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"70's Feminism" Panel
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Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Karkabi, Barbara Farrar [moderator]; Northcutt, Frances M. "Poppy" [panelist]; Teresa, Celia [panelist]; Cassidy, Helen [panelist]; Hightower, Nikki Van, 1939- [panelist]. "70's Feminism" Panel. 1995. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 16, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/60.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Karkabi, Barbara Farrar [moderator]; Northcutt, Frances M. "Poppy" [panelist]; Teresa, Celia [panelist]; Cassidy, Helen [panelist]; Hightower, Nikki Van, 1939- [panelist]. (1995). "70's Feminism" Panel. University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/60

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Gregory, Elizabeth [host]; Karkabi, Barbara Farrar [moderator]; Northcutt, Frances M. "Poppy" [panelist]; Teresa, Celia [panelist]; Cassidy, Helen [panelist]; Hightower, Nikki Van, 1939- [panelist], "70's Feminism" Panel, 1995, University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 16, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/60.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title "70's Feminism" Panel
Creator (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth [host]
  • Karkabi, Barbara Farrar [moderator]
  • Northcutt, Frances M. "Poppy" [panelist]
  • Teresa, Celia [panelist]
  • Cassidy, Helen [panelist]
  • Hightower, Nikki Van, 1939- [panelist]
Date 1995
Description A panel discussion with an assortment of Houston area feminist leaders from the 1970s. The seminar discusses the complex history and the struggle and changes that have characterized women's lives during the intervening years. The talk starts with each of the speakers being asked to discuss how they first got involved with the feminist movement. They then discuss the early years of NOW in Houston.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas
  • Feminism--United States
  • National Organization for Women. Houston Chapter
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Gregory, Elizabeth
  • Karkabi, Barbara Farrar
  • Northcutt, Frances Miriam "Poppy"
  • Teresa, Celia
  • Cassidy, Helen
  • Hightower, Nikk Van, 1939-
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b4555844~S11
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name 2011_17_001.m4v
Access File Run Time 1:53:42
Transcript Hi. I’m Elizabeth Gregory, director of the women’s studies program at U of H and welcome to the first event of the ‘95/’96 subscription series, sponsored by our community outreach association. This series aims to present over this year and the coming years a sense of the complex lives of women’s history in Houston and of the struggle and changes that have characterized last few years. This year’s interview format was developed as an extension of the programs ongoing effort to archive at U of H, to serve students and the Houston community as a whole. The archive’s initial focus will be on both oral histories and of Texas women and the papers of the Houston area women’s organizations. The living archive series provides a means of focusing public awareness of the need document women’s history, as well as provide the archive. Before I introduce our moderator, who will introduce the panel, I’ll remind you that our next interview will be on November 17 at 9 am at the UH Hilton with Dr. Ruth Simmons, a Houston Native and the president of Smith College. You may have heard about her recently, she was recently inaugurated as the head of Smith and she’s the first black woman to head at an Ivy League college. The remaining three interviews will be held in the Maneal at 7:30 on Tuesday, and they will be on February 13, Marguerite Johnston, long time Houston Post columnist and author, March 26th. former Houston mayor Kathy Whitmire and 1 April 30th, with Channel 13 reporter Melanie Lawson and her mother, a community 2 volunteer, Audry Lawson, If you’d like to buy tickets in advance, there are forms on 3 the desk, I’d also like to invite you to stay after tonight’s interview, if you would like, 4 and talk, Coffee, juices and snacks will be available for purchase outside from the two 5 piece coffee house cart. After the interview tonight, there will be an opportunity for questions 6 from the audience. You should have gotten a card, For the purposes of the 7 videotaping, rather than calling from questions from the floor, we’re going to collect 8 those cards and hand them to - you can hand them to one of our volunteers, So, that’s 9 basically the background, I’d like now like to introduce our moderator, Barbara 10 Karkabi. Barbara has been a general assigned reporter for the Houston Chronicle 11 features department for sixteen years. She knows Houston very well and one of the 12 issues she’s covered is the women’s movement, Please join me in welcoming Barbara 13 Karkabi. 14 BARBARA: Thank you for coming tonight. Can you hear me? No? 15 Can you hear me now? Okay. Thanks for coming tonight, we’ve got a great panel 16 that I’m going to introduce, Over to the right is Poppy Northcott. She’s a nationally 17 recognized leader of the women’s movement in the 1970’s, First women in mission 18 control at NASA in 1965 to 1974. Women’s advocate, first women’s advocate in the 19 office of the mayor of Houston, ‘74 to ‘75. National conference coordinator for the 20 National Women’s Conference held in Houston in ‘77. Founding chair of the Harris 21 County Women’s Political Caucus in 72 now national board of directors Former 22 DA with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and finally she’s currently in private law practice on her own. Next to her is Celia Teresa. She was chair of the Harris County Women’s Political Co-op Caucus in the early ‘70’s. On the board of the National Organization for Women, 1974. Board of the Ms. Foundation in ‘70’s. Founder of Houston Area NOW and the first Hispanic active member. Member of {Segaris}, a feminist think tank, formed in 1974. Keynote speaker at national NOW conference in 1975. From 1986 to ’92, in 1992 she left the movement to grieve and mourn the death of her son David, who was lost in the AIDS epidemic. And she’s currently an AIDS education activist with and a member of the board of directors at the Houston Area Women’s Center and still a strong feminist, right? Sitting next to me is Helen Cassidy, coordinator of National Women’s conference in Houston in 1977, coordinator of the NOW National Conference in Houston in 1972, convener of the Harris County Women’s Political Caucus in ‘72, national award of NOW in the ‘70’s and she’s currently chief staff attorney at the Court of Appeals in Houston. And last but not least we have Nikki Van Hightower, who was founder and first executive director of the Houston Area Women’s Center, former assistant professor of political science at U of H, second women’s, second and last women’s, advocate, a moderator, commentator of radio station KTRH ‘78 and ‘79, Harris County Treasurer from ‘87 to 1990, ran for state treasurer in 1990, won the democratic party primary but lost to Kay Baily Hutcheson in the general election. And she’s currently at A & M teaching in several jobs she might tell us about later, one of which is at the 1 Center for International Business Studies and at the political science department, right? 2 Welcome, Nikki. 3 I’m going to ask a general question of all the panels, starting with 4 Nikki. I’m interested and I think everyone else is interested in knowing why and how 5 each of you became feminist and got involved in the women’s movement. Was there 6 a particular incidence that sparked your interest or was it a lifelong passion? Was there 7 anything in your childhood that might have influenced you? 8 N.VH: Everything in my childhood influenced me, but I would guess 9 like most people in the audience and on the -­on the stage here that there was no such 10 a thing as a feminist movement. There was no vocabulary, there was no talk of it, 11 there was only a kind of awareness and so -­yeah. I can trace it back to the day that 12 I first gained some sort of consciousness of being -­of being alive, I suppose. But 13 actually, my transition took place when there was a movement and then that -­for me 14 that was when I was in New York. I had left Houston and gone to New York to work 15 on my PhD. When I left Houston in 1969, there was nothing going on here at all. But in 16 New York, things had already started to kind of get organized and pick up. And so 17 I just was observant of it for a long time and then when I came to the point where I 18 was writing my dissertation, I decided I would do something on women and politics 19 and that just immersed me in the whole issue. It took me into the fields of psychology 20 and sociology and I really began to realize what was going on here and how it effected 21 women in their political lives. And the next step for me then was to move from the 22. status of observer to participant. And it was just a tremendously exciting time. I 4 trekked out like many women did at that time and joined the National Organization for 2 Women and then I later -­and that was in Suffolk County in New York and later 3 founded a chapter in Huntington Long Island, New York, and then came back to 4 Houston in 1974. But it was really my academic work that took me into the feminist 5 movement, but the minute I got into that, all the rest of my life made sense. I knew 6 what it was about. 7 BARBARA: Helen, what about you? 8 H.C.: Well, I did not know that the reason that I had more scabs on my knees than any kid in 9 town was because I was a feminist when I was a child, because I was told girls do not 10 climb trees, so I was up every tree in the neighborhood. Girls don’t do foot races. 11 All of these - I thought, well I can, I can. My worst habit in life, my addiction to 12 nicotine was because they told me ladies do not smoke, I went out and got a pack of 13 Lucky’s. I did a lot of that, I was the first person in little ‘ole Commerce High 14 School, the first woman, to be allowed to take architectural drawing, which in 1956 15 was considered absolutely obscene. I didn’t know what all of this meant, I just knew 16 that I didn’t like the rules and so I tried to break all of them that I could. When I finally 17 began, when I was in graduate school, a good friend of mine, Betty Barnes, became one 18 of the first officers to the Texas Women’s Political Caucus, ended up in a seminar with 19 me and we left class and I said, “They don’t like women in graduate school,” And she said, “No, they 20 don’t.” And I said, “That’s wrong.” But there was no movement, there were no 21 books, there was no literature except the early suffrages literature. And when I heard 22 that there was talk of a NOW group starting, and you were seeing little articles and they called it “The Women’s Liberation Front”, which I was confusing it, I think, with things in Vietnam for a while. I had no idea what it meant. And then I heard there was a NOW group. A professor at the University of Houston was getting it together and I, for whatever reason, resisted going. I had a small child at the time and that was a good excuse not to go. Then I went to the very first meeting in April of 1970, was my first meeting, and I thought, these are very strange women. They have strange ideas. Went home and read more in the papers and thought these women are not doing it right. Why don’t they do it right? And I thought, “Oh, I will go to a meeting”. And so in September of 1970, I went to Houston Area NOW, paid my dues, said I want to do the newsletter, can I be in charge of the programs, met Poppy Northcott at that same meeting... And I actually went, “oh, this is what it’s all about”, and it truly was for me a revelation. I went to the first, “consciences raising session”, which was the only one I ever went to because it hit me like a sledgehammer. Someone came bustling in and said, “Did you see that sign that says, ‘Hey guys, take chicken home to your chick’”? I said, “well that’s just language” and she said, “That’s just language, it’s the thread that runs throughout the entire sexist society. It’s all…the reasons you don’t get paid enough…” and I was like, by God, and it was like the entire world made sense. I knew why I’d been upset, I knew why I was smoking cigarettes {inaudible}, I knew why I insisted on doing the things I did. And it all made sense, but now I had a wonderful philosophy to go with it. And it did indeed totally and completely 5 I change my life in that it changed my perception, my understanding of events. It is 2 a cantor of religious experience when finally the world, as chaotic as it is, at least has 3 an explanation that has meaning to your life. And that’s the way it was. 4 BARBARA: Celia? 