Lois K. Herr papersCreation: 1907-2004 Creation: Majority of material found within 1963-2003
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.
- Creation: 1907-2004
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1963-2003
8 Linear Feet
Lois Kathryn Herr (1941-) joined Bell Laboratories in 1964, and, during her twenty-six-year career with Bell and AT&T, she was a prominent advocate for women's rights in the workplace.
Born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 1941, Herr earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Elizabethtown College and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After teaching seventh-grade English for a year, she joined Bell Laboratories as a technical editor. While seeking career advancement, she became aware of the inequities present in Bell's treatment of male and female employees. As she continued to work for Bell while completing MBA coursework at the University of Chicago, she joined the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). In late 1970, Herr established a Women's Rights Committee at Bell Labs with a statement of purpose that included plans, as she later documented in her book, to take action "to change discriminatory and demeaning attitudes and behavior." With its more academic focus than other parts of the Bell System, the committee found that Bell Labs was a "relatively easy environment in which to talk about controversial topics."
As Herr was forming the committee, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intervened when the Bell System sought approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a long-distance rate increase. The EEOC had been established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to investigate acts of discrimination in the workplace, but it lacked enforcement powers. At the time, AT&T and the Bell System was the largest non-government employer in the United States. Taking advantage of the timing of Bell's request, the EEOC charged that, by discriminating, AT&T was economically inefficient and was not entitled to the rate increase. NOW and other civil rights organizations supported the EEOC's move. 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. After learning of the case, Herr and other AT&T employees supported the EEOC's efforts to change the Bell System's attitudes and practices from within the company.
The case was settled in 1973, and Herr later documented the history of the case and her involvement in her 2003 book Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Work Place. From 1974 to 1975, she served as a Presidential Interexchange Executive in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Throughout her career, Herr held various managerial positions before retiring from NYNEX, one of AT&T's divested units, in 1990. She then returned to Lancaster County, where she owned and operated a small farm. From 1993 to 2003, she taught business courses and served as Director of Marketing and Public Affairs at Elizabethtown College. She published a second book, Dear Coach: Letters Home from World War II, in 2009, which includes letters sent from soldiers to Herr's father, Ira, a long-serving coach and founder of the athletic program at Elizabethtown College. She has been active in volunteer service and politics, continuing to work with organizations that protect and promote women's rights in the workplace.
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.
Records less than 25 years old are closed to researchers.
Language of Materials
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.
Lois K. Herr audiovisual materials (Accession 2019.230), Audiovisual Collections and Digita Initiatives Department.
- American Telephone and Telegraph Company (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Lois K. Herr papers
- Dave Burdash
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