Yolanda “Bobby” Hall, 93, of Oak Park, Illinois, died at home in Oak Park on June 19.
Hall, a former Assistant Professor at Rush University, was a lifelong social activist and educator. She helped to shape some of the major social movements of her era: unionism, women’s rights, health justice, and civil and constitutional rights.
Hall developed her political consciousness early on. Her first union activity was at age 12, collecting money for families during the New York taxi drivers strike – a strike made famous by Clifford Odets’ 1935 play, “Waiting for Lefty.”
In 1940 Bobby married Charles “Chuck” Hall, her husband of 64 years until his death in 2005.
During the war, Bobby began working at the Bendix aviation plant as a tool grinder. At Bendix, she was the only woman in the all-male domain of the tool room and at first it was tough going, tools were hidden from her and blueprints were changed.
Over time Hall earned the support and respect of her male co-workers. She organized the first union at her shop and in 1944 was elected president of her 3000-strong union local. Hall, together with fellow activist, Sylvia Woods -- featured in the documentary film Union Maids
-- fought for fair treatment for women and against racism within union ranks.
After WWII, Hall embarked on a career in public health. While her children were young she returned to school for her Master of Science in nutrition from the Illinois Institute of Technology and worked as a research nutritionist for the Chicago Board of Health with noted cardiologist Dr. Jeremiah Stamler and others on the early population studies that linked heart disease to smoking and diet.
In 1965, Hall and Stamler were in the forefront of a fight against the House Un-American Activities Committee after being subpoenaed by the McCarthy-era committee. Hall was a leading plaintiff in a court suit that successfully challenged HUAC’s constitutionality on First Amendment grounds -- an 8-year legal effort that contributed to the demise of this notorious congressional entity.
In 1981, Hall, Dr. Quentin Young and nine others, founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. In 2011, HMPRG created the “Bobby Hall Social Justice Internship” in honor of her lifelong commitment to social justice and the elimination of healthcare inequities.
Hall continued her fight for fairness in the workplace throughout her working life and into retirement. In 1995 she founded the Working Women’s History Project, whose mission was to promote education on the role of women and labor in Chicago’s history. She received their Mother Jones award in 2002.
Daughter Toni recalled, “The fabric of our family was that people stood up for the underdog, that everybody was the same no matter what color their skin … those were the family values … it was part of the air you breathed.”
Hall is survived by her three children, Toni Henle, Nancy Hall Brooks and Charles E. Hall, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in the future. For details please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
In lieu of flowers, contributions in honor of Bobby Hall may be sent to: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, 29 E. Madison, Suite 602, Chicago, IL 60602-4404 or to: Working Women’s History Project, 5124 S. Kenwood Ave., Chicago, IL 60215.