Faith Seidenberg: A Broad Who Bravely Broke Barriers

Photo courtesy Faith SeidenbergFaith Seidenberg, lawyer, feminist and pilot, died yesterday at the age of 91. I interviewed her in her Syracuse, New York office for my film, Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation because she had won a discrimination lawsuit against the male only bar, McSorely’s Old Ale House in New York City. Seidenberg also defended activists in the civil rights movement and was a member of NOW. She was personable and generously spent many hours with me. She told me that the story of Sacco and Vanzetti inspired her to be a lawyer and Amelia Earhart inspired her to become a licensed pilot. She owned her own plane. It was blue and she named it Foxtrot Sierra to represent her initials.

As an independent filmmaker, I had to make many editorial for the final version, both in terms of content and the final film length.  As a result, many of the second wave feminists whom I interviewed, never made it into the final film. When I read that Seidenberg had died, I put together this video clip with some of the footage from that interview. It was wonderful to revisit that day.

She brought me to the hangar where her plane is housed and we discussed being a pilot and it was clear she was very happy when maintaining her plane and flying. She couldn’t take me up in the sky that day, but offered the opportunity to come back and she would take me for a ride.  We talked about the law, McSoreley’s, Betty Friedan (whom she knew well) and her work in the Civil Rights Movement.

In the early 1960s, she headed to Mississippi as a lawyer for the New York State ACLU to defend the lawyers who were in jail for fighting for civil rights. She told me when she first arrived she went into the jailhouse and had to stand before the sheriff who had a huge cattle prod on his desk and two deputies standing behind him with guns. She was alone and unarmed and declared that they should let the man out of jail or she was going to go the papers and everyone across the country will know what you are doing down here. They reluctantly let the man out.

There was another young man who, later in the 1990s, called her and asked if he could take her to dinner to thank her for defending him and getting him out of jail. He came to Syracuse and asked her all about her life. He kept the focus of the evening on her, completely and she enjoyed his company. After the dinner she found out that the young man was the lawyer who had recently defended President Bill Clinton in his impeachment. His name was David E. Kendall. 

She graciously spent many enjoyable hours with me and it was a pleasure to have met her.

Jennifer Lee is a filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles. She has spent many years working on Hollywood films and used her free time (when she had it!) making her own films. Her latest film, “Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation” is being distributed nationally and more public screenings are upcoming! Jennifer was recently named Global Ambassador for the Global Media Monitoring Project.

To schedule an interview with Jennifer or talk with her about booking her as a speaker, she can be reached at jennifer@feministstories.com.

 

  • Rachel April

    Beautiful! Thank you.

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