Heidi Durham papers and oral history interviews, 1937-2017

Overview of the Collection

Durham, Heidi
Heidi Durham papers and oral history interviews
1937-2017 (inclusive)
1.57 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Collection Number
6264 (Accession No. 6264-001)
Papers and other materials of one of the first female electricians for Seattle City Light and labor activist
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access to paper-based materials. No user access copy is currently available for the audio cassettes. The DVD-R can be previewed onsite in the Special Collections Reading Room during open hours. Contact Special Collections for more information or to inquire about reproductions.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Heidi Durham (1953-2015) was a participant in Seattle City Light's Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT) Program in the early 1970s, and was one of the first women to be admitted to an apprenticeship program in City Light's skilled trades. When the City eliminated the Electrical Trades Trainee Program punitively for the activism of the programs director and the participants, Durham was one of the plaintiffs in a civil rights complaint which restored the program's participants ability to get skilled craft training and continued employment.

Heidi Durham was born and raised in San Pedro, California in 1954, and moved to Bellingham, Washington in 1971 to attend Western Washington University. She moved to Seattle in 1973 and joined Radical Women, a socialist feminist organization led by Clara Fraser.

Durham began working in the food service industry. In 1974, Fraser was tasked with creating a recruitment and training program for female electrical workers at Seattle City Light, the Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT). Durham was recruited in a competitive application process and, at 21, became the youngest of the 10-member ETT program. As one of three Radical Women members among the group, Durham played a leading role in the struggle for gender and race equity at the utility, where she co-founded the Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCLE) in 1983, and in her union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77.

Following a landmark verdict on behalf of the women in January of 1976, Durham became one of the first women admitted to City Light’s Line Worker apprenticeship program.

Durham worked on the line crews until suffering a broken back in a near-fatal fall from the top of an electrical pole in 1977. Durham was partially paralyzed but fought to continue working in the field, returning to City Light as a Junior Power Station Operator. When she retired in 2004, she held the title of Senior Power Station Operator.

Through her longtime leadership in Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, Durham participated in various political causes. In 1984, Durham co-founded the Ad Hoc Committee for Fair Employment and Open Housing, which successfully organized community support to defend and strengthen Seattle anti-discrimination laws.

Durham was also a writer. In 1982, she wrote The War on the Disabled: Adding Insult to Injury and co-authored Women Workers: Sparkplugs of Labor with Megan Cornish in 1990.

In 1991, Durham campaigned for City Council on the Freedom Socialist Party ticket. That same year, she was named Active Advocate of the Year, along with fellow ETT pioneer Megan Cornish, by Washington Women in the Trades. In 2004, Durham was a member of the Seattle Organizing Committee for the Million Worker March on Washington, D.C. and was a featured speaker at the event. Durham died in August of 2015 at the age of 62.

Biography Sources:

Belew, Ellie. 2019. High voltage women: breaking barriers at Seattle City Light. Seattle: Red Letter Press (Forthcoming: March 2019)

Grant, Nicole. “Heidi Durham: Electrical Trades Trainee (ETT) Program, Seattle City Light” Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project. https://depts.washington.edu/civilr/durham.htm

Grant, Nicole. “Challenging Sexism at City Light: The Electrical Trades Trainee Program” Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project. http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/citylight.htm (Data accessed January 2018).

https://socialism.com/fs-article/farewell-to-heidi-durham-revolutionary-feminist-and-fighter-for-the-oppressed/ Seattle Times https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=heidi-durham&pid=175821675

Related Resources:

Casey, Conor. “How Minority Men and Tradeswomen Won Justice on the Jobsite.” Lecture, Museum of History and Industry History Café, Seattle, February 21, 2018. https://tinyurl.com/JusticeJobsite

Casey, Conor “Justice on the Jobsite: Collections on Labor Organizing of Minority Men and Tradeswomen at the University of Washington Libraries' Labor Archives of Washington and Special Collections" Pacific Northwest Quarterly. Summer 2018 Issue.

