Iris Moore

Iris Moore (Marian)
Interviewed by Court Tefft
also attended by Patsy Dodd
6/30/07 at Struggle Mountain

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Iris: " I went to Pacific High School from 1964 to 1967 when it was first in the hills. Greg Troll (her partner) went there as well."

When we started out we had a chinchilla coop and some buildings that had been sold to the school for $1.00 a piece from the Redwood City school district, they were temporary school buildings and during the school year we went down and got a VA hospital Quonset hut from the VA in Menlo Park. We went down and tore that apart and put it up at Pacific. We had a shop in the original part where we had the buildings close to the road along the driveway.

That year we were building the caretakers cottage which is the one building that last time I was there was still up.”

Court: “When you were going there you didn’t live there?”

Iris: Nobody except maybe Jim Langworthy lived there. We had a school bus. There were some kids living together in sort of a dorm situation and a few people living at the houses of others. Part of the time Greg lived I think in Los Gatos and various teachers drove to get people up there and some kids drove. Year by year I would see as we came up Woodside Rd. and drove down Skyline the level of the smog rising from the valley.

Court: Remember when there used to be layers of smog? You could differentiate the different colors. There would be a yellow band and then a red band.

Iris: “It didn’t come anywhere near Skyline when we first started coming up in 1964.”

Court: So when you were going to Pacific School what was the curriculum like?

Iris: (Big Laugh) “I was the kid that went to classes: laughs again. “The first year let’s see...I took the Bible as Literature. The only Bible training that I’ve ever gotten. There was a Shakespeare class, Russian Literature… we had Barry Goldenson Allen Strain was our Civics Govt. teacher as well as Math teacher… one of several excellent Math teachers I’ve had in my life. We had shop and Spanish, and French. We had a psychologist who was a weird woman (laughs).

We had building…which I’m totally glad I got because I never got that from my Dad… he shared any building and motor kind of stuff with my brothers but not with me…I was a girl (laughs).

For Civics class we went up to Sacramento and met Alan Cranston and sat in on sessions and went to lobby for something and stayed at the Fairgrounds.”

Court: So you actually got grades?

Iris: “We got evaluations…if anyone was interested you could get a transcript.”

Court: Then you got into Radcliff?

Iris: “Well, my brother went there.”

Court: So this was affirmative action? (laughs)

Iris: “My brother went there so it was not that big of a stretch”

Court: How did you end up at Struggle?

Iris: “After I dropped out…As I was dropping out, trying to think what to do Chris Jones was living at Struggle and I had put my designs on him. He said I could stay in his space. I got a lot of his space when he went off to jail (draft resister) and I was his support person while he was in jail. He was another Pacific Alumni. I drove down to Stafford Arizona once a month to go visit him and got to stay at Struggle Mountain.”

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Court: He was a war resister?

Iris: “He refused to register for the draft and made a court case out of it and got a year sentence and spent 9 months in jail. I lived in what’s now the dining room. One summer I kept a suitcase in the dining room closet and sort of lived in a tree up on a hill here on a platform (laughs). That was in 1970.”

Court: Who was living here at Struggle when you moved in?

Iris: “Joan Baez, Christie, and Robert and the two boys, Rain and Stewart and Tramp and Jeffrey.”

Court: What was happening on a daily basis?

Iris: “At some point Robert made a bar height table and we had bar stool chairs to go with it so we had dinners together, everybody who lived in the big house. Joan didn’t partake in that much. The rest of us would have meals together…cook together…so I learned to cook. When I learned to cook it was for 8 to 12 people, it was really hard to cook for fewer people for a long time. (Laughs) I would make gallons of granola and hummous and stuff.

After a while there were people moving in and around…Kathleen and Michael Vane, Gail and Mecca came.”

Court: Was there any kind of organization? Did you have goals?

Iris: “There were people here sort of before Chris got here. There was kind of a call to….Joan was living up here and there weren’t enough people…it was a little to lonesome when David went off to jail…so people could move up here.”

Court: What was the level of involvement between Joan living here and The Institute for the Study of Nov-Violence?

Iris: “Originally she and David and Christy and Gail were the ones who came up here. The owners were the Ligdas. Well, Mrs. Ligda had been involved in radical stuff way back. A radical community exchange throughout the Bay Area, during the Depression, and an interesting press up here that published Robinson Jeffers' poetry.'”

Court: So the Institute didn’t really meet here?

Iris: “Well, there were people around…names are not going to come easily today (big laugh). Stewart was very involved…he was probably the most involved. Jeffrey and Joan got into singing here and made their album.

Jeffrey Shurtleff didn’t feel good about going around and doing the commercial sales of it…the promotion. They did a few concerts together, one being Woodstock.

Rain and Tramp and Jeffrey would ride…before the coyote bush was down in the pasture there were horses eating the coyote bush down. There was a lot of gardening going around.”

