Oral Histories

Interview of Sherna Gluck

Pioneer of women’s oral history and director of the California State University, Long Beach Oral History Program. Anti-war and anti-Zionist activist. Co-founder of the Westside Women's Center.
Women's Activist Lives
Social Movements
Women's Issues
Biographical Note:
Pioneer of women’s oral history and director of the California State University, Long Beach Oral History Program. Anti-war and anti-Zionist activist. Co-founder of the Westside Women's Center.
McKibben, Susan
Gluck, Sherna
Persons Present:
Gluck and McKibben.
Place Conducted:
Gluck’s home in Topanga Canyon of Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of 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 Gluck’s published books and journal articles, as well as academic journal articles (e.g. Frontiers) and Los Angeles Times articles about the Women’s Studies controversy at California State University, Long Beach. She also listened to oral histories done with Gluck by Dara Robinson (1984), Michelle Moravec (1988), and Mary Rothchild (2004).
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Gluck was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content. The corrections made were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
6 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.
Gluck grows up in Chicago- Attends Shimer College-Moves to San Francisco-Admitted to Berkeley-Meets leftists and political activists-Gluck’s political consciousness developed at Shimer-Receives political education through conversations in Berkeley-Becomes involved with Student Civil Liberties Union-Fights to bring communist speakers on campus-Becomes part of an anarcho-pacifist group-Gluck participates in an anti-war/anti-ROTC demonstration-Gluck’s father dies in 1954-The anarcho-pacifist group was more anarcho-communist-Learns about the Japanese American internment from a Nissei womanl–Sexism she experiences among Berkeley group-Marries Marvin Gluck in 1955-Activities of anarcho-pacifist group- Precursor of SLATE and Free Speech Movement-UCLA Daily Bruin editor Martin McReynolds fired- Comes to Berkeley for solidarity tea at Alexander Meiklejohn’s-Met Marvin at Shimer College.
Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony to please family-She and Marvin go to UCLA for graduate school-Attends an anti-militarism demonstration during an air-raid drill on campus-Becomes involved in anti-war activism at UCLA-Writes seminar paper on Israeli discrimination against Mizrahi Jews-Early experiences in cheder at the yeshiva and at Zionist youth group-Does not yet think of herself as anti-Zionist-Awakening is 1967 war and Israeli Prime Minster Menachem Begin’s call to Jews to come to Israel-Ultimately decides not to finish Ph.D.-Work as a research sociologist-National Institute of Mental Health grant to work at Olive View Hospital-Finishes the grant and report in 1968-The Glucks move to Topanga Canyon in 1962- Involved in the creation of the Topanga Association for Scenic Community and food co-op-The history of the Topanga Canyon area-Attends anti-war demonstration by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1965-Becomes involved with [Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)-SDS activities-Support from Don Kalish-Instances of FBI surveillance of the Glucks-Gluck finishes her research job in 1968-Move to Palm Desert to make a film-Europe trip in 1970-Radio program for KPFK called “Feminism in Your Living Room”-Starts an organic garden and a food co-op in Topanga Canyon-Attends Crenshaw Women’s Center in 1971-Decision to participate in the Women’s Movement is intellectual, later more personal-Sherry Trumbo calls for an anarchist discussion group at the Westside Women’s Center-Gluck’s activities at the Westside Women’s Center-Great Yogurt Conspiracy-Gluck creates the Feminist Oral History Research Project-Analyzing issues of Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal-Gluck decides to interview suffragists.
Women’s oral history class at UCLA- Gluck leaves UCLA when required to submit student work-Gluck continues work on Feminist History Research Project-Gives talk at Western Association of Women Historians-Meets Donna Boutelle- Gluck teaches a summer session class at California State University, Long Beach- Sisterhood Revival Collective -Attendees sign up to conduct workshops-Betty Brooks gives a homily- Gluck teaches Women’s Lives class at CSULB-Gluck changes teaching material originally developed by Sharon Sievers- In 1977 Gluck hired as a special consultant at CSULB-Helps create Oral History Resource Center-Early vision for the Oral History Resource Center- Surveys the oral histories that had been done on campus-Gluck’s pedagogy oriented around participatory program with an egalitarian ethos-Content was grounded in women’s lives-Class interviews included in Feminist History Research Project collection, later incorporated into VOAHA (Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive)- Recorded narrative as the primary document in oral history-Argued with the Bancroft library about transcription and the Bancroft's editing-Developed a summarization process-Differences between CSULB and UCLA students-The nature of the Women’s Studies program at CSULB-Relationship between the Women’s Studies program and community-Three or four very active students: Denise Wheeler,Cindy Cleary, Leslie Millard, Shelly Farber-Class in community organizing for women-Johnnie Tillmon presents to class- Woman’s Studies program perceived as lesbian-identified-Conflict between program and administrators, but many faculty supportive- The first major conflict hiring Linda Shaw- Gluck describes Debbie Rosenfelt as a key figure in Women’s Studies-Sondra Hale hired as the director of the Women’s Studies Program -The university administration trying to dilute its activist nature- Women from Grace Brethren Church and the Eagle Forum expressed concern about the literature in The Lesbian class- Involvement of state legislators - Gluck retains job because she secured a grant and had published-Those not rehired sue CSU system- Gluck disagrees with ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) position-Gluck thinks the activist nature of the program was biggest issue- By 1991 no point in continuing the lawsuit- Plans dinner for the sake of the Long Beach and women’s communities that had defended the program- What was at stake- Reflects on the legacy of the Long Beach Women’s Studies struggle-Overall the movement was defanged politically, but as individual faculty they inspired a generation of students-Changes at CSULB reflect those in the Women’s Studies movement and the National Women’s Studies Association-Example of elitism and careerism in the National Women’s Studies Association- Debbie Rosenfelt as key figure in National Women’s Studies Association- Origin of U.S. women’s oral history movement-Attends a couple of National Women’s Studies Association conferences-Recalls planning an action around racism-The Maine conference organized around anti-racist workshops-Oral history in Women’s Studies-Reaction to women’s oral history is mixed- Gluck experiences first Oral History Association meeting she attends as patriarchal-Conference in 1989 represented a major change in focus within the Oral History Association- Complications with community oral histories-Project with Cambodian community groups in Long Beach-How deposit of oral histories is affected by the digital revolution-Gluck trained communities to do oral history- Benefits and limitations of community oral histories and academic oral historians-Self-censorship, sensitive topics, trust and responsibility.
