Well the idea that a woman would want an independent identity was a shocking idea. A totally shocking idea.
The women's movement was very very divisive, there were far more women that were opposed to the equal rights amendment than were supporting it.
Whenever a woman speaks, or does not speak, there are consequences.
We were the bad ones, the the we were the ungrateful ones, we were not following the rules that society had set for us.
It transcended normal political discourse. It really was a battle.
IT WAS THE 1970'S, AND THE BATTLE FOR EQUAL RIGHTS, AND AN EQUAL VOICE WAS ON.
It was so traditional in my time. We had men's work, and ladies work.
I lived in a home with three brothers, and I grew up to be a really good housekeeper and a really good cook, and my father would say 'now Louie you just you just stay home with your mother and you'll never want for anything'; which I didn't financially, but ooh I wanted that independence, I just wanted it so badly.
we were supposed to be nice and behave well and play well with others
And the expectations basically for girls were you got married and you had a family.
Everybody thought well, we'll just get married and have children, and that will be our lives. That's just what you did.
And if you worked you just worked to help support that family.
It was so much a part of the way things were done that there were things we didn't even notice. Women functioned as wives and as assistants. They were not expected to carry any responsibility for breadwinning, even though of course many of them were breadwinners. And that was taken for granted not just by the men but by the women as well.
I'm so embarrassed to admit it. I thought I could be a nurse. I could be a teacher or I could be a homemaker.
Well, you know, I mean what did we know? We were just these innocents, we were going along and doing what tradition said.
...the first teaching job I applied for in Utah, I went in and I, he looked at my resume and he said, "you know you are the most qualified applicant I have but unfortunately a man has applied for this job." And do you know what? I said, "Oh thank you" and I walked out. That's where I was in my head. I said, "Oh thank you" and I walked out. That's where we were!
THE 50'S GAVE WAY TO THE 60'S. IT WAS AN ERA OF CHALLENGING OUR ASSUMPTIONs AND TRADITIONS. QUESTIONS SELDOM RAISED IN POLITE COMPANY WERE SHOUTED IN THE STREETS. IT REACHED FROM CIVIL RIGHTS – TO WAR- TO THE VERY ROLES OF SOCIETY.
What the consciousness was about was that we were women who had identities as individuals. That we could have independent opinions that we cared about. That we might want economic independence.
A NEW VISION OF WOMEN'S ROLE IN SOCIETY EMERGED, EMBODIED IN BETTY FRIEDAN'S 1963 BOOK THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. IT IGNITED THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT.
Implicit in this glorified image of women only as a sexist object. Implicit in this glorified insistence that women fulfillment is motherhood and only motherhood. Cows can have babies, but women have minds as well as breasts, as well as sexual organs, and women are made to feel guilty if they really use their minds...
All of those ideas really, had hit everybody in the gut. They were shocking realizations. Really shocking because they had never penetrated consciousness before.
There was a growing consciousness that social change was available to young people; that young people could have an impact on it and I think women in particular were getting the message that women should be a part of those undertakings-that they needed to have a voice in the in the public arena and in the polity generally.
I remember one of the big peace marches. There was a hundred thousand people in the street.
It was empowering, very empowering. That was pretty seminal for me. The idea that as citizens we could gather together and unite.
We are the people who can make change.
We wanted some power, we wanted a voice. We wanted to be part of the ball game.
NEW RULES FOR THE BALLGAME APPEARED WITH THE PROPOSED EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT.
ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED IN 1923, THE AMENDMENT ADDRESSED LEGAL DISCRIMNATION BASED ON GENDER.
IN 1972 THE ERA WAS PASSED BY CONGRESS, AND WAS SENT TO THE STATES FOR RATIFICATION.
TWENTY-FOUR SIMPLE WORDS GALVANIZED AND CHALLENGED WOMEN COAST TO COAST.
Those were some really powerful incredibly exciting and energetic times. I mean there was a lot of energy around then. And there was great hope in those days and you really saw yourself making a difference.
We were trying to get women excited about their own rights, that they had a voice.
So there was a a sort of collective energy that we're here to do this and make sure it happens and we're gonna work together to make sure that this thing that we know is right, that women are equal becomes a reality.
We were talking bout equal pay for equal work. We were talking about the glass ceiling. We were talking about the the just the right to vote and equal rights for for women in terms of education and educational opportunities and employment opportunities and training opportunities
Women who wanted to do more, who wanted to have the full expression of who they were. To have an artistic life to have a creative life. Just that notion that you could do things, it was the old 'yes we can'.
There was a national fervor because of the ERA and because of the woman's movement at that particular time.
And early on in that struggle a lot of states had just read the wording, said we're sure-we're for equal rights and voted it in and there was little discussion, little controversy. And then the cultural issues and the legal issues got mixed up.
It was just too easy, to say "equal rights". It was too easy, it didn't say what it would do.
Would this change the role of men and women? Would it change the sort of scriptural interpretation of the meaning of the difference between men and women?
Why do they call it the women's movement? All women were not part of that, all women were not thinking like that. I liked the things that were different. I liked that I was different than my husband. I liked being different than my father. I liked the idea that that I was treated differently. I liked being treated like a woman. I don't want to be treated like a man.
