Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Moment

The 1973 Turn

The 1973 Turn

More From Karen

In this video

Nussbaum explains how the dramatic changes in income distribution since 1973 harm women and families.

Karen's Biography

Childhood dream: To become a social worker.
First Job: Babysitter
Favorite advice: “Keep an open mind but don’t let your brains fall out.”
Cause of Choice: Working America

Karen Nussbaum is an activist, labor leader, and founder of 9to5, a pioneering labor organization for female clerical workers. She has also served as Director of the Women’s Bureau of the Labor Department during the Clinton Administration, and as the head of the Working Women’s Department of the AFL-CIO from 1996-2001.
 
Nussbaum was born in Chicago in 1950, where her mother worked as a publicist and her father as an exterminator. She dropped out of the University of Chicago after a year and a half in order to move to Boston and devote herself to the anti-Vietnam movement. During this time she began supporting herself as a clerical worker at Harvard University, an experience that opened her eyes to the inequities and privations faced by middle and lower income working women throughout the United States.
 
By 1973, she and several colleagues had formed 9to5, an organization that sought to address these issues and forged a union for female office workers in 1975. In contrast to many labor organization, 9to5 focused on the plight of what Nussbaum calls “mainstream working women,” many of whom were performing the same work as men but for lower pay. Within just a few years the organization had gained national attention and, in 1981, it joined with the SEIU to form a partnership known as District 925.
 
Nussbaum served as director of District 925 from 1981 to 1993 when she stepped down to join the Clinton Administration. She held the position of director of the Department of Labor Women’s Issues—the highest ranking position devoted to women’s issues in the government—for three years before joining the AFL-CIO. She currently heads Working America, the community affairs affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Related Videos

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem
Feminist Activist

Groundbreaking writer, lecturer, editor and activist, Gloria Steinem has been looked to as the popular face of the women's movement for over four decades. She was a buzzed-abou...

Nikki Henderson
Nikki Henderson
Local Food Activist

Through mentoring, tutoring and directing Foster Youth Empowerment workshops, Nikki Henderson developed her passion for youth leadership among communities of color. Combining this ...

Angela Salinas
Angela Salinas
Major General, US Marine Corps (Ret)

Angela Salinas is a retired Major General of the US Marine Corps and a role model for women in the armed forces. Raised by two Mexican immigrants, Salinas was the first in her fam...

Callie Khouri
Callie Khouri
Oscar-Winning Writer & Creator of "Nashville"

Callie Khouri is a screenwriter, producer, and director. In 1992 she won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the movie Thelma & Louise. The film, although contro...