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Season Three: First Response: AIDS and Community in San Francisco

This podcast is about the politics of the first encounters with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The six episodes draw from the thirty-five interviews that Sally Smith Hughes conducted in the 1990s. A historian of science at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Office, Sally interviewed doctors, nurses, researchers, public health officials and community-health practitioners to learn about the unique ways that people responded to the epidemic. Although these interviews cover a wide range of topics, including the isolation of the virus HIV and the search for treatments, the interviews we selected for this podcast are more focused on public health, community engagement, and nursing care. Most of the following podcast episodes are about the period from early 1981, when the first reports emerged of an unknown disease that was  killing gay men in San Francisco, to 1984 and the development of a new way of caring for people in a hospital setting.

Episode 0: Prologue - Interview with an Interviewer - Sally Smith Hughes:  This interview with UC Berkeley Oral History Center historian Sally Smith Hughes introduces her interviews with the physicians, public health officials, researchers, and nurses who faced the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in the early 1980s. Paul and Sally also discuss the podcast "First Response: AIDS and Community in San Francisco," which is based on Sally's interviews from the 1990s.

Episode 1: San Francisco explores the landscape of gay culture in 1970s San Francisco. Declared “the gay capital of the world” by Life magazine in 1964, the City by the Bay consolidated its reputation as a gay mecca in the 1970s, offering a place where queer men, women, and transgender folk could express themselves freely. We hear from healthcare practitioners about what it meant to be gay in the sexual revolution and the promise San Francisco held for a free and empowered gay community.

Episode 2: The Virus of Fear takes a look at the medical community’s first encounter with AIDS in San Francisco. As reports began to circulate of a mysterious disease affecting gay men, fear soon spread just as fast as the virus itself. Here medical researchers and healthcare professionals discuss how the health community grappled with this fear of the unknown: from medical institutions and staff refusing to treat patients, to the internal conflict of the health practitioners themselves as they faced the reality that their pursuit to save lives could very well risk their own. Ultimately, the management of fear—among patients, the public, and the health community itself—proved to be one of the first steps in the city’s medical response to AIDS.

Episode 3: The Gay-Positive Health Community Before AIDS takes a step back and examines the efforts of public health officials in San Francisco to establish a relationship of trust with the gay community. For years, homophobia had pushed this ostracized community, gay men in particular, to seek underground health services at establishments where they could receive treatment from sympathetic or at least non-judgmental professionals. By the 1970s, however, bridges began to develop between health officials and the gay community, just as physicians within the community itself started to form their own public health networks. In this episode, we hear from practitioners from inside and outside the gay community on the work undertaken to create a gay-positive health response to rising epidemics before the arrival of AIDS in the city.

Episode 4: The Bathhouse Crisis explores a crisis that threatened to derail the developing collaboration between public health officials and the gay community. By the late 1970s, researchers had identified the city’s bathhouses as sites for the spread of disease, especially among gay men. Facing ineffective educational initiatives and a new, fast-growing epidemic, San Francisco’s Pubic Health Department ordered the closure of bathhouses in October 1984. The bonds of trust that had slowly developed between the public health service and the gay community began to fall apart, as emergency action to address the spread of disease collided with the legacy of homophobia and persecution. Here public health officials and physicians within the gay community discuss the Bathhouse Crisis and the strained relations that resulted.

Episode 5: The Fight for Resources charts the uphill battle medical researchers faced in securing the needed resources and funding to combat the AIDS epidemic. The discovery of the epidemic coincided with the rise of fiscal and social conservatism in national politics with the election of Ronald Reagan. Public health budgets were slashed and there was little sympathy or support to fight a disease affecting gay men. In this episode, medical researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and University of California San Francisco’s KS Clinic reveal how they had to improvise in this context to piece together the crucial resources needed to make headway against the epidemic.

Episode 6: The San Francisco Model (Ward 5b), our final episode, looks at how the collaboration between community members and health officials ultimately came to redefine care for AIDS. We hear medical staff and community members describe the multi-pronged approach developed at San Francisco General Hospital’s Ward 5b, which combined care, research, social work, and community involvement. Together, health officials and community members pioneered a new way of treating epidemic disease and human suffering—a new way that became known as the San Francisco Model.

