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Logan StoryCorps: Mary, the activist

Friends Katie Swain and Mary Heers in Logan at their StoryCorps appointment in May 2024. Katie Swain stands with one arm around Mary. She is half a head taller and has brown hair and small gold earrings. She smiles widely and has on a blue and white striped button up, collared blouse. Mary leans toward Katie as she smiles happily into the camera. She has small gold stud earrings and short white hair. She wears a grey teeshirt with a textured red button-up shirt over it.
Friends Katie Swain and Mary Heers in Logan at their StoryCorps appointment in May 2024.

KERRY BRINGHURST: It was in the 1960s when Mary Heers left Italy for the United States. She was on a quest and tells her friend Katie Swain that she's always compared herself to water rushing over a waterfall.

MARY HEERS: And I kind of throw myself willfully over the edge, hoping against hope that I'll turn sunbeams into rainbows.

I was just really drawn in by the voter registration drives in the South, and to wanting to be involved. So one of the reasons I went to Stanford was because they were sending a lot of volunteers to Mississippi.

In 1964, they weren't sending volunteers anymore. And a bit of heartbreaking experience for me until I noticed that the anti-war movement against Vietnam was picking up steam. And it was a big deal at Stanford because Joan Baez was actively organizing a sit-down. A couple hundred of us followed her to Oakland, and sat down in the street and were put into a school bus and taken to the Oakland County Jail, and then ended up spending 10 days in the Santa Rita County Jail. That was the sentence — certainly mitigated by having Joan Baez sing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" every night to us before we had lights out. Something I really very proud of actually.

KATIE SWAIN: After that, you you kept following kind of a path of activism for a while, right?


I ended up going to work as a telephone operator at the phone company in San Francisco. They wanted us to show up in skirts and hose and act like this was really a high-class job. And we wanted to wear pants, just a simple question of being comfortable. And some of us just started to do it in our own personal protest, and they would send us home. They couldn't send us all home. And we knew that.

KATIE SWAIN: You had 'em.

MARY HEERS: We had them, and they tried to put an end to it by posting a big sign by the door saying, "As of January 21, no pants or jeans will be allowed. - The Management."

And my friends and I made a same size sign in which we said, "As of January 21, people shall dress for warmth and for comfort." And we signed it "The People." And we glued it to the glass doors of the building with wallpaper paste and January 21 came and there were so many people wearing pants that they just overlooked it. And we won!

Of course, I got fired.

KATIE SWAIN: They identified you as the instigator.

MARY HEERS: They did. They did. Something I'm really proud to say — that the reason people dress for warmth and for comfort now at the phone company had something to do with what we did.

Through a series of events ended up in Detroit, I was able to get hired at Detroit Trim. And I was working on the finish line, which meant that I put all the final pieces together and put it in a big cardboard box. And all those cardboard boxes said Detroit Trim. Until one day half of them started to say Cadillac. And sure enough, our jobs were being done by the non-union people.

I took pictures and I wrote up a leaflet. And I'm passing it out in front of the plant gates and within minutes, "Woo-woo-woo!" Police.

People were angry and we demanded a union meeting and we had that union meeting. I tried to speak and they told me to turn my mic off. And then they just turned out the lights, left us in a dark room and left.

KATIE SWAIN: Did you find that you were one of the only women there that was involved so heavily in that activism or were there a lot of women?

MARY HEERS: Well, people were cheering me on, but I never was able to form a committee of people that wanted to stand in the front lines and wage the battle. The momentum of the student movement did not carry over. And eventually, I went back to living like a normal human being.

KATIE SWAIN: No more arrests under your belt after that?


At 14-years-old, Kerry began working as a reporter for KVEL “The Hot One” in Vernal, Utah. Her radio news interests led her to Logan where she became news director for KBLQ while attending Utah State University. She graduated USU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent the next few years working for Utah Public Radio. Leaving UPR in 1993 she spent the next 14 years as the full time mother of four boys before returning in 2007. Kerry and her husband Boyd reside in Nibley.
Check out our past StoryCorps episodes.