- 1 Early life
- 2 Radicalization
- 3 Health activism
- 4 Visit to Mao's China
- 5 New American Movement
- 6 In These Times Founding Sponsors
- 7 The Professional-Managerial Class
- 8 Health Policy Advisory Center
- 9 New American Movement Speakers Bureau
- 10 Writing career
- 11 New American Movement 10th convention
- 12 DSA National Convention
- 13 DSA Co-Chair
- 14 American Solidarity Movement
- 15 DSA Feminist Commission
- 16 Working Together conference
- 17 DSA Health Care Pamphlet
- 18 Committee for Responsive Democracy
- 19 Conference on Socialism and Activism
- 20 Socialist Scholars Conference 1990
- 21 Socialist Scholars Conference 1992
- 22 Institute for Policy Studies
- 23 New Party Builder
- 24 Campaign for America's Future
- 25 "The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum"
- 26 "Nickled and Dimed"
- 27 "Making Trouble"
- 28 Remembering Richard Cloward
- 29 How Class Works
- 30 Movement for a Democratic Society
- 31 Socialist Debs award
- 32 Progressives for Obama
- 33 Association for Union Democracy
- 34 The Nation
- 35 In These Times
- 36 New Politics
- 37 The Progressive
- 38 Labor, the Left, and Progressives in the Obama Era
- 39 AFL-CIO "Teach-In"
- 40 RootsAction endorser
- 41 Publications
- 42 External links
- 43 References
Barbara Ehrenreich is a prominent U.S. writer and socialist activist. She has been married to John Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson and is the mother of Peter Ehrenreich and Rosa Brooks. She has done extensive research on subjects related to health care and women's health.
Barbara Ehrenreich was born Barbara Alexander in Butte, Montana, in 1941. Both of her parents were New Deal Democrats-her father spent his early years as a copper miner, but attending school at night enabled him later to go to Carnegie Mellon. He went on to a successful career in the private sector, and was an executive for the Gillette Corporation at the time of his retirement.
Ehrenreich's mother, who was rather more political than her husband, offered her children two bits of wisdom: "Never vote Republican and never cross a union picket line.
The family moved frequently when Ehrenreich was growing up. She went to high school in Lowell, Massachusetts, and in Los Angeles. She attended Reed College, drawn by the school's bohemian reputation, and studied chemistry and physics; she then went to graduate school at Rockefeller University, where she earned a doctorate in cell biology in 1968.
Ehrenreich was drawn into the world of anti Vietnam war activism while studying at Rockerfeller in New York in the mid 1960s. She met her first husband, John Ehrenreich and also got involved with a group known as Health PAC, which, from a small office in lower Manhattan, worked to expand health-care options for low-income New Yorkers.
Ehrenreich contributed articles to Health PAC's newsletter, and discovered a passion for writing and editing. In 1969 she and John published Long March, Short Spring: The Student Uprising at Home and Abroad. The book--which was dedicated to "the Vietnamese people"--chronicled the student movements in Italy, Germany, England, and the United States.
In the early 1970s, Ehrenreich turned her attention to the ways in which medical care had come to function as an instrument of social control. She produced two influential booklets with Dierdre English--Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers and Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness--along with a book, For Her Own Good.
- These works were founding documents in the women's health movement, and they laid the groundwork for Ehrenreich's reputation as one of the preeminent feminist writers of her generation.
Visit to Mao's China
In 1974 Ehrenreich went to China in a delegation sponsored by the Marxist journal The Guardian. Delegates had to write biographical essays for vetting by Chinese officials.
- In May 1974, Ehrenreich arrived in Canton at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, which she interpreted as a large-scale exercise in democratic participation.
In one Chinese town, the American delegation were welcomed by a senior military official, who told them: "When you go back to the United States, it is your job to create the armed revolution!"
- The disappearance of the Little Red Book is by no means a repudiation of Mao's thought--quite the opposite.
- The Red Book was a shortcut to Mao Tsetung Thought; today there are no shortcuts. In the Movement to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius everyone is urged to read the basic texts of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought for themselves.
- Peasants, formerly illiterate old people, young students, workers, are reading and discussing "The Critique of the Gotha Program," "Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism" ...
New American Movement
- NAM was a melting pot of New Leftists and former communists, and the group engaged in strike support and union organizing, political strategizing and consciousness-raising.
Ehrenreich has fond memories of those years: "It was fun. You'd stay up really late at night talking to people about political issues." But, she adds, "there was a lot of crazy shit, too, in that time." On one occasion, "two Long Island friends denounced me at a meeting in the 1970s. It was like a formal denunciation, like they'd learned this from reading about the Chinese Communists."
