Video Oral History

Megan Cornish

Radical Women; Freedom Socialist Party
Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT) Program, Seattle City Light

Megan (pronounced MEG-on) Cornish grew up a self-described “army brat,” and moved to Washington state after she got her BA from Cornell University in 1969. While in the Puget Sound area, Cornish worked at the Shelter Half antiwar G.I. Coffee House in Tacoma; participated in demonstrations on behalf of the United Construction Workers Association (UCWA); and picketed on behalf of striking University of Washington clerical and maintenance workers. She also joined Radical Women, a socialist feminist organization co-founded by Clara Fraser in Seattle.

When Fraser was selected to organize a female Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT) program at Seattle City Light, she recruited Cornish and dozens of other feminist movement activists to apply. Cornish was hired along with nine other women as the first, and what would prove the only, class of female ETT employees.

The ETT women’s ensuing struggle with City Light management and sometimes with IBEW Local 77 to hire women and challenge workplace sexism was hard fought. Cornish, along with her Radical Women colleagues Heidi Durham and Teri Bach, pushed the hardest and were targeted for some of the worst backlash. In the process, Cornish broke through a number of barriers. She became only the second female operator and the first female power dispatcher at Seattle City Light. Eventually promoted to senior power dispatcher, Cornish helped found the Committee for Equal Rights at City Light and, in 1991, was named Active Advocate of the Year, along with her longtime colleague Heidi Durham, by Washington Women in the Trades. She retired in 2004 after thirty years at City Light.

Cornish remains a committed member of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), as well as an antiwar activist and an environmental advocate.  She has written numerous articles, pamphlets, and a few books on a range of topics over the last 30 years, which have been published by the Freedom Socialist Party publishing arm, Red Letter Press.

Megan Cornish shared her memories about the ETT struggle and its aftermath with Nicole Grant and Alex Morrow on October 20, 2005. To the right are streaming-video excerpts of the interview. Video editing by Daren Salter.

 

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