FB = Francesca Benson
LH = Liz Hagen
RA = Richard Anderson
VC = Victory Chase
UNOW Labor Relations
LH: I think there were very high expectations on the part of the parents and because all ambition for the children, you know. And I think in some cases it was something that you had to respond to. You had to deal with. But it was difficult sometimes. And I know that the teachers felt a lot of pressure. But I'd love to give you specifics but I would be lying. [laughs]
RA: That's okay. But one issue that ... where you seemed like you had a lot of involvement was this mediation in the spring of 1975 that you led between the teachers and the board of directors on the issue of teacher salaries. What do you remember about that?
LH: Well I was approached by the teachers. Let me give you a bit of intervening history. At the end of '71, um, David quit his job so we needed to put groceries on the table and we bought a small business and I became very much involved in running the small business. So I left the board and I sort of shut down for a little bit, you know. And just focused on running the business. But then I was approached by the teachers and at that point, I realized that they had a real difficulty because they needed to negotiate with the parents but at the same time, they didn't want to make enemies. And because they were taking care of these people's children. They had to be a warm and friendly relationship and the kind of cold reality you need to negotiate salaries was not something that was compatible with that. So I thought they did a very smart thing in trying to find an intermediary, somebody from outside to represent them. But it didn't go down too well with the parents. [laughs]
RA: How so?
LH: They were not thrilled. Why do you need somebody? Why do you need Liz? You know, you can do this ... just do this without ... but the teachers knew perfectly well that you wear two hats.The first hat I'm taking care of your children and doing my very best for them and I have their best interests at heart. The second hat is that I'm an employee and I need to be paid a living wage. And you have to maintain both of these stances .. it's not easy. So I was very interested in the whole process. [laughs]
RA: And how did that process play out in terms of you know, you would talk to one side ... would you literally go from having one conversation to the other?
LH: Yes. And I tried to ... I tried to express both points of view as much as I could to the different bodies. You know, like a proper negotiator. I didn't really know how to do this but I just tried to do the best I could, you know. And I understood the objectives. The teachers really needed to be paid more. They really needed to be paid more, by whatever means. You know. And the parents of course were fighting back. [laughs] So it was an interesting situation. I was very very happy and relieved when it was resolved.
RA: A write-up we found in one of the NOW newsletters ... it describes a kind of a process of offers and counter-offers, standard negotiation, and then it seems that at the last stage, the board of trustees, according to this write-up, the board of trustees ask that the teachers, at that point negotiate directly with the parents. Do you remember that ... not the parents, but with the board. So it seems that the very last stage, um, was direct.
LH: That was fine because the main work was done.
LH: You know. They'd got to the point where they could talk to each other [laughs] because they understood each other's objectives.
RA: Do you remember any of the specific objections or ... the ... board made to the requests by the teachers?
LH: I don't remember any specific but I do know that money was always a huge concern? How are we going to stay alive? And also there was the whole feminist issue of women being underpaid to start with [laughs] and were we in the position to be a further exploiter? Which is something that came up, you know. Were we guilty of exploiting women just like everybody else did? By employing these underpaid teachers. So we ran that risk, you know.
Fighting Sexism in Princeton
LH: In February 1970, I joined central New Jersey NOW and on February 24, we did the famous Nassau Inn sit-in. There was … the first female professor who got tenure at Princeton was Suzanne Keller. She was a professor of sociology and she was tenured in 1968. And Suzanne could not have lunch in the tap room with her students because it was men only. So we got together. This was our first Action, you know, with a capital A. We got together, we went to the Tap Room, and we sat there and we waited for them to bring us menus, and they all said women were not allowed. And they said they were going to call the police. And we said, fine, we’ll call the newspapers. [Laughs]. And we waited and they brought us menus. But before we ordered, we asked them to take down the little sign on the wall that said Gentlemen Only. And so they took down the little sign. And now you go to the Tap Room and there are lots of ladies. [laughs]. So that was our first joint action. I thought it was wonderful.
VC: There were not established curriculums for two year olds, three year olds, four year olds. There were things that schools did, you know everyone knew the kids, the kinds of toys kids played with, and stuff like that, but it was really up to each teaching team to decide how they were going to create the educational component, or educational environment. We all strongly believed, and I think it is still understood to be best practices, that for children playing is learning, learning is playing. Playing is .. you know, learning is not work. It's playing. You know, you learn through play. So we all shared ideas about how to use the equipment, how to deal with certain kinds of interactions, how to deal with parents, that kind of thing, we were learning some of the ... as I said some of the teachers were professionals, some of us just had experience. But we were learning from each other. We did not have lesson plans, we did not tell parents that in the course of this your child will ... um, but I'd say for the four year old group, the A group, parents did have more concern about that. And I can't remember if I said this to you before, I think this was in the second year, not the first, but this was an African American boy, and I remember the parents meeting that I attended of that class, he had been listening to some conversation and he stood up and said: you know, it's okay for some of you, for your children not to be learning the alphabet. It's not okay for my son. When he goes to kindergarten, he needs to know his alphabet, and how are you going to teach that to him? And we all understood immediately what he was talking about.
The Dick and Jane Study
But my chief emphasis really was on the Reader Study, you know .
RA: That's good to know.
LH: Dick and Jane, you know.
RA: Was the Dick and Jane study, was that executed with the goal of sort of applying those lessons at the, at the day nursery, or was the dick and Jane study a separate effort to think about the presentation of gender ..
