California State University, Long Beach

Show simple item record Chavez, Flora (b. 9/18/1917 - d. 9/3/2011) Cleary, Cindy, interviewer 2021-05-05T00:24:45Z 2021-05-05T00:24:45Z 2021-05-04
dc.description SUBJECT BIO - Flora Siler Chavez was working in various factory and service jobs for one year prior to going to work at Douglas in 1942. The third of seven children, Chavez grew up in a poor family on a small farm in New Mexico, where she lived with her mother and six siblings. At an early age she began to assume a heavy workload, and continued to work hard all her life. The family moved back and forth between Albuquerque and the Los Angeles area and after she married long time neighbor and playmate, Filiberto Chavez in Albuquerque, she moved to Los Angeles. Her husband didn't like it in Los Angeles, and returned to Albuquerque. This was the first of many separations in their married life. At the end of the war, Chavez returned to Albuquerque again for a year, and worked in a factory there. In 1946, she and her husband returned to Los Angeles, and she worked on and off for the next twenty six years in the aircraft industry (at Douglas, Lockheed and Hughes). Her activism in the union during the war was the beginning of her long career in the civil rights movement and her later engagement with Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers. After her retirement from the aircraft industry in 1972, she became the Project Director of CSO (Community Service Organization) in Venice, and continued to work and live and organize in the Chicano community in Venice. Despite her very busy schedule, Chavez was always willing to make time for the interviews, which were all conducted at the CSO Center next door to the house that she lived with her husband. The Center was always a hub of activity, and although the interviews were conducted in the quietest place of the Center, there was always background activity and noise, and frequent interruptions by phone calls or other Center-related business. All this makes it difficult to hear the narrator at times. Chavez spoke freely about her life, although she had some difficulties remembering specific details. As a result, the chronological sequence of events is sometimes difficult to follow. When Chavex died in September, 2003, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy, laudatory obituary, testifying to the acknowledged value of her work and her importance as a grass roots community activists (September 14, 2003, B18). TOPICS - children; husband; marital relationship; family life; postwar work at TWA in New Mexico; pregnancy; childbirth; childcare; Girl Scouts and PTA; husband's activities; household responsibilities; and attitudes towarddomesticity; marital relationship; gender roles; children; activities with daughters; parenting views; family life; social activities; and family history;husband; marital relationship; postwar layoffs; CSO; gender discrimination and sexism in CSO; CSO leadership of Cesar Chavez and Anthony Rios; and attitudes towards welfare; en_US
dc.description.abstract INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION - This is the fourth of five long interviews with Flora Chavez, conducted at the CSO (Community Services Organization) Center, next door to her house, in Venice. The Center was a hub of activity, and although the interviews were conducted in the quietest space that could be found, there was constant background noise and interruptions. As before, Chavez was sometimes fuzzy on details and on precise chronology. 12/8/1980 en_US
dc.description.tableofcontents *** File: rrrfchavez12.mp3 Audio Segments and Topics: (0:00-7:21)... During the war, her daughter rode a bus from New Mexico to California to visit her. Chavez also visited her daughter in New Mexico. She and her husband agreed that it was in their daughter's best interests to stay in New Mexico with him. After the war, Chavez returned to Albuquerque. She got a job at TWA loading food on and off airplanes. She returned to California with her husband and her daughter in the 1950s. They moved into her home in Venice. While there, Chavez gave birth to her second child at home. She worked nights at Douglas and came home on her lunch break to breast feed her child. Her children were about ten years apart in age; however, she could not recall the year her second child was born. (7:21-9:58)... Chavez did not dwell on the problems in her marriage because she was too busy working and taking care of her children. She notes, however, that they never made joint decisions. They did not have a formal agreement to separate and it was never her idea for her daughter to stay in New Mexico when she moved to California. However, Chavez agreed with her husband that it would be traumatic for their daughter if she was "cut off" from his family. Chavez and her husband eventually decided to get back together for the sake of their daughter. (9:58-12:11)... She names her daughters and discusses her pregnancies. Her youngest daughter (Phyllis) was born about three years after her second daughter (Kathy). Chavez gave birth to her first two children at home. Her first daughter was delivered by a midwife and her second daughter was delivered by a medical doctor. Chavez gave birth to her third daughter in the hospital. (12:11-16:04)... While Chavez and her husband worked the evening shift at Douglas, their oldest daughter baby sat her younger sisters. However, when her daughter married and moved to Germany, Chavez was faced with the difficult task of finding dependable childcare. On more than one occasion, Chavez came home to find her children alone in the house. She was relieved when her oldest daughter returned to California and resumed taking care of her sisters. (16:04-22:04)... Occasionally, Chavez took her daughters along when she participated in demonstrations and marches. They were not especially thrilled about these events, but Chavez made them go anyway. In addition to these activities, Chavez was involved in Girl Scouts and the PTA. However, she states that both organizations were too "conventional" for her and did not provide any meaningful services to the community. When she was in the PTA there was never an exchange of ideas between the leadership and the mothers, and she felt that the organization was too middle-class in their approach. Chavez went along with the program and "did my duty as a mother." (22:04-26:00)... Her husband was not interested in her activities. Like most people, he did not understand her work in civil rights and as long as "he had clean socks and hot meals, he really didn't think much about it." His activities outside of work revolved around guns, hunting, and fishing. He tried to interest his daughters in shooting, but was unsuccessful. Chavez recalls the time they accompanied him on a deer hunt. It was a traumatic experience for her daughters and they vilified him for killing "Bambi." (26:00-29:00)... In addition to her work and political activities, Chavez was responsible for managing her household. Her daughters helped her clean the house and her eldest