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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 12, 2004

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Women's Center Sponsors Lecture By Author Barbara Ehrenreich

The Women's Resource & Action Center (WRAC) at The University of Iowa will sponsor a public lecture by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" on Monday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ehrenreich is a recognized and well-known social commentator. She has been a contributing writer for Time Magazine since 1990. Her articles, reviews, essays and humor have appeared in a range of national publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Ms., Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The Nation, The New Republic, Social Policy, Mirabella, as well as in newspapers throughout the world.

In early 1998, Ehrenreich posed the following question to an editor at Harper's Magazine: How does anyone live on the wages available to the unskilled? And how, in particular, were the 12 million women about to be booted into the labor market by welfare reform going to make it on $6 or $7 an hour? Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages; in 1998, Ehrenreich joined them.

To answer her own questions, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted the highest-paying jobs she was offered. She worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels, discovering quickly that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations take an enormous mental and physical toll, and that one job is not enough - not, that is, if you intend to live indoors.

"With all the real life assets I've built up in middle age -- bank account, IRA, health insurance, multiroom home -- waiting indulgently in the background, there was no way I was going to 'experience poverty' or find out how it 'really feels' to be a long-term, low-wage worker," Ehrenreich cautions. "My aim here was much more straightforward and objective -- just to see whether I could match income to expenses, as the truly poor attempt to do every day." What she discovered was that, in fact, she could not. Her book and this public lecture provide a rare view of "prosperity" from the bottom, putting a human face to the lives sustaining our economy.

She is the author of the best-seller "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," which is currently being adapted for the stage. Her other books include "The American Health Empire: Power, Profits, and Politics" (1970), "The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment" (1983), and "Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class" (1989). Originally a biologist who earned her Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in 1968, Ehrenreich became involved in political activism during the Vietnam War and has written professionally ever since.

For more information, or to arrange for needed accommodations to participate, please call the Women's Center at 319-335-1486

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Laurie Haag, 319-335-1486,; Writer: Linda Kroo