Featured Interviewees

Dr. Donald Abrams, one of three original members of the AIDS physician team at San Francisco General Hospital in 1983, studied the disease and spearheaded programs to accelerate research on and the availability of experimental AIDS drugs. Episodes 2, 4.Dr. Richard L. Andrews, member of Bay Area Physicans for Human Rights, a gay physicians organization, in several seminal events of the early AIDS epidemic. Episodes 1, 3, 4.Gary Carr, nurse practitioner in the AIDS Clinic at San Francisco General Hospitall. Episodes 1 and 6.
Marcus Conant, co-founder of KS Clinic, advocated tirelessly for funds and awareness for AIDS research and care.Selma Dritz, Assistant Director of Disease Control for the San Francisco Department of Health during the 1970s and the early years of the epidemic. Episodes 1, 3Donald Francis, Director of Center for Disease Control's AIDS Laboratory Activities, and principal figure of Randy Shilts' book, And the Band Played On, and the film based on it. Episodes 2, 5.
Nurse Diane Jones, founding member and staff nurse of the AIDS Special Care Unit, the celebrated in-patient AIDS ward 5B, at San Francisco General Hospital. Episode 6.Angie Lewis, R.N., nurse educator and Clinical Nurse at the University of California, San Francisco [UCSF]. Episodes 2, 6
Nurse Clifford Morrison, initial organizer and AIDS Clinical Coordinator of the first hospital ward dedicated to the care of AIDS patients, Ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital. Episode 6.
Paul O'Malley, project manager at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, key role in mining the hepatitis B vaccine trial of the late 1970s and the early 1980s for information about AIDS. Episodes 1, 3Nurse Helen Schietinger, the first nurse to work at the first clinic set up expressly to care for patients with Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer which, for unknown reasons, was appearing in young gay men. Episode 5Dr. Mervyn Silverman, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health from 1977 to 1985, precisely the years in which the AIDS epidemic was building and breaking. Episodes 2, 4

Complete interview transcripts for The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco oral history project.


This podcast was produced, written and narrated by Paul Burnett, and edited by Allie Cheroutes and Paul Burnett. Production and promotion assistance provided by David Dunham and Shanna Farrell. Special thanks to the band Do Make Say Think, whose music can be found at Constellation Records or your local record store. Additional track by Borrtex opening Episode 2, "Waiting for You." Berkeley Remix theme music by Paul Burnett. Thanks also to Scott Calonico for his piece “When AIDS was Funny” and to the archives of the Ronald Reagan Library, UC San Francisco, and San Francisco State University. All interview clips were taken from the Oral History Center collections, and the audio digitization was undertaken by David Dunham, and student employees Marisa Uribe, Carla Palassian, Aamna Haq, Hailie O’Brien, and Cindy Jin. Graphic Design by Maggie Deng and Cindy Jin.



Graphic for Tales from the Campanile

Graphic button for Season 1         Graphic button for Season 2

Season Two: Tales from the Campanile

We are proud to present the second season of our podcast, Tales from the Campanile. In this special two episode season, we take a look at some exciting new oral history projects.

In the first episode, Shanna Farrell interviews Martin Meeker about his newly released Freedom to Marry project. He discusses the origin of the project, his cohort of narrators, the power of language, and the impact of the movement. We hear a clip from one of his interviews with Thalia Zepatos.

In our second episode, we flip the script and Martin talks to Shanna about her forthcoming book, "Bay Area Cocktails: A History of Culture, Community and Craft," out September 2017. They talk about the basis for the project, the relationship between food, agriculture and cocktails, and why the project is about more than what's in the glass.



 Women in Politics

Season One: From The Outside In:
Women in Politics

Episode 1      Episode 2      Episode 3      Episode 4      Episode 5      Episode 6

In this historic year for women in politics, our new podcast series, From the Outside In, seeks to showcase important interviews in the Bancroft Library collection with women who, against tremendous odds, broke through glass ceilings and forged their own paths in the political arena. The six episodes of this podcast chart the political advancement of women in the United States through the lives and achievements of ten noteworthy pioneers. From universal suffrage and elected office to community organizing and brokering party politics, these episodes bring to life the centuries-long struggle of women to gain their rightful place in the nation’s political system.