Belew, Ellie. 2013. Bringing power to the people: the history of IBEW Local #77.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Materials relating to the Electrical Trades Trainee Program at Seattle City Light and the subsequent discrimination case by most of the ETT against City Light. Also includes files on the history of City Light as a utility, ETT program head Clara Fraser and her discrimination case against City Light. The collection includes materials on the Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL) as well as subject files on the 10 members of the ETT program. Oral history interviews done by Nicole Grant with Durham, and fellow ETT trainees and Radical Women members Megan Cornish, and Teri Bach are included in audio cassette and video DVD formats. The collection includes newclippings about Durham and the history of the ETT program and subsequent lawsuits.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's copyrights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Container(s) Description Dates
1/1 Chronologies for Electrical trades trainees case 1973-1996
1/2 Draft history of electrical trades trainees case 1982
1/3 City Light early history 1937-1993
1/4 Clara Fraser 1970-1980
1/5 Clara Fraser retirement 1986
1/6 City Light walkout 1974
1/7 Post-walkout organizing 1974-1975
1/8 Bill of rights and responsibilities 1974-1975
1/9 Hiring of electrical trades trainees 1974
1/10 Hoax leaflet - redbaiting 1974
1/11 Harassment 1974-1975
1/12 City Light managers 1980
1/13 Electrical trades trainees legal case 1975
1/14 Electrical trades trainees fight 1974-2017
1/15 Legal materials from trainees' injunction hearing 1975
1/16 Electrical trades trainees case victory 1976
1/17 Electrical Trades Trainee Program 1974-1979
1/18 Trainee Program (part 1 of 2) 1973-2017
1/19 Trainee Program (part 2 of 2) 1973-2017
1/20 Office of Women's Rights findings in ETT case 1975
1/21 Electrical trades trainees case settlement 1976
1/22 Clara Fraser case 1974-1979
1/23 Clara Fraser case 1980-1982
1/24 Clara Fraser case 1983
1/25 Clara Fraser case victory 1983
1/26 City Light and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers correspondence 1974-1981
1/27 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers correspondence Local 77 1974-1990
1/28 Non-discrimination clause in contract 1981
1/29 Songs and skits 1980
1/30 Heidi Durham apprenticeship evaluations 1976-1977
1/31 Heidi's fall 1977-1981
1/32 Heidi's draft letter to Dan Haw from "group" 1978
1/33 Human Rights Department complaint 1983-1984
1/34 Gamma Vision, human relations training project 1984-1985
1/35 Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL) 1983-1988
1/36 Sherrie Holmes / CERCL 1986
1/37 Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL) 1987
1/38 Employee Committee for Equal Rights at City Light (CERCL) 1991-1994
1/39 CERCL vs. City Light 1984-1989
1/40 CERCL letter to Randy Hardy 1985
1/41 Teri Bach 1980-2005
1/42 Marilyn Bircher 1980-1993
1/43 Jennifer Gordon 1975
1/44 Daisy Jones undated
1/45 Lori Lakshas 1976-1984
1/46 Kathleen Merrigan 2017
1/47 Letha Neal 1983-2016
1/48 Jody Olvera 1974
1/49 Patty Wong 1974-1980
1/50 Margie Wakenight/Bellinger 2017
2/1 Ad hoc Committee for Fair Employment and Open Housing 1983-1986
2/2 Electrical trades trainees' retirement 2004-2005
2/3 City Light press coverage 1986
2/4 Electrical Trades Trainee Program 25th anniversary 1999
2/5 Reference material on equal employment 1969-2018
2/6 Political ideology / gay pride 1995-1997
2/7 Racism 1981-1993
2/8 Nina Firey case 1983-1989
2/9 Affirmative action 1978-1979
2/10 Affirmative action 1989-1992
2/11 Seattle, City Light affirmative action statistics 1972-1979
2/12 Heidi Durham writings 1981-2000
2/13 Articles by and about Heidi Durham 1987-2007
2/14 Radical Women writings on working women 1962-2010
2/15 Women's participation in unions 1974-1976
2/16 Press clippings, leaflets 1975-1995
2/17 Interview of Heidi Durham by Nicole Grant and Trevor Griffey
Video recording on DVD-R
2/18 Interviews of Megan Cornish and Teri Bach
Audio recording on 90-minute audiocassette
2/19 Heidi Durham on KCMU radio -- Deregualtion and the threat of privatization
Audio recording on 90-minute audiocassette

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Feminism--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Labor movement--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Labor unions--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Labor--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)
  • Women and socialism--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Women's rights--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Women--Washington (State)--Societies and clubs

Corporate Names

  • Radical Women--Archives
  • Radical Women--Records and correspondence

Other Creators

  • Corporate Names
    • Labor Archives of Washington (University of Washington) (host institution)