Kathy K. Johnson photo
Kathy K. Johnson

I owe my career path and activism to a fateful moment in my junior year in college. The College President challenged the assembled young women at the Fall convocation:

Why are you in an all-women’s college at a time when you are biologically ready to mate?” she asked. “You are here across from the all-male University to gain knowledge without distraction so that before you are married, after you raise your children, and in the 12 years you are on your own as a widow so that you will have something to think and talk about.”

That was not the life I wanted. The second-wave feminist movement was just starting, and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to continue my schooling.

From the late ’60s into the mid-’70s, the women’s movement was captured on the front pages of newspapers across the country, network news shows (this was before cable TV!), and the public’s imagination. I was giddy with excitement as the movement spread like wildfire — by word of mouth, through consciousness-raising groups, protests, sit-ins, mass demonstrations, and marches across the country. Feminist manifestos, position papers, and pamphlets ricocheted across networks from coast to coast. I deeply wanted to be a part of making history.

I got caught up in the cauldron of ’60s Berkeley politics and graduated UC Berkeley with my M.A. in Sociology. My parting words to my soon-to-be ex-husband, “You can study social change. I will make social change!”

Happily ensconced in the women’s movement, I made my career in higher education in applied sociology. I worked as a policy analyst, research associate, and Coordinator for Special Projects at the California Department of Health Services, the University of California Berkeley and Davis campuses, the UC Office of the President, the Wright Institute, and at San Francisco State University.

My work in higher education has centered around creating interdisciplinary-based programs to make undergraduate education relevant to students’ lives, to promote gender and racial equity, and to make the university responsible to the community.

I used my university positions to raise student awareness about women’s issues, promote feminist research and writing, increase educational opportunities for women faculty and students, and fight for access to public education.

As a policy analyst in the California Department of Health Services, I served on the Department’s’ Executive Taskforce to Reform Medi-Cal reform, was the lead analyst on the Medi-Cal Prenatal Act. prenatal care, and wrote speeches on such issues for the Agency Secretary and the Governor’s Office.

As an activist, I was part of the Women’s Collective in Berkeley Radical Psychiatry, a board member of the Coalition for Medical Rights of Women, a Vice-Chair of the Department of Health Services Economic Opportunity Advisory Committee, a member of the National Economic Development and Law Center ‘s Taskforce for the Working Poor. Most recently, I am a co-founder of the San Francisco Democratic Women in Action, and have served as member of the San Francisco Delegation on the Status of Women to the Annual UN Conference on Women.

Other achievements I’m proud of: I taught the first women’s health course at UC Berkeley, authored a report entitled, Academic Barriers for UC Davis Women Faculty, and at San Francisco State University. I established the Stay in School CAL Works Family Resource Center for CalWorks single mothers choosing the college option, a Program on Gender and Public Policy, an Annual SFSU Women’s History Month Lecture Series, and an Interdisciplinary Seminar Women and Gender Studies and Feminist Scholarship.

In 2010, I was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the California State Senate for my role as organizer and convener of the San Francisco State University’s Annual Women’s History Month Public Lecture Series. In 2011, the San Francisco State University’s Department of Women and Gender Studies and the San Francisco County Commission and Department on the Status of Women each presented a resolution honoring me for my years of university and community service.

My educational credentials include a B.A degree cum laude with honors in Sociology from Barnard College; a M.A. degree in Sociology and a M.P. H. degree from University of California Berkeley, and a PhD degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

I am a member of the Sociologists for Women in Society and the American Sociological Association.

I live in San Francisco with my husband, Anatole. I have a son, David, who, with his wife, Kelly have two adorable young children, Maya and Casey. Most proudly, that makes me a grandma!

Additional biographical notes about me are in Barbara Howe’s Feminists Who Changed America: 1963–1975 (University of Illinois Press, 2006), and in my essay, “Making Gender Trouble” in Marjorie Penn Lasky’s anthology, “You are Doing What?” Older Women’s Tales of Achievement and Adventure (Regents Press, 2019).