Cooper, Kelly

First woman member of IBEW/ First woman director of General Services Department of Construction (Los Angeles)





An oral history with Kelly Cooper, first female member of Los Angeles Local 11, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and current director of the General Services Department of Construction for the city of Los Angeles. The interview was conducted for the Women, Politics, and Activism Since Suffrage Oral History Project for California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Oral and Public History. Specifically, this interview discusses Cooper’s early childhood in Australia, world travels, and how she settled in Los Angeles, California; talks about her involvement with the Women’s Movement during the 1970s; discusses attending Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC) and her initial interest in electrical construction and maintenance; further explains why she decided to stay rooted in Los Angeles; talks about her experiences entering a male-dominated trade; discusses working her way up through the ranks as an electrician and joining IBEW; the benefits of joining a union; discusses the evolving nature of sexual harassment in the workplace; how she balanced her home and work life; reflects on the gender imbalance of women in the trades; talks about her daughter’s involvement in IBEW and shares advice to woman going into the field; reflects on her greatest professional and personal accomplishments; briefly discusses earning her college degree; talks about her current job role; reflects on how women and men lead in the workplace and at-large; discusses current leadership in contemporary American politics; shares thoughts on the Electoral College and Hillary Clinton’s impact on women in politics; briefly mentions her thoughts on feminism and why she believes there are so few women in male-dominated professions and politics; and finally, shares what she is most proud of in her life.


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