For an example of Ehrenreich's marxist view of children, see her article "The Long March: The kid industry comes of age", in NEW AMERICAN MOVEMENT, Summer, 1975, P. 7. She was identified in the byline as "New York Mets NAM".
In These Times Founding Sponsors
- Robert Allen
- Julian Bond
- Noam Chomsky
- Barry Commoner
- Al Curtis
- Hugh DeLacy (1910-1986
- William Domhoff
- Douglas Dowd
- David Du Bois
- Barbara Ehrenreich
- Daniel Ellsberg
- Frances Putnam Fritchman
- Stephen Fritchman
- Barbara Garson
- Eugene D. Genovese
- Emily Gibson
- Michael Harrington (1928-1989)
- Dorothy Healey (1914-2006)
- David Horowitz
- Paul Jacobs (1918-1978)
- Arthur Kinoy
- Ann J. Lane
- Elinor Langer
- Jesse Lemisch
- Salvador Luria (1912-1991)
- Staughton Lynd,
- Harry Magdoff (1913-2006)
- Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
- Carey McWilliams (1905-1980)
- David Montgomery
- Carlos Munoz, Jr.
- Harvey O'Connor (1897-1987)
- Jessie Lloyd O’Connor (1904-1988)
- Earl Ofari
- Ronald Radosh
- Paul Schrade
- Derek Shearer
- Stan Steiner (1925-1987)
- Warren Susman (1927-1985)
- Paul Sweezy (1910-2004)
- E.P. Thompson (1924-1993)
- Namoi Weisstein
- William A. Williams (1921-1990)
- John Womack, Jr.
The Professional-Managerial Class
In 1977, the journal Radical America published an essay by the Ehrenreichs entitled "The Professional-Managerial Class," which was so controversial on the Left that it generated a book-length symposium, published in 1979.
- The essay was a portentous work of high theory in the Marxist tradition, and it stands as the Rosetta Stone that helps to translate the subjects she has written about through the years. "Why was the Left," the Ehrenreichs asked in the symposium, "especially the white Left, which emerged from the '60s, so overwhelmingly middle class in composition ...?"
- It was an intriguing question. If not the proletariat, what class spawned young left-wing militants? The "professional-managerial class" ("PMC" for short), which the Ehrenreichs defined as "salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production"--teachers, social workers, psychologists, writers, managers, engineers, foundation employees, etc. The essay endeavored, in a Sisyphean way, to remove the obstacles--condescension and elitism among them--that had historically impeded solidarity between working-class people and the PMC. The essay concluded that building a mass movement which seeks to "alter society in its totality" would depend "on the coming together of working-class insight and militancy with the tradition of socialist thinking kept alive by 'middle-class' intellectuals."
Health Policy Advisory Center
New American Movement Speakers Bureau
In the 1980s Barbara Ehrenreich was a speaker on the Women's Liberation section of the NAM Speakers Bureau on the subject of Socialist-Feminism: A New Agenda for Women and the Working Class.
In the late seventies and early eighties, Ehrenreich focused her energies on journalism, writing for 7 Days (a short-lived Manhattan weekly), Ms. and Mother Jones- where in 1980 she shared a National Magazine Award for a piece on how drug companies dumped faulty contraceptives on poor nations.
In 1983 Ehrenreich published The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment, which earned a favorable review in theNew York TimesBook Review. Shortly after that, Ehrenreich began to contribute pieces to the paper's Sunday magazine.
Ehrenreich is also the author of Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War-A hugely ambitious attempt to probe the human inclination toward violence.
New American Movement 10th convention
In 1981 Barbara Ehrenreich, Long Island NAM; Michael Lerner, NAM Assoc, founder, Institute for Labor and Mental Health; Richard Healey, Co-Chair, Political Education Commission and Peg Strobel, Co-Chair, Campus Commission spoke at a public plenary entitled Visions of Socialism at the 10th Convention of the New American Movement. The convention was held in a union headquarters in Chicago and ran from July 29 - August 2, 1981.
DSA National Convention
Speakers at the Democratic Socialists of America 2nd National Convention, in Berkeley California, included: Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Fr. Miguel D'Escoto, Mpho Tutu, daughter of SA Anglican Bishop, Desmond Tutu, Marta Petrusewicz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rep. Ron Dellums, Elinor Glenn, Michael Harrington, Harold Meyerson, Paulette Pierce, David Plotke, Jim Shoch, Beverly Stein, Mel Pritchard, Jim Jacobs, Dolores Delgado Campbell, Guy Molyneux, Cornel West, Gail Radford.
