Veteran Feminists of America





Michele Ceballos, Inéz Casiano, her husband Bob Hardy, Jacqui Ceballos, Phoenix 2009

I was born in November 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. My parents were from Puerto Rico and both spoke, read, and wrote Spanish and English when they arrived. They met and married in Brooklyn in 1925. I was the first of their four children. .

My father died when I was 7. My mother raised us on the allocation from the AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Education was a “given.” From age 17 I supported the family, working 48 hours a week at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and at other clerical jobs, while attending night college with 100% college tuition scholarship. I had to pay for registration, books, etc., but had no money for warm - or dress clothes and shoes. School was very far and I had to travel on buses late at night. I was a member of District 65 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union 1948-1975.

I married in 1948. A year later, my first and only child (a daughter) was born. My husband was abusive and even though he eventually made money in the music business, he never supported us. I divorced him and married again, this time to a man who expected me to support him while he went to school. After eight years I divorced him and continued working full time and going to school while raising my daughter. In 1960 I received my BBA from the CCNY's Baruch School of Business Administration, one of the few women to receive a BBA at the time, had several entry-level professional jobs and took courses toward an MBA.

In 1965 I took my teenage daughter to Caracas where I was Managing Director of a market and opinion research company in six countries. Six months later my daughter contracted Hepatitis A and I resigned and returned to New York.

By now I knew I wanted to do something to help people, so I took a job in the Puerto Rican Community Development Project. At a National Council of Churches conference I met Dr. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, the famed civil rights advocate who had been the executive director of the National Council for A Permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission. She became my life-long friend and mentor. In October of 1966 she took me to the organizing meeting of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and thus I became a founding member of NOW. I was also a member of the first NOW Board of Directors. Soon afterward, I was recruited to a policy position in the U.S. EEOC and had to give up my NOW Board position.

In August 1968 I became Social Science adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Labor as a GS-15 where I remained until my retirement in 1990. At one time, I was the highest level Puerto Rican woman in the U.S. Civil Service. I am a graduate of Class XIII of the Federal Executive Institute – the first Hispanic and the only woman in a class of 57. The program was usually limited to “supergrades” (GS-16 to GS-18), but there were very few women in those grades at that time.

In 1980 I became Chief, Division of Program Development & Enrollee Support in Job Corps. In that position, I supervised a staff of 14 professional and 3 clerical employees; developed, justified and managed $100,000,000 annual Federal budget for purchase of contract services and materials and directed the monitoring of contractors performance at over 100 Job Corps and related facilities that provided residence and employment training for 44,000 youths, and directed the development of program guidelines, educational standards and materials.

My last three years in the DOL were on an IPA in the Arizona government: first, in the Department of Economic Security where I served in the mentoring program, and then in the Governor's Office of Women's Services where, with a committee, I developed and produced “Arizona Women's Guide,” a comprehensive guide to resources – the first in any state.

My volunteer activities and job responsibilities have centered on improving the opportunities for women and minorities, while recognizing that stereotyping diminishes everyone regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. In pursuit of these objectives, I have testified before the U.S. Congress, participated in Project Transition at the DOD, and recruited panel members for the 1970 White House Conference on Children and Youth. In

Inéz Casiano (right) receives recognition at NOW's 40th anniversary celebration during the 2006 National NOW Conference. (Pictured at left is then-Action VP Melody Drnach.)

1969 I organized and assembled Puerto Rican leaders from across the US to prepare testimony and an amendment to include all Hispanics in proposed legislation which would establish an Interagency Committee on Mexican-American Affairs. I submitted written testimony to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Government Reorganization. The change was adopted. I also testified before Senate subcommittees on two other occasions.

In 1979 Mayor Marion Barry appointed me to a four-year term on the Board of Trustees of the University of

the District of Columbia where I served as Vice Chair. I was on the Board of Directors of NOWLDEF (1979-1987); D.C. Mayor's Advisory committee on Narcotics Addiction (1972-1973); Honorary Member "Federacion de las Mujeres Professionistas y de Negocias de Mexico (1989-1992).

In 1975 I married Robert Warren Hardy 1975. We will soon celebrate our 35th anniversary. We have lived in the Phoenix , Arizona area where I belong to the Scottsdale/Phoenix chapter of NOW, and VFA, which I joined in 1993. We have a busy life in Phoenix, attending lectures and seeing friends. I’ve attended VFA reunions and spoken about feminism with Jacqui Ceballos at the University of Arizona.

Bob and I have traveled to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and everywhere met people and observed how they deal with the common needs of everyday life. We took our two grandsons to Australia, China, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan to make sure they have a broad world view. This, and education, is our legacy to them.

Condolences to Robert Warren,

You may send a donation in memory of Inez to VFA, PO Box 44551, Phoenix, AZ 85064. Your donation will be acknowledged at the August event in her memory.

Comments: Jacqui Ceballos

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