A production of the Bancroft Library’s Oral History Center
University of California, Berkeley

Narrator: Belva Davis
Researcher and Writer: Todd Holmes
Producers and Editors: Shanna Farrell, Cristina Kim
Special Assistants:  Julie Allen, Paul Burnett, David Dunham, Martin Meeker, Linda Norton
Student Assistants: Amita Chauhan, Cindy Jin, Marisa Uribe
Volunteers / Interns: Meg Henderson, Mark Westlye
Project Advisor: David Boyer
Bancroft Audio Research: Lee Anne Titangos
Thanks to 
California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP) for digitization.

Episode 1 – Gaining the Vote 

This episode covers the fight for universal suffrage and the successful passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted all women the right to vote.

Photo of Alice Paul, 1913, Library of CongressAlice Paul was one of the leading activists for women’s equality in America. Born to a Quaker family in 1885, she immersed herself in the campaign for women’s suffrage, first in Great Britain and then in the United States. Throughout the 1910s, her unwavering brand of militancy inspired thousands of women to fight for universal suffrage. Her controversial efforts played a key role in securing passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.



Photo of Jeannette Rankin speaking from the National American Women Suffrage Association, 1917, Library of Congress, Washington DCJeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress. Born near Missoula, Montana in 1880, she worked as a social worker in California and Washington, where she became involved in the women’s suffrage movement. After Montana granted voting rights for women in the state, she successfully ran for Congress in 1916. In the House of Representatives, Rankin played a vital role in the passage of the 19th Amendment.






Photo of Mabel Vernon speaking at Suffrage Rally, Chicago, 1916, from the Library of Congress, Washington DCMabel Vernon was a leader in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. A contemporary and friend of Alice Paul, Vernon was a key member of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage and an active organizer of many strikes and marches in Washington, D.C., and beyond. Along with Paul and Rankin, she helped to secure the passage of the 19th Amendment.  




Episode 2 - Cracking the Ceiling and Breaking the Mold

This episode explores how LaRue McCormick and Helen Gahagan Douglas used electoral politics to advocate for change during the 1930s and 1940s. Like many women, their work focused especially on helping the poor and communities of color.

Photo of LaRue McCormickLaRue McCormick was the longtime Executive Director of the International Labor Defense Fund and a Communist politician. Although she never held an elected office, McCormick ran for both the California State Senate and the Los Angeles School Board in order to challenge the Democratic Party and draw public attention to the issues facing the state’s poor and people of color.







Photo of Helen Gahagan DouglasHelen Gahagan Douglas was one of the first Democratic congresswomen elected from California. A well-known Hollywood actress prior to her 1944 election, Douglas was a tireless agent for change in Washington, D.C. She hired the first African American secretary on Capitol Hill  and pushed for measures that would recognize and honor the service of African American WWII veterans. Her ascending political career came to an end when she lost to Richard Nixon in the now-infamous 1950 U.S. Senate race.





Episode 3 - From the Ground Up

Photo of Frances Mary Albrier, 1960This episode looks at women’s political activities at the community level. For civil rights activist Francis Albrier, community organizing proved extremely important in breaking down racial barriers and advancing civil rights reforms.

Frances Albrier was a civil rights activist and community organizer. Raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, Albrier was influenced by both the famed Tuskegee Institute and her family’s own commitment to education and equality. After graduating from Howard University, Albrier moved to Berkeley, California, where she quickly became an active member of the local political scene. Working largely outside of electoral politics, Albrier fought to ensure that Berkeley schools hired African-American teachers. She also spearheaded the integration of the Kaiser Shipyards during WWII. In the years that followed, Albrier would continue to shape political progress as the first African-American womafn elected to Alameda County’s Democratic Central Committee.


Episode 4 - Breaking Through Multiple Glass Ceilings

Photo of March Fong EuThis episode covers the political ascendance of women of color in sixties-era California. Featuring March Fong Eu, this episode shows how women broke through the dual barriers of race and gender to take their place in state and national politics.

