Wendy Chapkis



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In this interview, Dale McCormick discusses her early life in New York City and in Iowa City. She describes a college era lesbian relationship that, when discovered by her mother, led to several years of failed psychiatric conversion therapy. McCormick describes the vibrant second-wave feminist community in Iowa City of the 1960s and 1970s and the role anti-(Vietnam)war activism played in her life. She discusses in detail the process of becoming a union carpenter apprentice and the harassment she faced as the only woman on construction crews. With the publication of her book “Against the Grain, a Carpentry Manual for Women” (Iowa City Women’s Press 1977), she gained a national reputation as a woman in the trades and, in 1978, began teaching summer classes in house building for women in Brunswick, Maine. She moved to Maine permanently in 1980. She helped bring Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to the US Congress) to Bates College for a conference and describes Chisholm urging women to run for office. In response, in 1990, McCormick ran for – and won – a Maine State Senate seat facing an opponent who used homophobia as a strategy to try to defeat her; she narrowly won (she was the first openly gay member of the State Legislature and was re-elected twice). McCormick describes her focus on health care reform as a Senator. She also discusses helping to found “Women Unlimited” in Maine, an organization that helped women enter the trades and earn a livable wage. McCormick also discusses serving as Maine state treasurer and the role she played in the Investor Network on Climate Risk and the national Campaign Exxon Mobil. McCormick also describes many years of activism with the MLGPA to pass a LGBTQ Civil Rights Bill in the state, a bill defeated every two years from the 1970s to the 1990s. She discusses strategies and trade-offs in the pursuit of legal equality in the state.

Please cite as: Querying the Past: LGBTQ Maine Oral History Project Collection, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ Collection, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.

For more information about the Querying the Past: Maine LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact Dr. Wendy Chapkis.


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Portland, Maine


Women’s Liberation Front; second wave feminist activism; Anti-war activism; Gay Liberation Front Iowa City; “Ain’t I a Woman”; Iowa City Women’s Press; “Against the Grain, A Carpentry Manual for Women”; Women Unlimited; Shirley Chisholm; Maine State Senate campaigns; Maine Treasurer; Investor Network for Climate Change; Maine Civil Rights Bill campaign; Equality Community Center.


History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Oral History | Women's Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

McCormick, Dale



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