Oral Histories

Interview of Hope Mendoza Schechter

Co-founder of the Chicano civil rights group the Community Service Organization. First Mexican American woman organizer and business agent for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), founding member of the California Democratic Council, and a political appointee of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.
Series:
Community Service Organization Oral Histories
Topic:
Latina and Latino History
Social Movements
Community Activism
Interviewer:
Espino, Virginia
Interviewee:
Schechter, Hope Mendoza
Persons Present:
Mendoza Schechter and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Mendoza Schechter's home in Beverly Hills, 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 Virginia Espino, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., Psychology, UC Santa Cruz; Ph.D., History, Arizona State University. Espino prepared for the interviews by researching the Community Service Organization 1940-1990 papers housed at UCLA's Chicano Studies Resource Center. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted, along with various secondary sources on Los Angeles Chicano politics and civic life.
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. Mendoza Schechter was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff. Session 4 was recorded on January 21, 2010, but most of it was deleted due to a technical malfunction. Topics covered included the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), fundraising for the Mexican American community, and civil rights activist Dionicio Morales, topics which were all covered again in session 5.
Length:
6 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
The Community Service Organization, commonly known as the CSO, was founded in 1947 as a civil rights advocacy group that boasted a multi-ethnic membership. Individuals selected for this oral history series resided in Los Angeles during the 1940s and joined the Community Service Organization during its formative years. The combined narratives of these interviews highlight war-time community life and outline historical precursors to the Chicano Movement.
Early family background; Mother's conversion from Catholicism to the International Church of the Four Square Gospel; Experience of discrimination in 8th grade at Belvedere Junior High School; Mother's education philosophy; Mother as single mom; Childhood living conditions; Siblings' death; Depression conditions; Religious practices and expectations; Religious persecution; Minister's generosity; 1932 Olympics; Segregation in Los Angeles; Tutoring siblings; Father abandons family; Relationship with stepfather; Dropping out of high school; Working in the garment industry; Organizing the garment workers; Work with Central Labor Council; Personal criteria for supporting political candidates; Examples of discrimination; History of the Community Service Organization (CSO); Community issues of importance before the Chicano Movement; Gaining union support for the CSO; Gender and community organizing; Housing discrimination; Personal relationship with the local police.
Experience with an International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) strike; Goals of the ILGWU; Gender issues as a labor organizer; Personal organizing techniques; First arrest and subsequent union support; Role as a liaison for Congressman Chester Holifield; Political ideology; Cross cultural relationships; Impressions of Charlotta Bass; Experience with red baiting; Relationship with the Communist Party; Strategies for identifying Communists; Reflections on admiration for the United States and the right to vote; Notable differences in personal rights with other countries; Current activism around political candidates; Current problems with California government; Nephew's current economic problems; Parallels with the current economic crisis and the Great Depression; Cleaning houses during the Great Depression; Impact of World War II; Experience as a Rosie the Riveter; Brother volunteers to serve in U.S. military; Reflections on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Experience visiting Japan ; Explanation of classes offered by the ILGWU to improve the lives of its workers.
Strengths and weaknesses of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Community Service Organization (CSO); Perceptions of Mexicans in the 1930s and 1940s; Personal responsibility as a prominent person in the community; Relationship between the Mexican community and the local newspapers such as the Eastside Sun and La Opinion; Discrimination in the ILGWU; Ideology of the Community Service Organization; Gloria Molina's campaign; Election of Elizabeth Schneider as chair of Democratic Party; Experience as delegate for the Democratic Party; Voting Republican; Support for John F. Kennedy over Lyndon B. Johnson; Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy; Role as President Johnson's appointment to the Peace Corp; Objectives of the Peace Corp; Peace Corps volunteers; Impression of President Lyndon B. Johnson; Involvement with Project Head Start.
Fundraising through the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) for the City of Hope; Tested for TB as child because of thin body type; Personal issues of importance; Ideas for improving education; Educating mothers about nutrition; Fundraising with Tony Rios for the Community Service Organization(CSO); Fundraising with the Jewish merchants and the publisher of the Eastside Sun; East Los Angeles community of supporters; Working with the Jewish community; Health issues relevant to the Jewish community; Impact of tuberculosis on the Mexican American community; Ethnic make-up of childhood neighborhood; Moving out of East Los Angeles; Canvassing the San Fernando Valley for homes; Organizing for political officials in the San Fernando Valley; Volunteer work for the Democratic Party; Caring for aging parents; Meeting current husband, Harvey Schechter; Organizing in Arizona; National Advisory Council to the Peace Corp; Meeting President Lyndon B. Johnson; Resigning from the National Advisory Council under President Nixon; Issues for the National Advisory Council to the Peace Corps; Parents' reaction to marriage with a Jewish person; Married life; Mother-in-law's objections to marriage; Experience with first husband; Experience with dyslexia; Problems with current form of governing; Lack of progress in education and health from the 1940s and 1950s; Final thoughts about current life situation.