Pauline Kayes grew up as the proud daughter of a working class family. She excelled as a student, and graduated in 1973 as valedictorian from the Calumet campus of St. Joseph's College. Her major was English, and her passion was the work of radical feminist writers. She has spent her life teaching at Parkland Community College in Champaign, where she met others in the feminist movement. In 1982, during the last year of the fight to pass ERA in the Illinois legislature, Kayes was one of a group of women who chained themselves to the railing outside the IL Senate chamber in protest to that body's lack of action on ERA.