Myra Barnes

As Interviewed by Trevor Binford, March 18, 2011
"It was a time of women's rights, nationwide."
Myra Barnes

Introductory Profile: About Myra Barnes

My interview with Myra Barnes was very powerful, even more so because she is my grandmother. I had never felt such a connection to the past, to the events of another decade, as I did on that morning. I had always known, in an intellectual way, that the past dictated the present. But on a deeper level, I felt, as I think all young people do, that the events of previous generations are just dusty records on a shelf. But when talking to Ms. Barnes, I could see how she had contributed to history in a small way, how her activities had changed the world. She was working as a secretary for the East Bay Park District in California when she took a stand for women's rights. If not for her and people like her, the entire world would be different.

Myra is seventy six, though her physique wouldn't show it. While she does have a pleasant covering of wrinkles across her face, Ms. Barnes has a quick stride and clearly is no stranger to exercise. She has thick, light brown, wavy hair, only verging on gray, which she wears short. And while Ms. Barnes is a grandmother, she doesn't dress like one, spurning make-up, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a backpack instead of a purse, hiking boots in the place of heels. Overall, Ms. Barnes gives the image of a women who does not give in to stereotypes, who lives life her own way.

The impression that Ms. Barnes gives is not that of a quietly retired old lady, but of a young and active individual. She plays with her fingers nervously as she talks in a way that suggests nervous energy. Talking with Ms. Barnes is a challenge too. She is always up to date with politics and news, and able to use this information to good effect as well, making conversation on every topic imaginable. But the strongest image that you take away from a discussion with this lady is that she is intense. Ms. Barnes is intense in every meaning of the word: she takes hikes for huge distances frequently, going ten miles regularly. This intensity, this lack of proper grandmotherly behavior seems to be her most important characteristic.

The interview itself felt very businesslike. Ms. Barnes seemed extensively prepared, even writing out notes ahead of time which she reviewed. She spoke with clarity and efficiency, obviously very practiced at these kind of discussions. She responded easily to my clumsy questioning, and gave concise, well thought-out answers despite my nervousness.

This interview with Myra Barnes was very educational, giving me a great appreciation for the past. Ms. Barnes' historical impact had been totally unknown to me previously. But her intense nature must have needed an output in the past, and social rights must have been very appealing to her. I give my thanks to Ms. Barnes' cooperation and help in the project, because she opened up a whole new world for me. She opened up the world of history.