S CHRONICLER : Anita Spring
INTERVIEWER : Meredith (Penny) Rucks
DATE : 1/17 and 1/18/99
TAPE : 10
SUBJECT : Washoe Ethnographers
TRANSCRIBER : Linda Sommer
AUDIT-EDITOR : Penny Rucks
Meredith (Penny) Rucks: OK.
Anita Spring: Both the men and the women are fashion-
conscious and fashion-driven, I would say. And so anyway, I had
very few things with me. So the first thing I tried to do was to
find a place to, you know, have my hair fixed. After all, I'd
been in a developing country [laughter] and had spent twenty-four
hours at the Lusaka airport and, you know....
R: Oh, yes.
S: I... you know. So they... I found a place; they did a
nice job--no problem. And I was wearing these very high heels; I
was all dressed up. I was carrying a very heavy briefcase filled
with my books and publications and some Xeroxed stuff that I had
copied about the organization. I mean, it was really quite a
heavy briefcase. And I tripped.., my heel caught in the carpet,
and I tripped, going down the stairs, and fell down a half or
more flight of stairs the evening before my first interview at
FAO. And here I am in Italy--I don't know anybody; I'm staying at
this hotel. I pick myself up; I can't walk.
S: My hair is finished nicely. I look good. I'm all
dressed up. I've got high heels, I've got a broken heel on one of
the shoes and the heavy briefcase, and I can't walk.
S: You know, and I'm in deep pain. I've just fallen down a
flight of steps. [sighs] Well, I... a kind person who came by
helped me get up and got me to some hospital where they did some
X ray, and I was able to get to some kind of pharmacy where I got
a Dr. Scholl kind of...
R: Oh my god...
S: ... hard-based sandal...
S: ... to walk! [laughter] And, I mean, it was a terrible
exercise at the hospital, you know, not knowing the language or
what they were doing, their procedures, and so forth, and not
knowing anybody. All I could do was get a cab from place A to B,
you know, and somebody actually helped me get there, which is...
S: ... really rather extraordinary. Anyway, I called...
and the X ray said that it was not broken.
S: Well, in fact, subsequently it was re-X-rayed; it had
been broken in three places. But I called the next morning, and I
explained the situation that I could hardly walk, and I didn't
know what they had prepared for me in terms of the interview, but
was it possible for me to be in one place, and then maybe people
could come and interview? I knew that was probably not the
S: Lo and behold, they agreed to it, and I was actually
put in a room, and people came and interviewed me.
R: Right. Right.
S: And, you know, I just did a smashing job of those... of
S: And I went ba... I interviewed there for, I don't know,
two or three days. I met the director general. I had to walk into
his office. He did not come direct to me. I remember it took me
about fifteen minutes to walk from--it was huge office--from the
entryway to his office, from his office, the entry of his office
or the entrance of his office, to his desk.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: It was really far!
R: And it was probably that big. [laughter]
S: Yes. He... it was really far away! I mean, it was a
huge, a huge...it was like half a city block office.
S: And it took about fifteen minutes to come [laughter] in
that condition to where he was.
Anyway, I went home in a wheelchair, and when I got to my
house, there was a telegram wedged in my front door offering me
Now, I know how remarkable that is, having.., yes, after
working at FAO, where we strung people out for weeks, months,
years in terms of hires. It really was quite remarkable. And, of
course, I didn't know it at the time. I was...
R: At the time, right.
S: ... really elated, because I thought, "Wow, this would
S: Yes, fabulously, wildly interesting....
R: So did you have... during the interview did you have a
chance to get your questions answered, too, about how the
organization worked? I mean...
S: Oh, well, they would have been totally usefless,
pointless questions and answers at that point; it was such a
S: But, yes, I'm sure I got to ask all kinds of things.
But I really was able to sell them a bill of goods
programmatically, because I read stuff about the service, and I
read stuff about the organization. I was totally up on the
subject. And I just sort of said, "Well, I think you need to do
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And, you know, it was really very accurate for what
they needed to do. And so they hired me on the spot. And then I
went back to Italy in July, before I was at....
R: Once you got that job offer, was there any question in
your mind that you would not do that and go to Oxford? I mean,
this was clear that this was like the opportunity of a lifetime.
S: Oh. This is... I mean, this was the opportunity of a
lifetime. I mean, I said I was in... I disdained agriculture; I
planted that land that the women gave me. You know. I pooh-poohed
it. I did... wrote the, you know, the light-bulb-going-off paper
in 1979. I then went on to Cameroon, did the agricultural
university design. Then I did the famous Malawi project and then
was on all the OTA panels and then did those other, you know,
smaller consultancies on...
S: ... in those various countries. This was like the head
guru of women in agriculture for the world!
R: Right. Right. There's no way you're not doing this.
S: There's no way I was not doing this.
R: Yes. And I also wanted to make it clear that this was
potentially a permanent...
S: Yes, it was.
R: ... appointment.
S: In fact, they moved all my stuff to Italy, in all
probably fifteen thousand pounds and books and.... [laughter]
R: What did you do with your appointment at the
university? How did you handle that?
S: Well, I took a leave of absence a year at a time. And
usually the university... universities, but certainly the
University of Florida, just allow year, maybe max two.
S: But I had no idea whether I was going to stay and/or
how I was going to find it.
S: And I took a one-year leave.
R: What was your biggest question, was whether you could
fit into the organization or vice versa or whether you'd like
R: ... or a multitude?
S: It's a long story. It's a... you know, could I give up
a tenured post?
S: You know, was I going to be happy outside the
university? Did I want to live...?
R: So you still had strong affinity to academia.
S: Yes. Did I want to, you know, live overseas for the
rest of my life?
S: I mean there were a lot of questions.
S: And my personal situation at the time was...
S: ... unsettled. So there were a lot of things.
S: But anyway, I was particularly lucky, and I suspect it
would not have happened if I hadn't been in an administrative
post at the University of Florida, because I don't think they're
in the habit of just giving, you know, standard, regular faculty
members extended leaves of absence.
R: That kind of leeway....
S: Yes. But as an associate dean of the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences, which is like half the University of Florida,
you know, I was.... I... first of all, I knew who the people were
that I was negotiating with. [laughter]
R: Right. Right. Right.
S: As an ordinary faculty member... like I am now, I don't
even remember who's up there. You know, like I don't concern
myself that I'm not buddy-buddy and....
S: But I knew the people; they knew me. You know, we were
all people who, you know, stepped down from administrative posts,
were on gold... you know, had golden parachutes.
S: They had offered me a full-year salary, which would
have, you know... while I was a fellow at Oxford, these place...
Oxford. You know, you bring your own money and everything...
S: ... on these fellow things.
R: Right. Right.
S: I mean, they give you space and the prestige and da-da-
R: Right. Right. Yes.
S: ... but they're not in the habit of paying for you.
S: You know. So I had the money.
S: And I said, "I'll...," you know, "I won't take the
money, but give me the leave, and then...," you know. So then
they So they save the year salary,...
S: ... and then I asked for two years. Then when I came, I
said, "Well, you know, this is a senior post; it's diplomatic
rank; you don't have other faculty members who are invited to do
these things very frequently." You know,...
S: ... I mean, they're one or two here and there. There
was one other person for another agency at another time period.
And, you know, because I knew the people, and I'd turned... I
hadn't taken the year's salary money....
S: Yes. So I actually got three years. But I kind of
divvied the year at a time. If I had asked for three years at the
S: ... first of all, I had no idea I wanted to stay three
years, even... yes. Even if I had asked for two years at the
beginning, it might have been dicey.
R: Did you have a minimum... I mean, was there some kind
of contractual arrangement that you would ?
S: With FAO they would have not shipped the things back.
They would have.... I think I had to stay there two years, and
then there was another... I think it had to be, oh, two years or
R: Right. Right.