Would men and women then have to go into the same bathroom or you know serve in the same branch of the service or you know just there were there were all of these unknowns. There was a lot of fear involved in it.
Children will grow up homosexual...and you know, it was all of the bad things.
I didn't want women to be drafted. There are just things in this equality movement that are not about equality.
But those were very important to people. They they were worried that a way of life was being challenged where men and women could be kept as separate spheres.
THE E-R-A WAS WITHIN FIVE STATES OF RATIFICATION WHEN THE VOTE SHIFTED TO UTAH IN 1975.
There was a lot of optimism that people would see the justice and the basic fairness in the wording of that amendment and the idea of that amendment and there was a lot of legislative support for it.
Well in Utah it looked like it was going to pass and in other parts of the country until the LDS church issued an official statement against it.
I guess the ERA was a worry to the church at the point, and they felt that it was a danger to their way of life.
The week or so before the vote the church news-which is a church publication, published an editorial against the Equal Rights Amendment
CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS' CONCERNS WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION WERE NOT NEW.
We hear so much about emancipation, independence, sexual liberation, birth control, abortion, and other insidious propaganda belittling the role of motherhood. All of which is Satan's way of destroying the woman, the home and the family, the basic unit of society.
Immediately legislative opinion changed and people were not wiling to support it and the number went from half the legislature being in support, and it diminished to about eleven out of the seventy-five. It was just pretty solidly opposition. And when we went in the next day and when we watched the vote, it was absolutely jam-packed and the area outside the house chamber was packed with people.
It was a very emotional day. It was emotional for legislatures, many of whom I think were very torn about what they were doing and saw this as a an issue of conscious, and for the people who were both there for it and opposed to it.
We of course never passed it in Utah, but it was being passed across the country.
Suddenly there was this division, it was them against us. The women who worked outside of their home would kind of look down on the women that were in their home saying you know well you don't really work; you know come out and see what I do, that's work. And the women that were in their home and watching women working and saying well wait a minute what are you doing working, you have children; because you work I have to do the carpool. I'm picking up your children and so instead of supporting each other in their decisions and saying what can I do to help you, there was this division for a long time and there was loud voices and there were a lot of loud angry voices.
Ooh it was a fierce time... I was warned, don't talk about the ERA, it's too hot an item, everybody's going to be mad.
It was very negative in an emotional sense. People felt, the degree of anger and rejection of what seemed to us like the most rational, important and necessary steps to be taken in a just and equitable society was completely demoralizing.
And everybody felt devalued wherever they were.
THE GROWING DIVIDE BETWEEN TRADITIONAL VALUES AND CHANGE BECAME EVIDENT IN 1977.
And the International year of the woman started being organized.
THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S YEAR OR IWY, WAS PART OF A UNITED NATIONS EFFORT TO PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON WOMEN AND PROMOTE EQUALITY AROUND THE GLOBE.
"And we're not going to stop this journey until we get our equality, all the way."
IN AMERICA, STATES HELD CONFERENCES TO VOTE ON RESOLUTIONS ADDRESSING ISSUES SUCH AS WOMEN IN EDUCATION, THE ARTS, POLITICS, WORK, AND THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT.
So much of what I was about were the symbols of equality and celebrating the symbols of equality, and in Utah, we did not get to do that (laughs).
THE CONFERENCE BECAME A PLATFORM TO PROMOTE WOMEN'S CONCERNS, TO CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS, DEVELOP LOCAL PLANS OF ACTION, AND ELECT DELEGATES TO SEND TO A NATIONAL CONVENTION IN HOUSTON.
THE THEME WAS "THE VOICE OF WOMENKIND"
IN UTAH, THE VOICES WERE MANY - LOUD - AND AT ODDS.
We were hoping for a meeting of about 300 women at the Salt Palace. And at some point, we said we should involve the relief society.
Ezra Taft Benson, who was then president of the LDS church, called on relief society presidents to send ten women from their ward to the international women's year conference.
But the result of that exceeded their wildest expectations or perhaps fears.
And so suddenly there were 13,000 people coming to the conference.
It at some point became perceived as an opportunity for opposition to things like the equal rights amendment and to other aspects of feminist aspirations
And they felt that this group of 300 feminists were trying to take over their agenda for families and women
They just overwhelmed us, in numbers, in in plans, in in working together.
And they were all agitated and nervous and afraid.
Probably the most alarming thing that stuck with me, EDIT was watching women actually dismantle the NOW booth
THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, OR N-O-W, HAD PUSHED FOR THE E-R-A AND THE YEAR OF THE WOMAN. IN UTAH, NOW'S PRESENCE WAS PHYSICALLY DISASSEMBLED.
I, to this day, when I think about that think I now understand the psychology of a lynch mob because people were so motivated by fear and by emotion that there really wasn't any reasoning going on, it was actions out of fear.
I think they saw themselves as defenders of the traditional family and the traditional supports that the family provided for children and for women.
