Women at Work

Video A: It’s a Living: a documentary inspired by the book “Working” by Studs Terkel

Level: Middle, High school
Subject: History, Government, Social Sciences/Studies
Date: 1975
Duration: 60 minutes
Synopsis:
It’s A Living was based on Terkel’s groundbreaking oral history book, Working. It features the stories of six different people at their jobs: two from Terkel’s book (“Wheelin’ Lovin’” Al Pommier, a parking lot attendant, and Yolanda Lief, a waitress) and four new people (a barber, a piano tuner, a model, and Terkel’s WFMT receptionist). A highlight of the program is Terkel’s own working life as he did his daily one-hour eclectic radio broadcast, and his thoughts on fame, artistry, and his legacy.

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Teaching Tools

Post-screening discussion questions

Note: Questions are arranged based on when they occur in the video

  1. What is Marcia Stocking’s job? Where and who does she work for?
  2. What does she do at work?
  3. How does Marcia feel about her job?
  4. What doesn’t she like about her job?
  5. How long has she worked there?
  6. Does her job seem stressful?
  7. What kind of skills does she need, how hard does her work seem?
  8. What is Yolanda Leif’s job?
  9. Does she seem to work hard?
  10. How does she feel about her job?
  11. What else what would she like to do?

Video B: It’s a Living: Sally, Terri, and Dawn

Level: Middle, High school
Subject: History, Government, Social Sciences/Studies
Title 2: It’s A Living: a documentary inspired by the book “Working” by Studs Terkel
Date: 1976
Duration: 29 minutes
Synopsis:
This follow-up to It’s a Living focuses on the lives of three very different women: a homemaker, a professional model, and a part time worker.

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Teaching Tools

Post-screening discussion questions

Note: Questions are arranged based on when they occur in the video

  1. How do the lives of the three women differ?
  2. What is different about these women’s lives from the lives women lead today?
  3. Do you think there are more or less opportunities for women to lead fulfilling lives today?

Video C: It’s a Living: When I Was a Worker Like Laverne

Level: Middle, High school
Subject: History, Government, Social Sciences/Studies
Date: 1976
Duration: 29 minutes
Synopsis:
This follow-up to It’s a Living is a documentary about a day in the life of a Sears mail order catalog facility in Chicago, where the disconnect between workers and management is striking.  The management seems to be entirely white and male, while the workers are black and female.

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Teaching Tools

Post-screening discussion questions

Note: Questions are arranged based on when they occur in the video

  1. What does the job of the floor workers seem to involve, and how much skill is needed for these jobs?
  2. How do the floor workers feel about their jobs?
  3. How does the manager describe the women in this section?
  4. Why is their job so important?
  5. Why does the manager say the women have to like the work? Do you agree with him?
  6. What does assistant manager Salvatore Camodeca say about employee satisfaction and worker morale?
  7. How does Laverne Reese, package wrapper, feel about her job?
  8. How many packages does she wrap in a hour?
  9. Where would Laverne be if she were not working at Sears?
  10. How does Ben Filipelli, floor manager, feel about his job and working at Sears?
  11. Does it seem like there are more promotion opportunities for men or for women at Sears?

General questions about this film

  1. What does this film say about working at a factory/assembly line style job?
  2. How are the roles divided by gender and race?
  3. How do you think the managers really feel about the employees?
  4. Do the floor workers seem as satisfied with their jobs as the managers say they are?

Video D: Interviews with Chicago women, excerpted from various episodes of Chicago Slices

Level: Middle, High school
Subject: History, Government, Social Sciences/Studies
Date: 1993
Duration: 28 minutes
Synopsis:
Interviews with 10 women working in different professions, from construction worker to professional violinist.

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Teaching Tools

Post-screening discussion questions

Note: Questions are arranged based on when they occur in the video

  • Cheryl Pomeroy, construction/carpenter
  • Doreen Flanagan, construction/machinery operator
  • Bernice Northern, construction/flagger
  • Le Trice Franklin, elevator operator
  • Cathy Rumsey, first officer United Airlines
  • Sister Nancy Murray, pastoral associate and youth minister
  • Susan Kenney, senior aquarist and diver, Shedd Aquarium
  • Shell Reyes, artist and owner Reyes Galleria, makes gold fingernails
  • Mihaela Ionescu-Ashkenasi, violinist
  • Candace Howell, building manager
  1. What job does the woman have and how long has she worked at that job?
  2. How does she feel about her job?
  3. What kind of skills does she need for her job? Does her job seem difficult?
  4. Would you like to have a similar job?
  5. What does she say, if anything, about being a woman in her job?

General Questions

  1. What has changed for working women from the 1970s to the 1990s?
  2. Do you think more women were working in the ’90s?
  3. What do you think working conditions were like for the few female construction workers and airline pilots in the 1970s?
  4. Are the jobs the women have different in the ’70s and the ’90s?