THE LISTENING PARTNERS PROJECT
My high school was a big scary school. Our little country elementary school never prepared us for a big school like that. There were cliques. If you weren't smart you were separated out. It was awful. I almost quit.
My parents made me feel that I wasn't smart enough to think for myself. They thought I needed a husband because I wasn't smart enough to do anything by myself. So if I was going out with a guy I always let him think for me, talk for me. CAROL
As a kid I didnt' feel smart because of school. I felt like shit in school. The other kids thought they were high and mighty jus' 'cause their parents had money. . . . The things they used to do to me on the school bus, ya know? . . . None of the teachers ever stood up for me. Finally I got sick of that. I quit school. I ain't been back. I was fifteen years old.
While they were growing up, Sally, Carol, and Lil were subjected to the assault of prejudices that caused them to doubt themselves and their intelligence--a phenomenon all too common among the very poor who live in declining rural areas. As young adults, they were participants in Listening Partners, an "action research" project whose goal was to promote the development of voice and mind so as to enable women to name, question, and overcome the stereotypes that had left them feeling so diminished. With generous funding and significant encouragement from the A. L. Mailman Family Foundation,2 we had the opportunity to conduct pilot work exploring preliminary hunches about the kinds of experiences that would achieve such goals. Subsequently, with very generous financial support and guidance from