American Solidarity Movement
The American Solidarity Movement was announced in early 1984 by Democratic Socialists of America, as a vehicle to support American labor unions it considered under attack, or on strike and in need of support.
Members of the Initiating Committee for an American Solidarity Movement were: Michael Harrington (convenor), Stanley Aronowitz, Balfour Brickner, Harry Britt, Harvey Cox, Rep. Ron Dellums, Bogdan Denitch, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cynthia Epstein, Jules Feiffer, Rep. Barney Frank, Msgr. George Higgins, Irving Howe, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frances Fox Piven, Jose Rivera, Ray Rogers, Gloria Steinem, Peter Steinfels, Ellen Willis.
DSA Feminist Commission
In 1985, Ex Officio members: Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Healey, Frances Moore Lappe, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Maxine Phillips and Esmeralda Castillo were listed on the National Officers and Staff of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Working Together conference
In February 1986, the Youth section of Democratic Socialists of America sponsored a conference at Columbia University, "Working Together:Beyond Single Issue Politics".
DSA Health Care Pamphlet
In 1990, Democratic Socialists of America produced a pamphlet "Health Care for People Not Profit, the Need for a National Health Care System". Quotes were included from Barbara Ehrenreich, Ron Dellums, Gerry Hudson, Linnea Capps MD (Chair of APHA Socialist Caucus and Ron Sable.
Committee for Responsive Democracy
The Committee for Responsive Democracy began a series of hearings in New York, on November 13, 1990, on the "need for significant reform of the two party political system, as well as the feasibility of forming a new party". Sixteen hearings were planned, in eight major cities across the US. New York City Comptroller Liz Holtzman greeted the commission, saying that "many people don't see themselves as being represented".
Witnesses included Manhattan Borough president Ruth Messinger, Simon Gerson, chair of the Political Action and Legislative Commission of the Communist Party USA, Fern Winston of the Party's Womens Equality Commission. Civil Rights attorney Joseph Rauh urged work to invigorate the Democratic Party rather than turn to a third party.
Among the Commission's 49 members were former machinists Union president William Winpisinger, former California Supreme Court justice Rose Bird, former New Mexico governor Toney Anaya, environmentalist Barry Commoner, farm workers union leader Dolores Huerta, former Attorney general Ramsey Clark, author Barbara Ehrenreich, Joseph L, Rauh, Jr. and former Congressman and Presidential candidate John Anderson.
Conference on Socialism and Activism
The Maoist-oriented weekly newspaper, The Guardian of November 27, 1985, on Page 14, featured a half-page announcement about the upcoming Conference on Socialism and Activism to be held on December 6-8, 1985, at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. It was "sponsored" by The Guardian, The Nation Institute, The Progressive (magazine), and WBAI-FM (one of the Pacifica stations).
Keynote Speakers were;
- Rev. William Sloan Coffin, Jr. - Riverside Church
- Sidney Lens - Senoir Editor, Progressive Magazine
- Prof. George Wald - Nobel Laureate
- Barbara Ehrenreich- Co-Chairperson, DSA
- Dr. Michio Kaku - Nuclear Physicist
- David Paterson - New York State Senator
- Anne Braden - Southern Organizing Committee SOC aka Southern Organizing Committee for Economic Justice SOCEJ
- Representatives from African National Congress ANC
Socialist Scholars Conference 1990
Reproductive Rights and the Role of the Sate at Home and Abroad
- Sponsor: Democratic Socialists of America
- Moderator: Barbara Ehrenreich, Democratic Socialists of America
- Judith Lorber, Women's Studies Program, CUNY Grad Center
- Vernice Miller, Center for Constitutional Rights
- Andrea Miller, Chair, Democratic Socialists of America Youth Section
- Slavenka Drakulic, Yugoslav author, feminist
Socialist Scholars Conference 1992
Ethan Young, CrossRoads; Gil Green, Committees of Correspondence; David McReynolds, Socialist Party USA; Barbara Ehrenreich, Democratic Socialists of America and Paul Robeson Jr. were speakers on the Democracy in the Left panel sponsored by Socialist Dialogue at the Tenth Annual Socialist Scholars Conference. The conference was held April 24-26, 1992 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City.
Institute for Policy Studies
New Party Builder
New Party News Fall 1994 listed over 100 New Party activists-"some of the community leaders, organizers, retirees,, scholars, artists, parents, students, doctors, writers and other activists who are building the NP" the list included Barbara Ehrenreich, writer.
