Susan Leader

b. 1951

Susan Leader was born in Springfield, Vermont, in 1951. Her grandfather left Poland and settled in Bennington, Vermont, about 1910. She grew up mainly in Andover, Vermont, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. In 1969 Susan enrolled in pottery classes at Antioch College. As part of the college co-op program, she apprenticed with several potters in the United States. Drawn to traditional Japanese pottery, Susan also spent 18 months apprenticing with potters in Japan. She then moved back to Andover to work with her younger brother Emmett, a potter himself. Susan has built many kilns over the years and developed a unique decorating style and successful business. Like her parents before her, Susan lived in a simple cabin in the woods and did odd jobs such as apple picking, where she met her future husband, John Specker. John is a self-employed fiddle and violin player. They have two grown daughters, Ida Mae and Lila. Both girls were bat mitzvahed at Israel Congregation in Manchester, where Susan is a member. During the last few years, Susan has been working in the local schools teaching pottery to young children. She also collaborated with another teacher to put on an 'Empty Bowl' dinner, a charity that raises money to alleviate hunger.

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Scope and Content Note

Susan describes her family history and early childhood experiences. Her life story is rooted in both the Jewish-American experience and the back-to-the-land movement of the early 1950s in rural Vermont. Susan talks about her grandfather, who settled in Bennington, Vermont, in the early part of the 20th Century. He led religious services, gave Hebrew lessons, and opened a meat market and grocery store. As his finances improved prospered, he purchased farmland and property in the downtown area. Her parents met and married in college. As a young couple, the Leaders joined Helen and Scott Nearing in Stratton, Vermont, where they were part of the early back-to-the-land movement. After spending three years in Palestine, where they witnessed the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, they returned to Vermont and realized their dream to farm their own land. Her father also worked at a variety of jobs in order to support his wife and three children. For Susan, it was a difficult way to grow up. She felt poor, Jewish, and different from her classmates in the one-room schoolhouse that she attended. Susan talks about her introduction and passion for pottery. One summer, while working at an artists' co-op in Weston, she fell in love with making pottery. Susan talks about her education at Antioch College in Ohio, an apprenticeship in Japan, and then settling down in Andover with her husband and family. She continues to work in pottery and has a thriving local business. Finally, Susan reflects on raising children in the Jewish tradition.


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How to cite this page

Oral History of Susan Leader. Interviewed by Sandra Stillman Gartner. 23 July 2008. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Susan Leader by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at