Yolanda "Bobby" Hall
April 29, 1922 - June 19, 2015
Yolanda "Bobby" Hall founded our organization in 1995 to tell the stories of working women's struggles and achievements. Our first play, Come Along and Join, was an ambitious undertaking in 1996 featuring Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Jennie Curtiss of the seamstress local in Pullman, Mary McDowell of the Women's Trade Union League, Margaret Haley of the Chicago Teachers' Federation, Bessie Abramovitz of the clothing workers, and Elizabeth Maloney who represented Chicago waitresses. With Bobby's leadership, we produced original plays about labor union women at our annual galas. The Thread That Binds in 1997 (by Mary Bonnett) told the stories of Agnes Nestor from the Women's Trade Union League in Chicago and Lillian Herstein, the first woman on the Executive Board of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
Bobby encouraged us to recognize women currently working on social justice issues. We made sure our galas included a woman activist to speak on a current issue. Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Norma White was the featured speaker at The Thread that Binds. We also honored a woman activist at these events with the "Mother Jones Award."
Our newsletter, "Working Women's Stories," often told the stories of little known women. The cover story of one issue in 1997 was on the organizing efforts of Julia Blackwell and Allene Johnson in the early 1940s. They worked at the South Center Department Store at 47th and South Parkway (now Martin Luther King Drive).
As an experienced union organizer, Bobby understood the value of working with other organizations. Our newsletter was supported by eight different organizations and our galas were supported by two or more collaborating organizations.
Bobby was eager to include women's labor history in education. We partnered with the Chicago Metro History Education Center and formed a schools' committee which developed curricula for some of our plays. When a play was presented at a school, teachers had the material to integrate the play's message into their classroom work.
Also, Bobby helped organize the "Welfare to Work Roundtable" with the Center for New Deal Studies which brought together academics, community organizers, and union members to discuss issues that impacted low income women workers.
Bobby Hall's leadership provided a model of collaboration among organizations who would work together to recognize - in many different venues -- the importance of the everyday working woman, especially one who steps forward to work for social justice and improve the social environment.