5 C.T.: Okay, we’re going to have to go back in time for quite a bit, okay’? 6 I was born 1930 and I was born the oldest of six girls. We never had any brothers and 7 1 had very supportive parents, including my father, My father was extremely 8 supportive of his daughters, and I never knew that there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t 9 do if I really wanted to do it, because of his support and my mother’s support. But in 10 Nicaragua there was no such thing -I mean I never thought about feminist and I didn’t 11 think about why I can’t do this, I just wanted to do it, When I was three years old I 12 realized I was different from most girls. I mean, there were things that -­I used to be 13 very good at arguing and putting my point across and I would argue endlessly and this 14 was not something that girls were supposed to do. 15 H.C.: She still does. 16 C.T.: It’s a virtue. But anyway, I grew up fairly free. Grew up doing the things that, 17 you know, that boys did and we played marbles with the boys, we climbed trees, we 18 rode horses, we grew up in a very small town. There were really no restrictions on 19 the part of my parents. So, I can say that the beginnings of feminism were already 20 there. Although I didn’t call it that, I called it independence. I want, I have my own 21 mind and I speak and I say what I want. I was sent to convent school and that really did it. 22 I was there for, the sisters were wonderful, I mean, they were really - they formed 7 I character and they formed mine. And if there’s something deficient, believe me, it’s 2 not their fault. It’s that I didn’t follow through on their advice. But anyway, I came 3 to the United States and followed this path of independence. Eventually got married, 4 eventually had four children, and I wasn’t really totally happy. There was something 5 missing, and I would say to my husband at the time, I would say, “You know, there’s 6 something missing here.” “I don’t know what’s the matter with you, I’m happy. I 7 don’t know why you’re not happy” Okay. And then I heard about the feminine 8 mystique. I was probably already in my 30’s then. It was ‘69 when she wrote it? Okay, then 9 I was 39. Okay, so I heard about the -­and I didn’t even want to read it, because I 10 thought, it’s another book telling women about how to please their man, you know? 11 I mean, this is what I thought it was, this title sounded to me like that. So finally I 12 took a peak at it and I began to listen, you know, about believe it or not, there were 13 things being said about feminist among the radio and I heard or read that Poppy 14 Northcott had a chapter of NOW, and I thought, should I call her, should I not? And 15 so finally one day, the hell, excuse me, the heck with it, I’ll call her. And 16 the reason I didn’t want to call her was because I thought, well, maybe she’s one of 17 those feminine mystique women or ladies, you know, and I really don’t want to get 18 into that. So, I called her and I didn’t realize she was at work and when she said, “Oh 19 yes, we have meetings at the Clayton Library and you can come,’ And I talked and 20 talked and talked and she said, “Well, I’ve got to now.’ And I thought, she’s kind of 21 rude. She was working. So, I attended the meetings, which the chapter was already 22 organized. I met wonderful people like Poppy and Helen and I met Peggy Hall and I 8 I met Clara Willy and I can go on and on forever. I hope they’re all here. This was now, then the caucus was formed and I joined the caucus. But everything seemed to fall 2 into place. It wasn’t a real big revelation. It was like, yeah, okay, there’s other crazy 4 women like you. You’re not the only crazy one out there, you know. And then I 5 realized that in order to survive I had to be crazy. That in order to survive, you know, 6 in this society, and what they tell you, you have to be crazy. You have to act crazy. 7 So, I really came into where I belong, with all the crazy women out there, you know. So, that’s as much as I can say about becoming a feminist. 8 9 BARBARA: Poppy, it’s your turn. 10 P.N.: I think my consciousness really began (audio failure). at an aerospace center (inaudible)…contractors from NASA… and about three months into the job it occurred to me that I was smart as these guys were that were making a thousand (inaudible) … but instead we’re called engineerists, and I 11 was also doing, you know, about six months I was doing as much work as they were 12 and it had as much technical merit to it. And I think that was really the point where 13 I had the big awakening and went, this is not fair, this is not right, 14 and I started taking action and was promoted fairly rapidly and became one of the first women 15 engineers out in that area and ended up in the mission control center and so on. 16 But when I began seeing things in the newspapers talking about the beginnings of the women’s movement and seeing articles about bra burnings and so forth in the newspaper. I was 17 18 interested in the women’s movement because I certainly knew that we needed one. I didn’t have anything against my bra, but I thought we definitely needed a women’s 19 20 movement. Anyway, I saw some of the stuff about there being some sort of group in 21 Houston, but never could figure out where they were and I wasn’t smart enough or 22 clever enough to figure out how to find that out at the time. But there was a big strike, “don’t iron while the strike is hot”, that was in H,C,: 1970, August 26th. P,N.: August 26, 1970, and the newspaper said these crazy womans movers were going to be down there, and I went, “Ah, I can find them!” So I will go down and participate in this ”don’t iron while the strike is hot” because those women need to stop burning their bras and start dealing with all of this discrimination. I was sort of like telling them that before - well, of course no one was out burning their bras anyway, that was just a newspaper idea - didn’t have anything to do with reality - but I took myself down there, and marched and essentially have been marching and picketing and raising hell ever since. BARBARA: Thank you. This is a question, I think, for Helen, Poppy, and Celia. Although, if your involved in this, you can answer too. But I wanted you to tell us about the founding of NOW in Houston, how it came to pass and a little bit about what the beginning days were like. You started to talk a little bit about that but maybe you can expand on that a little more. Do you want to continue Poppy? P.N.: Well, I was not one of the actual founders, because I, none of us here were… H.C.: Peggy Peggy was. PN: Peggy. H.C.: Peggy, what was Sally’s last name? PEGGY: Sally Haggard. H.C: Absolutely. Sally Haggard, (inaudible) H.C.: both she and her husband were charter members, It started like in April that year. I actually was invited to that first meeting, so I said I couldn’t go. Then I went to one where everybody talked about food. That was the one where I thought these women were crazy. But then in August, I mean, we did have the nationwide strike that Betty {?} called for and women all across the country on August the 26th, that was the fiftieth celebration of women’s right to vote were out and it was for once you went, “Oh, this is just wonderful. And that was August the 26th and they had the September meeting and I do know that one thing that I do know that Poppy and I jointly did was type the first list of the membership of Houston area NOW, which by the way, was highly guarded. No one could have it. It had to be hidden. People were afraid. It was a real fear that they would lose their jobs if they were known to be out with these subversive, crazy women. And so we didn’t let anyone see our membership list, which was actually a good idea because we only had fifty members at the time and every time we sent out a press release we claimed two hundred and fifty and then the membership would grow and I said, “My God, we have almost as many as we’re claiming.” So, it would up the ante and we would never let anyone see our list, because people were going to find out that there was a lot of smoke and mirrors going on, and that we would sort of throw on a different wig and go to another meeting and then we’d run to another meeting on the other side of town and they’d think, ‘My God, there everywhere!’ And it was really just a small cadre of us being a real pain in the butt all over time. BARBARA: So, it was a pretty exciting time? HC: Oh. it was wonderful. It was a remarkable time. PN: My big contribution--Helen was the one who said she was going to walk in and make the newsletter-- My big contribution, I told you I couldn’t find them, okay. Well, my big contribution was I said, “We need a phone.” Well, you know, it’s like you look around the room and say, OK, I’ll be the phone.” So I became the phone. H.C.: I was the phone for few years and you did get, what, 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning phone calls from people saying, I need $50 to fix my carburetor or I can’t go to work tomorrow and if I don’t I’m killing myself.” PN: I had suicide call referred from Crisis Hotline, a woman who was… (cut off) H.C.: I had those too. P.N: I’m not prepared for this, you know. H. C.: Crisis Hotline did start referring all their suicide…if it was a female, they just referred them to our phones, like three in the morning, “Crisis Hotline has referred me to talk to you.” Which is what they thought it was… C.T.: I guess that was about the time that I came to NOW. I don’t think the chapter had been found or had been working, I mean, in office… You all were not in office or did you have any office or did you just get together? All I know is… P.N.: Oh a physical place? Clayton Library. C.T.: I came to the Clayton Library, that’s where I started meeting and it was a very interesting group of women, I was, definitely, you know, I’ve always claimed to be a Hispanic. I hope the Hispanics claim me, and I noticed that there weren’t really any other Hispanics there, so I just assumed that I was the first one, was you know, the only Hispanic. For a while, I’ve always had the idea that if you go somewhere where you’re new and everybody seems know everybody else, the best thing you can do is to really shut up, you know, at least for three months and listen and get to know people. And I’m sure that there were other this is NOW. We’re 3 talking about NOW. Shortly after I joined NOW, I was just kind of like, shall I say 4 I wasn’t interested in holding office at the time. I just wanted to share my ideas and 5 my views and listen to what other women -what they were saying and especially 6 reaffirming the fact that I wasn’t crazy, because I had been told by, you know, 7 members of my family that I was crazy. That I had crazy friends, that I had kooky 8 friends and why did I choose kooky friends. And it was just that I was an individual 9 and I did nothing like most people. I did nothing that the whole purpose of my life 10 was to decorate and redecorate my house. I mean, I love my children. I mean, I just 11 adore them and I still do, but I didn’t think that my life was meant just to take care of 12 them and when my first was put in my arms, I talked to him and I said, “You know what? You’re born 13 today and that’s fine and we’ll be together probably for eighteen years, but after that 14 either you’ll be gone or I’ll be gone.” And I mean, I have those very strong ideas and, 15 of course, I couldn’t voice them, because in a very conservative family, very Catholic 16 family, a very family oriented family, well, I was crazy. So, NOW was sort of like 17 a place where, you know, that I found those other women that could express the 18 feelings and the thoughts that I have. Is that my time? 19 BARBARA: No. No, that’s somebody else’s. 20 C.T.: And so, what my big, big…are we going into the women’s 21 political caucus? 