Just out of high school, Glennis Ter Wisscha got her first paying job as a teller earning $400 a month at the Citizens National Bank in Willmar, Minn.

Within a year, the 19-year-old was propelled into the national spotlight when she and seven other female bank workers went on strike in December 1977 over sex discrimination and became known as the Willmar 8. Their story was covered nationwide, and it became the subject of a documentary and TV movie.

Ter Wisscha, the youngest in that group of strikers, died of natural causes Aug. 30 at her home in St. Paul. She was 62.

The strike defined the arc of Ter Wisscha's life. "She truly believed in what we were fighting for and truly tried to make a difference in her lifetime," said Irene Wallin, another striker.

"Glennis was a firebrand, as were all the Willmar 8 — but especially Glennis," recalled Mary Beth Yarrow, co-producer of the 1981 documentary "The Willmar 8," directed by actor Lee Grant.

The strike was triggered by the decision of bank officials to hire a man in the loan department at a higher starting pay than the women got — and then tell the women to train him. Bank president Leo Pirsch told one of the women, "We're all not equal, you know."

"It was the last straw," Wallin said at the time. The women formed a union, but when negotiations broke down, they went on strike. "Somebody was taking some of my independence ... away by saying that I could not and would not be able to apply for a position," Ter Wisscha said in the documentary. "They were taking away what working is all about. And they're saying that I would be stagnant in my job, and I cannot stand stagnant. I have to grow and live and be able to be free, or else I just wither and die."

After more than a year, the strike ended with a National Labor Relations Board ruling that while the bank had used unfair labor practices, the strike couldn't be justified on grounds of sex discrimination. The women were called back to work, but didn't get back pay.

Ter Wisscha chose not to go back. Instead, she became a union organizer with the Minnesota School Employees Association, which represents nonteaching public school workers, and served as its executive director from 1985 to 1987. She was hired by activist Michael Pirsch, son of the Willmar bank president and a strike supporter, who said, "Glennis was loved and respected by the members."

Ter Wisscha later served as executive director of the Northside Housing Services of Minneapolis, and became its development director after it was acquired by the City of Lakes Community Land Trust. "Glennis was absolutely dedicated to assisting low-income people to become successful homeowners," said director Jeff Washburne.

Ter Wisscha stayed in touch with the Willmar 8, said Sandy Treml, one of the eight. One other member, Doris Boshart, died in 2005.

Actor Dinah Manoff, who played Ter Wisscha in the 1984 TV movie "A Matter of Sex," said, "She really battled for herself, to stand up for things she believed in."

Lester and Wilmine Ter Wisscha, of Clara City, Minn., said they were proud of their daughter, though Lester, a farmer, said "it wasn't comfortable" for him during the strike because he banked at Citizens National.

"She was always a role model for me," said Ter Wisscha's sister, Denise Gulbranson, of Prinsburg, Minn.

Ter Wisscha, whose married name was Andresen during the strike, later was divorced. She married James Lano in 1985; he died in 2018. Besides her parents and sister Denise, she is survived by another sister, Vicky Hinrichs, of Clara City; a brother, Gary Terwisscha of Spicer, Minn., and a stepdaughter. Services have been held.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224