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Barbara Ehrenreich by Robin Holland
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August 3, 2007

After studying theoretical physics at Reed College and earning a Ph.D. in cell biology from Rockefeller University, Barbara Ehrenreich joined a small nonprofit in New York City in the late 60's, advocating for better health care for the city's poor.

She began researching and writing investigative stories for the company's monthly bulletin, and as she explains in her biography, "There was no decision to become a writer; that was just something I started doing."

What Ehrenreich calls her "big writing break," was a cover story for MS. MAGAZINE about feminism and heart disease, which lead to steady essay writing and opinion pieces in MS., MOTHER JONES, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, HARPER'S and other magazines.

In 2001, she released perhaps her most influential book, NICKEL AND DIMED: ON (NOT) GETTING BY IN AMERICA, which chronicles the year she spent working low-income jobs and living in low-income housing. She writes:
"We would stop at a convenient store for quote 'lunch' and people just didn't have money in their pockets. By money, I mean, two bucks. That's when I realized that people...were not eating because they couldn't afford to. And I asked this one girl...'How do you get through a whole day without eating?' And she said, 'Oh, I get faint by the end of it, I feel dizzy.' So, that's no good."
Ms. Ehrenreich has since released many additional books including BAIT AND SWITCH: THE (FUTILE) PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM, based upon her undercover work as a white-collar job seeker, and her latest book, DANCING IN THE STREETS: A HISTORY OF COLLECTIVE JOY, which focuses on our species' desire for collective joy.
References and Reading:
More from Barbara Ehrenreich:

Barbara Ehrenreich's Web site
Read Ms. Ehrenreich's latest articles, learn more about her books, upcoming speaking engagements, etc.

Selected Articles by Barbara Ehrenreich: Read Barbara Ehrenreich's blog on working in America
Barbara Ehrenreich founded United Professionals in 2006 and continues to serve as the organizations director, along with Bill Holland. The organization was formed, as Ms. Ehrenreich explains, "to build a response to the 'war on the middle-class' that is undermining so many lives." On the Web site, you'll find action-oriented news about such middle class issues as income, health care, mortgages, etc.

Read the first chapter of NICKEL AND DIMED

A Guided Tour of Class in America with Barbara Ehrenreich, TOMDISPATCH, June 04, 2006

Watch a clip featuring Barbara Ehrenreich from The American Ruling Class, a "dramatic-documentary-musical" starring HARPER'S MAGAZINE editor emeritus Lewis Lapham.

Read Barbara Ehrenreich's commencement speech she gave at Haverford College entitled, THE APOCALYPSE IS YOURS NOW.

More about the Middle Class:

Welcome to Richistan, USA, THE OBSERVER UK, July 30, 2007
"As the rest of the country struggles to get by, a huge bubble of multi-millionaires lives almost in a parallel world of private education, private health care and gated mansions. They have their own schools and banks. They even travel apart - creating a booming industry of private jets and yachts. Their world now has a name, thanks to a new book by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reporter Robert Frank, which has dubbed it 'Richistan'."

Yawning Rich-Poor Gap Could Hobble Economy
"The US probably will continue to have a much higher proportion of its people ranked as poor than almost all other rich industrial nations. At the turn of this century, it ranked 24th among 25 countries in the proportion of its population having incomes below half of the median income - the level where half of the people have a bigger income, and half have a smaller income."

Don't Let the Supreme Court's Discrimination Ruling Stand
By Rep. George Miller, HUFFINGTON POST, July 21, 2007
"Lilly Ledbetter, who worked at a Goodyear facility in Alabama for 19 years, was the plaintiff in a pay discrimination lawsuit against the company. Ledbetter alleged - and a jury agreed - that Goodyear had paid her less than what her male counterparts were receiving, even though she had more experience than many of the men and had received positive performance evaluations. But the five right-wing ideologues on the U.S. Supreme Court saw it differently. They sided with Goodyear in a sharply divided 5-4 decision. Now Goodyear wants $3,165.20 to cover court costs."

Harness market forces to share prosperity
By Lawrence Summers, FINANCIAL TIMES, June 24, 2007

Economic Policy Institute
The Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to broaden the public debate about strategies to achieve a prosperous and fair economy. The EPI Web site includes such web features as analyses of key government data; a weekly presentation of downloadable charts and short analyses; issue guides providing data, charts, fact sheets, and links to relevant publications; opinion pieces and speeches; and tables on historical labor market, earnings, and income data.

25 Ideas for Working Families in America (2007)
Collected by The Roosevelt Institution, the nation's first student think-tank, here you'll find 25 resources designed especially for working families. Range of topics include access to housing, income support, childcare and health care.

photo by Robin Holland

posted August 3, 2007
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