S: ... before... and then three years before they would do
one other very big thing. So... and then they wanted me to stay,
and then I chose to come back for personal reasons. But I got to
really do an amazing set of tasks.
S: Just amazing set of tasks. I got to plan and put into
effect their entire plan of action for women in development,
which would affect the whole service, the whole, you know,
programmatic efforts that they had on women in agriculture, and
to really change and build that unit from one that had... you
know, it was just moving out of, you know, just the very basic
notion of food production, women in food production.
S: In fact, parts of it was call... you know, were called
women in food production. And it hadn't been too long before
that, that it had been home economics.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So that was kind of an evolution that was taking place
on a worldwide basis, but at the country level and in the
agencies, that these home economics units, which, by the way, at
FAO had been created in 1949, by the end of the 1970s were moving
toward at least focusing on women in food systems as producers,
and then as the 1980s came in, really focusing on women in
agriculture. So, in fact, that... the name of it actually
S: ... while I was there.
S: You know, it had been women in food systems, and then
it really became women in agricultural production and rural
development. And always have to... [laughter]...it took so long.
Anyway, I got to pick all the priorities and programmatic
efforts to go along with the plan of action for women in
development, women in agriculture. And I picked seven of them.
This was worked out in conjunction with, you know, quite a number
of people. But essentially, they were my programmatic ideas. And
they were both somewhat shocking and yet accepted by people in
the organization. And they did some modification of them, and....
[tape recorder off, then on]
S: OK. So let me tell you a little bit about the seven
priorities, because I think it'll sort of bring to a culmination
some of these other things that I've been talking about,...
S: ... because I really got to put a lot of this stuff
into practice, and the work through all these fieldwork
experiences, you know, obviously building since the Washoe,...
S: ... were really, you know, coming to a climax in these
priorities and why I thought a whole major organization could
actually be re... you know, could... we could use these
priorities to kind benefit the program and that they would make
sense, not only for the agency and what it did internally, but
that it would be accepted by the member governments, because this
program and had to be voted on and agreed upon by 157-member...
S: ... governments. So here they are:
FAO staff training on women and development. Well, what does
that mean? I had to create a program, a training program, that
would teach or train the predominantly male--and I say
predominantly 90 percent plus--...
S: ... male staff of the organization in gender analysis.
Now, I told you who the people were. They'd been former, you
know, ministers of agriculture, heads of research stations--you
know, the most technical technical. Many of them were very, very
international, multilingual, very sophisticated people--certainly
not interested in women in development.
S: And many of them were production people, and....
R: Right. Right.
S: You know, I told you the social science production
R: Versus the commodities....
S: No. No. The social science versus the natural science
R: Oh, oh. Yes.
S: The other was the commodity versus the farming systems.
That's a different group.
R: Different dichotomy.
S: Different dichotomy, different battle. So to put
together that training program. And by the way, by the time I
ended my tenure at FAO, over seven hundred of the senior staff of
the organization had attended these training courses. Each course
had no more than twenty-five people.
S: We had designed and developed them in English, French,
and Spanish. We had developed individual case studies, sectorial
case studies. The program became a model for the World Bank in
UNDP. It also then was R.A....
R: What is UNDP?
S: United Nations Development Program.
S: It also then was used in countries themselves, and it
was actually the largest training program FAO had ever done for
its staff. So I started out with that prior.., one of... that was
one of the main priorities, because I figured that, you know,
unless people really had the tools and skills and the knowledge
to look at the subject, they would never be able find it of any
use or to take it seriously. The subject of women in development,
I have always maintained, is a dreadful one. It's very hard.
People just don't get it.
S: And people make fun of it, and they think of it in a
derogatory manner. Or they think they know it. So here's what I
always used to say to someone: "You went out to dinner; you got
the check; you paid the bill; you added it up; you calculated the
tip. [laughter] You use some mathematical, arithmetic skills that
you picked up along the way to do that. But you have no
pretensions of being a mathematician, do you?"
S: But all these mean-- "Well, yes, you have a mother,
and, yes, you may have a wife, and maybe you have some daughters.
And all of a sudden you're an expert on women in development."
S: You know?
S: People thought that it was a nontechnical subject, that
just because they talked to their secretary or something, that
they knew something about the subject. [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: You know, just amazing. So, you know, they... it was a
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So that's why I say it's a very, very difficult
subject. And there's a... this... you know, it's a discipline
that really started in academe in about 1970...
S: ... with the publish... that publication of Ester
Boserup's-book--I think we talked about this earlier--Women's
Role in Economic Development,...
S: ... and then really took off as a scholarly endeavor
not only in the United States but really on a worldwide basis.
S: But many people just didn't know about it.
S: OK. And nor did they know how to analyze data and to
analyze what they were doing in terms of the effects on women, as
well as on men. So this whole methodology of gender analysis
training, in which you looked at... look at access benefits and
control. Who has access, let's say, to land? Who has access to
getting credit? Who has access to the technical inputs, whether
they be fertilizer or knowledge...
S: ... of how to grow something...
R: Right. Right.
S: ... or produce something or market something? So that's
the access part. Who... you might have access to land, but do you
actually control it?
S: You might have access to land, but do you actually
S: You might have access and control, but are you going to
get the benefits from it?
S: OK. So this became a methodology; it actually grew out
of the Harvard Business School in terms of case studies. And I
didn't invent it. There's a whole group from Harvard who put this
together. But it was making the rounds everywhere. And we were
all, you know, steeped in that tradition that you could do gender
analysis training. We have done some at the University of Florida
in the women in agriculture program, so I was quite familiar with
it. And it was absolutely critical that the FAO go through a
gender analysis training program. It was one of the hardest
programs to create.
S: I brought in three pilot teams to try to figure out how
to do it for the agency. Well, I didn't know I was going to bring
in three pilot teams. I started out with a woman named Caroline
Moser [sp?] and her colleague Karen Leavey [sp?], who-had done
the training for British OTA, Office of Technology Assistance,
and the Swedish development group, SIDA S-I-D-A.
S: And she had this notion of a generic way of doing
gender analysis training. She and... I wanted a very sympathetic
crowd; I wanted social scientists. She said, "No, no. We can
handle production scientists."
I said, "I bet can't."
"Yes. Yes. How could you criticize?" And she made a mess of
it. She thought she had done a wonderful job,...
S: ... because people were polite. People at FAO were
terribly polite. To... their... I mean, you know,
S: A lot of these people were of diplomatic rank. I was a
S: You know. What we were... you know. The way business
was conducted was in this very, you know, grown-up and diplomatic
way, but, you know, you could still...
S: ... criticize and stab people in the back at other
R: Right. Right. And completely undermine....
S: And undermine, yes. Well, that's... her workshop set me
back six months. I had to do damage control. I had to go around
practically person by person and unit by unit and say, "Oh, that
was just our first attempt. Well, we understand that it was not
particularly well received, and we're going to, you know,
[laughter]... try something else, and, you know, we hope you'll
participate and help evaluate along with us, these new
R: Yes. Yes.
S: OK. Et cetera, et cetera. I mean, six months it took me
to clean up from that woman. She just was a disaster, and yet she
thought she just did a brilliant job, because people were very
cordial and you know. And they were cordial.
R: Was this like an awareness training or also
methodolo... methods for...?
S: It was mostly awareness.
S: There was some feminist stuff. She, unfortunately in
her style, talks very quickly and, you know, doesn't breathe
S: You know what I'm talking about. Just goes on and on
and on. And that was not well... really well received. And then
the methodology itself was too generic and not enough, you know,
real techniques and too conceptual... you know, feminist
conceptual. I'm not in disagreement with any of the content
whatsoever, but for that audience it was irritating to them.
S: And, of course, that's wrong. I mean, they... you know,
but that's how it was perceived.
