By Claudia Feldman
"Why do you always call me?" demanded Dallas Higgins, one of the 20 white
delegates representing the state of Mississippi at the National Women's Conference.
"Is it because of my husband's affiliation with the Klan?"
"What are you really getting at?"
asked Shelton N. Hand, one of the three
members of the Mississippi delegation who
criticized the state meetings and the national conference at a Senate hearing conducted by Senator Jesse Helms. "The
media is pro-ERA."
"We're not coming to Houston to
disrupt the conference," Eddie Myrtle
Moore said. "We're just asking that our
story be told."
The story is that 1200 participants at
Mississippi's state convention elected five
men and 15 women to the national convention who are opposed to the ERA, against
abortions, highly critical of the convention's leadership and uniformly pessimistic
about their chances of a fair hearing in
All the delegates, that is, but one.
Minutes after the newly elected delegates were announced, the lone black
woman chosen to represent the state whose
population is 38.6 per cent black, resigned.
The ex-delegate, Willie Taylor, also
publicity chairperson of the state's International Women's Year coordinating committee, claimed ill health.
The rest of the Mississippi delegation
says pro-ERA women forced her to resign.
Others say, however, that she chose
not to be associated with the overwhelmingly conservative group.
Taylor could not be reached for
Before the state conference convened
in July, national IWY leaders instructed the
participants to elect delegates who were
"low-income women; members of diverse
racial, ethnic and religious groups; and
women of all ages."
After the state conference, IWY
leaders claimed the women had been controlled by conservative groups including
the John Birch Society, the Mormon
Church and the Ku Klux Klan.
Eddie Moore, 51, says those comments are "slurs at me as the delegation
chairman and a discredit to the delegation.
"The conference was not controlled
by any group. We were all instructed to
elect 20 delegates—and the 61 delegates
we chose from were not listed by race or
political affiliation," Moore said.
"If there had been quotas, it
wouldn't have been a free election."
Also criticized frequently for including five men in the state delegation, Moore
said, "People have harped on that. The
men are not running the delegation. They
are here at our own invitation."
Moore said the only organized attempt to get a slate of conservative delegates was an informal one, "where we got
on the phone to bring out our friends and
Are all the elected delegates Chris
tians? "Yes ma'am," she said.
"Christians have been silent too long.
It's time we took a stand." Moore said the
women's movement has been taken over by
"radical women feminists" who are trying
to destroy the American home.
Moore is a homemaker, a mother, a
grandmother, a woman who says she has
dedicated her life to her family, the PTA,
her church. She got involved in the convention, she says, because it was "time to take
a stand on the issue."
She was highly critical of the conduct of some at the state meeting.
"The people we were working with
had a lack of respect for God. The meetings didn't begin with a prayer, and the
pledge of allegiance was said only when
one of our men got a flag and marched
down the aisle of one of the meeting
Moore said she is looking forward to
the trip to Houston. But, she said, there is
little hope that her opinions will be heard.
"The convention is already controlled" by
pro-ERA forces, she said.
Shelton Hand, 37, a Jackson attorney, agrees with Moore. "My goals at the
convention are to survive. The organizers
just want people to come in and put a
rubber stamp on the report. Then they
will take it back to Washington and say it
represents a grass roots effort. But I dare
say it won't represent American women."
Hand said he is a member of the delegation because a large number of women
asked him to run. "The people at the convention were Baptists, Presbyterians,
Methodists, Mormons—all denominations.
There have been statements that the group
is Klan controlled. That just goes to show
they've never been down here to talk to
any of us."
The women running the convention,
he said, are "totally ruining the Christian-
based fiber on which everything worthwhile in this country is based.
"An extremely small, extremely loud
Hand said passage of the ERA would
mean that women will be drafted and that
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, fraternities
and sororities, mother-daughter and father-
son events will become illegal. And lesbian
and homosexual marriages, he said, will become commonplace if the ERA becomes
"But I can't get anybody in the media to face up to it because all of them (reporters) are pro-ERA."
Higgins, wife of Klan leader George
Higgins, says she, too, was asked to run as a
member of the delegation. But what she
wants to accomplish in Houston, she said,
is almost irrelevant. The way the convention has been run thus far, she said, allows
only a slight chance her views will be
Higgins said she is not a member of
the Klan but supports her husband's political beliefs.
The real issue to be debated at the
convention, she said, is whether "people
are for the family or against the family."
Higgins said she is against homosexuality ("they can call it an alternative lifestyle, but a sin is a sin"), abortions and
increased credit for women ("there's too
much credit in this country already").
Women, she said, represent the majority of voters in the country and the
majority of wealth. "How can they say
they are discriminated against? They have
more rights than men do."
The convention, she said, is supposed
to represent "the grass roots. In reality,
the convention is just going to jam certain
ideas down our throats."
Jessie Mosley, the chairperson of the
state coordinating committee formed long
before the state convention was held, is in
sharp disagreement with the elected
"They don't want equal rights," said
Mosley who is in her early 60's. "They misunderstand the issues and only want to
protect the status quo. They think a woman's place is in the home." She said she
overheard one man say he was a delegate to
"protect the women."
Mosley acknowledged that one black
had been elected at the state convention.
"But she resigned because she didn't want
to be a part of the group," she said.
The group was elected at the state
convention, Mosley said, because "they
(the antis) outnumbered us."
At least 500 to 600 of them organized and traveled from state to state, in
Florida, Oklahoma, Utah, Hawaii and Arizona, telling the people what papers to
follow, how to act and what to do.
The national IWY commission expressed displeasure over the outcome of
some state elections—specifically those in
Mississippi and Alabama-that resulted in
In March, the Commission named
Mosley and eight other black women from
Mississippi to attend the convention as at-
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DAILY BREAKTHROUGH NOVEMBER 18, 1977 PAGE 9