Hope College is part of a coalition of area colleges sponsoring the lecture "Working Wages?" by Barbara Ehrenreich on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
The address is being presented through the Nokomis Lecture Series sponsored by the West Michigan Women's Studies Council, and will be presented in the Fine Arts Center auditorium at Calvin.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Motivated by the debates on welfare reform, Ehrenreich left her life as a writer to spend a year working a variety of low-income jobs, to see how people could survive on wages of six or seven dollars per hour. She wrote about the experiences in the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," which became a "New York Times" best-seller.
She has noted, "I tried to support myself on the wages I could earn as an entry-level worker. I waited tables, I cleaned the toilets of the rich, I fed Alzheimer's patients in a nursing home, I sorted stock at Wal-Mart. All these were difficult, exhausting jobs and it made me understand what a serious mistake our nation made with welfare reform."
She found the experience enlightening: the average woman coming off welfare earns about $7 an hour, about $280 a week before taxes. "You can't support children on that, or even one person," she says.
Ehrenreich is the author of several other books, including "The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from an Age of Greed," "Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class," "Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War" and the novel "Kipper's Game." She has contributed to publications including "Time," "Harper's Magazine," "The New Republic," "The Nation" and "The New York Times Magazine." She has appeared on television programs including "Good Morning America," "Today" and "Charlie Rose."
She is a Guggenheim Fellow. She holds a doctorate in biology, and began her writing career writing articles for professional scientific journals.
The West Michigan Women's Studies Council was formed in late 2001 to inform women of gender issues and collaborate with other programs to enhance the lives of women in West Michigan. The council consists of representatives from six local colleges and universities, including Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport College, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope. The council sponsored talks by Margaret Cho and Lani Guinier during the 2001-02 school year.