R: Right. Right.
S: So that didn't work, and by the time I got permission
and got it organized for the next round, a good six months had...
you know, by the time I did all the cleanup, a good six months
had slipped by. And the next team were some of my American
colleagues, people I knew very well, people who had been
involve... one woman who had been involved, or at least partially
involved, in the women and agriculture program....
R: Did you have pretty much free reign as to who to
S: Oh, you bet.
S: Oh, you bet.
S: Yes. Now, these all had to be approved and everything
but, you know, with proper justifications and so forth. And I
could pick from anywhere. You pick up the phone; you can get
anybody on the planet. You know,[laughter] it is really quite
amazing, you know. I mean you have that possibility of tapping
anybody. They can refuse, or they're busy, but you go on to the
S: So I brought in a team from the United States with
connections at the University of Florida. And I knew the work
they had done, and they had developed these case studies and so
forth. And they gave that session, and the case studies proved
too academic. And I also had one man and one woman as my
trainers. I had a male trainer.The first two were both women.
R: You mean by too academic, they weren't practical enough
or applied enough or...?
S: They weren't applied enough.
R: All right.
S: It's not a question of practicality; it's a question of
level of analysis... methodology, approach to a problem. I mean,
I know this sounds trite, but the agencies don't take an aca...
an ivory-tower approach of looking at something from a distance.
They are actually in the business of carrying out projects, of
executing projects, and...
S: ... and whether they do a good or bad job, they're real
projects. They're not...
S: They're not studying the projects. They're doing the
S: And that's what I mean. There's a big difference.
S: So that was not well received, although there was not
much cleanup. It just that it didn't work.
R: Right. Right.
Then I made a trip to the Netherlands as a guest of the
Dutch government. And I went through all their training
institutes, especially one at the World Tropical Institute and at
Vaganen[sp?] University--that one, too. And then there was
Anita Spring 10-24
another set, as I recall, because they did a lot of training, and
maybe there was a possibility of having those people act as
trainers. And then they came, including one of the min... not the
minister of agriculture, there was a Dutch team from the
Netherlands. They came to FAO and sort of did a needs analysis,
and they made suggestions about what they might do in terms of
training. And it was awful. It was just awful!
S: You know? It just didn't fly.
Then I had heard that the Canadians were quite good, and
then... so I hired a Canadian team. And I do recall that, you
R: Now. when you say it was awful, are you saying that you
knew... that you could anticipate it just was not going to be
effective, in that context?
S: Their report was awful.
S: They just didn't... it was not on target.
S: It was not going to be adequate for the organization.
Their methodologies, their... you know. And there was this whole
controversy about whether we would have trainers who would come
in from the outside or whether we would try to grow our own,...
S: ... whether the... we would have the funding to pay to
send people places....
R: Right. I see. So how that was actually going to happen.
S: Yes. I mean, there were a.lot of things. Not only the
content and the methodology, but the people, the personnel, the
placements, the venue, the logistics.... I mean, the payment....
R: And these consultants that you'd have come in were to
have done all of that or to have all that?
S: Well, they were try... they were supposed to come up
with the recommendations for... based on the need, first of all.
S: What are the needs?
S: And then what are the recommendations for solving the
problem and fulfilling those needs?
S: OK. And two of the people who came were actual trainers
at institutions in the Netherlands.
R: Right. Right.
S: And nobody liked them, you know, much in was in the FAO
context. They continued to be trainers, and I understand very
successful ones, in the Netherlands, but they, you know the whole
thing didn't jive or jell with what FAO's needs really were...
S: ... or desires and so forth.
R: Now, would this training eventually have not only been
for the Rome-based office, but also all these field...
R: ... as well. OK.
R: Which is a truly programmatic, huge....
R: All right.
S: With the goal that they would also then get to the
project level in-country and get to the agricultural sector
within the country, which we actually managed to do eventually.
S: But anyway, to make a long story short, I brought in
S: They were well received--a man and a woman--well
received in terms of their methodology that they used, but the
content was not appropriate for FAO. So after all of this--and I
had one other needs assessment, which I won't go into this
chapter and verse--after all of this, I just said, "Wait a
minute. Time to rethink the entire thing."
S: "We're going to have to have... I think it's best if we
have.., if we grow our own trainers here, if we develop cases
based on what people at FAO are doing,...
S: ... if we start with what is on people's desks...
S: ... and work outward...." And, of course, that goes
right backward to the Malawi...
R: Yes, it does.
S: ... exercise, in which we went to everybody's office,
found out what they were doing,...
S: ... and then tried to genderize what they were doing.
S: But I had started at FAO with these other highfalutin,
you know, "bring in the experts."
S: And they had just made a mess of it.
R: Well, and also, bring in... isn't... was there some...
is there some aspect of that, too, is you are making an effort to
plumb this international field of experts...
S: Oh, absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
R: ... you know, spread the....
S: Yes. Absolutely.
S: And anyway, I... we found this woman who was living in
Rome, and she became one of my lead trainers. I'd asked the
Canadian woman who had done so well in the methodology if she
would do a training of training sessions.
S: And I had several local....
R: You mean, trainer...
R: ... training of trainers.
S: ... training of trainers...
S: ... session. And I had several people, including Vickie
Wild[sp?], who were participants in this to sort of transfer the
methodology. And then I hired consultants and people to write
R: Ah... on FAO?
S: ... on FAO real project documents. And many of the
cases actually used the actual project document but, you know,
provided an addition, which is usually not the case for, you
S: [Such as] background material or contextual materials
or working outlines or, you know, worksheets...
S: ... of how to work through things.
S: And, of course, they had worksheets on access benefits
and control for the various aspects of the project to be
genderized. What did women do? What did men do? Who had...
S: ... access to it? Who had control of it? Who
benefitted...? You know, all those kinds of things-- crop by
crop, task by task, policy by policy,... [laughter] whatever it
S: Anyway, to make a long story short, it... that
methodology did work very well. We created a pool of trainers; I
was very, very keen. They're all kinds of ups and downs; there's
a publication on this and... that we have--several of them--that
describes the lessons learned and the successes and the failures
and so forth. But we managed to develop a repertoire of about ten
cases, you know, that cover different sectors--forestry,
fisheries, livestock production, policy, ag policy, et cetera, as
well as, the, you know, very standard projects. And all kinds of
worksheets and all kinds of procedures and all kinds of small
group interaction and the use of facilitators, people who'd been
through the workshop before or knowledgeable people about women
in development... or on women in development who could help
facilitate discussions. We started off, you know, all from the
small group stuff. You elect a leader or rapporteur or a chair or
this and that. People spend so much time on that!
S: But if you have it already selected when you go in your
small groups, they just get on with the topic. So, you know, I
had all kinds of techniques to sort of facilitate these things.
And, of course, we wanted to, in addition to headquarters, do the
regional offices. So the first round was in Latin America, and we
had the material in Spanish and did the workshops in the regional
office, which was located in Chile... Santiago, Chile. And then
had one... a series of them in west Africa. And I had the idea,
of course, to send people there first to find out the lay of the
land, to design the case studies, because I...
S: ... I'd been burned at headquarters, and I didn't want
to, you know, [laughter] go through that in the field. And we did
the... in Asia and a Middle Eastern one. It was close enough to
Rome, so we did it there, but we also did some in Cairo. So they
got done in three languages--French, English, and Spanish. I had
hoped for Arabic, but they said most of the Arabic speakers in
the organization spoke French or English,...
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... and it wasn't necessary and added expense. And I
also, in order to make the thing work, took the same model from
Malawi, from the Malawi work, knowing that FAO was an extremely
Anita Spring 10-32
strongly organized, hierarchical organization, that people only
did things if someone higher than they told them to do it.
