Extraordinary People: Former Kodak employee fought for equality

Extraordinary People

Mary Alice Kendall helped shape this community in many ways. She was a pioneer in her time. 

“When I started college, I was taking home ec. That’s what women take! But, I decided that wasn’t for me so during my Freshman year I went over to the dean and I said ‘I want to change to a major in chemistry’. He said, ‘no you don’t! It’s a man’s field, you’ll never get a job’. Well I graduated in ’43 and women chemists could have any job they wanted, all the men were in the army,” Kendall remembers.

As thousands of Kodak employees were drafted, Kendall became one of the first female chemists at the company. This was all part of the ‘Yes We Can’ movement. 

Kendall tells News 8’s Allison Warren, “They accepted us. I don’t think they were happy to have women, but they accepted us.”

That wasn’t enough for Kendall who fought her employer for equal pay and advancement opportunities. “As a matter of fact, I started at 35 and the men started at 38. That’s a 10 percent difference. 20 years later, it was 20 percent. I said, ‘good grief! It’s worse now than it was then.'”

She got her equal pay, but never advanced within Kodak. After 5 years at Kodak where she met her husband, she dedicated her time to community service as a tireless volunteer. She served on the Irondequoit School Board and later the Board of Regents. 

Now, at 96 years old, Kendall stands with the women still fighting for equal pay. 

“I can’t believe it! Here I am, this age, and things haven’t changed that much.”

When asked if she had any advice for those women still fighting for equal pay, and the women of the #MeToo movement, Kendall said, “Fight… You just have to take your chances and try to do something.”

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