June Rostan is a long time community and labor activist in east Tennessee. She was born on May 8, 1947, in Valdese, North Carolina. Rostan received her B.A. from Maryville College in 1969 and her M.A. in Special Education from Appalachian State University in 1970. In the early 1970s Rostan went to Italy with the World Student Christian Federation. In Italy Rostan became involved in the labor and women’s movements. Upon returning to the United States in 1974, Rostan began activist work with several organizations such as the Georgia Power Project and the Southern Appalachian Ministry before becoming the labor education program coordinator at Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN, a position she held from 1977-1982. While at Highlander, Rostan began consulting with the Coal Employment Project, and in 1982 she became the health and safety coordinator for the organization. She worked on two major projects for Coal Employment Project: a pregnancy study of women coal miners and a campaign for parental leave. In 1987, Rostan left the Coal Employment Project and became the director of the Southern Empowerment Project. Rostan is currently a community organizer for the AFL-CIO. Questions focused on June Rostan’s introduction to the women’s movement and her work with the Coal Employment Project, which fought for rights for coal mining women. Themes covered in the interview include: life experiences that prepared Rostan for activism, Rostan’s interpretation of the women’s movement in the South, women’s issues as a thread in Rostan’s organizing work, her participation in the Coal Employment Project, and her understanding of how the Coal Employment Project related to the national women’s movement. Rostan also discussed her views of the current state of the labor and women’s movement. This interview is part of the Southern Oral History Program’s project to document the women’s movement in the American South.
Interview with June Rostan by Jessie Wilkerson, July 6 2009 U-0494, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.