Susan Eisenberg


  • Occupational segregation, poetry, politically engaged art, mixed media installation, gender equity in the construction industry


Susan EisenbergSusan Eisenberg is a poet, oral historian, visual artist and policy analyst who was among the first women in the country to become a licensed journey-level electrician in union construction. The shifting vantage point of history and position, and conversation across generations — including to oneself — are recurring investigations in her nonfiction and poetry.

A retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), she was in the first graduating apprenticeship class of IBEW 103 to include women. Eisenberg has researched, framed, conveyed and advanced issues of tradeswomen for more than four decades, providing a window on discrimination and exclusion in historically male occupations. Her writing, talks and art bring the voices and concerns of grassroots tradeswomen to the ears of government and industry gatekeepers. Her nonfiction New York Times Notable Book, "We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction," with a new preface (2018), reissued from the original (1998), was optioned for a feature film (unproduced) by MGM.

Introduced to the craft of poetry by Denise Levertov, her essay about that friendship and mentorship is included in "Denise Levertov, In Company" (South Carolina, 2018). She holds the first BA in Women's Studies from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Poetry from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Author of five poetry collections, "Stanley's Girl" (2018), "Perpetual Care" (2016), "Blind Spot" (2006), "Pioneering" (1998), and "It's a Good Thing I'm Not Macho" (1984), she has been awarded three writing fellowships at Hedgebrook.

A Resident Scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, she was chosen as the 2016-17 Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist at the University of Michigan's Center for the Education of Women. She is poetry editor of the quarterly journal, "Labor: Studies in Working Class History" (Duke).

The On Equal Terms Project, directed by Eisenberg, has been an affiliated program of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center since 2007. Through publications, presentations and artwork, the project aims to invigorate and deepen conversations about the full and fair inclusion of women in occupations from which they have historically been excluded, asking what it would mean for an industry to fully implement Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Drawing on research, art, personal testimony and humor, the project invites conversation on the redesign needed to achieve career pathways and workplaces that treat all workers on equal terms.

Visual projects have included photography, mixed media art installations and an interactive digital exhibition. Published on an independently hosted website, the 12 rooms of "On Equal Terms: Gender & Solidarity" continue to be developed with additional content.

In 2019, the AFL-CIO honored Eisenberg with an award noting that she "captures in her work the grave injustices and incredible solidarity that define the experiences of many tradeswomen. Her art reminds us of our shared responsibility to build equal opportunities throughout the labor movement." In 2022, she was honored as a Trailblazer at the Women Build Boston Conference sponsored by the Greater Boston Building Trades Council. Projects have received support from Mass Humanities, the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund, the University of Michigan's Center for the Education of Women, Berger-Marks Foundation, the WSRC's SSP Program, the IBEW, the Ironworkers, CLUW, the AFL-CIO and generous individual donors.

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