Obituary and Tribute to Elinor Marshall Glenn March 11, 1915 – April 24, 2013
It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of the death of Sister Elinor Glenn (SEIU), a founding member and original officer of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Karen J. See, CLUW National President said , “CLUW’s legacy is that much richer as a result of Elinor Glenn. Her leadership, strength and wisdom contributed to CLUW’s growth and will inspire young leaders in the future.” She served as the CLUW National Vce President – West Coast from 1974-1975 and continued as a National Executive Board Member for several years. She was elected the National Corresponding Secretary from 1982-1991. Elinor had this to say about CLUW, “The beautiful part of CLUW is the sense of sisterhood that it set up while we were fighting for the goals for women.” Elinor was instrumental in organizing the Los Angeles chapter. Maggie Cook, LA Chapter President recalled that Elinor remained active in the chapter until 5 years ago and was a mentor to every woman that knew her. In the photo Elinor is 2nd from left (with blonde hair) and at the far left is Ruth Martin (with coat over arm) who served as chapter president from 1974-1999. Photo taken in 1980 of LA CLUW members protesting Litton.
Elinor was born in Brooklyn New York, the 3rd of 4 children, to politically progressive parents who supported the union movement. Her mother was an activist suffragette who was involved in many organizations and who Elinor remembered as a wonderful organizer; her father was a union tradesman (a member of the painters’ union) and builder who believed that boys and girls were entitled to the same education, a view not popularly held at that time. Elinor skipped several grades and entered New York University at 15. She majored in Economics and Drama.
Her first love was acting, starting before high school and performing in summer stock and Off Broadway. While in college she met the author Herman Wouk at a summer camp for theater artists and is supposed to be the model for the character Marjorie Morningstar in the book of that name.
During her college years Elinor led a successful student protest and this experience caused an awakening in Elinor that led to a life of activism. During this time she and other NYU students volunteered at the seafarers’ union.
She graduated college in 1934 at 19 years old and after being unable to find a job in theater, got a job teaching English and remedial reading in the public schools thru funding thru the WPA (Works Progress Administration) under Roosevelt’s New Deal. She became a Vice President of the WPA Teachers Union. She later became a private school teacher at Pleasantville Cottage School run by the Jewish charities.
Elinor moved to Los Angeles with her first husband in 1944 in the hopes of working as an actress. She also studied law for a year at Southwestern Law School. Elinor joined an acting troupe that performed in union halls. This experience made her realize that "she was on the wrong side of the footlights". To earn money, she worked as a clerk with the Office of Price Administration (OPA). She organized a local union and was fired three times for union activity, but was reinstated each time. She was promoted to an Economist. She moved up the ranks of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local from steward to chief steward. When the Local merged with several state, city, and county locals, she was elected president of UPW (United Public Workers), Local 246, a position she held until 1945-6, when she began to work as an organizer-representative at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.
However, becoming an organizer was not easy for a woman. As Elinor tells it, “Each time I went up the ladder it was a fight to recognize that a woman could do the job. And in each case, I suggested a temporary probation period to see whether I would make it or not…” After successfully organizing and handling grievances at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, she began to organize workers at the other Los Angeles County hospitals. In 1953 UPW, Local 246 merged with SEIU Local 347. Ten years later they were chartered as Los Angeles County Employees Union, Local 434, and eventually Elinor became the General Manager. She was the first woman to achieve that position of any SEIU local. As a leader of 434, she organized thousands of employees and helped forge major gains for county workers, including a collective bargaining ordinance in 1969 and leading the first strike to protect wages and seniority rights of county workers.. She was elected to the SEIU International Executive Board in 1972 and retired from her union employment in 1979, although remained active in SEIU for years.
Amongst her honors: United Long Term Care Workers of SEIU established the Elinor Glenn Scholarship and the Jewish Labor Committee established the Elinor Glenn Leadership Award.
Photo 21st SEIU Int’l Convention 1996.
Kerry Newkirk CLUW National VP (SEIU) felt that, “Elinor was the most beautiful woman--inside and out--in any room she was in. She was a champion of women's rights and responsible for mentoring and supporting a countless number of women labor leaders and activists. As a leader of SEIU, she is largely responsible for the organizing of public sector workers in California. Her warmth, humor, inspiration, and generosity will be deeply missed but she leaves a huge legacy--it can truly be said that she made a difference in the world.”
Elinor was married to Hack Glenn for many years; he died before her. They had a son, Norman Gleichman who died in January. He had served as the Deputy General Counsel of SEIU. Survivors include her daughter-in-law, Marie Ritzo and 2 grandchildren, Nick and Eve. A June memorial service is being planned. More details to follow.
Thanks to Wayne State Reuther Library, SEIU Interview 1994, plus other SEIU archives, 1986 interview, California State University, Long Beach and CLUW NEWS for information and photos.