Biography and History

Norma Spector was born Norma Hanan on December 31, 1922, in New York City. Her father left the family when she was very young. Her brother was several years older than Norma, and he lost contact with the family when he left. Her mother was a garment worker and a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Norma's earliest memories reflect the dire poverty of her early life - moving every few months when her mother couldn't pay the rent, never having enough food in the house. Norma excelled in literature and science in public school. She attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn, where her first political activity was building support for Republican Spain's defense against Franco fascism. She worked for the International Longshore Workers Union for a time after the war. When the military junta seized power in Greece, she worked for the Greek Seamen's Union in the United States, where she lobbied state and national elected officials and other national figures to defend Greek seamen who were being persecuted here and to change government policy, which backed the Greek junta. She also helped initiate a campaign in support of the prisoners at the Makronēsos detention camp in Greece. During this period she became close friends with some of the leaders of the Greek Seamen's Union and of the Communist Party of Greece, including Tony Ambatielos and Betty Bartlett-Ambatielos. It was then when a Greek ship put in to the New York port and the ship's crew brought to the union office a cardboard box of papers wrapped in cloth. The seamen said it was from Makronēsos, one of the detention camps in Greece.

Norma met and married Harry Spector in 1952. They settled in Brooklyn and had a son and two daughters. Harry, who died in 1996, was her closest friend and biggest supporter for 44 years. In the 1960s she was active in the Brooklyn Congress on Racial Equality. Norma was one of the founders of Women Strike for Peace, which campaigned against the war in Vietnam and for nuclear disarmament, and Women for Racial and Economic Equality, which added a working-class perspective to the feminist movement. She represented both organizations at international events and met and became friends with women activists from many countries. Norma now lives in Miami, Florida. She has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Source: From the finding aid for C1379

  • Norma Spector Papers. 1947-2009 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1379

    Consists of papers relating to post-World War II Greek history and politics, 1940s-1970s, collected by Norma Spector in her role as the public relations liaison of the Federation of Greek Maritime Unions (FGMU) in New York City.