Oral Histories

Interview of Myrna Hant

UCLA Osher Institute instructor in gender studies and life transitions.
Series:
Women's Activist Lives
Topic:
Social Movements
Women's Issues
Interviewer:
Granholm, Kimberlee
Interviewee:
Hant, Myrna
Persons Present:
Hant and Granholm.
Place Conducted:
Hant’s home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interviews are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Kimberlee Granholm, M.A. candidate, Moving Image Archive Studies, UCLA; Graduate Research Assistant, Center for the Study of Women, UCLA. The interviewer prepared for the interview by reviewing Hant’s academic publications, PhD dissertation, articles concerning her involvements from Los Angeles Times, and course syllabi. Hant provided a resume for review; her involvements and affiliations were researched further by Granholm.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Hant 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.
Length:
7 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
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.
Born in 1942 in Punxsutawney, PA- History of Jewish family heritage –Parent’s background-Parents’ expectations for daughters-Grew up in non-intellectual household –Early family dynamics and parent’s personalities-Small town great for a child because it allowed freedom, no crime-Beginning awareness of being the “other” because of being Jewish-Hanukkah traditions-Sales, waitressing, teaching jobs-Small town ideas gave a sense of safety and security-No women role models-No female family members worked-Reading Friedan in ’63 was shock to her in learning cooking or baking-Parents didn’t know what to make of her- Had her own room in attic-Experience of coming of age with her sisters-Sex and menstruation were not talked about-Early dating and parent’s approval-Lack of family bonding-Finding escapes from family dynamics- Defines childhood through friendships-Typically gone from the house from 8am to 8pm-Polio scare in forties and public fears-Childhood activities-Friends were met through school, Girl Scouts, playing tennis-Small town encouraged familiarity, but also extreme prejudice—Pressure as a little girl to be feminine-Experience with childhood prejudice-Dichotomy of pride for faith with necessity to disguise it-Identity of small town community tied to churches-Jewish community in Punxsutawney-Early recollections of WWII-Family’s involvement with Jewish relief organizations and support for Israel-Decision to move – Early experiences at school and parent’s low expectations -Curriculum male -dominated-Interactions with boys at school, with sports –Favorite subjects– Middle and high school cliques-Married at 19-Transition from small town to Los Angeles – Father sold clothing store worked odd jobs -Work ethic built into family-Never felt deprived or that wealth was important-Large Jewish community in LA different from small town-Emotionally upset by move-Teen pregnancies and abortions-Family home located in West LA in a Jewish area-Experience of Jewish community in LA – Participated in clubs and played in the band -Voted into student council; later president of the 10th grade girls–No women role models until women’s movement-The fifties still endorsed gender roles through popular culture and schools-Recalls Elvis Presley kissing her on the cheek-Expectation of men to be sporty and macho- Teen social activities-Lack of sexual education at home and at school- Societal pressures kept women from sexual exploration-Dates picked from social club dances- Importance of having a boyfriend at age 16; relationships expected to end in marriage-Not as much pressure to have children-Popular 1950’s culture in high school-First jobs-Women were not portrayed with the initiative in romance-Superficial images of women attracting men – Celebrity watching-Faith was not a defining characteristic in adolescence-Going to the synagogue was more a way to meet people-Belonged to B’nai B’rith-Met husband at Hillel –Decided not to go to Berkeley to attend UCLA-Bill as a Holocaust escapee, fled to China-Family influence waned in high school-Participation in the community revolved around being Jewish-Home life and chores in high school- Sisters’ anorexia-No labels for anorexia at the time-Confidante found in friend from kindergarten-Teen letters to her were intimate-Homosexuality was not acknowledged-Eisenhower era and later Kennedy-Husband’s fear of draft for the Korean War-Began reading Holocaust literature in fifties- Husband’s relatives discussed experiences in Dachau-Desire to adhere to Christian traditions has never left-Raised to question when people can turn against you.
