Heidi Durham was born and raised in southern California, and moved to Bellingham, WA in 1971 to attend Western Washington University. Two years later, she moved to Seattle, joined Radical Women, and began working in the food service industry. In 1974, at the age of twenty-one, Durham became the youngest member of the Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT) program at Seattle City Light. As one of three Radical Women members among the group, Durham would play a leading role in the struggle for gender and race equity at the utility, where she co-founded the Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light, and in her union, IBEW Local 77. Following a landmark verdict on behalf of the women in January of 1976, Durham became one of the first women admitted to City Light’s Line Worker apprenticeship program. She worked on the line crews until suffering a broken back in a near-fatal fall from the top of an electrical pole in 1977. After recuperating from her injuries, Durham returned to City Light and became a Junior Power Station Operator. When she retired in 2004, she held the title of Senior Power Station Operator. She continues to walk with a crutch due to her serious injury.
Through her longtime leadership in Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, Durham has participated in numerous causes. In 1991, Durham campaigned for City Council on the Freedom Socialist Party ticket. That same year, she was named Active Advocate of the Year, along with fellow ETT pioneer Megan Cornish, by Washington Women in the Trades. More recently, Durham was a member of the Seattle Organizing Committee for the Million Worker March on Washington, D.C. in October 2004 and was a featured speaker at the event.
Heidi Durham shared her memories with Nicole Grant and Trevor Griffey on November 7, 2005. Video editing by Daren Salter.