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Activist Women Oral History Project: H

Hesse, Lynne

Interviewee: Lynne Hesse
Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: September 23, 2010
Extent: 51-page transcript

Interviewer: Mary Riddle
Date of Interview: February 2, 2012
Extent: 1:40:51
Transcript and audio

Lynn Hesse is a former policewoman of Dekalb County, Georgia, as well as a playwright, dancer, and short story author. Born in 1951 in Chanute, Kansas, she moved with her parents to the Buckhead area of Atlanta when she was a pre-teenager. After reading The Feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan at the approximate age of 15, she self-identified as a feminist. Hesse graduated through Clayton County Academy and went to work for Georgia State University as a police officer (post-certified) in circa 1977, and subsequently became a DeKalb County police officer, rising through the ranks of Master Officer and Field Training Officer to Sergeant. During her tenure as a Dekalb County Police Officer, she was denied her application for promotional testing and her compensation for arrests was diverted to other male officers. She and several other female officers were equally discriminated against. When a class action suit could not be organized, policewoman Marsha Cofield filed an individual law suit, in which Lynne Hesse was actively involved. Cofield won her case. Following her law enforcement career, Hesse has focused on her artistic pursuits which include dance and writing. In 1996, she was graduated (cum laude) in Dance from Georgia State University. She has created an "oral history performed in dance," and play she wrote, based on her own short story, was staged at Emory's Schwartz Center.

Abstract, February 2, 2012:
Hesse begins the interview by discussing the impact of Marsha Cofield's lawsuit, for which Hesse and other DeKalb County police officers fundraised. She discusses the difficulty that she had getting promoted because of her gender, and she goes into detail about various instances of being undermined and challenged by her superiors on the job. Hesse discusses several areas of police work in depth, including the mobile crisis unit and her management of it, and police responses to domestic violence calls. She talks about the murder of DeKalb County sheriff-elect Derwin Brown, and discusses the deleterious effects that working as a police officer often has on a person's mental health. Hesse describes the artistic pursuits in which she has engaged since leaving the police force, including dance and writing.



Ham, Martha

Interviewee: Martha Ham
Interviewer: Franklin Abbott
Date of interview: March 9, 2016


Martha Ham is a psychotherapist, environmental activist, and advocate for people with disabilities.  Born in San Antonio in 1952 while her father was stationed there in the Air Force, she moved to Alabama as a young child because both parents had family members in the state.  Her parents’ separation and eventual divorce led to several moves within the state of Alabama, and she ultimately settled with her mother and brother in Nashville, graduating from Donelson High School in 1971.  Ham attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, majoring in Philosophy.  After graduation she worked at Yosemite National Park before founding Splore, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities take river trips, serving as its director for four years.  Graduate school in Social Work at the University of Utah led her to become a psychotherapist, but the outdoors remains a passion.  In 2004 she helped a friend to interview Georgia Gilmore, a woman who cooked for the civil rights movement. 

The interview was conducted March 9, 2015.  Ham explores her family background in Alabama with special attention to the role of her grandmothers in her upbringing and her mother’s path to economic independence as a divorced mother of two young children.  Ham comments on her years as a student at Mercer University, where her acts of rebellion earned her a reputation as a troublemaker.  She speaks about her involvement in a program called Chrysalis that hired college students to run a camp for Black and white children designed to promote racial integration.  Ham speaks at length about her interest in travel and environmentalism, including her efforts to help people with disabilities participate in river trips through a group she founded called Splore.  She discusses her profession as psychotherapist, her marriage and motherhood.  She comments about the role she played in interviewing Alabamian Georgia Gilmore who served as a cook for civil rights workers and her assistance with a radio program about the damage to rivers caused by dams.

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