FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
It's time for StoryCorps Griot. Each Tuesday, we bring you a story from this project that's recording black Americans across the country.
Today's story comes from Dorothy Glinton. She was one of the first women to hold a management position at Ford Motor Company, but she started on the assembly line.
At StoryCorps, Glinton told her son how she started her career in the automobile industry. It was 1976, she had just finished college, and she was working at a store in Chicago.
Ms. DOROTHY GLINTON (Employee, Ford Motor Company): One of the clerks in the store had quit and got a job at Ford. She bought her check into the store for me to cash. And when I saw her check, I said, mm, what kind of job do you got making this kind of money? And I said, is this two weeks? She said, no. This is one week. I said, you've got to be kidding. I could pay my daughter's tuition, I could fill the freezer up and wouldn't have to worry about the lights, the rent, nothing.
I didn't want to work on an assembly line, but I thought I could do anything for a few months. As I got there, it was so hard, and they were so awful to us. I said, Lord, I got to find a job that I can do for 30 years in this place. So one morning, I put my little blue suit on, my little white blouse, and I went to the corporate office and I asked to see the plant manager.
I applied for a job in management. And he'd laughed at me. And I said, well, what does a foreman do? And they told me. And I said, well, I'm overqualified for that. And then if I was qualified, why couldn't they hire me? And he gave me an opportunity to work in management. And I thought I just had it made. I thought the gods were going to welcome, you know. Mm-hmm. They felt like we were taking men's job.
Mr. SONARI GLINTON (Son of Dorothy Glinton): What did they do?
Ms. GLINTON: They'll put some grease on the phone. And if somebody crossed out, we'll call you. And you wouldn't realize that ball-bearing greases is on the phone. And then performance evaluations - when someone got 5 percent, you've got 2 percent: That's the kind of stuff they'll do. I had been there almost 16 years, and worked just as hard as I did. I never missed a day. I came in, and I'd have wouldn't care what they did. And I got laid off.
My thing was there was not one white male who was in my position and stayed in the same position with the education that I had. So that's why we sued. And they thought I was crazy. There go that woman again. She's starting some kind of trouble. You can't go up against one of the big three. You can do that.
Mr. GLINTON: Do you think it made a difference?
Ms. GLINTON: Mm-hmm.
Mr. GLINTON: How?
Ms. GLINTON: Well, we had women superintendents, women area managers, women plant managers, women in overseas operation because I believe that I can make a difference. And I believe when I did what I did so that it would be better for the people to come behind me that I did make that difference.
CHIDEYA: Dorothy Glinton with her son Sonari Glinton in Chicago. After settling her lawsuit, Glinton went back to work at the plant and served on Ford's Diversity Council there. She retired earlier this year.
StoryCorps Griot is currently in Holly Springs, Mississippi. All the Griot initiative recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
To find out how to record your interview and to hear more from StoryCorps Griot, got to npr.org/newsandnotes.
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NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Tomorrow, our Bloggers' Roundtable.
I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.