Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ Amy Pearl interview

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Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ Amy Pearl interview


Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ Amy Pearl interview
This oral history interview highlights local feminist and lesbian feminist activists as part of the Southwest Feminists Reunite collection, which was started in spring 2013 during their 40th Anniversary celebration in Tucson, AZ. That powerful experience in March 1973 and the dynamic creativity and political action that followed sparked feminists and lesbian feminists to reinvent their lives and organize for change over the next four decades. This collection consists of oral histories and digital scans of photographs.


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives


Recorded digitally on Sony HDR-CX580 digital video camera


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives


Southwest Feminists Reunite. Lavinia Tomer and Deborah Dobson


Rights given to the Arizona LGBTQ Storytelling Project and the Arizona Queer Archives


Southwest Feminists Reunite


H.264 300Kbps streaming QuickTime movie, 427 x 240




MovingImage and Oral History


Southwest Feminists Reunite

Oral History Item Type Metadata


by Anastasia Freyermuth


Amy Pearl


Transcription by Courtney Martinez

Interviewer: And we’re rolling, would you please like to state your name?

Amy Pearl: Amy Pearl

Interviewer: All right Amy, and ...uhm...the first question I would like to start off with is When did you first become aware of the feminist and lesbian feminist movement?

Amy Pearl: I would say 1973/74, I graduated from high school in Cincinnati Ohio in 1973 and was no...well...maybe was aware vaguely of a feminist movement..uhm…went to college and became much more aware of it there…that’s when 73/74.

Interviewer: All right, and how long did you live in Tucson?

Amy Pearl: I lived in Tucson and on...but most of the time from 74-80.

Interviewer: Okay, and what was your…uhm…involvement in Tucson in terms of the Women’s’ movement, what were you involved in?

Amy Pearl: So in 1974, I...I dropped out of College, I was traveling the Unites States, went to a festival, a women’s festival in New Mexico and met some people, and fairly randomly moved here. Uhm… I was sort of just loosely affiliated with women in the area and did a variety of things including, there was, as women had been...uhm...working opportunities for women, there was an opportunity to train as an electrician that had been done with the city for women, so I did that.

But then really what happened is that…I had..there was a bookstore here, Antigonies, that Pat Kelly started and I was very into reading, so I spent a lot of time there, plus it was kinda the A center of the community and Pat and I became friendly and she asked me to work there. So I worked there uhm..and eventually became part owner…uhm..mostly through sweat equity…and did that for the rest of the time I lived in Tucson.
Amy Pearl: that was a lot of my involvement, the other was more like…loosely affiliated with again the larger community, consciousness raising groups, although we didn’t always call them that….uhm gatherings, social gatherings…political activism, there were women starting like rape crisis centers, uhm…there was some anti-nuclear work that wasn’t specifically feminist but I was involved in that and then there was a women’s theater group called Pleadise and I was involved with that.

Interviewer: Great, would you say the women’s’ movement has impacted or transformed your life?

Amy Pearl: My life? I’d say it is a fundamental and profound influence in that well certainly the times, I mean I grew up in the Midwest in a very conservative city. I can remember when I was, you know, in high school or whatever and you could look at the Cincinnati Inquire, in the classified section and there were jobs listings for men and job listings for women. And although my parents were very progressive and liberal and raised me to go to college, and to feel that I could do whatever I wanted, uhm…in life the reality was, I didn’t see women…professional women. I saw women who…teachers when I was going to school, I saw nurses, and that was about it.

So the feminist movement both in terms of professions and personal roles really opened up possibilities for everybody, just started questioning…was part of the sixties know result of that questioning authority and questioning roles and traditional ways of being and so that had a profound influence on my life.

Interviewer: Great, and how do you feel that it impacted or transformed the community?

Amy Pearl: Well, you know, I didn’t stay in Tucson passed 1980, so I can’t really say specifically to Tucson. I certainly have seen throughout the country and the world, and certainly the United States, it really has had a profound impact in that and to the extent that there has been kind of a backlash in the last ten/twenty’s…it’s a profound changing of how we view our roles, our social structures, everything…and…I think that those women….I think it was a….a..the women sort of…the early baby boomers, I think of them as were really the…that were some years older than me, were really leading and they were pioneers and they were, many of them scholars of these things. I didn’t consider myself a leader or a pioneer. I participated but..uhm…and I emulated a lot of these women and I really had a great deal of admiration and Now I feel an obligation that to continue to both protect those chag..those opportunities for everybody. I think they are opportunities of changes for everybody, men and women, but also to be a bridge to another generation of women who may not have a personal connection, they’ve grown up in a completely different context..uhm…and just to provide a…you know…as much as an in other more oppressed communities, it’s important to keep the memories alive.

Interviewer: Certainly, and that Segways actually perfectly into my next question, which is, uhm…what advice or messages…uhm…would you like to pass onto young feminists?