22 BARBARA: Possibly. 13 C.T.: Okay, then I’ll say that, because that’s when I really cemented friendships that I have had for twenty years. BARBARA: Well, I have a follow-up question. Were there many women of color involved in the beginning days of movement? C.T.: Not that I recall. I think was probably the only one and I don’t think people knew that I was a woman of color, you know, they probably was have looked at me, you know, I had a hispanic last name. My married name was Estrada and I have this feeling, and maybe for some founded, but I have this feeling that, you know, not anyone in particular, but in general, would look at me sideways and wonder if I came from the Catholic Church, you know, and if was against abortion and if I was one of those people who, you know, {??} it in there, you know, and find out what in the world is going on. I had that feeling, but really didn’t pay much attention to it. I really wanted be with the people there and I wanted to hear what they had to say and I thought I had a lot to give. Not just from the point of view of a minority woman but from the point view of a woman, you know, let’s face it, they were all kiddos and was already 39 and my kids were already grown. I owned my own business at the time. I had worked all of my married life, you know. I had worked outside the home, which in the 50’s, was unusual. So, I felt had a lot to give. BARBARA: Well, did the movement effect the community then and how much has it effected it now? P.N.: I think, well, would anyone else… I C.T.: Are you asking me? Yes, I think it did. A lot of it is because we’re all outspoken. 2 And even though, you know, and Helen mentioned that the lists were secret and it 3 should be so, but I think we were all outspoken and we would talk and we would say 4 and nobody listened, You know, when I was chair of the caucuses, Olga would send 5 somebody, because, you know, we don’t know what she was going to say. I said, 6 “What difference does it make? Let her speak, nobody listens anyway.” 7 BARBARA: Did it effect the Hispanic community in particular? 8 C.T,: Yes. But I’d like to make, you know, what I found out is, you 9 see, the first conference that was held here was not the first conference for women, not 10 by NOW and not by the caucus, It was Elma Barrera with Hispanic women and it was 11 held at the YWCA and they were all Hispanic women and Elma organized that 12 conference and it was like a year before the first NOW conference. To bring Hispanic 13 women together to speak about women’s issues. I have Elma to be here tonight. I 14 don’t see her out there. I hope if she’s out there, raise your hand, but you know, she 15 was one of the first organizers of women of women’s conference here in Houston, 16 It was held at the Y downtown and I understand it was a very emotional conference, 17 because a lot of the things that were discussed, the women were not ready to hear 18 them. Abortion issues were discussed, a chart of issues were discussed. I mean, this 19 is really a lot of people don’t know this. They have this feeling that Hispanic women 20 worry and are at home taking care of the babies, their husbands, you know, their 21 family and in church, Not so. We’ve had strong Hispanic women in this community 22 and very outspoken even before NOW organized, even he before the womens Political 15 caucus organized. And I just wanted put that forward, that image 2 you know, is better rounded out about Hispanic women. 3 BARBARA: Thank you, Celia. Okay, I’ve got another question for all the panelist. We want get real flavor and feeling for that era, so we want you, you know, the candle light vigils, the marches, the late night planning sessions. So, tell, maybe, some war stories that you might have. Nikki, do you want start? Was it all a war story? Or was one long war? N.V.H.: When I took the position of women’s advocate, Poppy had been there sixteen, eighteen months? 10 P.N.: Eighteen months. 11 N.V.H.: Eighteen months, and I sort of followed in her footsteps in terms of, you know, making the statistical reports about what women were paid and positions they had. A woman had never been elected to city council and I realized that my reports were not nearly as sophisticated as the ones that she sent in but it didn’t 15 make bit of difference, because nothing happened them anyway. I mean, it was the giant city bureaucracy that just swallowed them up and nothing came of it. And 17 I began to realize, eighteen months of Poppy, six months of me, two years, five years, wouldn’t make any difference. We kept sending reports, kept sending the same things in and 19 nothing would happen. And maybe it finally dawned on me since I had my Ph.D. in political science, maybe I ought put some of it work there. And, after thinking about it, I realized that nothing was going to happen in city government or any place else until women were mobilized on the outside and became such a 1 political threat that it was going to happen. That crummy little toothless position that 2 we got as our payoff in the 1970’s was not going to do the trick, And so I started 3 focusing some of my attention of the outside and working on organizing and doing 4 different things. Well, apparently it was, it was recognized that the earth was starting 5 to move or something because the city council came down on my head almost 6 immediately and I was fired and my salary was reduced to a dollar a year and 7 sitting out in the audience right now I mean, it’s almost strange sitting up here 8 because we’ve got all these activists also sitting out in the audience. We were all one. 9 And it was, in retrospect, probably the most meaningful time of my life that I will ever 10 have. I mean, we were so determined and we were so willing to take risks and we 11 were so willing to do outrageous things if that’s what it took, the vigils, the marches, 12 to say whatever we wanted to say. I sometimes look back now and I realize that it was 13 I had kind of a kamikaze spirit. I wasn’t in the in the bureaucracy of the city 14 because I wanted to have a career in the bureaucracy of the city. I was there because 15 there was a cause for me. I was going to do something, and if I couldn’t do anything, 16 I didn’t care a thing about being there, And so it was -and many felt of us, I think, 17 felt that way. We were willing to risk almost anything. And there was this 18 tremendous sharing that all of us have talked about tonight, that we had felt so bottled 19 up and now we were finding other people who had those same feelings. And so there 20 was these marvelous opportunities to express ourselves and meet different people. I 21 see Olga Solis came in there just a few minutes ago. I know Olga is one of the first 22 people I met when I came back to Houston, Another very outspoken woman. And 1 the flavor of the times is almost hard to explain, because it was SO emotional, it was 2 so internal and it was so free and so exciting. It was just a wonderful thing to have 3 gone through and experienced. 4 BARBARA: Helen, I’m sure you have some war stories. 5 H.C.: Well, we have lots of war stories. We sued the Houston 6 Chronicle for doing male help male/female help wanted and then walked around 7 saying “Chronicle, up yours.” We did get them to stop that. We fought the papers 8 because they insisted on Ms. or Mrs. We did all kinds of fun things, but some of the 9 things we did that were most fun were when we sat with each other, putting out 10 newsletters, putting out mailings and shared and talked, because we built bonds that are 11 really quite incredible. Because when I see someone who I have not quite, like Nikki tonight, 12 we like each other, you know. It’s a special thing that you don’t 13 have that the people don’t understand. It’s a strong, strong bond with people that you 14 were in that struggle. It’s the underfire mentality under siege. We were there 15 together. We may have fought each other, we may have argued, but the enemy over 16 there was shooting at all of us and we always knew it. One of my favorite stories, 17 because it shows how pitiful we were in the beginning. We didn’t know how to raise 18 money, we didn’t have a treasury. I mean, women were coming together for the first 19 time organizing, we were learning things, we were learning in our own way. We wanted 20 to raise money, but we didn’t know how and what we knew how was the bake sale. 21 That didn’t look so good. So we thought it would be good to have a bake sale by 22 NOW. It probably would have been great, because they would have thought, ‘Oh, 18 they’re not all crazy, you know, kamikaze men haters… But we had an underground bake sale at Sharpstown center. We told them we were mothers for green grass, and that we were raising money for the environment, and I guess I told most of those lies. They insisted on a name and so I made one up. They insisted on a goal, so I made one up. This was to get a kiosk in Sharpstown center. We had all honest to-God, baked from scratch, goods. Nothing from a mix. It was all good stuff and we were busted by the Houston Post in the middle of the day. They came out with a photographer and said, ‘Isn’t it true.” And they ran a huge, all the way down the front page, thing that siad, “The Liberated Cookie Crumbles.” I said, “Look, we’re trying to have an organization. We care about women’s rights. My husband went to Hawaii tonight, he made out the insurance to NOW, but you can’t count on a plane crash all the time.” I mean, they put all this in the paper. What it did was rack up on our membership, because they discovered two things. One, that we were out there. Two, that we had a sense of humor and that was the one thing that was very surprising to most people. I think the Houston group of feminist, both the caucus and NOW and the other groups, was renowned almost nationally through the press, via Jane Elly {?}, who got stuck covering us all the time, as being funny. (Inaudible statements) …so serious, no sense of humor, they are all so serious… And we were having lots of fun. Oh, 1 forgot our drink-in. That was one of our finest hours. We announced we were having drink-in. That we were sick of these, “Women’s night guys, come on, all the girls get in free and get free booze”. We said, “Blatant attempt to use women as sexual bait to get men out.” We’re going to find one of these places one of these places, we’re going to target them, we’re all showing up , we’re going to caravan and we’re going to drink and drive. And we had a blast. We got on the networks doing that and 2 we were having a good time and we did drink and drive and we caused - you know, 3 sometimes you call attention one way, sometimes - sometimes when we did the 4 “Chronicle up yours”, other times it was {?}. It was not like one style one time. We S were very serious, but there’s, you know, different strokes for different folks, different 6 styles. And we got to use the pure-dee iron great as well as the let’s have fun and see if 7 we can get someone to think. 8 BARBARA: Celia. 9 C.T.: I’ve got a war story. What was the question? 10 BARBARA: War stories. 11 C.T.: Okay. The one that really - that we got involved in and this was 12 through the women’s political caucus. And you have to understand that I was founded 13 first and let me explain and then the women’s political caucus and the membership was 14 interchangeable. You could be board members of both, but there were some women 15 that had their heart in the women’s political caucus, and that’s where I met Olga, who 16 has been a lifelong friend since then. It was a very interesting meeting. Actually, we 17 did our little war stories, because we were two of the very few Hispanic women, Sylvia 18 - Judge Sylvia Garcia was there too. There were like five or six of us that were strong. 