Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Malca Chall: Wage Rate Analyst for the War Labor Board, World War II East Bay Community Activist Interviewer/Editor for the Regional Oral History Office, 1967-2000

Interviewee(s):
Chall, Malca
Interviewer(s):
Lage, Ann
Title:
Malca Chall: Wage Rate Analyst for the War Labor Board, World War II East Bay Community Activist Interviewer/Editor for the Regional Oral History Office, 1967-2000
Abstract:
Malca Chall is well known to the Oral History Center (formerly the Regional Oral History Office, ROHO) as a key staff member from 1967 to 2000 and the interviewer for an impressive collection of oft-consulted oral histories, most prominently in the fields of California water policy and California Politics, Law, and Policy. Few of her former colleagues were aware, however, of an earlier chapter in her life, her tenure with the National War Labor Board during World War II. Once we learned of her work as a wage rate analyst in the Seattle area for the War Labor Board, we realized that her story would add a unique perspective to our Rosie the Riveter, World War II American Homefront Project. Recognizing an opportunity to also document some important history of the Regional Oral History Office, where I was her colleague for many years, I offered to record Malca’s wartime experiences as the first topic in a longer oral history encompassing her thirty-three years with ROHO. Only after meeting with Malca to plan her oral history did I realize the importance of also discussing her extensive civic activism in the Hayward area. In many ways, her volunteer activities with the League of Women Voters and other citizen groups, as well as her wartime service, informed her pursuits as an interviewer and project director at ROHO. Malca Kleiner Chall was born in 1920 in Tacoma, Washington, to a family active in Commerce, Industry, and Labor, in civic affairs, and in the Jewish community. The oral history Malca recorded with her father, Morris Kleiner, in 1972 documenting family history, the Model Lumber Company, and his community activities, including his efforts to assist Jewish refugees, is available in the Bancroft Library and the University of Washington library. Malca graduated from Reed College and received a master’s degree in political science at the University of Iowa. In 1943, she accepted an offer from George Bernard Noble, her major professor at Reed who had been appointed head of the War Labor Board, Twelfth Region, to join his staff in Seattle. At age twenty-three, with minimal formal training, she stepped into the ticklish job of analyzing requests for wage increases from both labor and industry, as the WLB sought to dampen inflationary pressures in the midst of critical labor shortages. She visited potato fields, apple orchards, and fisheries, as well as banks, aluminum factories, shipping companies, and other work sites, conducting research and making determinations on acceptable wage rates. In the oral history she also discusses social and political life for a young professional woman in wartime Seattle. An amusing highlight of this topic is her account of a bike trip with a friend and colleague, during which the two young women spent a night in a jail cell, arranged by the police of Everett, Washington, when the friends found themselves without a safe place to stay.
Subject area(s):
Community and Identity
Education and University of California
Politics, Law, and Policy
Interview date(s):
2015
Project:
Rosie The Riveter World War II American Home Front
Rights:
Chall, Malca. "Malca Chall: Wage Rate Analyst for the War Labor Board, World War II East Bay Community Activist Interviewer/Editor for the Regional Oral History Office, 1967-2000." Interview by Ann Lage in 2015. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2017.