Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives
Sarah Butler was born in Atlanta, Georgia. The fourth of six children, her mother was a homemaker and her father was a barber. She graduated from the Girls High School of Atlanta in 1939, and later attended Georgia Evening College, leaving in 1949 to marry Bob Butler. Butler had two children, and quit her work at Sears Roebuck to take care of them. Once the children were grown, Butler began her 18-year association with the labor movement, and in particular, the AFL-CIO. A member of the Office and Professional Employees Union, Butler was also involved with ERA Georgia, Inc., NOW, AARP, Southwest Atlantans for Progress, her PTA, and the Democratic Party. While her husband was president of the Atlanta Labor Council, she served as the secretary of the council. Soon after she retired, Butler was inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame. She was also honored as Woman of the Year in the Labor Movement. She now lives in Gainesville, Georgia.
Abstract of the full interview
Butler talks about her childhood in Atlanta, and her parents activism -- her father in the Barber's Association and her mother in school and community affairs. She says that she worked at Sears Roebuck between 1939 and 1949, leaving to have her first child. She describes discriminatory practices at Sears, and says that once she became pregnant and began wearing maternity dresses, she was removed from a public position to the personnel office where nobody could see me." Butler stayed at home with her two children until her son was in 11th grade. At this time, she states, she was invited to work for the Georgia AFL-CIO as a secretary. She remained with the organization for 18 years. She describes her experiences in the labor movement, and her efforts to convey information about the Equal Rights Amendment to the labor community, and in particular to her own union, the OPEIU (Office and Professional Employees International Union). She also talks about her work (with the AFL-CIO) on Jimmy Carter's failed reelection campaign, and subsequent efforts organizing his papers. Butler and her husband were long-term advocates for civil rights, and members of SWAP (Southwest Atlantans for Progress). She discusses some of the work they undertook to bring about integration and equality within their neighborhoods and the labor movement. She also talks about her volunteer, AARP and feminist activities in Gainesville GA, and in particular, her response to local pro-life activities. Butler ends by telling women, "We're going to have to stay alert, we're going to have to stay on top of things, and we're going to have to keep the right people in Washington and locally too."
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