19 Within the women’s political caucus. I was working both. They paid their membership 20 dues to NOW because I insist that they did and they told me that, you know. Well, 21 we only pay membership dues to NOW because you told us to. But there part was 22 really in the women’s political caucus. One of the stories that we did was the Three 20 1 Maria’s and who remembers, who here remembers the Three Maria’s? All right. 2 They were Portuguese women that had written a series of stories on some poetry that 3 had been written centuries before by feminist and the government did not like the 4 language because it was not how shall I say it, flattering to men, So and so they 5 were imprisoned. So, that was -I think the first international action that now on 6 caucus we combined. So, it happened that the woman who was the honorary vice 7 council of Portugal, the city, happened to be a friend of mine. She was not 8 Portuguese, she was an American woman, she had an honorary. So, Iwent to I - 9 said, “Oh, let’s not do this.” Because I was always conscious of embarrassing another 10 woman, I felt this is not the way to do it. So, I went to her office and I talked to her 11 and I said, “Margaret.” I said, “What would you think about this and that?” And she 12 said, “What’s happening?” And I explained the story to her, the story of the Three 13 Maria’s and she said, “By all means, that’s fine.” She says, “Go ahead.” And so we 14 went and we picketed in front of the consulate with her approval and it’s really 15 interesting how women can work together. You know, she didn’t pretend she was for 16 us or against us, she was just playing her role as the consulate of Portugal. Jessica 17 Savage and I’d like you to know was the one that covered that. Jessica Savage was 18 the supporter of women’s rights and she was a very strong woman and we knew at the 19 time that she was on her way up. We could feel it and she came out and she wrote the 20 story of the Three Maria’s. Also, very interesting because they were socialists, the 21 Portuguese women and they were brought here and the socialist worker’s party, of 22 course, had something to say about it. Those were strong women and they were the ones that brought Isabel. Does anybody remember her last name? Isabel was one of the women and she came here and she spoke about it. There was a little uncomfortable feelings between the women, you know, the members of NOW and the women’s political caucus because, well, we were supposed women’s political caucus was a nonpartisan organization, but we all thought we were democrats. And this thought was there, and, of course, the last socialist worker’s party women have well, but they were wonderful women. Very intelligent, very knowledgeable and they were very supportive. So, we all worked together like, was it maybe you said it, there were free times and exciting times. Anything went. We worked with the socialists, we worked with the {la Rassa}, women occasionally. We worked with NOW, we worked with the caucus. We were women and we were all working together. Differences sometimes, some strong differences. But in the end we all pulled together. That was the one I wanted to talk about, because it was an international action that showed support, not only on the part of the women in the United States, but for women in other countries. That was my time. BARBARA: Poppy, your turn for war stories. RN.: Well, Cassidy, of course, stole my favorite war story, which is the drink-in. But I wanted to tell y’all and emphasize this as well as she did, is that we often did have a lot of times that were fun and we took a lot of fun actions, which I think was something indeed that was unique in Houston. We took a lot of, set up sort of surreptitious other underground actions besides selling cookies too. We would make up fliers, For example, we made up these fliers, sort of mock fliers in 1 response of the were a right wing pro {ERA??}. We had gotten these -at the time we were 2 handing out all these vicious fliers that had all of this crazy stuff in them that they were 3 passing out in opposition of the equal rights amendments. And we decided it would 4 be fun to write something that was just like that, but with the other result. It was just 5 as absurd. So, I don’t know how many of us were involved in that incidence. 6 Cassidy was there, I was there, (People talking at once…”Beth ??? was there”). I was wearing gloves as 7 I was typing this thing. It was issued by COW, Christians Organized for Women. And 8 my major contribution was that I was good at coming up with headlines, you might 9 say, or subtopics. Like one of them was, Pink ladies, Pink literature, Pink politics. 10 Because I don’t know if you remember at the time the opposition did equal rights 11 amendments always dressed in Pepto Bismol pink. So, we were branding them as being 12 girls. And then when then we called the leader of Happiness and {?}, I think, to get 13 her reaction to this piece, you know, and read her some of this incredible bullshit that 14 we had written. And she, of course, was in great despair. But we had a lot of fun. 15 Never let people tell you that we were always suffering. We had a lot of fun in the 16 midst of all of this and a lot of creativity. I think the stress that it does bring out 17 shows them your sense of humor and creativity. 18 BARBARA: Well, you were the -��you were appointed the first women’s 19 advocate of Houston. So, how did that position come to be created and what was your 20 experience with it? 21 P. N.: In a lot of different ways it was blackmail. I mean, let’s get real. 22 What had happened was that the women’s movement had been trying to talk to him 23 1 about serious issues, 2 H,C,: Him is- 3 BARBARA: Fred Hoffieinz, right? 4 P,N,: Fred Hofheinz, that’s right. This is when he first ran and lost, 5 And he would not talk to us. He would not give us the time of day. Anyway, I 6 followed him around, Cassidy followed him around, Other people followed him 7 around, We were everywhere. He would actually sort of turn pale when he would see 8 us, because, you know, these political people are out and, you know, suddenly this bitch 9 is standing up and wanting to know about women and the police department. And it 10 didn’t matter where he was, we would be asking these obscene questions or at least 11 they were obscene in his mind, Well, I think a real big factor happened when he had 12 an unfortunate precedent at which time somebody tried to introduce his wife, and he 13 literally took the microphone away from her and said, “I speak for my wife,” 14 H,C.: “And she supports me in all I do.” 15 P,N,: And it went out over the airwaves and all the, you know, bubbling 16 up feminist who had never done anything before, got mad and started calling in like 17 crazy. They got tons of phone calls as a result of that. 18 H,C,: Yeah, like two hundred barefoot and pregnant awards mailed to 19 him. 20 P,N,: He got all those barefoot and pregnant awards mailed to him. He 21 got pretty paranoid about that and he lost his first election. And apparently his analyst 22 told him that we were enough of a factor that if he had gotten our support, he would 1 have won. So, when it came time, he was running again. Now, instead of us trying 2 to see him, he was calling Cassidy and she’ll have to pick up the story after that, 3 because it was blackmail. 4 H.C.: He called me at home in my kitchen while I’m chasing my child 5 that was then a toddler around and said, “What will I have to do to get the support of 6 women’s rights groups in the city?” I said, “It won’t be easy.” And he said, “Fine. 7 You know, I believe in it, I care about it.” And so we came up over a period of time 8 with a list of what we believe he should commit to, to get the support of feminists. 9 One of the things on that was establishing an office of women’s advocate. Another was 10 establishing a rape process group within the police department. Another was active 11 recruiting of women for the police. But I remembered Nancy Kuykendahl, one of our 12 members from the early years, actually we made him sign it and she actually notarized 13 it. We thought, well we can’t trust these male politicians, We made him notarize it, 14 like that was going to somehow make a difference. But it was important to us and we 15 had that thing displayed for some time at the old women’s center, which was a 16 ramshackled house down on Milam. 17 C.T.: Milam and Berry. That was the first Houston Area Women’s 18 Center. It was torn down. Unfortunately, you know, we didn’t think ahead that we 19 could have perhaps bought it or kept it as a historic place. It was given to the 20 women’s political caucus. It was given to Peggy Hall and I was chair at the time, So, 21 she brought it to me. We were having breakfast or something and she said, ‘Look.’ And I said “What is it?” She said just look, he signed it, he signed it. And there were four points and yes there was a women’s advocate affirmative action. He 2 established the first affirmative action commission in the city. Then there was the rape 3 issue and there was -the fourth was childcare. There were four and he did sign it, 4 I have it at home. It’s framed. 5 BARBARA: You should have brought it. 6 C.T.: I should have, but I didn’t think. I should have brought a whole 7 lot of photographs too, but I have it at home. It’s framed. Janis Blue, who is not here 8 tonight framed it. She said, ‘Here, let me have it. I’ll frame it for you. It was that 9 kind of thing. Then they gave it back to me, then it was part of the women’s political 10 caucus and then somehow it wound up in my possession, which it should probably go 11 to the women’s archive’s now. But it was given to Peggy Hall. I’d like to add, the 12 women and the police, it was Olga Solis who called me up one day. She said, “Get 13 ready, we’re going to see the police chief.” And I said, “What, did you make an 14 appointment?” “No, we’re just going to go and see him. You’re the chair. I’m the 15 treasurer of the women’s political caucus and we’re going. It was Herman Short no, 16 it wasn’t Herman Short, It was the chief of police that wound up in jail and I don’t 17 remember. So, he opened the door to us. He was so shocked and, you know, I mean, 18 Olga was unbelievable and she stood and she says, “We’re here. This is the chair of 19 the women’s political caucus. I’m the treasurer.’ And I think we had another officer. 20 “And we’re here to visit you to see what are you going to do about women in the 21 police force?” And he says, ‘Well,,.’ She said, “No. No, I want to know when are 22 you ening to start hiring women in the police force?’ And so he said. Well, ‘you 26 know, we have a problem here with the bathrooms, we just -“ And she said, “Nonsense, Nonsense,” You know, Olga was an old political hand, okay? And I’m just listening and learning, you know, I’m the chair and she’s {???}. I listening and I’m going, “Hmm, this is neat”. So she says, “Nonsense, what do you do home?” She says, “How many bathrooms do you need?” I was pumped and I said, “What about the airlines?” Well, by the time she got through she told him, “What you need here is to hire -“ We went into the streets and everything. “You need hire some housewives. The housewives do everything.” And it was just amazing and, I mean, the energy that we had and the audacity. And all these cops standing around and looking at us and listening. They were so shocked that two women would come or three, I think it was a delegation of three or four. If anybody else was sent up, please raise your hand, I was so shocked, I got out and I said, “Olga, what did we do here?” Well, pretty soon after that they started hiring the women. 14 H.C.: There was lawsuit. 