Court: How many people do you think lived here at one time?

Iris “There were maybe 17 at the most.”

Court and Patsy: “Wow”

Iris: “David Chapple was down below in that igloo thing. Bob and Gail Cooney, Sara was here fairly early on. When David was born (Iris’s son) Norma and Neil lived here. Maybe Leah, and Kathleen with Kristen.”

Court: You were instrumental in the purchase of Struggle?

Iris: “Yeah, (somewhat sarcastically) it took us a year of meetings once a week to decide to purchase this place. (20 acres at that time) , for the princely sum of $74,000”

Patsy: “At the same time our Landlord at Black Mountain was trying to get us to purchase Black Mountain (23 acres) for $90,000.”

Iris: “I could have bought some land up here then, but sometimes we can’t see into the future.”

Court: How did the Bylaws come to be? Were they an offshoot of the meetings?

Iris: “They were to decide whether we were going to buy it and how.”

Court: So the Ligdas? Just came to you and said, “Hey you want to buy the place?

Iris : “I think Mildred had died already and Alan was trying to decide what to do. It was a generous offer I think. He had business to take care of. He was patient and gave us the time to decide to do that. In those days rent was a little cheaper than it is now, around $100 a month.”

Court: Tell us about the By-Laws?

Iris: “Tom Unterman was the lawyer who helped us with the first set of Bylaws. It wasn’t a model. I think what lawyers do is call upon the models that they’ve learned and can work out. I can’t remember what if any model he had to go on.

A part of what we talked a lot about… I clearly remember is…whether to make this a land trust. There was the controversy over whether this was something we were going to be able to control or sell. I still wish we had made it a Land Trust back then.”

Court: What exactly would a Land Trust be?

Iris: “My vision of a Land Trust was something that would not be able to go on the market. Tenancy in common so that one person could not say”, “Okay I want my money out…everybody at the house has got to pay me or I want to sell it so therefore I can”

Patsy: “But you did set it up so it’s not like that.”

Iris: “Right but we left out things like what happens when the original owners are no longer around. Sighs, Frank tried to force the sale.”

Patsy: “Yeah, but he didn’t get anywhere because it is protected.”

Iris: “But he sure tried.”

Patsy: “It’s amazing to me that the group came up with such a good plan.”

Iris: “In part it’s held because the people involved, throughout the time, continue to be people with some vision of something other than private ownership. I wish I had a community I was living in. I’m not gonna be moving down here but I wish I had a community I was living in.

I’ve definitely adjusted more to single family life.”

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photo by Neil Cisco (David now) was afraid to get up on the horse, but a graham cracker took care of that

Patsy: “So you might be open to living in community again?”

Iris: “Oh I would but I’m not sure of Greg’s view of the after life while on this plane (laughs) it might be a little cabin in the woods (laughs) long and far away from most things.”

Court: "Maybe I’m wrong but it seems like women are much more social. It seems like a lot of the men I know; as they get older they’re more not so social.”

Iris: (laughs) “There’s a good point…for me I love being in a community where I’m around people, where I don’t have to arrange to be around people. It’s nice to work with other folks on projects.”

Patsy: “You can be pruning your trees and stop and talk to somebody for 10 to 15 minutes and then get back to it.”

Iris: “Right, (laughs) right.

Patsy: “Community is nice, I love it”.


Court: How did you get into midwifery?

Iris: “I was into the women’s self help kind of thing. I started going to a group in Redwood City and then started hanging out with Our Health Clinic in Palo Alto. Winter had Oak and asked me to be one of her midwives. Winter modeled belief in oneself for me, the power to do and be what one believes in. For the birth I was the book learning person and the person who went to Lamaze classes with her. We had a very helpful obstetrician who taught me a lot of stuff to be watching for and of course Sara was there as well.

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(There actually were some interesting books about health for women before this one, but many had awful advice, judgments,and misinformation. One of the "mothers" of the National Women's Health Network, Barbara Seaman, died in Feb 2008. If you are a woman who doesn't know about the Network, I highly recommend you check it out.)


Court: Was Sara a midwife as well?

Iris: “Sara had not been a midwife but she had been to about 60 births in India on an AFFC program working with a couple of midwifes, one of whom was an untouchable. They were very clearly caste conscious – so that led to some very interesting stories that Sara’s got about the births. She got to observe how labor works.

Court: So what’s the state of midwifery at this time in America?

Iris: “Well at this time in Calif. there is a licensed midwife category and medical quality assurance program. There are licensed nurse-midwives also, most of whom deliver at hospitals, like Kaiser and others, but some also do homebirths. I’m not real clear I haven’t been following it that much but midwifery is alive and kicking.”

Court : are home births still happening?

Iris: “Home births are happening. I’m not sure if they're happening on as great a scale as they were.”

