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Lois K. Herr papers

1907-2004 Majority of material found within 1963-2003
 Collection
Identifier: 2462

Abstract

Lois K. Herr (1941-) was a prominent advocate of equal rights for women in the workplace and a party to an important legal victory securing greater equity for women in AT&T's Bell System in the early 1970s. The collection documents her role as an important campaigner for women's rights in the business world and her interest in her predecessors in the suffragist and feminist movements of the early twentieth century.

Dates

  • 1907-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1963-2003

Extent

8 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Lois Kathryn Herr (1941-) worked as a teacher and then had a career working for a variety of telephone companies including Bell Telephone Laboratories, AT&T, and New York Telephone. She was a prominent advocate of equal rights for women in the workplace and a party to an important legal victory securing greater equity for women in AT&T's Bell System in the early 1970s.

Herr was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania on December 23, 1941. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Elizabethtown College and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. During her employment at Bell Labs Herr earned a Master of Business Administration degree at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York City in 1975.

Herr’s first full-time job was teaching seventh grade English in Middletown Township, New Jersey in 1963. To fulfill her need for more challenging work, she went to work at Bell Laboratories in 1964. During her twenty-six year career with Bell Labs and other units of the Bell System, Herr lived and worked in four states and the District of Columbia before retiring from NYNEX in 1990. As a manager within Bell Labs, AT&T, New York Telephone and NYNEX, Herr gained the respect of not only her peers, but also that of officers and directors of the companies in which she strived to gain equal rights for women in the workplace.

From 1990 to 2011, Herr lived in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. From 1993 to 2003 she taught business and managed marketing activities at Elizabethtown College. Her volunteer service in the region has been vast and productive. She has participated on several public boards and has been a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives three times since 2004. She has also acted as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee and served as a State Committeeperson in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. She is a member of the National Organization for Women. Her affiliations within the feminist movement are well documented in her papers and in a book she authored in 2002, Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Work Place (Northeastern University Press, 2003).

Lois Herr’s second book, published in 2009, is titled Dear Coach: Letters Home from World War II. The book chronicles the contents of 200 letters sent from soldiers in the battle grounds of the war to their coach back home, Herr’s father. Ira Herr founded the athletic program at Elizabethtown College and was a legendary coach at the school for many years.

Herr continues to work with organizations which protect the rights of women in the workplace and participates in Pennsylvania politics.

Herr began her employment at Bell Labs in 1963. This was during an era which saw the passage of the Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and also the founding of the National Organizational for Women in 1966. At first Herr did not become involved in the activities associated with the feminist movement. She was a part of the “Ma Bell” family and quite content to think of her job as a welcome challenge.

However, when she discovered that her work benefits were not equal to those paid to men at the same level, and that women were not permitted to work at jobs categorized as “men’s jobs,” she began to internally question the discriminatory policies of her company. Her mission was clear; she was determined to cause a change in the thinking of those senior executives who created policy. Herrwas determined to influence change within the Bell System, but to do it without disturbing the family-like environment of a cooperative corporation which welcomed open discussion about issues which affected work.

The senior executives of AT&T were proud of their companies’ record with respect to hiring and training minorities. Herr discovered, however, that there were few women in high managerial positions at AT&T, and she was determined to change the obvious discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate and enforce penalties for acts of discrimination in the work place (other than in federal government which monitored its own). When AT&T applied to the Federal Communications Commission for an increase in rates in 1970, young lawyers atthe EEOC saw an opportunity to intervene. The argument for intervention was supported by the National Organization for Women and other civil rights organizations. The charge was that by discriminating AT&T was inefficient economically and did not deserve the rate increase. The FCC separated the rate increase request from the EEOC charge and established a separate document to investigate the EEOC’s charges against AT&T.