March Fong Eu was a California Assemblywoman and Secretary of State. Born in the back of a Chinese hand laundry in the small town of Oakdale, Fong Eu rose from poverty to become one of the most esteemed female politicians of her generation. In 1966, she successfully ran for the state assembly, joining only one other woman in California’s legislature. She was elected Secretary of State eight years later, becoming the first Asian-American woman in the United States to hold a constitutional office. She would reside in that office for nearly twenty years.  



Episode 5 - Claiming Space in the Party Structure


Photo of Elizabeth Gatov, 1960This episode explores the rise of women advisors in the structure of party politics. As seen through the experiences of Elizabeth Gatov and Patricia Hitt, women increasingly commanded equal footing in campaigns and policy discussions throughout the long sixties era, and eventually earned a seat at a political table traditionally dominated by men.

Elizabeth Gatov was a national committeewoman for the Democratic Party and United States Treasurer. Starting in the 1940s, Gatov became one of the leading female advisors in California, co-chairing a host of statewide campaigns and Democratic committees. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy appointed her U.S. Treasurer. She later returned to California to manage a number of high-profile political campaigns, and in the 1970s, led the national public relations effort for Planned Parenthood.



Photo of Patricia Hitt, 1968Patricia Hitt was a national committeewoman for the Republican Party and Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As one of the preeminent female strategists and advisors in California’s GOP, Hitt headed up the women’s division of the party on both the state and national level. In 1968, she played a key role in Richard Nixon’s successful presidential campaign. The next year, she was appointed Assistant Secretary of HEW, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the Nixon Administration.     

Episode 6 - A New Era 

Photo of Barbara Boxer, September 1, 2016, Coutesy of Peg SkorpinskiThis final episode reflects on the progress women have made in the political arena and the many struggles that still lie ahead. Featuring interviews with Senator Barbara Boxer and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, the finale looks at the role of women in politics toward the end of the twentieth century and explores the possibilities in the twenty-first.

Barbara Boxer has been a U.S. Democratic Senator from California since 1993. From 1983 to 1993, Boxer served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Boxer moved to California in the 1970s, where she served on the Marin Board of County Supervisors for several years. In office, Boxer has fought for stronger environmental measures, healthcare research, and  reproductive rights. She will be retiring from political office in 2017.



Photo of Jane KimJane Kim is the San Francisco Supervisor representing District 6. Since 2011, Jane Kim has advocated for affordable housing, stronger environmental protections, and a higher minimum wage. Before joining the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Kim was president of the San Francisco School Board. She is the city’s first Korean-American elected official and ran for the California State Senate in 2016.







Web Links

Women of Protest Collection at the Library of Congress

Transcript Links

Suffragist Oral History Project

Women in Politics


Alice Paul

Adam, Katherine H. and Michael L. Keen. Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. University of Illinois Press, 2008.

Zahniser, Jill Diane. Alice Paul: Claiming Power. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Jeannette Rankin

Lopach, James J. and Jean A. Luckowski. Jeannette Rankin: A Political WomanUniversity Press of Colorado, 2005.

Smith, Norma. Jeannette Rankin: America’s Conscience. Montana Historical Press, 2002.

Helen Gahagan Douglas

Denton, Sally. The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas. Bloomsbury Press, 2009.

Scobie, Ingrid Winther. Center Stage: Helen Gahagan Douglas, A Life. Oxford University Press, 1992.

Barbara Boxer

Boxer, Barbara. The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life. Hachette Books, 2016. 

Further Reading

Dolan, Julie, Melissa M. Deckman, and Michele L. Swers. Women and Politics: Paths to Power and Political Influence. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016 (third edition).
Jameson, Elizabeth and Susan Armitage, eds. Writing The Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women’s West. University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Kleinberg, S. Jay, Eileen Boris, and Vicki L. Ruiz. The Practice of U.S. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues. Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Krook, Mona Lena and Sarah Childs. Women, Gender, and Politics: A Reader. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Ruiz, Vicki L. and Ellen Carol DuBois. Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History. Routledge, 2000 (third edition).

Scharff, Virginia and Carolyn Brucken. Home Lands: How Women Made the West. University of California Press, 2010.