LH: it was a separate effort to examine a sexual stereotyping. What we did was we got together and decided on the plan of action. We went to the grammar school in Lawrenceville on Craven Lane and we asked the head-master if he would lend us sets of readers that his staff were using at the time. And we took them away and studied them and we found it was like peeling an onion, we were so conditioned ourselves that we didn't know what we were looking at. It took us a while before we realized how profoundly sexist these readers were. And we wrote a preliminary report which we took to the principal and he discussed it with his teachers. And they had a very stormy meeting, four hours long, he told us. And they came out with the consensus verdict: content doesn't matter. [laughs] Isn't that wonderful? So anyway, we then we got going, we really got going. And with help from Pryde Brown ... Pryde hit on the wonderful idea of using illustrations instead of the story lines to talk about. And that exonerated me because it was very ... not a good idea for me to stand up with my accent and acknowledge that I was a very, very recent immigrant trying to change American society. It was kind of ridiculous, you know. But I could show slides and say: look what your children are looking at.
RA: And for some listeners, or readers of this transcript who might not be familiar with the Dick and Jane readers, can you explain what the content was of these readers for grammar school students.
LH: Oh yes. Well they were really ... the readers ... were real ordinary little ... how to read books, and they were ... they had a powerful bias towards activities and choices for little boys as opposed to little girls. Little boys were shown doing active things. Having fun. Running. Jumping. Working. Mowing lawns. Carrying groceries. Taking care of animals. All these other options. And the little girls were mostly shown in the illustrations with their hands folded, watching the little boys do things. And in one story in the Bank Street readers, which was about earning, you see the little boys actually get paid with greenbacks for their work. But in the illustrations you don't see the little girls get paid. They take care of two little boys who are playing with the cash register. So the connection between money and women's labor was being made. You might say that we were paranoid but I think we really found something. [laughs]
Why was NOW interested in childcare?
CJ: Why do you think NOW was interested in childcare as an issue at that time?
VC: Because women were going back to work. 38:08 Women wanted to go back to work and not every job was going to provide them with enough pin money, enough money to hire a full-time nanny and not every woman wanted to hire a full-time nanny.
And don't forget we were coming out of the fifties and it's the sixties and everything was freeform then and you had all these women who had been active perhaps in the anti-war movement. Had been used to getting out there and doing things.
But going back to school, getting degrees, some were women who wanted to go back to school and get an advanced degree to get a job, but they did not fit into the three-day a week morning-only nursery school patterns, or the five-day a week co-op nursery school patter of a parent, usually the mother. And they wanted something else from that. And I think there was a very strong feeling of sexism starts before birth with pink and blue.
So we were kind of fighting against that. So I think there was a strong awareness that it starts early. And the idea of setting up a non-sexist daycare or nursery was, seems weird now because our practices, what we did, is now common practice, and you encourage boys to do dress-up too. And you don't say: oh boys can't do dress-up. They're available to everyone and at that young age, kids are picking up messages everywhere and you want .. you want the messages they're getting in their nursery school experience to be messages of empowerment. And I think that that's you know women understood that.... men didn't spend a lot of time with very small children and mothers, women, did as mothers or older sisters or something as I did. And you saw things happening... it was a two-prong thing. One, women wanted to go back to work. You can't go back to work without childcare.
And they also saw that you know, as the Catholic Church says, you know, [laughs], get them when they're young, as the twig grows, so grows the tree... And it was certainly out of need. Enough women needed it to get it started.
What Made 1970s UNOW Unique for Teachers
VC: And as far as I recall, it was a very happy place. The children were always happy. We all, there was some, I think there was some effort at least in the first semester shall we say, the fall and the spring, when the youngest children, the B Class came out, that they had some time by themselves. You know, because then the older kids wanted more running around and stuff like that. So there was that sensibility that we tried to .. at least at first that we tried to stagger. And it was also a question of equipment. We didn't have a lot of playground equipment. So, um, in order to use the equipment most effectively, you know, you had to stagger it a bit. But we never had organized games outside, even for the older children. And the oldest ones, they were, the very oldest ones, you know, they were great kids but they were just bigger and stronger, girls as well as boys, bigger and stronger and more active. But I remember this being, for the children, a very happy place. As far as I recall, all the adults were getting along, um. And we sort of, you know, we felt ourselves mostly we called ourselves pioneers, but or even that we were doing something new, but that we were setting up something new. So we had that was, there wasn't anything like it in Princeton. So we were conscious of everything we did as being possibly you know, norm-setting, so we tried to as things happened and we saw what succeeded and what didn't particularly among the adults, the teachers, and tried  codify it, but tried to establish it. You know, whether you have a little team-teaching meetings. How could all three teachers get together and it tended to be at nap-time because you know, you could have a teacher ... you could have, we had to agree that another teacher would come in to take their nap-time, because we only needed one teacher at nap-time, and it was the teacher's lunch-time, so in a room at nap-time, so one teacher would come in and take nap-time so the three teachers could go up into the staff lounge, or go sit outside and talk with each other. And we didn't keep written records about things unless there was a particular project going on and you wanted to make sure there was continuity. So I think, a sense of conversation and mutual development among the staff was something that started early, because we were all in it together.
Striking a Balance With Tuition
CJ: And do you have any memories about how you set tuition rates? So when the school started, it was $28 a week. Do you remember if that was cheap at the time.
FB: You know, what I remember was kind of the struggle that we had between not charging too much and at the same time paying the teacher, the teachers, what we could and it was of course not enough. So that was always difficult. And I don't remember that .. I'm sure that it was probably too much for a lot of parents and certainly not enough for the teachers.