Friend’s botched abortion and death-Issue not talked about then-Importance of Roe v- Wade-Sisters’ marriages at 19 and 24-Era of “happily ever after”-Marriage to Bill at 19-Attends UCLA instead of Berkeley-Bill uneasy about idea of marriage-Importance of pairing off-Shift seen in women 5 years younger-End of high school-Observes exclusionary nature of clubs-Ends her association with some academic and service clubs-Personal goals for college-Choose liberal arts-“Mrs” degree-Assumes husband will support her-College years 1960-1964-Reads The Feminine Mystique in 1963- Mindset completely changes-Questions the absence of women as role models-Husband as an anti-feminist-Later, began consciousness-raising groups at home: no children or husbands allowed-Recalls how difficult it was in years of teaching to obtain feminist literature Signs of early activism-Importance of folk music as a form of protest-Holly Near, Joan Baez singing about women- Later reinforced by “I am woman, hear me roar” (1971)-Beginning years of traditional marriage-Some women (including sister) were leaving marriages to find themselves-Feminism is not sacrificed in her traditional marriage-Expectation from religion to have children and to pass on Jewish culture-Communication as integral in their relationship-Bill’s disagreements with her feminism- Radicalization of the women’s movement-Bill attending meetings with her-Bill’s traditional mother-Working outside the home to pay expenses-Challenge for women to juggle roles-Friendships in college-Influence of Friedan’s book-Progression of activism-Response from men-Consciousness-raising as an effective strategy for the women’s movement-Removed from civil rights movement- Women’s movement as a primarily white women-Teaching becomes goal for the future-Kennedy assassination-LBJ brings Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act-MLK and then Robert Kennedy are assassinated-The decade as rose-colored glasses that were shattered-1960’s social life-Bill’s activism on Jewish issues-Discussion of the war as pointless-Pop-culture influences-Influential films-Post-graduation job in social work-Then teaches middle school in Inglewood-Experience of riots-Pregnant while teaching-Faced discrimination due to her pregnancy-Role of women’s movement to change those policies-Obtains Master’s degree in English-Her experience of pregnancy and desire to return to school-Inner-city school issues-Racial tensions in the classroom-Observed lack of openness about experience of pregnancy-Available birth control options-Pressure to have children-Desire to raise daughter as a feminist-Daughter’s desire to be a doctor-Idea of “being who she could be”-Education was a priority-Views on child conditioning: environment vs. genetics-Obtained teaching position at Santa Monica College-Work supported job-family balance-Difficulties of being a student and mother-Master’s combined love of literature and teaching-Involvement with Women’s Center in 1970s.
Masters in English in 1972 from Cal State Northridge-Masters in Business at Loyola Marymount University from 1975-1980- Works at Santa Monica College in early seventies-Proposes a course of Women in Literature-Establishment of Women’s Resource Center at SMC-Set up program for women returning to education-Women became empowered in classes- Earns MBA for career in college administration- Taught classes concerning how to dress and manage people-Wanted adjunct position to balance work and parenting-President of SMC married to feminist-Creation of Women’s Resource Center-Offered director of WRC position, but declined-Proposes women’s list course and gets support- observed changes in women were distinct, both positive and negative-Some regretted awareness-Students critique of her life as wife and mother-Reaction of men in 1970s to movement-Sister’s response to women’s movement-Discussion of movement accomplishments-Roe v. Wade- Difficulties of women’s movement in identifying ethnic concerns-Classroom discussions and male students’ reactions-Changes in the 1970s: assassinations-Forms of women’s activism- Literature used for empowerment- Movement of Jewish women returning to Orthodoxy-1970s as a time to question roles of men and women-Participation in Roe v- Wade and ERA marches-Literature selected for literature and business classes-Services offered by WRC-Creation of WRC-Became co-director-Supportive administration-Class discussions-“I Want A Wife” by Judith Viorst; Alix Kates Shulman marriage contract-Changes and compromises within marriage due to increased feminism-Attending conferences- Discussion of differences of SMC female students from university students- Awareness and influence of women’s studies programs- Women’s Conference at SMC- Evolution of classes at SMC- Earning MBA at Loyola Marymount in 1975- Husband’s role in helping with day-to-day household tasks was minimal- MBA was seen as her personal journey- Goal was still to get a degree rather than concentrate on a possible job-Management became her interest- Graduated in 1980- Became administrator at Chapman- Interest in aging issues developed while teaching at Chapman- Returns to UCLA for PhD in Education in 1982-“Women in business” class issues pertained specifically to the ways that women manage- Took over position of Director at Chapman- Influence of PhD after her retirement in 2001 has been significant- Describes the Eighties as a time of backlash by American society- Compromise in marriage by sacrificing high-powered career- Voices that what importantly sustains in her life is family.
Reflections on raising children-Importance of health-Struggles with daughter’s behavior after age 5-New perspective as a grandmother-Dislike for label of good/bad parenting and for parental egos-Deliberate effort to raise feminist kids- Fathering strategies- Parental roles for her and Bill- Balancing career with household work- Parental restriction of television- wrote book, “The Plug-in Drug” which was never published- Open discussion of physiological topics with children- Daughter and son did not get along in childhood, physically fought- Children participated in local temple in order to promote heritage and cultural identification-Daughter’s marriage and separation- Relationship with extended family-Transition into children’s teenage years- Being a grandparent-Generational changes in feminism witnessed from her to her grandchild- Career development after receiving PhD- Begins auditing women’s studies courses-Upon retirement, applies to CSW as a research scholar-Begins teaching in “Women in Transition” program with UC Extension along with other women’s studies courses; later, work with UCLA Osher Institute- Realizing third-wave feminism differences- LGBT community, identity issues, violence, determining definition of feminism, new academic standards-Describes Osher Institute- Retirement from Chapman, age 59- Center for the Study of Women, research scholar in 2001- Established Renaissance Award in 2006 for women returning to education through CSW- Discussion of involvement in People Assisting the Homeless (PATH)- Feelings on current backlash or war on women- Notes writing, visibility, education as forms of effective activism- Reflections at age 70- Personal activities in present-Delighted with Los Angeles as a city to retire in- Present goals: possibility of writing book about researched women from Extension classes, continue teaching and publishing, involvement with PATH, stay physically active-Current project on Leni Riefenstahl-Personal advice to others: stay curious, excited and involved.