25 RESOLUTIONS WERE UP FOR CONSIDERATION. BUT BEFORE THE CONFERENCE STARTED, WELL-ORGANIZED OPPOSITION GROUPS CREATED A NEW CURRENT.
They didn't want women in the judiciary. They didn't want women to run for public office. They didn't want any help with childcare. They just weren't interested in anything that would help women go to college. They just weren't interested in anything.
And then the men got in the act and they came to and they were walking up and down the aisle patrolling to make sure that the LDS women voted the way they were supposed to vote.
The most memorable part of the day for me was going into the voting booth and reading down this long list of resolutions and remembering that you know what we were supposed to do was vote no on most of these resolutions. But as I read them I remember tears just rolling down my face
This young woman came up to me and said "Georgia tell me how to vote, tell me how to vote." And I said "God gave you a brain, use it. You decide, you listen, you vote."
You have these expectations that your parents and your family have on you and then you have the expectations that your church puts on you. So, I had all these things pulling on me and yet in that in that voting booth when I was thinking about the resolutions and and how I would vote on those it really came down to me and how I made choices or how I made ethical judgments about those issues that impacted women.
It was one of the first times I'd really thought that there was a lot more for me to learn about my position as a woman in in the world.
There had always been a strain of Mormon feminism. But I think it is the case that IWY did elevate the issues to a level of visibility that probably accelerated that. Some women just said, wait a minute, what was that all about and set out to find out. Other women who were already engaged said, 'I need to be more of an advocate and take these issues to a wider community'.
In terms of my life course it became a moment that was very much a life before then and then life after that. It was one of the first times I'd really thought that there was a lot more for me to learn about my position as a woman in the world. And it took me a really long time to figure that out, but it began there.
The outcome actually for us was Network. Because we said afterwards there was so much fear. We thought it's their fear of what could happen with all the change that's being proposed and it's the feminist fear of their fear of what's going to happen. That we needed a communication tool, so that this could all be talked out.
Well the hope was that people would buy it and and we would form a community awareness around women's issues and interests.
And when we wrote the mission, we said 'Network is a magazine for women who work outside the home and for the men with whom they live and work. Because it was a huge problem for both. And I think that's why network was in the workplace and that's why Network was in homes. And that's why people still come up to me on the street and say 'Network saved my life. It was what I needed at that time."
ALMOST AS A FAINT ECHO OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, IN 1982, THE DEADLINE FOR RATIFICATION OF THE E-R-A CAME AND WENT.
It was deflating and demoralizing.
Most people, I think, found constructive ways to go forward but it it was a very dark time for Utah feminists.
It was a confirmation that society felt that women are second class citizens
It was a relief to have it over with. Maybe we could, you know, join hands again, join arms, you know, let's stop this this fighting.
Along with dejection, you know, was anger and a sense that these people cannot be allowed to win. That equal rights, in a legal sense and equal opportunity, in an economic and political sense for women was absolutely necessary and would come
When the equal rights amendment died then the next plan for them was let's go out and get it piece by piece-by-piece, and that's what they've continued to do.
In my mind we've won the equal rights amendment, not that we're all the way there but we have made huge changes in our society that are accepted as basic now and would be, hopefully, pretty hard to go backwards.
The 70's were an extraordinarily challenging and dynamic time.
A lot of young women really do not realize that they are where they are because there have been fighters among us.
It's not like you reach this great zenith of equality and you stay there forever. You have to fight for it with every generation. Its not something you can just take for granted you have to safe guard it.
We did not stand still when there was an injustice done. We did not keep quiet when there were things that were being offered to men that were not being offered equally to women. We were not sitting in the background when things were happening we came forward.
It's important for women today, the women who are coming up-the younger woman to know a little bit about the history of those times because some of the problems that they encounter while not overt and not blatant, nonetheless stem from some of the same fears about change and about loss that motivated much of the work that was going on in that era.
THROUGHOUT THE 1970'S ALL OF SOCIETY WAS CONFRONTING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS OF AN ERA. WHAT IS JUSTICE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE OPPORTUNITY? HOW DO WE LIVE AMONG OURSELVES FAIRLY, EQUITABLY, HONORABLY... EQUALLY.
I think we learned together to to ask a lot of questions that we just hadn't asked before. A lot of eyes opened and a lot of people began to make choices that were different than what they might have made had we not been faced with that very political question.
I think about my mother. In her relief society, she spoke out on behalf of the ERA during that contentious time here in Salt Lake City. These are my mothers words, 'One of the good things to come out of women's rights movements around the world over the years is the intellectual awakening that has come to women themselves. The degree of our aliveness depends on the degree of our awareness. There are 2 important days in a woman's life. The day she is born and the day she finds out why.'
In the upper levels of NOW at that time, there were several Mormon women who persuaded everyone else that the Mormons really knew how to organize. The national office of NOW had come into salt lake and started this ERA missionary program. And what we were doing was using the Mormon model of knocking door to door and saying "can I talk to you about the Equal Rights Amendment?" And baring our testimony to let people know that ... the 26 words, that's what the equal rights amendment is, and that's what we want to have passed.
"Gosh, if I can do this in Utah, I can do this anywhere."