S: So I made... I had the director general issue a mandate
that everybody had to do this, because at the beginning I was
getting, you know, junior females who they could happen to send
and, you know, this and that.
S: So it was really, really important to do that. And
eventually, there were workshops done in the country... the
project staff, government staff, and so forth. The first one was
in Honduras. The president of Honduras had come to FAO with his
wife. It turned out that his sister had been one of my students
at the University of Florida; she'd gotten a master's degree. So
I had this wonderful kind of entree... [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... with that group and used that as one of the first
cases. I figured it didn't help... I mean, it didn't hurt to have
that kind of help...
S: ... from those senior...
So that was one of your case studies or one of your
That was one of the... that was the first in-country
course. We had done all the offices....
You'd done the field offices....
The headquarters and field offices... now, this is
The first country-specific.
OK. Got it.
And then I left after that, and they had to continue in
te arenas. But anyway, that was the training program.
And anyway, there's lots of stories on that one,
There's even a... I had a video made. Italian film crew,
S: [laughter] ...we're in Italy, which I show in my
classes from time to time. I'm even in it. And it shows how the
training program was put together and who took it and what it
accomplished and why.
S: It's amazing what you can do.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: OK. That was the first priority. The second priority
was policy advice to member governments. Now, it was under the
policy advice to member governments that I tried to accomplish
that coordinating project.in Jamaica, which I described earlier.
R: Ah. Yes. Yes.
S: And, see, this had already... all... these priorities
had already been put forth in a plan of action, a very formal,
you know, plan of action that, you know, chapter and verse.
S: You know, what are the conditions that women find
themselves in? In fact, it was divided into the civil or legal
aspects concerning women, the economic aspects that women were
involved in, all the social considerations, and the decision
making and leadership. So those... sort of four major rubrics.
But then the program priorities, in which only seven were
specified, and this was actually... I had to present it to all
the member governments of FAO, and they approved it with some....
You know, there were some give and take and queries and so forth.
So policy advice to member governments was an approved priority.
S: And so the idea was to try to find ways to
operationalize that. And, I mean, when I say "policy advice to
member governments," let's think back to the Malawi situation, in
which I was advising them, "Disaggregate your data; have a credit
program in which...
S: ... your actual staff can work with women farmers and
create the mechanisms. Put it in your five-year development plan.
Switch from, you know, teaching women how to grow a few
vegetables or raise a few chickens to some really concrete stuff,
since they're out there growing maize every day."
S: "Give them channels for marketing, et cetera, et
S: That's what I had in mind with policy advice to member
government. [laughter]. You know, "Change from the making-school-
lunches type of projects that you're asking for. Don't ask us for
chicken-wings-type projects or drumsticks-around-the-world-type
S: ... when, in fact, you know, we would like something
more comprehensive. "Think comprehensively." And we managed to do
a number of them in some very unusual places.
S: Like Tunisia was very good. You know, it's just kind of
amazing that some of the places you wouldn't think would... we
were able to sort of get in at the... at that level.
S: Policy advice. Number... priority number three: the
reorientation of home economics and agricultural curricu....
S: I mean, that has been a pet peeve of mine forever, you
You must have been relieved it was in the plan.
No! I made... I wrote it!
Oh, you wrote the plan?
Oh, OK. I thought you had been giv... this was approved
when you got there,....
Well, no. They approved the notion of doing it.
S: They had people work on parts of the original plan, but
all the priorities and implementation of the plan, I had to do.
R: All right. So this is... this really is your....
S: So these were my priorities.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So, my goodness, here I was, m-m-m!
S: Did that click off?
S: OK. I was able to send out consultants and my officers
to different countries, and they were there working in these
countries with the home economics units,...
R: Oh, my.
S: ... coming from FAO, and helping to redesign the
curriculum and tried to... moved it along,...moved those
curricula along to focus on, you know, a little bit more with it
things than the standard stuff. That was a great joy.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I had this one consultant who was particularly good,
and they were... there are a number of publications describing
it. He had great success in an unusual, unusual countries. India,
Sudan are two that I can remember right off the bat.
Anita Spring 10-38
S: But the one in India was... that was a coup. That was
S: Yes. So that was the third. The fourth was project
development and monitoring. So the project in Egypt that went
from school lunches to, you know, agronomic knowledge and
practice for women. The... I don't know; I had fifty projects in
different places. And they were all... I was fine-tuning all of
them to sort of be a little bit more focused on all the kinds of
things I had already do in Malawi and other things that were
appropriate for the local area, like, they had a pro... the
project in Honduras, for example, was focused on washing
machines. I have a hard time conceptualizing this myself.
S: Yes, with the thought if they gave them washing
machines, they'd have more time to....
S: You know, and it's not untrue. It's just that it, you
know... I can't imagine, you know, giving rural men golf carts or
Anita Spring 10-39
S: ... and not teaching them a little bit about
production. I don't know; I mean, it was just so bizarre,...
S: ... some of those projects. So any of the... they all
had to be reoriented to the subject matter,... [laughter]
S: ... number one. Number two, this idea about monitoring,
coming up with variables and indicators that were [laughter]
appropriate to, you know, the subject. And I did actually spend a
lot of time trying to put through a monitoring system, an
evaluation system, for all of FAO's projects. And actually, my
goal, even though I had something like fifty projects that I was
in charge of in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East,
FAO at any one time had about twenty-five hundred...
S: ... projects going.
S: And so we said we took a two-pronged approach: the
women-specific or women-only projects were places where we were
testing things or trying things or demonstrating things, or where
governments were not yet ready to move into integrated projects.
OK. But the goal was to sort of make inroads into that larger
portfolio, similar to the mainstream credit thing that I had done
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So that women would be part of credit takers, just as
men would be part of, you.know, the clientele of credit takers.
S: So that was really the goal, was to get that larger
body of projects genderized and... or at least....
R: Did you... at this point did you have time to kind of
review some of those... the other projects that weren't specific
to women in development?
S: Oh. Well, for one thing we were... we'd used them in
the case studies.
R: Ah, of course.
S: And the thing is, there were only, you know, ten or
twelve that became real case studies, but you could imagine that
the consultants who were writing the case studies were scouring
the FAO projects to find ones that would make good studies. So,
you know, they were going through a lot of stuff; I was going
through stuff. I was seeing... I had to sign off on all kinds of
projects, so I saw a huge number of projects.
R: So they did have you sign off on....
S: And I had a staff....
R: They did have you sign off on...
R: ... other projects?
R: Yes. Yes.
S: On little bits and pieces of them. Sometimes. And I had
a staff, and I was building up my staff and hiring people, and,
you know, they would give me feedback. So that worked very well.
But I tried to put together an entire system. In fact, it went
through fifteen drafts. And I thought I had sold it to the
organization. I had this published in an evaluation journal, and
I use it in my classes. And it distinguishes between
beneficiaries and recipients and participants in projects. It was
a whole numerical system for measuring whether projects addressed
gender issues, whether women were actually part of project...
S: ... participants or beneficiaries and the project
personnel, if women were involved. So it was a whole numerical
system, and all these categories explained. It never got formally
accepted by FAO. I was just at the brink.
S: Just at the brink. Almost got it through.
S: The fifth priority was the preparation of manuals and
guidelines to promote women and development.
End of Side 1, Beginning of Side 2
S: You know, the brilliant minds on women and development,
I hired an awful lot of them to write papers. And I must say,
some of them were terrible.
S: Had to rewrite them.... I mean, they just... you know,
it was... the agency perspective is really different. People want
to know, not this reference and that reference, but what it means
and how you operationalize it, and what are the real data in a
place, and how that relates and what the agency should do,
what... and what perspective it should take with governments and
so forth. And a lot of people don't know how to write'stuff like
S: They're really not on target.
