Barbara Ehrenreich To Bring “Nickel and Dimed” to Campus Next Friday

Barbara Ehrenreich, prominent political activist and feminist, is bringing her message of social change to campus next Friday when she speaks in Cochran Chapel. The author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” Ehrenreich often explores issues of social and political reform in her books and op-ed articles. The Brace Center for Gender Studies, the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD), and the Dean of Studies Office are working in conjunction to sponsor Ehrenreich’s visit. Kathleen Dalton, Instructor in History and Social Science and Co-Director of the Brace Center, hopes that Ehrenreich will inform Andover students about the reality of middle America’s economic struggles, and how poverty is often interconnected with other issues, such as race, class and gender. “[Ehrenreich] is the most articulate public speaker we know who makes understandable what it means to struggle economically, and she shows how class and gender are connected,” said Dalton. “I hope students will understand that class and gender inequality are not just abstractions, but they shape peoples’ life chance–their chances of falling into poverty or getting a good job,” continued Dalton. Stephanie Aude, Instructional Librarian at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, said, “[Ehrenreich] has spent her professional life elucidating how…mostly working people’s well-being is impacted by industry, medicine, psychology [and] politics.” “If any student here truly attends to the points Ms. Ehrenreich makes, I think their worldview will be expanded no matter what their background is,” continued Aude. Aude added that, although Ehrenreich may not directly address “teenagers at resourceful private school,” her message will speak to their “parents, grandparents, housekeepers, doctors, bankers, landscapers and the lives that they will soon lead.” Aude identified with Ehrenreich when she went through this realization upon entering the work force. “I was struck by the depth and courage of her social criticism – but it wasn’t until I actually became a working person that I understood how my life is reflected in Barbara Ehrenreich’s work,” said Aude. “Nickel and Dimed,” Ehrenreich’s best-known work, is a first-person narrative that recounts her experiment of living for a year on a minimum-wage income in the late 1990s, following the 1996 welfare reform act. The book has been used in some of Andover’s social science classes, including Economics. In the novel, Ehrenreich highlights the struggles of the lower-class life including malnourishment, improper housing and lack of medical insurance, and urges the government to explore the unfortunate circumstances surrounding working-class America. In addition to her novels, Ehrenreich has contributed to the New York Times, Vogue, and the Wall Street Journal. Ehrenreich has received numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award in 1980 for excellent reporting and the Ford Foundation Award in 1981 for her humanistic perspectives on modern culture. In preparation for Ehrenreich’s visit, the OWHL library has posted a bulletin board on display featuring Ehrenreich’s books and career highlights. In addition, the OWHL and the Brace Center for Gender Studies have ordered additional copies of Ehrenreich’s books, which are now available to borrow.