Kathleen Louise Johnson was born on October 3, 1917, in Akron, Ohio. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the College of Liberal Arts at Boston University in May 1939. Kathleen (Kate) married Jacob Oser on December 17, 1954, and tended to household duties at their home in Endicott, New York. During this time, social activism became a prominent component of Ms. Oser’s life. Her activist endeavors focused on improving the lives of migrant workers, fighting for equal rights for women and members of the gay community, and events related to the peace movement during the Vietnam War. As a student at Boston University from 1938 to 1939, Oser became a member of the Young Communist League. In 1940, she joined the Communist Party and remained a member through the early 1940s. Oser eventually left the Party because she was unable to fully dedicate herself to the Party’s agenda. She was an active member of the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW was established in 1966, two years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed sex discrimination, and three years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (NOW’s co-founder and first president). Kate Oser served as the secretary for the local Utica, New York, chapter of NOW. In addition to being a prominent activist in the Utica area, Ms. Oser was the mother of three, the grandmother of four, and the great-grandmother of five. At the age of 91, she died on September 8, 2009.
Scope of Collection
The Kathleen Oser Collection contains a vast assortment of documents, newspapers, magazines, and photographs relating to the National Organization for Women (NOW) as well as to significant political, social, and cultural events (at the local, state, and national level) during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Her collection includes documents related to various organizations and groups, including: Planned Parenthood; National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL); Mohawk Valley Friends of Choice; Conscience-Catholics for a Free Choice; Family Planning Advocates of NYS, Inc. (FPA); and United Farm Workers. Additionally, the collection contains documents related to: Civil Rights; feminism; sexual abuse and rape; harassment; marriage and divorce; childcare; nuclear arms; poverty; and sexism. Pertaining directly to NOW, the collection contains: documents from the 1970s and 1980s; do it NOW publications; NOW National Times publications; and documents on the local NOW chapter (Utica) and the Central New York chapter.