OK. The sixth priority was population education with special
reference to women and development. And FAO had a whole portfolio
of projects that were funded by UNFPA, the UN agency for
population. And so... but FAO could not do any kind of
contraceptive or family planning itself. It could only do
agriculture- and education-type activities. Only WHO, for
example, or UNFPA could actually do... you know, give out condoms
R: Right. Right.
S: ... any of that stuff.
S: But the thing turns on the following principle: women
who know how to make decisions and who can make decisions also
make decisions about their reproduction.
S: And women who are not able to make decisions don't even
have a possibility of making decisions about the reproduction.
S: So very young women under the thumb of their husbands
and mothers-in-law with no economic wherewithal, with no
participation in the... anything outside the household are not
likely to be able to control their fertility very well. [laugher]
S: But women who have their own economic wherewithal, have
been given leadership skills, you know, they are in a better
position. So these were projects of that nature. I remember we
had about three in China, couple in... you know, one in Uganda, I
remember.... You know, there were different places around the
world that were funded, and the... they turned on the notion that
you would increase women's economic prowess and also give them
technical skills. And they could include population education.
S: They did not include, you know, family planning
R: Right. Right.
S: But we saw that as a very important priority and it fit
right into stuff we were doing, so that sort of stayed in there.
S: The final one was data collection, research studies,
communication, and public information. And, of course, the data
collection and the gender disaggregation of data was a very old
theme for me, based on the Malawi work.
S: And... but I did take it, I think, to some new heights
at FAO. For example, I had the idea that it might take twenty-
five to fifty years, but that if we started, this would be
something that might come into effect on the planet, and that was
getting people.....Oh, FAO is a repository for all major
statistics on agriculture on a country-by-country basis. And if
they were to disaggregate their data...
S: ... and get countries to collect the data and look at
it at various levels and disaggregate and so forth and so on,
this would really be changing the way the world's data on
agriculture would be collected. So I had a.... [laughter]
R: Yes. Pretty big plan...
S: Pretty big plan there.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So I had various consultants write papers and
documents. Some of them are printed or published. Others are
all... were all printed for conferences.
S: And worked with the very hard-core statistical unit of
FAO,... [laughter], you know, hoping that we could, you know,
give them the wherewithal to do it. And also, I called an
interagency meeting of all the UN agencies, for them to report on
what their agency was doing in terms of gender-disaggregated
statistics. So that was a very, you know, interesting priority to
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... that data collection, of course, research studies,
you know, all this....
R: Did some of it get put into practice?
S: Oh, yes. Yes.
S: But it was all after my time...
S: ... that, you know.... But every... the interagency
meeting took place, and I chaired it. The research background
papers were all done. Some of them got published. One of them got
published in a real publication.
S: The work with the statistics office was started. And I
really don't know what, you know, the end result.
R: You really... in three years you fulfilled major
portions of those...
S: Mm. Major proportions, and there's one thing that's not
here. There're two things that are not here. First, I set up a
mechanism whereby what was accomplished had to be reported every
two years... or every year, rather, and it had to be
accomplish... it had to be reported on by unit-by-unit and
R: Wow. Yes.
S: And two of those were done during my tenure there. And
it was a real big feat to get the... that was through a small...
one part of the... one committee. And I got the Canadians--could
never get the Americans to do anything--got the Canadians to
understand the nature of that and to make that suggestion and to
argue for it. And then it was adopted, and then it became, you
know, "the law," because it was adopted by the FAO council. And
so then every... it wasn't just the women's unit, women and
agriculture unit, but it was every unit in FAO had to do it. Now,
we would coordinate it through my, you know, service, and we
would write the major document. But all the data...
S: ... was from them, and they had to be listed chapter
and verse as to who they were and what they did in their
programmatic efforts, and everybody could see it.
S: That had major consequences.
R: Oh, I'm sure it would.
R: I mean, that's the....
S: And that must still continue today. The other thing is,
the... all these priorities were kept all through the 1990s. The
only thing that was added to them was a focus on the environment.
R: Ah. Yes.
S: But the same... these same ones continued for another
R: So do you continue to get their annual report for...?
S: I really don't. I get some things. The stuff is
S: ... I get... a lot of it's on the Internet. I could
download a lot of it.
R: Right. Right.
S: But for, you know, the first few years afterwards I got
everything, and then....
R: You were tracking it then.
S: Yes. Yes. And then I just got so busy.
R: Well, you made the statement that the things were
done... it took you a long time, you say, to figure out just
really how different the FAO was from academia. And I'm just
wondering exactly what you meant by that, that it took you.... It
just... the bureaucracy, the protocol, or what?
S: Well, the bureaucracy and pro... everything was
R: And it....
S: First of all, there are people from ninety-two
different countries working there. Secondly, when I was there,
the general dir... the director general was Lebanese, and he ran
it like his private fiefdom.
R: OK! [laughter]
S: [laughter] OK. Third, the... how shall I say? It was
really very difficult. I used to feel that I would walk down the
hallways.... And, oh, by the way, the other thing that was very
difficult was being an American there, because the U.S. hadn't
paid its dues, and it still is in arrears.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: .So people would say things like.... [laughter]
R: Well, yes.
S: You know, they would... "Well! I see you haven't paid
your...." [laughter] I mean, like... I didn't even vote for
Reagan, you know. [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: You know, I didn't vote for the people.... The people I
voted for for Congress were trying to get the dues paid, you
know. We were not trying to, well, limit what UNFPA could do or
pull out because, you know, they wouldn't work in countries that
allowed abortion. You know, I mean and all that stuff. And so you
get into the elevator, and people would make these
confrontational comments! [laughter]
S: It was just amazing. So we had that, plus that fact
that subject matter is women. That's pretty amazing. I used to
feel at the beginning,...
S: ... and I have shared this before, and I know it will
sound very weird, that I would walk down the hallways and be...
FAO is a huge, huge place. There are six massive buildings, each
one... a corridor on one side is a city block.
S: So when you walk down a highway, it's a long highway. I
would walk down the hallway, and I would feel at the beginning
that it was like you were kind of dodging the bullets and the
bows... the arrows.
S: OK? And then after about a year and half, it was kind
of like I was sending them back,...
S: ... deflecting them! They were going back to their
S: It was really amazing.
S: Quite amazing.
R: So did the atmosphere of that just kind of wear you
down? I mean, was that part of your decision to...?
S: Well, at the beginning... and the unit was in such a
mess when I got there, and it had lost so much... so many of its
staff, and I had to sort of build up the staff members, and
Anita Spring 10-52
unlike, you know, my interview: go to New York; two weeks later,
three weeks later, get tracked down in Malawi. Go there, you
know; practically kill yourself. But that doesn't matter.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Interview. By the time you get home, you're offered the
S: If I had been able to hire people like that...but, you
know, things would drag on for ten months or a year and a half
until I had....
R: I was going to ask you how long it took to get these
priorities voted on and approved for...?
S: Oh, yes. Yes.
R: I mean, do you remember how long that took?
S: Well, yes. I think I worked on the priorities for... I
think that... let's see, if I started there in August, September
of 1988, so probably by conference of 1989, May, May of 1989, I
had that organized. The priorities.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And then by... and I probably had the first training
course... I think I had the first training course in June of
1989, the- one that bombed. And then I probably had the second one
in November of 1989. And it was really cranking along, 1989,
S: Yes. So they were really... you know.
R:. So did you return to Florida to reclaim your academic
S: Well, that is in fact what happened. They did want me
to stay at FAO. I... it was very difficult living in Rome. I
really did not like Rome as a place to live for the rest of my
life. It is a fabulous place to visit as a tourist. I had been
there as a tourist five times; I have since been there as a
tourist two or three times. As a tourist, I love it. OK. As a
resident, an alien resident,...
S: ... it is just awful!