Amy Pearl: Boy, well…I guess I would say a couple of things off the top of my head; one is you know certainly, don’t take the progress of that time for granted because it can be taken away and there are people who don’t like it, they urn for a simpler, more traditional time. They don’t like to see their privileges being shared with other classes of people and your…your freedoms can be taken away..I mean..history is long..uhm and so you just need to be conscious of that and not take it for granted.

And I would say the other things is that, the choices that we faced, were a great deal more complex than those for our mothers. Uhm…it just..the fact that there were choices opened up a great deal of complexity and I think I found that very confusing when I was here, you know…that was part of what I was….I..I came to a community that was fortunately very supportive and nurturing through a time when I was trying to figure out…and many of us were trying to figure out…well what are our roles and what do we want to do and I think the young women of today are faced with different choices in a different context, but they’re equally complex; they’re complex in different ways. And I think one of the things that was very important was having friends, community, and not just your own small little world to talk share with, to think through because they are very complex issues and it’s different for every single person. We each have something different to offer and a different way to live and to be our best selves…and I think to be accepting and supportive of those differences as long as there constructive, is a way that we’ll enable each other to have a great deal more self-expression and freedom.

And then I guess the third thing I would say is to not just think in terms of yourself, which is to think of you have these freedoms…uhm and you’re very lucky and you’re very privileged to have them because we live in a country where that’s afforded and yet that is not true for every woman or every person in the world and to keep expanding those freedoms and thinking about that for other people less fortunate than ourselves.

Interviewer: Great, going back to your personal life…uhm why did you become an activist or would you define yourself as an activist?

Amy Pearl:
Uhm….I think some of that was my upbringing that my mother was parents were know. I was born in 1955 and there was segregation in Cincinnati and my parents were very committed to integration…started the first integrated swim know..which know…just blacks and whites swimming in the same pool…they were liberal in that way and activists in that way..although they had very traditional lives themselves…my father was a surgeon, my mother was a house wife..uhm..but my mother was always active in causes and so you know, I think I grew up with that sense of, “you are privileged in many ways”, uhm…don’t…(pause)…you know..fight for other people as well…and some of that era. And I wouldn’t say that activism is the focus of my life’s work, but it’s always remained something that I do as I’ve gone along…so when I left…uhm.. I went back to college, I finished college, I got a Masters in computer science and went to Silicone valley and worked to build the internet in the 1980s and 90s…uhm…in some of the of the major corporations that did that and I was a minority and there were maybe twenty percent women engineers at that time, which is still the case, uhm…and the..the opportunities were more limited for women, and so it was something that within my profession I worked to uh..grow everybody’s awareness, to support other women...uhm..I’ve worked politically through electoral politics to get more women into political office, I think that’s very important to have more representation; it’s just a step and it’s kind of a leveraging step. And then I retired from Tech and I now do financial planning and empowering women economically is very important to me that women and others who are disadvantaged or less advantaged; that their knowledgeable and that they don’t become victims..uhm..sometimes self-victimized but empowering, so in that sense an activist. And you know…there are…so I think of other people I look up to who have even a broader, more activist bent than I do..uhm…so I don’t consider myself’s not that central but I think everybody doing their part is really important.

Interviewer: Great, and with…with all of your work and everything you’ve done, what would you say you’re most proud of?

Amy Pearl: Well, all the work…well…we talked about…I…of the things that I did here in Tucson, I think the thing that I’m…I’m proudest of; which I was again, not the instigator of, but was the bookstore. I mean that was probably the most important thing for me…uhm…Pat had started it…uhm…she’d studied business, I learned a tremendous amount from her in every single way and that bookstore…and then she basically….she left for awhile…I took it over...and…pretty much took it over…and eventually she/we sold it, but it was a very important part of the community I think, it was a real enabler and, as I understand it still exists and is still an important part of the cultural landscape here in Tucson; so really happy to have been part of that.

Interviewer: And how do you, how would you say that that involvement affected where you’re at today?

Amy Pearl:
Huh…you know I think the thing in that sense, again as I said, that time there was a lot of questioning of traditional roles or just the limited choices and that…and a sense that people could do something new; and seeing these women leaders do things out of nothing…uhm…starting a rape crisis center; a women’s’ center; a bookstore; programs to train women electricians; whatever it was, just out of their own initiative…uhm…really I think empowered me and informed my life. Professionally, I mean I went into Tech feeling like, if I could imagine it, I could create it, and in my profession it was a good time to be thinking like that…it was a very innovative and…and…and creative profession…and so I never, I really felt empowered by that…uhm…so I think throughout my life...and I think whatever limitations I had encountered, that sense of creation and problem-solving, I think has stayed with me.

Interviewer: Great, well that’s all the questions that I have…

Amy Pearl: Great

Interviewer: Unless there is any closing remarks you would like to make?

Amy Pearl: No, I don’t think so, I think I said everything I wanted to say…

Interviewer: All Right

Amy Pearl: …Well maybe not everything but that was great.

Interviewer: Great, awesome.


Jamie A. Lee, Project Director, Arizona Queer Archives, “Southwest Feminists Reunite ~ Amy Pearl interview

,” Arizona Queer Archives, accessed May 27, 2024,