15 C.T.: There were others. Yeah, there was some lawsuit. There was a lawsuit but I think the fact that we were ready confront issues, they knew that we were not going to back off, you know. And it was just amazing, the things that we did. 19 BARBARA: I have a question forr Poppy. What was the job of women’s advocate? What were you supposed to be doing? P.N.: Well, Fred didn’t know what women’s advocate was supposed do, I think the reason I got the job in the first place was because I think I was the only applicant who walked in and told him what the women’s advocate was supposed to do. I went in with a list of, I think, ten things that I said the women’s advocate was supposed to do and I think that’s why I was hired. In terms of what I was most interested in, I was most interested in women and police and that’s where I spent most of the time working on trying to break through so that women could get into some positions in the police department, especially positions of visibility. I did not want them to be invisible anymore. We had, I think, fifty-seven women when I went down there in the department. All of whom were in skirts. None of them had guns that you could see, they were all in their purses. They were in juvenile and they were in the women’s jail. H.C.: And they were in heels. P.N.: And they were in heels, too. I mean, a lot of good they would have done trying to track down a criminal, but what I first wanted to do was to have them seen, I wanted people to know that there were some women who there were women in the police department and I wanted them to get pants so that they could do something and I wanted a gun on their hip, because I want, my feeling was that if people began to know that women could be cops, women would start applying for the job, because fairly early on I got Carol Lynn to agree to stop the absolute bar against them. He was so dumb. I hate to say this about somebody, but the man he thought that women did not want to be police officers and indeed they didn’t have many women apply, because women knew that they couldn’t get to be one. So, they never bothered. But he agreed to drop the wall and let them be hired on merit, which was a giant mistake 28 on his part. Not for women, but on his part. He got big trouble over that with guys in the police department. And the first class that was hired had, I think it was seven women in it, which had never had more than one before. So, that was news in the newspaper, I meant, that was a big thing. The next one had fourteen women on it, and these are classes of about fifty or sixty. Within just a very short period time there were half less than six months there were half in the new classes and they weren’t math whizzes down there, I’m afraid. He did not figure out that when you got in the pipeline at police department then you would eventually come out the other end and have to go somewhere, you know. So the first seven women came out, you know, of the pipeline you know, at least four or six months Later, and there were enough women’s jobs available. So, you know, no problem. But then two months later, fourteen women popped out of the pipeline. They were out of women’s jobs and at that point, now they had twenty something more already in the pipeline. And that’s when crunch hit and chief Lynn suddenly went oops, these women are coming. They’re here. And that’s when they decided to impose a quota and they put a height requirement and then chopped it off totally, but they already had these women in. And suddenly they put them on the street directing traffic and they put them in pants guns and citizens for first time got to see women police officers. And after that, they started getting overrun with them. C.T.: One of things, real quick, one of the things that did and that Chief Lynn mentioned was their height and their size and the fact that they couldn’t go through the training. The reality was that hiring women helped some of the men because before then, they had certain standards of height and after that they 2 had to drop them, There are a lot of men that do not meet the standards that they 3 had. And so that helped the men as well. And I’m not talking just about minority 4 men such as Hispanics or Asians, but there are a lot of white men that are short and a 5 lot of African American men that are short too. 6 BARBARA: Thank you. So, how did it come that you became the 7 second women’s advocate? What was the story behind that? 8 N.V.H.: Well, I think it was because I was from out of town and I 9 hadn’t established a reputation in Houston yet and so I came back, I was teaching at 10 the University of Houston and I probably looked pretty good on paper and actually they 11 didn’t know I had come back breathing fire from my days of writing my dissertation 12 and I got involved with NOW. But I really hadn’t made a name for myself in terms 13 of the sort of thing that you’re talking about here, Listening to all this sort of reminds 14 me of when I was scuba diving one time and there was a bunch of divers in before me 15 and then I went into the water and I went down and there were barracuda everywhere. 16 When I got back to the boat, I said, You just can’t imagine the barracuda,” 17 And I found out that the divers before me were feeding them, Well, they had been 18 feeding the barracuda when I got into the water is why I tell you the story here, And 19 so in 1976, 1 think, when Ivan became the second and forever last women’s advocate, 20 things were real stirred up and there was a movement starting in Houston, I mean, 21 something big was going on and I think those who were holding public office, all men, 22 no woman had ever been elected to city or county government. I don’t think in county 1 government at that time. Anita Roadheaver maybe had but anyway, and when I 2 became and I don’t know why. I think Poppy had something to do with it. I think she said I was okay and Fred didn’t know me, so all of those things worked together, but when you talk about the police I was at, they couldn’t tell the difference between Poppy and me. We both had I guess we both had blonde hair and I was always the 6 one who had messed up the police department. Thank you, Poppy. I always got the 7 blame. They were always hostile toward me, but my experience as the women’s advocate was somewhat different also, because maybe there was a lot of consciousness 9 being raised out in the community. When I got my little office and phone in there, the 10 phone just started ringing and I was hearing from women out in the community who 11 needed services, who were abused, who were battered, who had no place to go, who 12 were abandoned, who, and I was baffled. I was just baffled. I didn’t know where 13 to send these women and there were other things that were starting to go on in the 14 community at that time. The YWCA was also I mean, they were another place that 15 was a women’s group with a telephone and they were getting a lot of phone calls from 16 battered women and there was so much need out there in the community and so I was 17 kind of meeting with people and talking with people about perhaps getting some 18 services started and I see a dear old friend of mind, Madeline Bernstein, who came in 19 and she was very active with a group called Women In Action. And SO she called a 20 meeting one night to address some of the problems of women and it was all related to 21 this same thing. I mean, it was kind of a progression from those early days with 22 Poppy and Helen and Celia. I kind of getting everyone’s interest and consciousness 1 raised and then the point that well maybe we can do something for women. I 2 remember that when I was first appointed one of the in the first newspaper column 3 I always got a lot of press as many of you may remember and one of the first things 4 that came in was the city council members saying, “Well, why do we need a women’s 5 advocate? We don’t have a men’s advocate in this town.” And I looked at city council 6 - you know, all men’s advocates. All men’s advocates all taking care of other men all 7 thinking that they knew exactly what women needed, what women had and didn’t have 8 because they knew their wives and they knew their daughters and so they knew about 9 women. But out there was something else growing. All of these other women who were 10 seeing women speaking out, women as leaders, and they were starting to call in and 11 say, “Help.” So, I mentioned to Adeline, I was at this meeting, Adeline got up and 12 she spoke about the many needs of women and that Women In Action actually had an 13 office and a phone like the women’s advocate had an office and a phone. And so we 14 were all getting inundated with calls. And so Adeline came up with the idea of a 15 women’s information and referral service, which then turned into wires, which then 16 became part of the whole Houston Area Women’s Center. But that was really what 17 I spent my time on as the women’s advocate. And of course, it got me fired two 18 sometimes, it got my salary reduced to a dollar a year. And just because I tell you that 19 I didn’t want to a lifetime bureaucrat with the city didn’t mean I didn’t want to get paid 20 for what I was doing. But - and also, I think the level of political awareness and 21 movement had reached a point that the establishment, the male dominated 22 establishment was getting real nervous and me as the womens advocate at that time, 32 was lucky enough to step in at a point in history where I became pretty much the lightning rod for the anxiety that was going on, there anger that was going on about getting all those was woman in the police department. There was a woman in the fire department and all of the other changes that were starting take place. There was of anger and lot of hostility and some of these people weren’t playing games. I mean they were out to hurt. But probably my being fired as the women’s advocate, of course you know the first time I was fired resulted in a, really, in a city wide demonstration, a remarkable job of organizing. Who’s the woman, a printer, Marian Coleman. Marian Coleman, you know, professional printer. Man she turned that printing press loose and there was, I can’t imagine that there wasn’t anyone in Houston who didn’t know what was going on. That there were meetings, that there were hundreds of people showing up. The issue poured into city council. Women testified all day long, not all pro Nikki Van Hightower or pro women’s advocate, I mean, there were groups on other side who were fighting just as hard against this change that was going on. It was becoming very threatening at that time. And so probably my firing salary, the salary reduction seemed do almost more than anything else. I think almost every woman could identify with being told that they were making a dollar a year and that’s what they were worth, but then a lot of that same energy got channeled into Kathy Whitmire’s campaign. All of the lists of names that we put together for that whole battle over the women’s advocate became a cadre of people who supported Kathy Whitmire when she was running for city controller. And then also became I mean, it became like we had to have all of that energy and direction channeled and lot of that also worked into the women’s center. But I know that women’s center is coming up later. So, we can talk about that. BARBARA: I’m going to ask you that and then we’re going to skip to the 90’s because I know we’ve got wrap up shortly so that other people can ask questions, but did women’s advocate position then lead directly to the forming of the women’s center? N.V.H.: I think it was key because it was a position that was the focus of a great deal of attention and chance work it also gave someone like me a chance to work fulltime, organizing in the community, working with Women Action, working with YWCA, working with University of Texas School of Public Health, so, I think it was very crucial at that time and yes, and yes, it was very much a part of it, of the whole thing. And then even after I went to KTRH radio, you know, there was talk, talk, talk. It was wonderful to be over the air and for almost a year talking about these same issues. So, yes, it led into that, it led into the women’s information and referral service and then that was beginning of information, real solid information. Because when we first went out with battered women, rape victims No. There may have been a few, but not many, and the few, you know,they wanted, they kind of get off to that. But we have hard data and the police department wasn’t collecting it. Nobody was collecting it, but through Adeline’s direction of wires, we had facts and we could go to the mayor and we could go to the press. Thank you, Barbara Karkaby. The press was absolutely crucial in the formation of the Women’s Center and the Information and Referral Service was then also crucial in the founding of a shelter and in the other services related to the Women’s Center. BARBARA: Well, I’m going skip to the ‘90’s now. And the question I’m going to as all of you is what has happened in the 90’s to the activism of of the 70’s? Is it dead, is it still alive or did it just surface onto the surface waiting to be removed and has it really gone from, as you say, from activism to advocacy? Do you want try and answer that, Nikki? N.V.H.: It’s different. There is no question about it. The movement in the way we knew the movement is not there anymore. That’s not to say that there is not a movement, because there is. I work on a college campus with a lot of young people. The expectations of those women are very, very high. You know, looking at them and comparing what our lives were like at that time, it is night and day. They think they’re going somewhere. I didn’t mean that quite the way that sounded, but they expect to go somewhere, they expect to get good jobs, they expect to get the same salaries as men. They also expect to have families, they also expect, you can see sort of clash of expectations working together along the line. But nevertheless, and there that sense that well, we’re talking too much about victimization anymore. I know we’re hearing a lot about that, And we can just be individuals and we can make it on our own. So, there’s that kind of rejection of the women’s movement which kind of undermines organizing and it leaves women very exposed, very weak, because anytime you put 2 women together, then we’re back into the victimization business, as if it’s all gone away, you know, and ask the 1 people with the Houston Area Women’s Center if the shelter’s cleaned out. I don’t 2 think it is, I think it’s filled and I think the phone calls are still coming in. Ask people 3 if you can walk down the streets at night as a woman and be safe, I don’t think the 4 victimization is over and I that doesn’t mean we’re all sitting around whining about our 5 position, But it does mean that there is still a lot work to be done and it takes a lot of 6 organization. I am concerned about what’s going on in the women’s movement, this 7 super individualism and we can do it on our own. And also I think it’s I think 8 they’re losing a lot, I think they’re losing a lot of the joy that we experienced and 9 support from one another. But the movement is not over and those changes, they’re 10 just grinding along as if they’re sort of motor driven and it’s happening. 11 BARBARA: Helen? 12 H,C: I don’t know what’s happened to it, I think about it a lot. I don’t 13 know what’s happened, but what Nikki’s saying about I’m born an individual, da, da, 14 da. That’s what we always called the early ‘70’s, the D and C, divide and conquer. 15 Separate people, keep them apart, make them think they’re going to get it, make them 16 think they’re special. Other people aren’t as special. I grew up thinking I was so 17 much smarter than girls. Girls were silly, girls giggled, girls weren’t smart. Boys 18 were all those things, so the girls I looked down upon them, quite frankly until I 19 realized what an act of self hatred that was and I see I’m very concerned. I see new 20 lawyers. The court where I work, we hire nine new lawyers each year to work 21 for a year of term and I see lots of young women and their expectations are 22 unbelievable and they really think it’s their birthright, which it is. But they don’t understand, it can be snapped like that. When we’re living in a country where we’re trying to say we’re not going to give help to children, we’re not going to give help to women who need help. If you’re a teenager and you get pregnant, you can go to hell and you can starve your and so can your child, When we’re saying the things, the mean spirited hateful things that I’ve been hearing in the ‘90’s, we need a women’s movement more than we ever needed it. But we seem to have these people mesmerized that you’re special and you will make it. These other people who don’t make it, they don’t deserve to. They have to learn it’s political. We learn that the most -the biggest revelation I had as a feminist, I think, was when someone said rape is a political act. And I thought, what? And I thought a few minutes and thought, finally it’s all making sense. Rape is an act against all of us. Battering a woman is an act against all of us and if we don’t have that connection, if we don’t understand what’s done to women, the lowest is done to us, then we’re idiots and we’re going to lose every game we’ve got. These things are fragile. I mean, our rights are fragile. Women fought hard to get where women are and they’re fragile, they can go away. And I see these young women who think it’s not going to go away. “Hey, I’m smart, I have an education, I’m going to make it.’ They don’t know that women with educations who were smart, you know, typed for guys with half their IQ for their entire lifetime. I just worry that they’re not maybe reality’s going to come back again and everybody’s going to get slapped in the mouth with it and then you’re going to see people out in the streets again. I’ll be the first one out there when people finally decide that we’ve had enough, except I’m so tired. 22 BARBARA: Celia? C.T: Back in ‘70’s when we were great activist, feminist, we used to have a saying. And we’d say, ‘If you see one of us, it’s spacious. Two of us, dangerous, Three, a revolution.” I mean, that’s how strong we felt. The other saying was, “If they’re agreeing with us, what are we doing wrong?” And today, just it’s changed around. I gave someone a statement when they asked me for my bio. I’d like to read it you because it really encapsultes what I feel today. Okay, I’ve never really stopped being an activist. My activism now changes. My executive director, Angela, are you here? Maybe she left, oh there she is. She knows that my way of working within the AIDS community. I worked in a, Angela had the foresight to request plans for HIV, for the women’s community. Particularly for the Hispanic community where the infection is rising. And she knows that my way of working in the community is the feminist way. I don’t think I’ve ever told her that, but I think she understands it and I think that it’s an implicit understanding between us. So, I’ve really never stopped being feminist and an activist. What I’d like to say, they asked me for my bio and I thought, well, I did this, I did that. That’s not important, it’s really the way I feel. And what I’ve said, “The hardest thing for this feminist was the changing face of feminism from activism to advocacy, which came about after the decade of the ‘70’s. I think we need both, avant-guard thinking, which keeps us as visionaries and propels women to true leadership positions. Despite tremendous activism (radicalism in the ‘70’s) basically nothing has radically changed for women. They have perhaps improved for some women, but for the vast majority, their condition and exploitation has worsened. We have become excellent advocates with lots of visionaries. 1 The picture of consistence loves us not, we threatened them before.” They do know us 2 because we become like them. I don’t feel that I have become like them, but if I say 3 I have not become like them, then I’m disunited and I’m not with the other women, 4 And we have become like them. I would invite you to go with me into the community and 5 see the plight of women. I work mostly with hispanic women. The plight of african 6 american women, the plight of poor white women, asian women, when they have no 7 language skills, they are exploited in a way that we couldn’t even dream in the ‘70’s. 8 I mean, it is definite, and I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. I see it, I work with them 9 and sometimes it seems, you know, almost hopeless. I’m not a person that is negative, 10 I’m positive. I am happy that women are making $100,000/$200,000 a year and 11 $70,000 and even for me $36,000 a year is a magnificent salary. And this is wonderful and I’m very 12 happy for them, but that’s not where the majority of women are. The majority of 13 women are nonprofessionals, they cannot get into law school, they cannot get into 14 medical school, they cannot get the majority of women, if they can go to college, they 15 aspire to do the same thing that the women have been doing, sociology, biology, you 16 know, nursing. It’s really a shame, No engineering. You know, there are many 17 women engineers, but compared to the vast majority, the vast majority of hispanic 18 women are a lot of them cleaning buildings and raising children and working in 19 canteenas, terribly exploited and having to do this because they have no resources. We 20 should be out there, I mean, helping all these women and this is what makes me sad. 21 It doesn’t discourage me, but it makes me very, very sad that we don’t have the 22 activism in the ‘90’s that we had in the ‘70’s. 1 never forget when I called Elma 39 Berrera and I said, “You know, Elma, I heard that the women in prison do not have Kotex and, you know, she says, “Oh, I’ll look into that.” And she immediately took her TV cameras into the prison and found out that women were not allowed to exercise. That indeed, it was hard for them. That they had to wash their panties and night and put them under their pillow because they would be stolen. Now, how many of us knew these things? There were women then that were willing to go out, she worked for Channel 13, still works there, and she was willing to take the chance and go out and in her own way interview these women. And I would like to see all of us women doing that kind of activism, even within the jobs that we have. I would like love that kind of activism. I would like to see us do that, and I tried to do it within my job. Angela, we’ll talk about this later. And because I don’t know what else to do. I will support the women that I work with. I will tell them, “Look. You don’t have to take it.” If a doctor draws blood from your arm, you better ask him or her what is this blood for and what are the results? Don’t just let them do these things to your bodies without questioning. I think I’ve talked enough. 15 BARBARA: Poppy? 16 P.N.: Well, I think the question goes back what happened to the women’s movement. And I think basically that what happened to the women’s movement is that too many women thought we won so they went home from battle. We, of course, have not won and they were fooled. Many of them are still are fooled. 