S: It really is awful. It's hard to explain between the
strikes, between the Italians, having come on their own, and they
do not find Americans intriguing. In the 1950s and 1960s and even
in the 1970s, they used to, but they don't find that amusing much
R: Right. Right.
S: So that part is not there.
R: Was there...
R: Was there... were there friendships and relationships
and feelings of collegially... I mean, among the FAO? I mean,
were you part of the community of FAO?
S: Yes and no. You know, there're six thousand employees.
S: It's.... [laughter] big.
S: It's really big. On the other hand, it's sort of an
island in the middle of Rome. I went through Italy knowing no
one, you know.
S: I came back with a whole network of friends, some of
whom I still maintain contact with. But it was very, very hard.
And they're a variety of nationalities you know, they're both
Italian and American, and there are a few other nationalities,
you know, Ethiopian. You know, there are a few other
nationalities, too. But it was very hard, really hard. And the
thought... the alternative was just making it my home for the
rest of my life. Because there would have been no way to get back
Anita Spring 10-55
to probably academic....
S: I could have gone maybe on to another agency, but who
S: ... whether that was, you know,...
R: Possible, right.
S: ... possible or not.
S: I would have had to live in Rome for the rest of my
S: And it really was a very disagreeable place in terms of
the congestion. If you had to shop for a meal, you had to go to
seven or eight stores. There were strikes all the time; the
telephones were a mess; the mail service was dreadful. It really
was hard. And the other thing that was so peculiar in my case...
two very peculiar things, personally: one, I was by myself. OK.
And that was an anathema.
R: Yes. It would be there, huh?
S: Yes. And so I was a threat; the Italian women didn't
want to invite, because maybe I was trying to take away their
husbands or something. You know.
S: You know. So, you know, that whole... you get excluded
from quite a bit of... quite a number of things, and that's
really no fun.
The other... well, people just did not understand--you know,
a woman on her own, and I.... If I had been there as a married
person with... and especially with children, with a child....
They don't have a lot of kids at the present time, about one
child per family. But that would have seemed much more normal.
S: And it probably would have been more normal. I probably
would have had other networks and probably would have liked it
and stayed. But as a... you know, it really was not particularly
fun. It was very, very arduous.
The other thing is, I'm not Italian, but they thought I
looked Italian. Now, people in America don't.
S: But that's because we have some stereotypes about
people who are Italian. But, you know, whereas real Italian
people... many of them are blond; many of them are very thin, you
S: You know. We have peculiar ones... stereotypes. But
anyway, they thought I looked Italian. Now, why was that a
problem? Well, they thought I should speak Italian very well.
S: [laughter] I was going to FAO at seven o'clock in the
morning, coming back at ten o'clock at night, and making an
international trip a month. And my mail out of the envelopes and
categorized already by my secretary was at least two feet tall
S: You know. I did take Italian lessons, and I got pretty
good at, you know, getting around and ordering food and buying
things. But I really never, you know, had time to get real
R: Right! [laughter]
S: [laughter] ... with that kind of schedule. And when I
first got there, I was the only native English speaker in my
service. And since I was responsible for everything that... every
document that went out from that unit, I could not leave it to
chance and to, you know, people who were...
R: Wow. ohhh...
S: ... for whom English was not their native language, to
send a document out, because it would have come back. And,
therefore, not only was I... you know, as the women's service of
FAO, people were writing from all over the planet, and the
projects were coming in. I mean, it was an ext... it's an
extraordinarily... extraordinary load, which I don't... I saw
that other people in my comparable position in other sectors
didn't have any of that. Not only that, but when there were these
meetings, I'd look around, and it would me, as the service chief
on women, and there weren't.... You know, all the... there's
fifty other service chiefs in FAO, you know, for these different
units, you know. Farming systems, people's participation and
extension, you know.
S: They were never there.
S: I was at all of them.
S: So, you know, I have this heavy reading load, there for
twelve to fourteen hours a day. Used to... they turned the lights
off at nine o'clock at night, and I used to actually have to feel
my way down the hall to get to the elevator, because I left at
R: My word!
S: And, you know, I mean, you're allowed to be there at
night. It's just that they did turn the...a lot of the hallway
lights off at nine. But, you know, and I'd get there at seven
o'clock in the morning, because the traffic is so horrendous. And
I'm not a morning person.
S: I couldn't even eat or do anything until I knew that I
could get to FAO and park my car in a secure place, so it
wouldn't be stolen, even though I had a lock that was that big
and a chain that was that thick that went through my wheel and
was linked to some metal shaft thing in my car.
R: Oh god.... [laughter]
S: I mean, I had to do.... [laughter] Very hard to live in
Rome! It was... you know, your car can get ripped off at any
minute, you know. They don't really bother you personally too
much, but, you know, it's not like, you know, the U.S.-- they
rape and mug and so forth.
S: But Italy, they... it's theft. [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: -You know. As my secretary will... she's Ital... she was
Anita Spring 10-60
Italian, is Italian. She goes outside her house; her car is gone.
R: Oh, good! [laughter]
S: It was a six-year-old car.
S: You know. Probably somebody needed it for parts. It was
a lousy car. And she had the ha... the hassle she went through
with the insurance company, you know, trying to get a rental car,
trying to get to work, you know. She didn't have a... you know.
She had a lot... you know, a lot invested in her car; she didn't
have extra cash. She just got.... I mean, you can't just go rent
a car; it's very expensive. It's that kind of stuff that is
extraordinary. I mean, I was in a car accident. To try to get
that car fixed...I had proper insurance and everything, you know,
it was a production.
S: It eventually got done.
S: Or to try to sort out your telephone bill.
S: There were not a... none of them were itemized. And
when you get an eight-hundred-dollar telephone bill that's not
itemized, and you try to sort that out,....
R: So the incentives were not there for you to stay.
S: The incentives were very poor in the city for
S: People said that people from the Middle East liked it a
lot to live in Rome. They kind of could figure that out. That was
sort of cozy. All the northern Europeans hated it. The Americans
were mixed, you know, because Rome is so romantic in the American
S: The people from Latin America--it depended. Some of you
know, they could easily grasp the language, being Spanish
S: And so, anyway, those were some of....
R: But I'm... what I'm also interested in, and I think you
made the point that you were at all the meetings where these
other bureau chiefs were not, because you were very concerned
with establishing, also in maintaining the credibility in the...
of your program.
Anita Spring 10
S: Oh, well, not... that was not my point.
S: That's true. That's absolutely true. But I g
wasn't clear. The reason I was at all of those things
either invited or told to be there.
R: Yes. OK.
R: I see. OK, on these pro...
S: The difference was, it was part of my worklo
R: Well, it's because women's pro... I mean,...
R: ... you were part of all those other program
S: Oh, absolutely.
S: And that's why I said I would look around, a
know. I had to ao to this... I mean, I was giving there
nd I... you
e to four
public speeches every week and having to prepare.... I mean, I
got real good at it.
S: I'm out of practice...
is I was
ad to be
S: [laughter] ... now, but... you know. As I said, I would
have to go to this committee or that group or, you know....
R: Well, did things seem....
S: It was on my calendar, you know.
R: So did things come to a head at the university that you
had to make the decision whether you were going to stay or not?
S: No, no, no. Well, yes, yes. It was a three-year
R: Oh. OK. All right.
S: OK. Renewable.
R: So you worked out your contract, and then you came
S: And then I came up for renew.... And I had, as I said,
negotiated three years at the University of Florida.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I knew they would not give me more than three years.
And that was a feat in and of itself. I had accomplished the plan
of action. And I'd got... I'd actually gotten to a point where I
was real comfortable in the organization.
S: And I'd actually kind of reached a point where I could
deal with Rome.
R: Right. Right.
S: But the thought of having to do that for the rest of my
life...not the agency, but the place,...
