fall 2004
table of contents
Letter from the Editor
Articles Online

Scandal Patrol
Daughters Helping Working Mothers
Republican Women for Choice
Pregnant Women Murdered
San Francisco Women's Building
Sisters Who Sip


Haitians Fight Despair
Matenwa's Artists
Women with AIDS
Spanish Women in Charge
Gandhi Power
Afghan Women's Vote
Networking Corner

Cover Story
It's the Women, Stupid | Ellen Hawkes
Why the Gender Gap Matters | Eleanor Smeal
Fighting Words for a Secular America | Robin Morgan

More Features

The Unreal World | Jennifer Pozner
Virgin Territory | Camille Hahn
A Family Affair | Gillian Kane
Liv Ullmann: A Ms. Conversation | Robert Emmet Long
Liberating Mary | Bob Lamm


Where's That Smoking Gun? Sex discrimination is getting harder to prove | Pamela Haag

The Breast Cancer Divide: Why the disease kills so many African Americans | Michelle L. Smith, M.D.

A Feast of Feminist Art
"The Dinner Party" finds a home in Brooklyn | Carey Lovelace

Jamesey, Jamesey | Ursula Hegi
Intersection | Roxana Robinson

God Says Yes To Me | Kaylin Haught
| Donna Masini

Touching History
Encounters with women of renown: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Hillary Clinton and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson

Book Reviews
Bob Bledsoe on The Finishing School by Murial Sparks; Valerie Miner on The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates; Samantha Dunn on The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage; Carey Lovelace on Full Bloom: The
Art and Life of Georgia O'Keefe
by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
; Patricia Cohen on Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale by Gillian Gill

Plus: Fall Must-Read List

Save the Courts | Donna Brazile

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NATIONAL NEWS | fall 2004

Lin Lac and her garment-worker mom

Like Daughter, Like Mother
Daughters win their mothers’ battles in Oakland

As a child, Lin Lac sewed alongside her mother, who brought unfinished piecework home from an Oakland, Calif., garment factory.

“We’d all help her finish, making point edges,” says Lac, one of seven members of an immigrant Vietnamese-Chinese family.

Lac also watched her mother develop chronic back and wrist pain during 16 years as a garment worker. That’s why she eagerly agreed to help carry out a study of work-related injuries in the garment industry, launched four years ago by Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), an Oakland-based nonprofit.

Along with several other sewers’ teenage daughters, Lac recruited workers to participate in the study and educated them about their legal rights. “It was so hard!” she recalls. “Who’d want to listen to a young person like me?”

But ultimately, even the garment bosses listened: The study culminated with the recent installation of pain-reducing ergonomic workstations in four Oakland factories.

“The young people saw the situation — no time with their mothers because of long hours, their mothers complaining of injuries, having to get part-time jobs themselves,” says Stacy Kono, AIWA’s Intergenerational Program Coordinator. “They saw connections between their experiences and their mothers’ experiences.”

Nearly all of the first 100 workers examined for the study displayed injuries, according to Nan Lashuay, director of the University of California, San Francisco, Community Occupational Health Project, which cosponsored the study.

“There was an attitude of stoicism at first, not recognizing pain, feeling helpless,” she says, “but slowly the atmosphere changed and the workers took on their own power.”

Women comprise nine out of 10 garment workers at Oakland ’s approximately 70 garment factories, Kono estimates. But they didn’t recognize their collective clout, she says, until they saw their daughters developing a program to help them.

Lashuay strongly identified with Lac and the other workers’ daughters.

“My grandma was a garment worker in New York , an Irish immigrant in the hospital laundry, and she’d talk about needles going through her hand,” she says.

Providing ergonomic workstations felt “like righting an ancient wrong,” and the Oakland project has now inspired similar ones throughout the United States .

Lac speaks excitedly about being an activist on her mother’s behalf: “[The workers] face a lot of exploitation and they deserved certain rights! I was able to help them.” As a youngster she pieced together point edges; now she’s helped create a tapestry of progressive change.


Sarah Gonzales is Ms. book review editor.

Asian Immigrant Women Advocates: Founded in 1983, its mission is to empower low-income, limited English speaking Asian immigrant women workers to stimulate positive changes in their workplaces, communities and broader society.

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