Patsy: “Do you still practice?”

Iris: “No I don’t attend births. I work as a nurse in a clinic where we see almost all the Medi-Cal maternity patients in Marin County. Ours is a clinic of midwifes and obstetricians. We do between six and seven hundred births a year. We can see people having home births and a lot of the people having them come to us to have a connection should they need medical help for the birth.

Court: So you’re a registered nurse?

Iris: “I’m a registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife.”

Iris: “There are still some very radical people out there both birthers and midwives. It’s truly astonishing how few people are on the line calling for non-medicated births. It is truly astonishing how many young people put total trust in technology and not in themselves.”

Court : So Cesareans are up and people are doing anesthesia?

Iris: “Yeah”

Court: When our kids were born a lot of women were doing natural childbirths…no anesthesia. What were the reasons for doing it this way?

Iris: “Well in the 70’s there were births going on down at Moffet Field where they still strapped their legs to the bed.”

Patsy: “That’s awful.”

Iris: “When my Mom had me (1949) she begged the doctor not to give her anesthesia. What they used in those days was something that would make you forget what you had been through, although you may experience a lot of pain while on the drug, and it also made my mom nauseated. The doctor went ahead and gave the drug anyway. That way the docs didn't get complaints.. women couldn't remember the labor.
The first person to touch the babies head should be the parent. The baby is coming into a situation in the hospital where it’s going to be colonized with the bacteria of that hospital. The parents should be the very first ones to touch it.

Women don’t have to go through extreme pain if they can get into a comfortable position and if somebody else can help them get there and if they realize the pain is not absolutely necessary. There are times to use the wonderful tools we have (epidural and cesarean, etc.), and times when you don’t need them…far more often you need the support of other people who have been through it and you need the support of knowing that your body works and you need the support of an atmosphere that says…birth is a normal thing.”


Court: “Birth was like a sickness. Your Mom went away for an extended period of time to give birth in the hospital, you visited her and she was kind of sick.”

Iris: “Even more so in the 30’s and 40’s. My mom when she had her first kid was kept in the hospital for 10 days and then the war came and they needed the hospital beds for the soldiers and they suddenly realized women didn’t need to sit in a bed for 10 days.”

Patsy: “In the old days women got to bond with their babies.”

Iris: “Today disability will only pay for 6 weeks for a women after birth unless she’s got something abnormal going on medically. Six weeks and then you're back on the labor force if you need an income."

Court: And what do you do with the baby? Drop him off somewhere?

Iris: “You’re lucky if you’ve got a supportive family where you agree with how they treat your kids or a daycare center that can handle the hours you work or you’re lucky if you have a boss who allows you to pump milk out for the baby. There are a few more protections for families now in employment law, but it's still not a lot of support for a family that doesn't have an extended community.

Court: “I remember when my daughter was born…we lived at Black Mountain and didn’t do a home birth. We did it at El Camino Hospital in Mt. View. We did Lamaze and I wanted to attend the birth which at that point in time was a very odd thing. I was one of the first males that they let into the birth. (1974) They couldn’t understand why I would want to be there…that was a very foreign concept to them.”

Iris: “Did you ever hear Purusha’s story?”

Court: “No”

Iris: “His first kid was born and Dot had read Grantley Dick Read. Dot had wanted to do that and not be drugged. She fought with her doctors to give birth without drugs. They had so many interested people in the room…they had 20 or 30 medical people dropping in to see this strange thing. This woman doing a birth without drugs…and they wouldn’t let Purusha in. You can imagine how furious he was.”

Court: What is the cost for a birth these days? (2007)

Iris: “Hospitals have never been able to tell you what they would charge because you get charged for every box of Kleenex, toothbrush and gauze pad. A birth can easily cost $12,000. We charge 2,500 to 3,000 for our services…prenatal care, but that doesn't include hospital charges.”

Court: Are there are still alternative birth centers?

Iris: “They do exist. They have to exist with a lot of regulations. They have to charge a bunch of money. They have to have supportive obstetricians and hospitals….They have to be close to them to function. There are people who don’t live in a place where they could consider having a baby or people who live in a family where they couldn’t consider saying “I’m having my baby at home.”

Court : Have you seen Sicko?

Patsy: “It just came out last week.”

Iris: “A lot of nurses were hosting premiers of it. The whole idea of health insurance…it was a big step for health insurance to be based on the work place. That was a big step. A long time ago it was a big advance from what there was at that point but the workplace doesn’t work as a base for that now. People change jobs. People have different employers who have different ideas about it or the capacity to support that kind of thing. When you sign a contract with your employer these days you have no guarantee that they are going to maintain whatever exists.”

Court: “You’re also locked into a job…you can’t afford to move. When all the other industrialized nations provide insurance…why can’t we. We pay more get less and provide for fewer people.”

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photo by Neil