S: ... Rome. And then thinking, you know... and the male-
female scene in Italy is... was another aspect. That's a part of
the personal part... but,.you know, I don't whether it's really
germane to what we're saying, but it was part of my decision
R: Well, it's part... it's germane... it's only germane in
the sense that it's an added complication about being a
professional woman. That's all.
S: It's an added complication, and it was so, so
difficult. It was really dreadful. It was a dreadful situation.
And the thought of having to spend the rest of my life in a place
with excruciating hassles, even though the work part was pretty
S: At this point I was handling it quite well and I would
have cut off all my ties. I would've had to sell my house in
Gainesville, cut my ties, and never be able to go back.
S: It just was too much. I couldn't do it.
S: And I had accomplished so much programmatically. So
that was satisfying.
R: Was there also a positive pull to get back to
academics? I mean, was that...?
S: Well, there was. And in a way it turns out to be
misguided. You'll find this amusing. People are so busy with the
workload, with the projects, with writing these documents, with
the... you have to... there are reports that have to be done for
this part of the agency and that, you know. Then I wrote forward-
looking strategies--"What did you do on this?" I mean, there are
reports constantly and project evaluations. People don't have
time to read.
S: OK? So when I came in, you know, I told you I was up on
the women and development literature?
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I wasn't just up on the women in development
literature; [laughter] I was really up on the women in
S: In other words, I had read it all.
R: Right. And had written part of it. [laughter]
S: Well, that's true, too. But...
S: ... the people in my unit had hardly read anything. I
used to start staff meetings with, "Well, you know, let me...
let's go through... let me explain...." [laughter]
And they were always amused. And they'd say, "Well, you just
spoke for twenty-eight minutes... [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... on a particular subject." I... and I brought my
library with me. They built a whole series... a whole wall of
bookshelves. Everyone said I had the best office in FAO. I had it
all decorated with those women in agriculture figurines. I have a
jillion more of them from all over.
S: They were all sitting, and the books were all there,
and, you know, It was in the lights, it was, you know... it was
not too bad, not too shabby. And the pictures... the framed
pictures on the wall.
Anita Spring 10-67
S: It looked pretty good.
S: But I really knew the literature inside and out. And
people in the unit and other places in FAO just really didn't
know any of it. I also had this notion that, you know, after
three years, oh, yes, academics. People really communicated with
each other and talked about real issues, as opposed to, you know,
these interventions and, you know, mundane things like that.
Well, it really isn't so.
S: I mean, it is true that there are, especially at the
University of Florida and I assume many campuses, a large number
of lectures that are going on outside of classes that are
sponsored by, you know, programs and centers and institutes and
series and so forth. But they are just that. A speaker comes in,
you know, speaks for forty to fifty minutes;...
S: ... people ask questions; and that's, you know,
S: -There's not.... You know, that... there's just so much
of that. And it's not the... you don't really get colleagues
having dueling discourses and...
S: ... being able to both participate in that kind of
stuff and then go out and be good buddies afterwards.
S: It's pretty much not like that.
R: But that was an image that you remembered?
S: I kind of remembered it. And, of course, when I came
back, I go, "Where is that?"
R: Yes. Yes.
S: You know. Like, I go to yet another lecture on African
studies, and everybody sits there, and then there are ten... you
know, three questions asked at the end. I just went to one the
S: This woman gave her talk; it was fascinating. It was on
such an interesting subject. And she finished, and there was
S: And I thought, you know... I'd come in late, so I
thought, well, OK, you know. And I looked around; nobody said
anything; nobody said anything. So, of course, I just couldn't
leave her there, and I did have some questions.
S: And then after that it was opened up to questions. But
you know, I mean, is that academic discourse? I don't know. It's
like somebody telling you something. [laughter]
S: So anyway, I kind of remembered that part wrong. And on
the other hand, I have been personally very, very happy being
back in the U.S. I've managed to travel still a great deal.
So that part did work out OK,...
S: ... but.... And, of course, I turned over this
absolutely exquisite program to the next person who also got a
lot of credit for it, too. [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: So, you know, that's part of the downside. But it was
really very interesting to be able to do this kind of thing on a
world stage, and, of course, I represented FAO in many different
public arena...arenas around the globe,...
S: ... you know, at meetings, and I'd give these little
speeches and presentations and talk about the plan of action and
how we were, you know, implementing it and what it meant and
blah, blah, blah.
S: And that part was really fun.
S: Yes. That was very rewarding and....
R: And it sounds like you're secure that this was a great
deal more than policy and diplomacy, that things happened on the
Oh well, seven hundred people got to go to...
... of the senior staff attended that.
My budget was always increasing. I had to do, oh,
I bet. Oh, I was... actually, I was going to ask about
S: Massive. I had an operating budget of $2 million and
then about $50 million in these projects...
R: Project money.
S: ... that were actual projects in my unit.
S: As I said, we still had other parts of the agency to
work with and so forth. But it's just budgetary.
S: And those all had to have budgetary hearings and be
defended and so forth. So that was.... And my budget for the
service was always increasing, even during the lean years when
everybody else's was going down.
S: So that was neat.
S: And I learned how to spend it all, because you can't
ask for more if you got it left over.
S: [laughter] And I am very frugal, the way I spend other
people's money, in particular. Really, I am.
S: So I think they really got their money's worth.
R: It sounds definitely like you'd do it again.
S: Yes. Yes. Now I would, but at the time it... I don't
know. Yes. It was very interesting.
S: Something that not very many people have the
Anita Spring 10-72
opportunity to do. My farewell party... I had two of them, one
given by the director general and the other given by my
colleagues, which was really extraordinary. I mean, the
testimonials and this and that, I... it was really quite
extraordinary. So that was gratifying.
S: Yes. Yes. And I.got to build up the unit so that it
had.... Oh, I did a... I did some other kind of fun things. Like,
by the time I left, there were three men in the unit,...
R: Oh, that's great.
S: ... because they had thought that they could just sort
of dump women there, and it was only for women. I... and the men
proved to be very, very effective.
S: Two of them are still there.
R: Yes. Well, I think having men being spokes-men....
S: Yes, they indeed were spokesmen.
R: Yes. Would be wonderful and be very powerful.
S: Yes. Yes. Yes, there were a lot of fun things.
End of 1/17/99 interview;
Beginning of 1/18/99 interview
Meredith (Penny) Rucks: This is January 18, continuing with
interviewing Anita Spring. And, Anita, this morning I'd like to
start and have you kind of recap what some of the major
benchmarks in the development of your methodology have been,
moving from sort of a traditional ethnographic immersion approach
to methods that are particularly amenable to applied anthropology
in the kind of survey work that you were doing.
Anita Spring: OK. Well, the work with the Washoe, I think
we commented before, was mostly focused on key informants.
There's a pretty static method, although, you know, perfect for
budding anthropologists and a good place to start.
S: And I think I will come back to that as a methodology
and how I think that needs to be changed and updated in the
modern world, even on the study of the Washoe and other American
group... Indian groups in the [Great] Basin and elsewhere,
because I think that one's been... been done...
S: ... and that they need... people need to move on. And
Anita Spring 10-74
it seems to be very hard to get people to move on.
R: And this is developing from... focusing exclusively
on... relying on a key informant.
S: Yes. Yes. Yes. A very, very static method.
S: Anyway, so after that method with the Washoe, I then
had a really full immersion experience with the Luvale in Zambia.
But I used a variety of techniques, including key informants, of
course, and as I told you, apprenticing myself to these two
diviners, male diviners, and to various female healers, and male
healers as well. And still a lot of genealogical work, kinship,
and social organization, and a lot of eliciting of taxonomic
categories, both in ritual and in ethnobotany. And the survey
questionnaires that were administered to a sample of the
R: During that work, had you started working at all with
having some of the people themselves ask some of the questions,
or were you doing all the direct data collection?