Campaign for America's Future
"The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum"
On January 9, 1997, over 600 people attended "The Progressive Challenge: Capitol Hill Forum" sponsored by the House Progressive Caucus, Democratic Socialists of America, and a host of other progressive organizations.
The primary goal of this day-long "kick-off" forum was to "identify the unifying values shared by progressives at this point in US history, to help define core elements of a forward-looking progressive agenda, and to pinpoint ways to connect that agenda with the concerns of millions of disillusioned people who lack voices in present politics and policy-making."
After a welcome by Representative Bernie Sanders, an impressive array of legislators, activists, and thinkers offered their insights. Senator Paul Wellstone, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Patricia Ireland of NOW, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Noam Chomsky, William Greider of Rolling Stone, and DSA Honorary Chair Barbara Ehrenreich were among the many who spoke.
Some emphasized the importance of the conventional, if difficult, process of progressive candidates building grassroots campaigns that treat voters with intelligence and challenge prevailing wisdom regarding what values and issues motivate ordinary Americans struggling to make ends meet-as opposed to using polls and focus groups to concoct "designer" campaigns to appeal to upscale "soccer moms." Other speakers reminded those present that great changes are made by people acting outside of the corridors of power to define justice and "political reality," and the electoral and legislative processes are not the only arenas worthy of activists' attention.
"Nickled and Dimed"
In 1998, over a lunch with Harper's editor, Lewis Lapham, Ehrenreich, ruminating on welfare reform, wondered how four million former welfare recipients would survive on $6 or $7 an hour. "Someone," she averred, "ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism--you know, go out there and try it for themselves."
Lapham, replied "You."
- It was the beginning of a journalistic experiment that led her to abandon her comfortable home near the ocean in the Florida Keys. Between 1998 and 2000, Ehrenreich, describing herself as a divorced homemaker, took a series of low-wage jobs: as a waitress, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart clerk, all of which furnished the raw material for Nickel and Dimed, an intimate, impassioned piece of reportage published by Metropolitan Books in 2001.
Nickel and Dimed sold more than 800,000 copies.
'Making Trouble- Building a Radical Youth Movement' was held April 17-19, 1998 Berkeley, California.
- "Making Trouble" is a conference for young radicals from all over California to meet, form coalitions, and get informed. We will focus on the Prison Industrial Complex and the contemporary Labor Movement, but there will also be workshops on Environmental Justice, the Unz initiative, Art and Revolution, Immigration, Third World Organizing, Economic Globalization, Affirmative Action, Reproductive Rights, and much more.
Keynote Speaker: Barbara Ehrenreich
Invited speakers included;
- Dolores Huerta
- Donna Haraway
- Tom Hayden
- Angela Davis
- Cornel West
- Barbara Lee
- Jello Biafra
- Ron Dellums
Remembering Richard Cloward
On September 20, 2001 500 people gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City to celebrate Cloward’s Life and Work. Speakers included Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Gus Newport-(all members of Democratic Socialists of America), activists Howard Zinn, June Jordan, Joel Rogers and Tim Sampson plus long time voter registration advocate, Demos president, Miles Rapoport.
How Class Works
At the How Class Works - 2002 Conference, panels included;
“Middle Class? Working Class? What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter”
- Barbara Ehrenreich, writer
- Michael Zweig, Stony Brook – Economics
- Fred Gardaphe, Chair, Stony Brook – European Languages and Literature
Movement for a Democratic Society
The event was held in the Graduate Center, 65 Fifth Avenue, and about 100 participants were in attendance. The meeting featured several speakers who are well known figures on the U.S. Left and an agenda that centered around electing a board of directors for MDS, Incorporated – the non-profit arm of MDS that was founded last August in Chicago, at the national Students for a Democratic Society convention.
Manning Marable was elected as Chair of the new Board.
The new board, elected by acclamation, included: Mark Rudd, David Graeber, Judith Malina, Jesse Zearle, Kate Khatib, Roderick Long, Al Haber, Manning Marable, Muhammed Ahmad, Charlene Mitchell, Starhawk, John O’Brien, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gideon Oliver, Jeff Jones and Bert Garskof.
Socialist Debs award
Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 2007 honoree, was Barbara Ehrenreich.
