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On Equal Terms with Susan Eisenberg

September 17, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Susan Eisenberg, poet, author, oral historian, and artist,  will use both poetry and prose—her own voice and those of more than thirty other women—to discuss the experiences of women working in the construction trades. Eisenberg was a licensed electrician on Boston construction sites for over 15 years, beginning her apprenticeship with Local 103 in 1978. Join us to learn what it was like to be one of the first women in the construction industry, and what has changed—and what has not.
The fiercely lyrical poetry of Stanley’s Girl is rooted in Susan Eisenberg’s experience as one of the first women to enter the construction industry and from her decades gathering accounts of others to give scaffolding to that history. Eisenberg charts her own induction into the construction workplace culture and how tradeswomen from across the country grappled with what was required to become a team player and succeed in a dangerous workplace where women were unwelcome. The specifics of construction become metaphor as she explores resonances in other spheres—from family to other social and political issues—where violence, or its threat, maintains order. Prying open memory, her poems investigate how systems of discrimination, domination, and exclusion are maintained and how individuals and institutions accommodate to injustice and its agreed-on lies, including her own collusion. Poems in this collection probe workplace-linked suicide, sexual assault, and sometimes-fatal intentional accidents, as well as the role of bystander silence and the responsibility of witness.
Susan Eisenberg’s non-fiction book We’ll Call You if We Need You is full of the raw drama and humor found on a construction site. Eisenberg gracefully weaves the voices of thirty women who worked as carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, painters, and plumbers to examine why their numbers remained small. Speaking as if to a friend, women recall their decisions to enter the trades, their first days on the job, and their strategies to gain training and acceptance. They assess, with thought, passion, and twenty years’ perspective, the affirmative action efforts. Eisenberg ends with a discussion of the practices and policies that would be required to uproot gender barriers where they are deeply embedded in the organization and culture of the workplace.
Susan Eisenberg is a poet, visual artist, oral historian, licensed electrician, and Resident Artist/Scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She is also curator of the online exhibition, On Equal Terms: gender and solidarity. Her most recent book is the reissued We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction.