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Profile: Geraldine

Geraldine, an 82-year-old retired domestic worker, sees the value of Social Security every day. Her monthly retiree benefit of $600 is her sole source of income, so she is extremely grateful for Social Security.

Geraldine remembers learning about Social Security at any early age; when she began working, the system was still in its infancy. She also tried to save money for her retirement whenever she could.

But Geraldine worked the majority of her life in a variety of part-time domestic jobs in hotels, restaurants, and private homes—jobs that offer low wages and no pensions, and are predominately held by women. The nature of her jobs and her wages meant that Geraldine was unable to save much for her retirement and never earned any pension benefits.

“Today, I’m living hand to mouth. A lot of women had husbands to contribute to the household income and retirement savings, but I didn’t. I was just working so hard to keep my head above water.”

Geraldine has long been an advocate for women’s rights. At 52, Geraldine founded the Household Technicians Organization, which works to ensure equal rights for women who work primarily in “under the table” jobs. As the first chair of the National Organization for Women’s Women of Color Task Force, Geraldine says, “women need to help one another in providing education to prevent the poverty of older women. Because we all get older, we need to fight racism and break down the barriers so all women will have access to the same benefits when they get older.”

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