20 I’m not on any given day I’m both pessimistic and optimistic about it. To a certain extent, movements such as the women’s movement are cyclical in history. I mean you have these advances and then you have sort of consolidations and then advances and consolidations, so perhaps we’re just in the down part of it. My feeling though, is that that we’ve been down so long now I’m ready for the upside of this to come again. We have this, throughout society, not just in women’s movement, I think you have a lot of this going on with the general feelings of apathy in lots of ways. I attribute it, being very political, to having republicans in office for such long period of time. I suppose that maybe we have to get to the level of, you know, a sufficient level of despair before people get angry enough to get out and get off their hinies and out there and do something again. I just wish that I didn’t have to wait that long, you know, because I have the perpetually high consciousness level, it doesn’t have to be raised. BARBARA: Well, I guess we’re going to open it up for questions. As four pioneers for feminism, your contributions have been super inspirational and extraordinare. However, do you believe that some others in the name of feminism might have contributed among other things, the present situation of the nearly extinct endangered institution, the family? As the present day individualistic, well, like I said, are we losing out? Do we need an evolution or another revolution? Can anyone answer that? N.V.H,: No, I don’t think feminism, I think feminism was the result, not the cause. There were troubles with the family. Feminism didn’t cause the fact that most womenget injured in the home from their own loved ones and spouses. Feminism didn’t cause sexual assault, feminisim didn’t cause abandoned women, feminism didn’t cause the fact that 80% of the people who live in poverty 10 in this country are women. Feminism is the result of that and feminism is the action to do something 2 about it. Feminism isn’t what drove people out of the home, There were much bigger 3 factors that drove people out of the home, What feminism did was say, give us a 4 decent job, pay us the same salary, give us the same opportunities, the same 5 promotions. No, I’m sorry. I don’t take on that responsibility for feminism and the 6 demise of the family. 7 BARBARA: Does anyone else want to speak to that? 8 C.T.: Yes, I’d like to say when Isabela was asked at her recent book signing 9 of her book, “Paula”. It was about her daughter, her daughter’s life. And she was 10 asked she lives in the United States now and has been living Isabela {?} wrote “The 11 House of the Spirits” and has written several novels. And they asked her what she 12 missed most about life in America and she didn’t specify, she is a feminist, She said 13 that what has never existed here in America is family in the United States, and that’s 14 what she misses the most and I found that very interesting, her answer, because we do 15 pay a lot of homage to the family, but it really does not exist. Not if you’re thinking 16 of family the way it exists in the hispanic community, community and Latin America, 17 extended family The family is almost like a clas and I’m talking about that community because it’s the one that I know. 18 I know the asian community is similar and I know the Indian community is similar and 19 it’s almost clannish and they support each other, They don’t it’s not perfect, but 20 they come together and the family has really, I came to this country when I sixteen 21 years old and I truly am shocked, Everybody pulls their own weight and it’s not a 2.2 criticism, it’s what I saw at sixteen, I came from Latin America where family is very 42 I strong and it’s extended and when you talk about your family, you don’t talk about 2 father, mother and children, you talk about a group of about fifty to a hundred people 3 and you know them all. That’s all I have to say. 4 BARBARA: Okay, another question. What do you think about the need 5 now to co-op men into the movement? Who wants to speak to that? 6 C,T,: Can I just say that it’s harder for the camel to go through the eye 7 of a needle. I quoted that to a man and he got very upset, but that’s the way I feel. 8 P.N.: I think men belong in the movement. I’ve always thought men 9 belonged in the movement. 10 H,C.: I think they’ve been there all along. 11 P.N.: Yeah, There’s always been a lot, never enough, however, And, 12 you know, if we’re feminist how -­you know, there’s no other way to think. Men 13 have to be partners with us. If we’re going to be partners with them, they have to be 14 partners with us. It’s got to be that way. 15 BARBARA: This is an interesting one. How can we build coalitions 16 today of lost generations and lifestyles and beliefs? 17 H.C.: I think the same way we built them in the ‘70’s. 18 P.N.: Yeah. Age became irrelevant. 19 H.C.: That was the interesting thing to me. When I joined NOW I was 20 29 and we had people in the chapter who were in, my God, their 60’s. which seemed way 21 down the road at that time and I didn’t have to call them Ms. So and So. I got to call them by their first name. We sat on the floor together and addressed stamps and age just became totally irrelevant in a hurry. Different 43 I backgrounds, I knew people in the women’s movement who had grown up wealthy, 2 large family. I grew up latch key kid in a little bitty town, I mean, we all had so 3 many different backgrounds and perspectives and it did not matter, And what mattered 4 is that we all had a common goal and a common purpose and that’s what you have to 5 find out what purpose there is to build coalitions. Build them the way you’ve always built. 6 BARBARA: Anybody else want to answer that? 7 C.T.: I’d like to answer that, But I’ve always felt that there is two races 8 in this whole wide world, one male, one female, okay? And when you look into 9 another woman’s eyes, you’re looking at yourself, a mirror of yourself. But what we 10 have been doing is mirroring men, You see, they feed back from us and we need 11 to begin feeding back from each other and honor women and celebrate women, You 12 know, I have this idea and it just came to me about two days ago. We should go to 13 the park at least once a week and prepare a list of twenty names of women that we 14 normally haven’t seen in a long time and just shout them out, You know, call out to 15 them, maybe they’re out there somewhere, It’s just an idea, a way to celebrate, I 16 mean, let’s do it, let’s just remember these women, And by doing this we’re honoring, 17 If we get used to honoring women constantly and thinking about each other, regardless 18 of our differences, regardless of how much money we have, how old or fat or skinny, 19 you know, whether we bleach our hair or whether we don’t, What difference does 20 that make, basically we’re all the same and there’s no divisions between the 21 african american woman, the hispanics women, the white women. They are all, we 22 are all of the same race. 44 I BARBARA: Another question. Do you believe there is a disparaging 2 attitude like advocates towards activists today which undermines the energy and 3 effectiveness of feminism? 4 N.V.H.: By whom to whom? 5 BARBARA: Advocates towards activists today, which undermines the 6 energy and effectiveness of feminism. 7 N,V.H.: I don’t make a distinction between an advocate and an activist. 8 I think there’s plenty of divisions, but I don’t think that’s a serious one, I think that 9 if you’re an activist, you’re surely going to be an advocate. You can be an advocate, 10 I think, without being really active. I think you’re probably looking at people here 11 today that have become more advocates than activists, maybe because we’re sitting in 12 the middle of a desert right now, but not a lot could work without it. 13 BARBARA: Anybody else want to answer that. 14 H,C,: I know that I’m not sure what that question means, but I do 15 know that in the early years of the women’s movement, those people are all very anti-male and 16 they’re too radical. And I’ve always thought, boy, there is room for everybody. This 17 is such a mess that we have to confront that some people would go kick them in the shins while we were -­ 18 run around in a (inaudible). It’s fine with me, I’ve always thought that there was room -­that there’s 19 plenty of room for people all across the spectrum. Everyone has their own style and 20 their own way of trying to get those goals, but I always loved it when someone really radical and outrageous 21 would do something right before they were going meet with us, or some political leader, because we looked almost reasonable to them. I loved that. And I 22 know one year we sent coat hangers to every member of the legislature and it made a 35 I lot of women in groups around Houston mad, because they said, “These crazy old 2 women again doing all these radical things, causing all the trouble.” I’ll tell you what, 3 that restriction bill went down in a hurry after that and it made our people who were 4 there, as the lobbyists, the everyday paid lobbyists, look very (inaudible). They saw a (inaudible) and they need to see that, they need to see 5 our anger from time to time. They need to see that we’re angry, that we’re hurting 6 and that we mean business, because sometimes you have to get their attention with a 7 two by four sometimes. So, there’s room for all styles. 8 P.N.: It’s almost crucial in movement. I mean, there had to be the 9 ones who are on the cutting edge, who are going to kick them in the shins as you say. 10 And then the ones that are going to come along, get elected to office. I mean, there 11 are several women in this community who have been elected to offices and been 12 elected to office as a result of the ones who kicked them in the shins early on. So it’s - 13 -I mean, that’s just part of a movement. It’s also one of the sad parts of the 14 movement because often times the ones who come later sort of separate themselves and 15 dismiss themselves than the ones who really took some of the heat in the early days. 16 But that’s life. 17 BARBARA: Another question. What is your view of the current gun violence 18 situation and what do you think women should be doing about it? 19 RN,: The current what? 20 BARBARA: Gun violence. Who asked that question? Leslie, can you be more specific? LESLIE: (Inaudible). 1 CT: I’ve never owned a gun and I don’t think I ever will. My son 2 brought a shotgun to the house and he said, “Here, you keep it, And I didn’t know 3 what to do with it, He said, “You have to keep it away from Doug” So, I put a 4 pillow slip over it and I put it along side my bed. My house was broken into several 5 times and they took many things, small things, and they saw the gun, but the pillow 6 slip was on it so they didn’t take the gun, you know, which was worth more, I never 7 used it. I finally gave it back to him. My sons are familiar with fire arms. My father 8 was familiar with fire arms and used them, not on people, but for practice and so 9 forth. I’ve always been I don’t know, we didn’t introduce guns in this world. Does 10 anybody know their history? Did women create guns? I don’t think women introduced 11 guns. 12 H,C.: Well if we did they wouldn’t give us credit. 13 (People talking at once) 14 H.C: I’m terrified by the proliferation of weapons. I’m scared to death by it. Y’all 15 should never let someone like me be on it. I understand, someone (?) at you, you turn around and shoot them. I mean, if I were just let go in my primal style, God knows how many people I might kill in a day. A weapon as it is, I just sit there and say (mumbling…) But 16 I’m terrified by it and I think as women we are we are different and I think we need 17 to speak for life, for nurturing and caring and speak against violence. I’ve always 18 thought that. I’m horrified by proliferation. Now I understand that there are fears that are justly (?), it’s terrifying. I live behind, (inaudible), with brick walls around it, (inaudible), on guard 24 hours a day, I enter by my garage door opener, and I have an alarm because I live by myself, consequently I don’t think I need a gone too, but I understand the fears. But I do think women do have a role to play. 19 We’re seeing our children killed in record numbers by guns and it’s very disturbing. 20 BARBARA: Does healing feminism and the women’s movement have 21 anything in common? Am I reading this question right? Does healing feminism and 22 the women’s movement have anything in common? 47 N,V,H.: Yes, I think so. If I understand the question right. I think feminism, in many ways, was and is a kind of healing of wounds that everybody suffers when they’re second class citizens when they’re denied opportunities. Also, I think feminism has played a really important role in helping women heal when they have been injured because they’re women, That means sexual assault, family violence. It’s been the feminist movement who have taken up those issues. So, yeah, I think they are all tied together very closely. BARBARA: This is two-part question, but go I’ll go to the second one first. Please comment on male identified females. 