Gluck’s preference for timed logs-Conflict in the field of oral history concerning transcripts and timed logs-Ways this conflict played out in applying for funding- Some students tried poetic transcriptions of oral histories-Gluck develops the idea for the Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive (VOAHA)-Concerned about putting people's voices online-Reasons transcripts were popular in the field- Benefits of digital access to oral histories-Funding from CSULB and Dora Haynes Foundation to do a pilot project-Gluck applies three times to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for funding-Issue of not using transcripts-VOAHA is eventually funded-Resolving concerns regarding putting voice files online-Early formation and vision of how VOAHA would be used-Ways that community members found and used the site-System crashed and it took over a year to restore -The process of digitizing tapes and backing up auditory files-Digital archiving makes things more accessible generally-The digital divide-Issues of security and personal privacy-Gluck is particularly concerned about the political implications of having social movement activists’ interviews online-Story of Anne and Carl Braden papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society- At UCLA Dale Treleven’s solution involving lawyer-client privilege-Japanese American internee interviews with political implications for the reparations movement-Case against Michel Shehadeh of the LA Eight-Gluck co-founds Feminist Oral History Research Project- Lack of coverage on the suffrage movement-Decides to interview suffragists who were still alive-Funding from older radical women-Creates a slideshow and presentation- Teaching women’s history at UCLA- Project interviewing women in the labor movement-Connects to Western Association of Women Historians-Narrators of “Everywoman” interviews-A 1989 Oral History Association roundtable on empowerment and appropriation marks a turning point-Publishing Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History-Rosie the Riveter Revisited: Women, the War, and Social Change-Gets funding from NEH and the Rockefeller Foundation-Describes the project’s design-Brings narrators of Rosie the Riveter Revisited to CSULB-Women’s oral historians as a loose network- Gluck and Daphne Patai collaborate on Women’s Words-Requests for a second edition-Approached by young feminist oral historians from Canada to do a new iteration of the book-Discusses the intellectual evolution of feminist scholarship in the late 1980s and early 1990s-Creates online discussion group-Feels optimistic about new directions of feminist oral history-The “quantum leaps” in distribution from transcript to book to internet-Carrying a person’s story in your head as an interviewer after the interview is over-When she gives a paper at the Off the Record conference in Montreal, Gluck reflects on the question of what to say of what she observes of a narrator-Tension between the oral historian's responsibility to the narrator and her responsibility as a scholar.
Recounts how Palestine became part of her consciousness-1956 Israeli invasion of the Suez-Trip to Italy- Dockworkers refuse to unload Egyptian ship the Cleopatra in New York-Tension related to the 1956 Suez invasion-Infuriated by the 1967 war and Begin’s call to Jews to come to Israel-The massacre in the Sabra and Shatila-The L.A. Eight arrested in 1987 for allegedly supporting terrorism-Three of the L.A. Eight were or had been students at CSULB-First Intifada begins in December 1987-Gluck joins Jewish and Palestinian Women in Dialogue in 1988-She disagrees politically with the other Jewish women-Helps form Faculty and Students Against Israeli Occupation at CSULB-CSULB Academic Senate passes resolution to form a sister relationship with Birzeit University in Palestine-Goes on a group trip to Palestine-Interviews leaders of the women’s committees of the four major PLO factions-Creates slides and a talk-Audience responses are fairly supportive-Realizes the need to interview women who are grassroots participants-Gluck invites Rita Giacaman from El Bireh, Palestine to meet with a group of feminists in LA-Formation of Feminists in Support of Palestinian Women- Mother’s Day demonstrations-Gluck returns to Palestine in the summer of 1989- Challenges of interviewing with an interpreter-Gluck builds rapport with people-Hopes presentations will reach a Jewish feminist audience-Views of the “old guard” in the Oral History Association about advocacy and objectivity-Decision not to pursue tenure-Thinking about feminism most challenged by her interactions with Palestinian women-Returns to Palestine in 1989/1990-Interviews women in Kufr Nameh-Viewed her advocacy work as passing along Palestinian women’s messages to an American audience-Ways that she distinguishes her voice from the narrators’ voices-Participant observation in Palestine-Interviewing in a communal/non-private setting-Gluck begins teaching Women in International Perspective at CSULB- Question the history and historiography of the U.S. Second Wave of feminism-Gluck returns to Palestine for the last time in 1994- Arafat’s return-Colloquium at Bisan Research Centre-Urban Palestinian women and feminist village women-Decision to retranslate interviews using poetic transcription-Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995- Attends workshop by Iranian Islamist women-Restrictions by Chinese government-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement-Radio Intifada on KPFK- Zionists’ criticisms-Issues with Pacifica Foundation-Deir Yasin coalition-Demonstration outside the Museum of Tolerance to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nakba-Participation in Israel Divestment Campaign-Massacre in Gaza in 2008/2009-Petition to PERS (Public Employees’ Retirement System) to stop selling arms to Israel-Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC) activism- Her uneasiness using her Jewish identity as an advocate and ways she does so-The changing climate for Palestine solidarity activism- The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement has grown quickly.