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Patricia Eames ’50

In a newspaper story headlined “A Counsel’s Wrath,” a journalist wrote: “The first woman to be named general counsel for a major labor union, Patricia Eames, is full of fight or she wouldn’t have gotten the job.”

She grew up in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of a British merchant seaman who married an American woman and went into the floor-covering business. When it came time to choose a college, she selected Reed because “it encouraged students to make significant decisions about their education.” She majored in history and wrote her thesis on the Communist Party of the USA with Prof. Rex Arragon. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia, emphasizing social and labor history. “Some historians are interested in battles,” she said, “but that is not my bag.”

After Columbia, she took a training course in labor organizing given by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and she volunteered to go to the South in 1952. Although she was repeatedly arrested and jailed, she successfully organized a garment plant in Walterboro, South Carolina.

“I’m persuaded that many Americans live lives that are sadly limited in ways they don’t have to be,” she said, “and that the better life that comes through a union—partly through money but also the industrial democracy—is an important addition.”

She entered Yale Law School in 1955, one of 10 women in a class of 150. After earning her law degree, she worked as an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board, and then accepted a post as assistant general counsel for the Textile Workers Union of America, a 140,000-member organization that subsequently merged with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers to form the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers. Pat was an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where she was named the law school’s Professor of the Year in 1977–78, and a professor at Antioch School of Law. In 1980, she was appointed general counsel at Wayne State University in Detroit, the first woman to ever serve as general counsel at a Michigan college or university.

A lifelong supporter of Reed, Pat said, “To the extent that I have been socialized or civilized, I think that Reed had a major role in effecting that. My perception, then and now, was and is that we really did work together, did each build on shared learning, whether in conference discussion, in organization activities, or in simple sociability. And we really, really, knew how good that was. Lew Welch ’50 said, a year or so after we had been graduated, that we had been “‘so happy that we knew then that we were happy.’”

For the last 37 years of her life, Pat was partnered with Connie Campbell Hart ‘51. The couple traveled the world and saw North America from the comfort of their motor home. In 2005, they moved to Haverford, Pennsylvania, where Connie survives her.

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