Not Another Face in the Crowd

by Cecilia Ellis

Jan Griesinger: Not your conventional college student

It’s well-known that Athens is home to many interesting characters, one in particular being Jan Griesinger. A 72-year-old who has called Athens home since the ’80s, and someone you’ve probably never heard of, has most likely influenced your life on campus in one way or another.

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Jan Griesinger poses for a portrait with sign at a Rally for Peace event. Photo by Jasmine Beaubien.

Griesinger’s work began in Dayton, where she worked with Dayton Area Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, becoming the only female minister of her class in 1970. She got involved in the opening of an abortion clinic as soon as Roe v. Wade went into effect in 1973, a clinic that is still open today. Griesinger has been a co-founder of the Dayton’s Women Health Center (founded in 1973), My Sister’s Place, a shelter for battered women (founded 1978), the Ohio University women’s studies program implemented in 1979 and the Susan B. Anthony Women’s Land Trust—where Griesinger and several other women live today. All of these establishments have had an influence on Athens.

Her involvement has ranged from the Middle East Peace Coalition (co-founded in 1990), to the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Employees of Ohio University (founded 1992), to the Immigrant Rights Committee (founded 2008). She was also the director for the United Campus Ministry at OU from 1976 to 2004, and since that year she has stood as the national co-director for Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC). Clearly, her impact can still be felt in nearly every corner of the community where oppression is being actively fought.

Another battle Griesinger has undertaken is ageism, or discrimination based on age, and the lack of knowledge regarding the subject. As a member of OLOC, she actively works with other women to celebrate being old and facilitate discussion on why that is not a bad thing. Ageism is the “idea that everyone should want to look young, be young. Old is a four letter word.” However, Jan wants everyone to know that is not how she feels. “It’s a privilege to be old,” she said. Making the point that white women are the most likely to make it to old age, women of color, even today, are less likely than white women to make it to old age. She stressed the point that living life is something that should be celebrated, not feared, hated or underappreciated.

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Passionately dedicated, Atheniens have been meeting outside the court house every Monday to make their voices heard. Photo by Jasmine Beaubien.

Taking full advantage of her location and the resources available here, Griesinger has been attending a couple of Ohio University classes a year for the past five years. In the spring, it was Native American History. This semester she’s chosen Women in American History before 1887. She’s also taken a myriad of courses ranging from African American Studies to different English and political science classes. Living in the surrounding countryside and not on campus has its drawbacks when attending lessons, although only occasionally do minor issues arise as she runs into the problem of accessing all available resources. “Dial-up email doesn’t work to get on Blackboard,” she said.

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