We commemorate National Women’s History Month 2017 with a series that profiles remarkable women who work for Historical Research Associates (HRA). Jackie Gonzales is a research Historian in our Seattle Office. An expert in land-use history, Jackie has worked as an interpreter for the National Park Service at several units, ranging from Cape Cod National Seashore to Manzanar National Historic Site.
HRA: Before working at HRA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
Jackie: I worked for the National Park Service as an interpreter for several years. Maybe the most interesting of those jobs was working at Manzanar National Historic Site, which was one of the sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated without due process during World War II. As part of that job, I got to help with and conduct oral history interviews with individuals who had lived in Manzanar or other camps. It was an honor to get to know some of these amazing people—most of whom are now in their 90s—and have the chance to hear their stories.
HRA: What was your dream job as a kid and why?
Jackie: I wanted to be an international diplomat. I always loved meeting new people, and as the middle child, I could tell from an early age that my job was to make the peace.
HRA: How has HRA helped you in your career development?
Jackie: HRA has helped me to apply my historic training to practical projects, which I love. The variety of projects we get to work on has strengthened my expertise in different subject matters and broadened my writing skillset. HRA has also been supportive of maintaining academic connections and outside research. I’m grateful to be in a work environment where I get to work on a variety of interdisciplinary projects and still be supported to keep up my own research on the side.
HRA: What woman inspires you and why?
Jackie: It’s cheesy, but my mom really inspires me. She went to a college that had only recently started accepting women when she arrived, became an attorney, moved to the deep south to work in civil law on cases where her clients really needed (and often couldn’t afford) an attorney, and then had three girls and kept working full-time in an era when folks still felt comfortable calling her a “lady lawyer.” Every year I realize a little more just how determined and thick-skinned she had to be to get through all of that. I hope some of that rubbed off on me.
HRA: If you could interview one woman (dead or alive) who would it be?
Jackie: I would love to interview some of the American nuns who have resisted the male-dominated Catholic Church hierarchy to emphasize fighting for social justice and the equal place that women should have within the Church.
HRA: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?
Jackie: It would have to be someone who could pull off freckles and convincingly tell bad puns with enthusiasm . . . the former park ranger in me is pulling for Amy Poehler.
HRA: What project at HRA has been your greatest success, and why?
Jackie: I’m very proud of the work we’re doing on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail administrative history. It’s an incredibly complex National Park Service unit, spanning 11 states and based on cooperative management rather than land ownership. We’ve been able to piece together the story through a series of oral histories with NPS staff, tribal partners, other partner organizations, in addition to traditional archival research. Condensing this complex history into a single narrative has been an exciting challenge.