daughter eased some of her childcare burdens. Although she believes it is nice to have a clean and tidy household, a woman's life should not revolve around housework. She thinks that domestic responsibilities have held women back and interfered with their ability to pursue activities outside the home. End of tape. *** File: rrrfchavez13.mp3 (0:00-4:30)... Chavez continues to discuss her household responsibilities. She believes that women were hampered by their willingness to conform to traditional gender roles rather than resist those roles. Like most women, Chavez was raised to believe that a "woman's role was to be very docile and dependent." She allowed her husband to believe that he was the head of the household. In practice, however, she manages the household and handled their finances and business matters. Although she is independent, she gives into her husband on most matters in order to avoid arguments. (4:30-7:42)... Even though Chavez exemplified independence, her daughters ended up adopting traditional gender roles in their own marriages. Her youngest daughter, however, pursued the opposite path in her career. She started at the telephone company as a switchboard operator while she was in high school. She eventually enrolled in a training course offered at the telephone company and learned how to climb the poles. The men gave her daughter a hard time, but she persevered and was subsequently promoted to a supervisory position. (7:42-13:16)... Chavez describes the types of activities she participated in with her children when they were young. Most of the time they were busy cleaning the house together; however, they also enjoyed exploring nature and playing baseball. Chavez's husband was not involved in his daughters' social and school activities. (13:16-22:00)... Her daughters did not resist her parenting rules too much when they were growing up. She was entirely responsible for raising her daughters because her husband didn't want to be bothered. She does not recall reading Dr. Spock or other books on child rearing; rather, she raised her children with a combination of common sense and trial and error. She talks about the evolution of parenting strategies, some of which she does not condone, e.g. allowing girls to wear makeup when they are too young. (22:00-25:30)... Chavez socialized with friends and neighbors who also had children. Their activities coincided with whatever was popular at the time. Most of the time, however, she was with her family. When her mother moved to Elsinore, they visited her quite often. Chavez did not confide in friends or family about her personal problems because it was "unpopular then to have problems." (25:30-30:16)... Chavez discusses the living arrangements at her Venice home after she returned to California with her husband and her daughter. She digresses regarding her sister and the places her sister lived when she remarried and left Venice. End of tape. *** File: rrrfchavez14.mp3 (0:06-0:51)... Chavez continues to talk about her sister's living arrangements. (0:51-2:52)... She mentions the department in which her husband worked while he was at Douglas; however, her response is inaudible. When the plant closed, he was transferred to a plant in Huntington Beach and placed on the day shift. At that time, he retired from Douglas. He was sixty-four years old. (2:52-4:20)... Chavez and her husband did not have a social life together. Once a year, he "punished" her by taking her to a gun club dinner. (4:20-12:01)... Everyone was concerned about postwar layoffs. Some people wished the war would drag on so they could continue working. Chavez, however, felt that "if you had to have a war to make good money, I'd rather starve." Although she was apprehensive about losing her job, she was confident she would find work somewhere. She could not recall when the layoffs began at Douglas, but recalls hearing people talk about retooling and peacetime production. Although she could not recall where she worked after she was laid off, she was not out of work for long. The only time she collected unemployment was near the end of her third pregnancy, after which she returned to Douglas. She digresses regarding job opportunities in California during the war, indicating that many people on the night shift worked as extras at the movie studios during the day. One of her first jobs in California was a "mail girl" for a movie studio. (12:01-16:00)... The last aircraft job Chavez held before going to work at CSO was with Hughes Aircraft. She volunteered at CSO for many years before she was hired as a director in the spring of 1972. Initially, the male directors were resistant to her taking over the position because they felt that a woman was not qualified for the job. Three male directors held the position before the board finally agreed to give Chavez a chance. Chavez and Mrs. Rivas eventually took over the CSO and elected a board of women, partly because the men refused to work with women. Mrs. Rivas, however, felt that a man was needed on the board because "women can't handle it by themselves." For her efforts, Chavez recently received a CSO "woman of the year" plaque. (16:00-19:50)... Chavez talks about CSO, stating that the organization "has been in the front in promoting women since Anthony Rios became the state chairman and state director of the CSO." Before Rios, the male board members of the CSO relegated women to traditional roles within the organization. She goes into detail about Rios's background and his role in supporting women in the CSO and in promoting women's rights. (19:50-24:11)... She describes the function of CSO as a statewide organization. At one time, Cesar Chavez was the director of the organization and she discusses his leadership during that time. In recent years, CSO encountered funding problems because of the idea that "minorities should be responsible for their own welfare." (24:11-30:07)... She talks about how CSO differs from other welfare programs such as the Poverty Program. Although she is not opposed to welfare, the concept of CSO emphasizes self-help and encourages people to obtain training for jobs so that they are no longer dependent on public assistance. She also discusses her attitude towards mothers on welfare. End of tape. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.rights This repository item may be used for classroom presentations, unpublished papers, and other educational, research, or scholarly use. Other uses, especially publication in any form, such as in dissertations, theses, articles, or web pages are not permitted without the express written permission of the individual collection's copyright holder(s). Please contact the CSULB Library Administration should you require permission to publish or distribute any content from this collection or if you need additional information or assistance in using these materials: en_US
dc.subject Rosie the Riveter Revisited en_US
dc.subject Women's History en_US
dc.title Chavez, Flora (audio interview #4 of 5) en_US
dc.type Recording, oral en_US

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