the California State University, Long Beach Women’s Studies program— creation and development of the program—radical nature of the program and operating a radical program in the university—conservative complaints against the program and Brooks’ teaching of Women and Their Bodies—challenges of teaching sexuality—controversy about showing slides of genitals in class—conservative challenge to Women’s Studies at California State University at Long Beach—relationship between spirituality/religion and feminism—limits of the institutionalization of feminism—need to work inside and outside institutions—creating feminist theology—evolution of the Women’s Movement—changes in anti-rape and prevention of violence against women—masculinity as an object of feminist study—Brooks’ work as co-host of the Feminist Magazine at KPFK Pacifica Radio—evolution of feminism.