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Meet Marilyn Kincaid, GLIDE’s Archivist

As GLIDE continues its celebration of Women’s History Month, we reflect on the achievements and contributions women have made to the GLIDE community and to the racial and social justice movements in American history. In keeping with our recognition of remarkable women, we present a special feature on GLIDE Archivist Marilyn Kincaid. Marilyn began working at GLIDE in 1998 as an assistant to Co-Founder Janice Mirikitani, and worked closely with Co-Founder Reverend Cecil Williams, who she fondly refers to as just Jan and Cecil. After many years of witnessing GLIDE history, Marilyn was later tasked with preserving it. Read more from Marilyn below as she talks about her journey, influential women of GLIDE, and how she keeps GLIDE’s history alive.

Marilyn posing with an original photo of GLIDE’s namesake, Lizzie Glide

Q: Can you talk about your background and what drew you to GLIDE?

A: I’m from Chicago originally and moved out here in 1992. I saw Glide Memorial Church and instantly recognized the name, primarily because of Cecil’s prominence in the news and in the San Francisco area. I thought, “What the heck, give it a shot.” I applied for a job and Jan interviewed me. The position was to be Jan’s assistant, and we really connected during the interview. You could tell we had a real good feel for each other. 

So, I got the job and I worked as Jan’s assistant in the Celebration office. The Celebration office was a wild, crazy place working for those two dynamic people, who were constantly coming up with ideas and programs and things that they wanted to make happen at GLIDE. Cecil was very good at coming up with ideas and Jan was very good at executing them. The other thing I loved about working for Jan and Cecil was that they were totally open to clients as well as staff. People were streaming in and out of that office all the time wanting to talk to them, wanting to get counseling about something. But when you understood what was happening, you realized that the time you were putting in was more than worthwhile. That you were literally helping to save lives, to change lives, because that’s what Jan and Cecil were doing, with both clients and staff.

Jan was the one who was meeting with all the women’s groups, children’s groups and the poetry groups that she had formed. Jan herself suffered abuse, sexual abuse, as a teenager from her stepfather. And also, her family was interned in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. So she really suffered some very negative experiences growing up. But ironically, that’s what also enabled her to reach out to other women and create these programs, especially for women who had been sexually abused as children, and encouraged them to write poetry, express their feelings. So, just amazing how those programs literally saved lives. Women’s lives were changed.

Q: How did you become GLIDE’s archivist?

A: When I first started the archives, which was in 2010, I had gotten old and decided to retire. Jan said, “Well, maybe you could step in and work just part-time in the archive.” So, I began to create files and an organizing system for all of the records, documents, newspaper clippings, videos, awards and tons of photographs. Most of these came out of the Celebration office where Jan and Cecil had drawers full of stuff. And sometimes I would accumulate records and files from the specific programs, the recovery programs and the women’s programs, the walk-in center, and we had a health clinic. So eventually, I would have to get these into boxes. And they also included, by the way, things like posters and flyers and publicity materials and newsletters. It was a huge project, still going on. It’ll never end because GLIDE is still here and still creating history! 

Q: Is there anything in particular from the archives that means a lot to you? 

A: Lizzie Glide building this church and the history of GLIDE’s office building as apartments for women. It was just a real eye opener and it steeped me and grounded me in the history, the original history of GLIDE going all the way back to Lizzie, a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time, who started the whole thing.  The office building used to be a hotel and apartments, containing 50 single rooms, and 15 two-room apartments. The pastor and his family lived here and the rooms rented out to single working women cost $20 a month. This was happening in 1931 when this was all completed. And remember, this was before the Golden Gate Bridge or the Bay Bridge were even built. So, that just puts the history of this in perspective. 

Q: What do you love about working at GLIDE?

A: For me, GLIDE is not just a job. Every day brings an intense feeling of being alive, an acute awareness of being in the world that comes from the sense of making a difference. This exhilarating sense of being alive is nourished by the energy, the enthusiasm, the commitment and the joy shared by the whole collective community that we call GLIDE. The community made up of our staff, our clients, our donors and supporters, our board members and even the celebrities who come here. It’s a spiritual high.