Before the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, there was 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women. Founded in 1972 by Ellen Cassedy and Karen Nussbaum, then clerical workers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the organization dedicated itself to putting issues faced by working women on the public agenda.Allison Elias, a graduate student in the University of Virginia’s Department of History, has delved deeply into the organizational papers of 9 to 5, which are housed at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute. During a lunchtime presentation in the library’s Radcliffe College Room on September 2, Elias discussed her research and her work-in-progress, “Gendering the Problems of Working Women: Clerical Workers, Labor Organizing, and Second-Wave Feminism.”Elias, a recipient of a Dissertation Support Grant from the Schlesinger, found extensive labor materials in the library’s archives, from 9 to 5 and other organizations and unions. Although 9 to 5 never functioned as a formal labor union—collective bargaining didn’t figure into its activities—the organization used publicity, affirmative action campaigns, conferences, and wage surveys to improve conditions for women employed in many public and private industries. They focused on areas as varied as pay concerns and health and safety in the workplace: In the 1980s, 9 to 5 even produced their own consumer report on video display terminals.The 9 to 5 name became so tied to women’s issues in the workplace that it even spawned a pop culture classic. Actress and activist Jane Fonda admired the cause and helped bring a lighthearted take on secretaries’ plights to the big screen: 9 to 5 was the highest-grossing comedy of 1980.In addition to the organizational records of 9 to 5, the Schlesinger Library is home to several other labor-related collections, including the organizational records of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers; the records of the Massachusetts History Workshop; and the papers of Jean Tepperman, author of Not Servants, Not Machines: Office Workers Speak Out! (Beacon Press, 1976). Elias dipped into all of these collections during her month-long visit to the library, her second research trip to the Radcliffe Institute campus.
‘Oslo’ stars Jefferson Mays & Jennifer Ehle(Photo: Emilio Madrid-Kuser) Jefferson Mays Related Shows Star Files Show Closed This production ended its run on July 16, 2017 View Comments The new play Oslo tells the unlikely story of how a Norwegian sociologist and his wife, a foreign minister in the title city, managed to broker the historic 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Grounding this diplomatic cloak-and-dagger tale are Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle, whose magnetism makes audiences wish these Tony winners could take on the Middle East peace process in real life. On and off stage, they’re an ideal blend of grounded charm (Ehle) and effervescent theatricality (Mays). The actors chatted about J.T. Rogers’ fact-based drama—and the fun of playing spies and diplomats—on the sunny rooftop of Lincoln Center Theater, two levels up from where the fascinating machinations of Oslo play out eight times a week.Q: You two seem perfectly matched as husband and wife in Oslo. JENNIFER: We love being together.JEFFERSON: Yes, you’ve turned me into a theatrical monogamist. I don’t want to be married to anyone on stage anymore unless it’s to you.Q: How on earth did J.T. Rogers turn a complicated piece of diplomacy into a riveting three-hour-long play?JENNIFER: It’s a bit of a miracle. He’s a bit brilliant, isn’t he?JEFFERSON: He is, and the thing I love most is that he flies in the face of that adage about “writing what you know.” He writes about what he doesn’t know. When he’s vexed and confounded about something and wants to investigate what it means, he does that through writing plays.JENNIFER: And [there’s] his humor: He has many spoonfuls of sugar to help the historical and political lessons go down.Q: What’s it like to perform?JEFFERSON: This play takes us by surprise every night, with all of its twists and turns—which sounds rather unbelievable for us to say, having been in rehearsal for five weeks and then previews, but we still don’t know what’s happening next.JENNIFER: It’s that big. And it’s amazing to look out and see the audience really leaning forward.JEFFERSON: Their level of engagement is astonishing, particularly since it’s three hours!Q: Jennifer played a spy in Zero Dark Thirty and MI-5, and Jefferson was a spy in J.T. Rogers’ Blood and Gifts and an FBI agent in The Americans. What’s the appeal?JENNIFER: They’re crackling yarns.JEFFERSON: Good yarns, yes, and I think that all actors are by nature spies in the way we skulk about and observe human behavior.Q: Which of you would make a better diplomat?JEFFERSON: Decidedly Jennifer. You have great leadership skills and a luminous quality that makes people feel at ease and open themselves to you.JENNIFER: Very important for diplomacy! People do tell me things.JEFFERSON: I’ve confessed some astonishing things to you in our short acquaintance.Q: Jennifer, you took a break from theater and dropped out of playing Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones [after filming the pilot]. Any regrets? JENNIFER: No. I love the show and I’m sure I would have enjoyed being in it, but it’s impossible to have regrets when everything since then probably wouldn’t have happened if I had gone that path. I wouldn’t have done Contagion and Zero Dark Thirty and I probably wouldn’t be here right now. When we did the pilot my baby was seven months old, and when they called to say the show had been picked up, I said, “With all respect, I beg that you let me go.” I’m grateful to them, and I’m very happy.JEFFERSON: I’m grateful you’re here!Q: What did you learn about acting from observing the career of your mother, the great Rosemary Harris?JENNIFER: So much. Putting family first was a big one. She was so present as a mother, and I cannot imagine being otherwise, having experienced that from her. She’s constantly working and learning and sharing. I can’t do anything without thinking about things she said and trying to honor them.Q: Jefferson, who influenced your decision to become an actor?JEFFERSON: My wonderful parents read aloud to me a lot as a child, which in many ways was my introduction to theater. Our television broke during the Vietnam War, and they never replaced it. What they did do was pass novels around the family table. My mother was an actor, and her face would change depending on the character. I remember being riveted.JENNIFER: Your face does that. It’s amazing.JEFFERSON: Maybe it’s my mother’s face if I’m lucky.Q: I must ask about your sense of style…. JENNIFER: Isn’t it wonderful?JEFFERSON: Good heavens, I just sort of wear what I like—bits and pieces from my father and grandfather.Q: How big is your closet?JEFFERSON: It’s a modest size, but I have a big steamer trunk, the kind people used to travel with, and lots of pegs with hats on them in the hallway. It’s good to have a selection of hats.Q: Jennifer’s mom is going strong at 88. Will the two of you still be on stage at that age?JENNIFER: Oh, I hope so! If I’m alive, I will be.JEFFERSON: When I’m 88 years old, I hope I’m on stage married to Jennifer Ehle. Oslo