Progressives for Obama
Association for Union Democracy
In 2009, the Editorial board of The Nation included Barbara Ehrenreich, Deepak Bhargava, Norman Birnbaum, Richard Falk, Frances FitzGerald, Eric Foner, Philip Green, Lani Guinier, Tom Hayden, Tony Kushner, Elinor Langer, Deborah Meier, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosley, Victor Navasky, Pedro Antonio Noguera, Richard Parker, Michael Pertschuk, Elizabeth Pochoda, Marcus Raskin, Kristina Rizga, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, David Weir and Roger Wilkins.
In These Times
Ehrenreich has been a frequent contributor to the liberal magazine, The Progressive.
Labor, the Left, and Progressives in the Obama Era
April 6, 2010 at the McShain Lounge in McCarthy Hall Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. a seminar "Labor, the Left, and Progressives in the Obama Era" was held.
- After the success of health care reform, what’s next on labor’s agenda? How can the labor movement grow and engage with a progressive movement that speaks to the Obama era? What is the role of younger workers, workers of color, and women? Is there a new “New Deal” on the horizon?
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, Christopher Hayes, Washington editor of the Nation, Gerry Hudson, executive vice-president of the SEIU, Michael Kazin, co-editor of Dissent, Harold Meyerson, columnist for the Washington Post, and Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO will speak.
The event was sponsored by Dissent magazine.
The AFL-CIO urged activists to join “Elizabeth Warren, Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich (invited) and student activists for a national teach-in on the jobs crisis and student activists’ fight for worker’s rights, equal access to education, fair taxation, and economic and social justice.”
According to the AFL-CIO press release;
- America wants to work, and a new movement of students and young people is growing to demand that our leaders get to work creating good jobs. As part of that movement, we are organizing a National Teach-In at the University of California Washington Center on Oct. 12 that will be webcast live across the country. Frances Fox Piven, other featured speakers and student activists will discuss the roots of the jobs crisis and how unions, students and community groups are fighting back to defend the core values of our country. You can join by organizing a teach-in on your campus that tunes into the live webcast and then continues to discuss local and state issues and campaigns. The National Teach-In is part of a nationwide campaign that week to impress upon our political leaders and corporate power-brokers: Now is the time for big, bold action to put America back to work, retain good jobs and rebuild the U.S. economy.
- The teach-in will examine the disaster caused by corporate control of our economic and political system. Americans are working harder than ever today while earning less – as corporate profits soar. The big banks are stripping away the wealth of consumers, homeowners, students and young workers. Meanwhile, our infrastructure erodes and corporations offshore millions of jobs overseas – while hoarding more than $1.3 trillion in cash that could be used to create jobs. Schools, day care centers, senior citizen facilities, health clinics, parks and firehouses are starved for funds so corporations and the wealthy can get billions of dollars in tax break…
- Unions, student organizations and community groups are fighting back against these abuses of corporate power and the efforts of the right wing to reduce wages, maintain tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminate social safety net programs. In Wisconsin, students and workers joined together to protect the rights of public-sector workers to bargain collectively. In August 2011, more than 700 corporate accountability events – rallies, town hall meetings and demonstrations at congressional offices – were held in 48 states to tell political leaders to stop protecting tax breaks for the wealthy and focus on putting America back to work….
- We are on the cusp of a new social movement to resist and roll back the corporate domination of political and economic systems by the banks, big corporations and Wall Street profiteers. Please join the National Teach-In: Students Rising for Jobs and Economic Justice to be part of this movement.
RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, and many others.
- Witches, Mid-wives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers
- Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness
- The American Health Empire: Power, Profits and Politics (co-authored with her husband, John Ehrenreich)
- New American Movement Speakers Bureau booklet, 1980s
-  In These Times home page, accessed March 6, 2010
- New American Movement Speakers Bureau booklet, 1980s
- New American Movement Speakers Bureau booklet, 1980s
- NAM 10th Convention Agenda, July 29, 1981
- Dem Left, Jan/Feb 1986, pages 9-11
- DSA membership letter Oct 24 1984
- Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1984, page 6
- DSA Feminist Commission Directory, 1985
- 1986 DSA Feminist Commission Directory
- Democratic Left, Jan/Feb 1986, page 5
- Democratic Left, November/December, 1990, page 4
- PWW December 8, 1990, page 4
- Second Annual Socialist Scholars Conference program.
- SSE Tenth Annual Conference Program, 1992
- Institute for Policy Studies 30th Anniversary brochure
- CAF Co-Founders
- [Democratic Left • Issue #1 1997 * page 7-8]
- Dem. Left Issue 1998, page 6
- How Class Works - 2002 Conference Schedule (accessed July 24 2010)
- Eugene V. Debs Foundation homepage, accessed March 14, 2011
- In These Times website: About