Understanding that AT&T was being challenged by the federal government regarding issues about which she had also been similarly concerned, Herr and others within AT&T saw an opportunity to join the battle from within the company. AT&T believed that the company had been blindsided by the EEOC. They were proud of their record in hiring and training minorities, but had not realized that their record of unequal employment policies with women and minorities would be challenged. Indeed, their response to the decree of intervention focused on minorities, not women, until the issue about women’s rights was explained to them in very clear terms. The Petition to Intervene in AT&T’s request for a rate increase was dated December 10, 1970, and the agreement to settle the case was not signed until January 18, 1973.

Herr describes the story of the women’s movement and the EEOC intervention in her book Women, Power, and AT&T.

Scope and Content

The Lois K. Herr papers document her role as an important campaigner for women's rights in the business world and her interest in her predecessors in the suffragist and feminist movements of the early twentieth century.

The Lois Herr papers articulate first, the process, step by step, by which Herr and other pioneers of the women’s movement in the United States and the EEOC had influenced changes in corporate policy to create more equal opportunities for women in the work place. Secondly, her papers describe the process by which Herr composed and published her first book. Her papers indicate meticulous scholarship and persistent advocacy toward the goal of equality for women. Her diligent work and the work of many other pioneers in the women’s movement are well documented in her papers through correspondence, personal notes and collections of informative memoranda and news articles. Herr’s extensive compilation of AT&T and EEOC records are a significant resource for examining the issue of equal rights in the workplace.

U.S. and EEOC v. AT&T series include the records leading up to the court case include a chronological arrangement of memos, correspondence, data lists, and personal notes between Herr and other equal rights activists from the beginning of the feminist movement in the United States in the early 1960s to the settlement of the case by AT&T and EEOC. The records include information about the beginning of the National Organization for Women. Court case records begin with the Petition of Intervention by EEOC in December 1970 to the Consent Agreement and settlement in January 1973. Testimony of the officers of AT&T, as well as that of equal rights activists are also included, followed by post-settlement responses from AT&T.

The Women, Power, and AT&T series are a chronological record of the information collected by Herr to support her writing about the proceedings and impact of the court case in which she and her colleagues had participated in the early 1970s. Files also include a step-by-step look over the shoulder of the author as she methodically gathered information, persistently extracted information from those who had lived the event, and arranged the material to read like an historical novel. She tested the memories of her colleagues to critique her work and to review the manuscript when finished. The world of publishing is also described as Herr, a first time author, discovers and learns to navigate the path toward a finished product. The series further includes biographical information about most of the participants in the events mentioned in her book.

Files in the Equal Rights series include additional copies of newspaper articles, magazine essays, reports and Lois Herr’s personal files pertinent to the cause of equal rights for women and minorities. Much of the materials in Series III might seem redundant to items in Series I and Series II. However, given the abundance of such a broad variety of opinions in print devoted to the issue of equal opportunity, the materials in Series III explain the nature of change in women’s rights in the work place during the period leading up to and crossing into the twenty-first century.

The Artifacts series are a few items that were used to publicize the feminist movement, including buttons from the AT&T Women’s Alliance, a plastic shopping bag and stickers, and a tin of coal presented to each AT&T company president on January 3, 1972 as a holiday gift to the executives at the sexist company.

Access Restrictions

Records less than 25 years old are closed to researchers.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of Lois Herr, 2010-2012

Most of the Lois Herr Papers were prepared or collected by Herr beginning in the early 1960s through 2003. In addition, many papers, correspondence, news clippings, and reports about equal rights for women were solicited and collected by her during the same period. Early files document events leading up to a landmark equal rights court case, United States of America and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Resources collected prior to and during the court case, as well as those gathered after the case, provided Herr with abundant information to write the book Women, Power, and AT&T, Winning Rights in the Work Place. Included among her papers are sources of her research and documents collected to support events described in the book.

Separated Material

Lois K. Herr audiovisual materials (Accession 2019.230), Audiovisual Collections and Digita Initiatives Department.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Lois K. Herr papers
Status:
Author:
Dave Burdash
Date:
2013
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400