S: Well, I had some research assistants.
S: So, yes, they were collecting some data, as well,...
S: ... and I was, you know, training them as to how to do
that. So yes. And then participating in all the activities, so
the participant observation. So that was that methodology--still
S: You know, the major techniques within anthropology.
R: Besides the fact that you had a greater variety of data
formats to analyze, because you'd been using different methods.
Were there any particular tricks, so to speak, of the trade that
you developed in the course of doing your Ph.D. research there
that was significantly different from the way you kept notes, you
know, when you were doing your Washoe work? I'm trying to get an
S: Well, the Washoe thing was just much more finite.
S: And sort of everything that a key informant said was
S: So it was like verbatim script. But in Zambia, because
it was two years full of, [laughter] you know, daily
interactions, although I kept very copious notes, took very
copious notes, and I'm a very, very good note taker and very
speedy. I can practically get something down that someone says in
normal conversational tone... I can practically write it.
R: Could you... were you able to actually take notes while
you were doing some of the ritual, participating in the
S: Oh, sure, sure. Yes. Definitely. I had my notebook with
me; I could write things down.
R: So that was your role, they understood that...
S: Yes. That was not a problem.
S: Literacy was highly valued by these illiterate people.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And here I was doing a history and writing it down.
That's good, becauseif I hadn't been writing it down, how was I
doing it? [laughter]
R: Right. Exactly.
S: You know.
R: So that was almost ...
S: Yes. It was almost required.
S: -So the Malawi... I mean, excuse me, the Zambian thing
was classic anthropology. I told you I didn't....
R: Did you keep a personal journal, too?
S: No, I did not.
S: OK. I'm not prone to do that.
R: And so....
S: I have tried over the years, and they never last very
R: Because your notes were pretty clean, as they should
be, I mean, in the Washoe material of any kind of reflective...
beyond.... They were very reflective. I was very interested that
you divided your data into the kind of verbatim description of
what took place and what information categories you were
gathering. But then you did a very quick kind of rundown and
analysis of the dynamic of the interview,...
R: ...of what was taking place.
S: Right. Right. And I still have a notation system in all
field notes that I take, in which I distinguish what the
informant is saying from maybe my comments or exegesis or queries
or comments about things being unclear or check. So I make that
distinction. Then if other people interrupt, for example, or come
by and [laughter] ... participate,...
S: ... then it's all very clearly noted who said what.
S: So I have this whole system.
R: That you've probably been refining.
S: Well, I think it's the same system. It's pretty simple,
and I just automatically go into it when I'm taking field notes.
That's all. It doesn't really require, you know, change.
R: No. It looked like a complete... it looked like a
pretty complete system to me.
S: Yes. So it evolved actually--this is a good point--it
evolved during the Washoe work. And it's just something that I've
continued to use and maintain, because it's a very workable
system. It didn't need refinement in that... in terms of when you
S: OK. There are lots of other methodologies that then
S: So the Zambian one, I've just elicited those
methodologies. Now, the Malawi research, which we went through...
Anita Spring 10-79
I mean, it... to some of the methodologies, it was working with
data to analyze them in such ways that new things would be pulled
out, and they could be used in the service of policy and
influencing policy and influencing the way things were done. And
that would eventually influence real people, in the lives of real
S: Yes. Livelihood strategies of real people. So that was
one methodology. The other methodology of working simultaneously
with what we later came to call all the stakeholders--everyone
who had a stake in the topic. So since it was agriculture in
Malawi, people in the Ministry of Agriculture from the, you know,
principal secretary, you know, to the heads of sections, to the
clerks, who were filing data or the paperwork, to the people in
the field, who were program managers, to their section heads, to
the extension worker in the village, to the people on the
agricultural research station, who were conducting research on
S: All of those--and to the farmers, of course, both men
and women at different levels and different parts of the life
cycle--were all interviewed and were all, you know, worked with
in terms of getting their perspective, finding out their problems
and constraints, finding out what they did, and how what they did
might be genderized. And so that took a whole variety of
methodological formats from, you know, filling out forms to
questionnaires and surveys, to in-depth interviews, to
participant observation over a long period of time, to
interacting with people at meetings.... You know, all of those
kinds of% methodologies were used in that particular goal and
R: Yes. Now you were working some of these methods out,
weren't you, in that particular....
S: Yes. They... you know, I was just sort of inventing
them, as I went along. I mean, if someone had told me what the
end result would be at the beginning, I probably wouldn't have
believed it, because I had no idea it would evolve to that level
S: ... and that I would be given literally carte blanche
within that country to work with that whole area and topic in
conjunction with Malawian professionals, of course.
R: But it was a very....
S: ... that we would move together in our thinking.
R: So it would... it was a truly collaborative, in the
sense that it was a progression...
R: ... of development of ideas,...
R: ... not only how to collect the data, but what the end
product would be.
S: End product-s, yes. And the other thing is that it was
not something that could have been done alone.
S: It would have been a very sterile, certainly not
applied, project. And I think that's part of the difference. You
cannot do applied anthropology as the lone researcher, you know,
and certainly not the lone researcher going out to work with key
informants. [laughter] It's an anathema; it's a contradiction.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: But, you know, as I went along, I was, you know,
getting more and more people involved in the process and getting
people to collect data. And then they have their own data to look
at, and it wasn't me just telling them, "Look. You really do have
40 percent female head of households in your area, or whatever
percent. And that's one out of three or one out of two... four or
one out of two households. And you're bypassing them, and then
you wonder why production is down. Excuse me,"...
R: Yes. Yes.
S: ... you know.
S: You need to look at those kind of data. So getting
people to feel ownership of data collection and the data that are
collected, I think is fairly important. And then this team-
interactive, cybernetic, feedback kind of approach, I found very,
very nice. I really liked it.
S: And so I had a staff of teammates. The Ministry of
Agriculture seconded[?] a Malawian woman professional officer,
bachelor's degree in agriculture, to the project. I had the
agronomist. I had access to the entire, as I said, research and
extension staff of the country to work through some of these
things. So that... and then had several projects in which I took
teams of people around and got to see, you know, people's
reactions and Malawian opinion on various things.
R: So you were actually field testing some of the pro
ducts as you were working.......
S: In a way, yes.
S: Just getting feedback; was I thinking about this
S: See, and I think that's one of the things that
anthropologists miss. In other words, even if we worked with the
key informants in Dresslerville or amongst the other Washoe
communities, the anthropologist doesn't go back and have big
discussions about, "Well, our conclusions are thus and such,
based on what you told me."
R: Yes. Right. Right.
S: You know? Gladys Walker goes and is able to get a copy
of a Nevada State Museum publication on the Washoe and is
checking and rechecking it before her interviews. But, you know,
nobody ever came back to Gladys Walker and... after they'd, you
know, talked to her for, you know, twenty, thirty hours and said,
"We've concluded, based on discussions with you, that it's thus
S: ... which would have allowed the informant to say,
Anita Spring 10-84
"Well, this is right, and that's not."
S: And that is a huge failing of that methodology. And
when you think of the number of people and books and so forth
that have been based on that methodology, this stuff that I was
doing was... I think the word we use is iterativee." It was
very... you know, you could get instant feedback. I mean, did you
get the right..;. not only the right term, but the right concept?
S: What was politically sensitive? Was something....
R: And the incentive to be accurate from the, quote,
"informant," is that this is actually going to result in a policy
change that will affect their lives.
S: Yes, but they didn't know that.
R: Yes. Oh... yes. That's....
S: I think that's too far a stretch.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: That's too far a stretch. Now, having said that, the
other big problematic area in doing this kind of stuff, and this
End of Tape 10
End of Tape 10
Anita Spring 10-85