Ochs, Mary

Former organizing director; immigration activist





An oral history with Mary Ochs, former Organizing Director for Center for Community Change, and current member and consultant for The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) Board of Directors. This interview was conducted for the Women, Politics, and Activism Since Suffrage Oral History Project by California State University, Fullerton. The purpose of this interview was to gather information on Ochs’ activist history. Specifically, this interview details her childhood and family life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; parents’ backgrounds, work history, and political involvement; early role models; growing up in a unionized area and the heavy influence of Civil Rights and the labor movement; discusses the political climate of Milwaukee during the 1950s and 1960s; racial tensions and civil unrest in her community; family dynamics and gender roles; early political engagement and attending the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work; details her student activism and organizing; involvement with the United Migrant Opportunity Services; volunteer work on a welfare rights campaign; post-college work in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Indiana Welfare Rights Organization, Indiana University Urban Education Program, and Human Justice Commission; moving around the country due to her organizing work; decision to move to California in 1981, working at the Organizing Training Center in San Francisco; initial goals when she first began organizing; involvement at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and California Proposition 187; how she decides what issues receive attention; becoming the organizing director for the Center for Community Change, in both Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, in 1996; how she successfully organized the Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition and won local hiring and job training agreements; shares challenges and obstacles faced by organizers; discusses the importance of collaborating with outside organizations; her work with the Justice for Immigrant Coalition and Inland Youth Coalition; details the various boards with which she worked; experience serving on CHIRLA’s Board of Directors; reflects on the changes women faced in organizing efforts since she first started; experiences working in male-dominated areas and the differences in male and female leadership; factors preventing women of color from being activists; thoughts on feminism and issues she would like to explore; closes interview with how her work has shaped the person she is today and what she is proud of.


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Description> Mary Ochs, 2015.