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Featured Activists: Barbara Hafer


 
Barbara Harshbarger Hafer was born in 1943 in Los Angeles where her father was stationed in the army during World War II. The family moved back to southwest Pennsylvania in 1946 where her father was a salesman and the family lived in middle class neighborhoods outside of Pittsburgh. Her parents separated when Barbara was a teenager and, living in a household headed by a single mother, she was immediately plunged into poverty. Like her grandmother, aunts and sister, Barbara became a nurse. She graduated from the South Side Hospital School of Nursing in 1964 and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing from Duquesne University in 1969. In the interim, she worked as a public health nurse in the Mon Valley where she was radicalized by the poverty, abuse and bad nutrition. In 1986, Barbara married Jack Pigeon, head of the Kiski School in Westmoreland County, and began a commuter marriage that continued until she retired in 2005. Her husband died in 2008.Barbara became involved in the women's movement in 1972, joining both the South Hills chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Pittsburgh chapter of the Women's Political Caucus. She became the first Executive Director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) in 1974, founded the Mon Yough/Allegheny County Rape Crisis Center (now the Center for Victims of Violent Crimes) in 1975 and was a founding member of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rap in 1975.


Barbara became involved in the women's movement in 1972, joining both the South Hills chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Pittsburgh chapter of the Women's Political Caucus. She became the first Executive Director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) in 1974, founded the Mon Yough/Allegheny County Rape Crisis Center (now the Center for Victims of Violent Crimes) in 1975 and was a founding member of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rap in 1975.

Through her work in public health and crime victims' services, Barbara saw that the real power to implement change lay with those who control the public purse strings. It also gave her a taste of politics. "I was smitten, I was won over by that," Hafer said during her In Sisterhood interview in 2008. She started to get politically active in the Mon Valley, serving in a variety of volunteer positions over five years. Given her moderate, pro-choice stance, Barbara was persuaded to join the Republican party and received financial support from members of the Women's Political Caucus when she ran for County Commissioner in 1979. She lost that election but immediately began organizing to run again in 1983.

Once dismissed as a "little nurse from Elizabeth," Barbara was elected as the first female Allegheny County Commissioner in 1983. She became a player in local politics and was re-elected to the County Commission in 1987. Then, Barbara became a player in state politics.She was elected as state Auditor General in 1989, ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1990, was reelected as Auditor General in 1992, and elected as State Treasurer in 1997."The feminist movement really gave me an opportunity to be able to do what I wanted to do and step into a leadership position.But, it was nursing that prepared me," she said in 2008. Barbara retired from politics in 2005 to found Hafer and Associates, a consulting firm working with for-profit and non-profit clients to develop successful solutions to governmental problems.

 

Featured activists: Jeanne Clark | Alma Fox | Barbara Hafer | Eleanor Smeal

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