Document 27: Excerpt from Eloise Klein Healy, interview with Michelle Moravec, 2 October 1992. Woman's Building Oral History Project. Transcript in author's personal collection.


   Longtime Woman's Building activist Eloise Klein Healy made the formal motion to close the Woman's Building at a board meeting on 29 April 1991. The motion carried 8 to 2, and the Woman's Building closed its doors on 15 July 1991. In the following excerpt from her oral history interview, Healy expressed the sense of loss she still felt for the community that the Woman's Building represented. The members of the Woman's Building discovered that what women really needed was not Virginia Woolf's room of one's own but a series of rooms, a building, as it were. After the experience of inhabiting an entire woman's building, the splendid isolation that Woolf craved seemed like a punishment.

MM: Do you want to tell me about the decision to close the Building?

EKH: It was hard. It was really sickening. We had danced around it for about a year and a half and the last thing that I wanted to have happen was that the Building just disappear like old scrap. I really felt that we needed to honor what had happened and we needed to say this is not the way we want to be doing this, so let's not do it anymore. I talked to Sheila [de Bretteville] on the telephone. I had a couple of conversations with friends about what was going on, and Sheila said "We didn't make The Woman's Building in order to hurt women or take away from women the time they needed to work. If women's work is hurt by trying to keep the Building going, then I'm for stopping it. We never intended to have an institution that went for 20 years anyway. Who was thinking that?" So, after we had been chewing on this bone for a year and a half and we had really made that final survey of whether or not we could get money out of people, we just felt like we were going to get too hurt. The women who were on the Board at that moment were over their heads in terms of commitment, in terms of time and energy. And it didn't make sense. I wanted to make sure we didn't feel like we were failures because I didn't think we were. There are a lot of things that went into the closing of the Woman's Building and I think a lot of it had to do with conditions outside of the Building. If we had fifty or eighty thousand dollars a year, which is a very small budget for a cultural organization in these days and times, we could do programs once a week. We could have staff. If we had a budget of half a million we could be just like SPARC.[A] There were things in the public mind that really made it, I think, impossible for us to raise the money. I think, unfortunately, our cultural granting situation was really poor. Al Nodal (Director of Cultural Affairs of the City of Los Angeles) was not committed to us, in actuality. So, we decided, let's not lose the Building. Let's just stop. It certainly wasn't a very happy time. I think the thing that was the hardest was realizing that we were actually saying other people don't get to have this experience. When an organization has been devoted to the development of the community and then you are saying, no—you can't make that community anymore—it is a real hard thing to choose to do. But I know, in my own feeling, I feel like I've been sent back to my own room now. I have all those people around me whom I have worked with, but it is not the same.

   A. SPARC, the Social and Public Art Resource Center, was founded in 1976 by muralist Judith F. Baca, painter Christina Schlesinger, and filmmaker Donna Deitch. Unlike the Woman's Building, it continues to exist today, working with a diverse group of people in a variety of public art projects.

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