10 N.V.H.: You know, that’s, the question about guns, and packing guns and doing that sort of thing. In many ways, the early days of the women’s movement were, a kind of just open the door and let us participate. Let us be like you, let us do things, because that was only deal we could make. You know, we weren’t saying we were going to change the world, we weren’t saying any of us were going, we were just saying give us decent jobs, give us decent pay. And it seemed like just about the time we were starting to turn the corner with that to establish our own identities, to talk about some of the things that Celia was talking about, we lost it with sort of a new crop of women who I think in many ways are very male identified. They’re in there, boy, they’re competitive, they can take care of themselves and all of those things. And, somebody else talk. H.C.: Male identified women, I think I alluded to that earlier because I tried distance myself from women As a young woman because they were silly and I wasn’t and they were stupid and I wasn’t. N.V,H.: Well, nobody wanted to be one of those H.C,: No, Nobody wanted to be, I mean, who wanted to be a girl, those were stupid silly things. And so, you didn’t have anything else to identify with so you identified with males, yourself. The most tragic thing you can do to yourself, that the most healing thing that ever happened to me was to be proud to be a female, to understand that there are other wonderful females out there and other women. That made all the difference in my life, an my feeling about myself. And I understood that acting the male role, acting this male society, male role, was very very destructive of my soul, of me as a human being. It’s a dreadful thing. I remember Sylvia Roberts who was the National Organization for Women general counsel who took the first sexual discrimination case ever to federal court and said that we want to get into the mainstream of American life, but we want to change direction of the river and the quality of the water. And that’s what you always have to remember, that we don’t want just become part of society as it is, we want to take it to new and better directions and we 15 want to be equal partners in creating that new direction. N.V.H.: But, That’s not happening now. H.C.: No, absolutely not. C.T.: Well, I wanted to say that it’s very very difficuly for a women who claims that she has never ever ever in her whole life been male identified. What we’re trying to do is to discover who we are as women, and because we have no acknowledged history, to find role models that suit us to become our own role models. I’ve always said, “What do you want?” I want never to ask permission for anything I want to do. I want to give myself permission to do what I want to do, and then validate that position, and be my own teacher. I guess what I’m really saying is that I want to create myself. 21 And I think that’s what each woman has to do, we want to invent ourselves, because we don’t have a basic history. I mean we must never have studied women’s history from the time we were little. I don’t think so, it isn’t just because I’m old, you know, most of you are children and I’m sure none of you studied history. N.V.H.: No, we studied men. C.T.: So we have to invent ourselves, continuously. Ok, so sometimes we’re male identified, well that’s ok, we have regrets, but we can continue forward. I’d like to know some women identified males. It should be very interesting. I mean, can you ever think of women identified males? How wonderful. P.N.: They accused Jimmy Carter of that and that’s why I said he lost a second term. BARBARA: One more question here, a of series questions, from Debra Bell sitting way out there. “You are all my heroes. What woman do you most admire who has influenced you the most? N.V.H.: You know, I’ve always had trouble with questions like that. I’ve never thought of the woman…here’s the people I admire…You know, and there’s qualities with people, like everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and I guess I really can’t come up with a…, you know if I was to pick one person, it would probably be some historical person like Eleanor Roosevelt, who I never personally knew. H.C.: Well, it’s hard for me to answer, because I do have an answer, but it’s difficult for me to talk about it because very cliche, but it’s my mother. I think she’s the most wonderful thing that ever walked the face of earth. C.T.: I think I’m going to follow my idea of making those lists of names of women, and going to the park because there’s so many women, you know. I was in Arkansas recently and I made up my mind I was going to call Dr. Elders (?). I’ve never met her and she wouldn’t know me from Adam and Eve. But she’s one of the most wonderful, and I did think of her because I did go through Arkansas, I didn’t call on her, time was short, but it’s just women, I don’t know. It’s just women, I don’t know, I meet one every day. You know, sometimes I meet two or ten or twenty and so I’d have to add them to the list. I would spend the rest of my life shouting in the park the name of ten women, you know, and that’ all I can say. P.N.: For me, it’s a lot of people that I know that are actually real, that I’ve actually met and they’re not necessarily famous and I may not even remember their name, but I remember who they are. There was an absolutely wonderful woman from Florida who was responsible for Hurricanes no longer being named solely after women, Roxy Bolton. Roxy Bolton is one of my heros, okay. She was an outrageous woman, absolutely outrageous, loved her. Then there was another woman that I met, Cassidy and I met her in Corpus Christi named Ida. She was a (?) and she knew Poncho Villa personally and she had been an actress at one time which was scandalous and she was a radical still and she had a son who was 60 and too damn old and she was completely blind, or virtually blind, and she was a wonderful woman who had lived life to the fullest and still was kicking, okay. And Eilleen Hernandez is a hero of mine, I mean there is all of these women, a bunch of y’all. HC.: When I say my mother. My mother never finished the ninth grade, she married her childhood sweetheart who she’d known, he died when she was 38. She had absolutely no skills, she didn’t know how to write a check for the funeral, because she had never written a check. None the less, she went out and worked for fifty cents an hour at dime stores, never got paid a wage like the guys she trained and I guess the reason -and she had a tough last three years of life. She had a horrible debilitating stroke and she lived with me and we gave the greatest gift in the world to my son because he thinks women are the strongest most wonderful things in the world because of her. But I guess what she had is what Celia talks about seeing women all the time. She got up every morning and said, “Helen, give you teeth some sunshine.” And she approached life that way. And I thought, this woman has had a horrible life. She’s had a dreadful life, She’s worked two jobs at a time. This is when people were talking about protecting women. We have laws that protect women in Texas. I was told that when I joined the women’s movement, I said, “Yeah, Protecting my mother from getting overtime pay.” It did protect her from holding two full time jobs and being home three or four hours a day and leaving me as a latch key kid. But I guess what I most admire and I have decided as I get older 51 1 that women are the strongest creatures in the world and that with all of the things we 2 face, we just get up and give our decent sun shinesmile, And that’s what I admire 3 most. 4 BARBARA: What advice would you offer young feminist today’? 5 H.C.: Get up in the morning and give your teeth some sunshine! Be angry but be optimistic. You’ll die. 6 BARBARA: Nikki, you want to answer that? 7 N,V,H.: It’s hard. I think this is a tough time, you know, I think like 8 Helen, I’m sort of -­I don’t know what’s going on. In many ways to be a feminist 9 now is harder than when we were younger and twenty years ago, because sometimes 10 when you run into that wall of resistance, I mean, you know where to sink your teeth. 11 You’ve got something to work with, It’s a lot more nebulous now and so many of the 12 problems haven’t been solved, and yet it’s mushy out there. Sure, women are hired 13 in the opening or entry level positions at essentially the same jobs -­but we haven’t 14 done anything about how do you have a family, how do you care for your kids, how 15 do you work fourteen hours a day to get ahead and still do -we haven’t even 16 addressed those things. Celia talks about the status of women in society, the vast 17 amount of poverty and it’s hard to and particularly with this sense that, hey, we can really 18 make it on our own and if you, you know, if you talked about two women or three 19 women getting together then, oh, you’re into victimization. That kind of that’s 20 almost worse than the kind of bra burning ridicule that we went through in the early 21 days that I admire young women who are in the feminist movement. And they are out there these days. Because I really don’t have a very good sense of direction myself 52 1 for where people should go. It’s a tough atmosphere. 2 BARBARA: Celia, 3 C.T.: Well, I would say that we have to go back to the beginning and 4 the beginning are the young women. -­ And what the thing is and that another thing that 5 I think about is that we’re sold in here, because that patriarchy is (inaudible). There has to be a 6 begiiming and an end and you are here, and your time, and (inaudible). And I think we have to go back to the 7 beginning and I think we have to tell and encourage the young women to go back to 8 the beginning. I don’t know about you all, but I’m facing the exit. There is no way 9 that I’m going to go back to the beginning as far as chronological order, but in my life, 10 I usually go back to the beginning and I think that’s what we need to do. One of the 11 things that helped us young, old, middle aged, was consciousness raising groups. The 12 consciousness raising groups were very helpful. I’ve heard a lot of criticism. 13 They weren’t therapy groups. They were women pouring out their guts to each other and telling each other what it was that bothered them in present society, that was in the 70’s. Maybe we need to start those with the young women, because I hear, I see a lot of the young women taking a lot of abuse from their boyfriends, you know, 15 like slap you. “Oh, he didn’t mean it. That’s just the way his is.’, A lot of abuse and 16 accepting it, and that’s not good. So, the only thing I can say is life is a circle and that maybe I 17 speak for myself, I’m getting to the end of that circle. And maybe I will begin in another life, I might 18 just come back in another life. You can never tell, but to begin at the beginning is always 19 a good thing and we have to leave a legacy, the old generation, a legacy towards the young 20 women and that’s one thing that I felt that we didn’t really follow through with in 21 the women’s movement. A lot of us were already in our thirties, there were some young ones, and I don’t think we 22 really followed through. We should have gone to the schools and talked to the schools. I do now with HIV Aids, I go schools and I talk to them about preventing infection, why didn’t we do that? Why didn’t we device some way to reach those young women, so that they in turn could reach another one, and not have a 65 year old woman trying to reach a 14 year old, which is fine, it can be fun, but it would be better for them to be reached by those women who are in college or young people starting out their profession. That’s all I can say about it. BARBARA: Poppy. PN: I have some advice. My advice to young women whatever your age because if you’re a young feminist, you’re not necessarily young chronologically. My advice to young feminist, whatever your age is, don’t be afraid of being outrageous. Let your feelings control what you do. If you feel something’s an issue, get out there on it, okay. Don’t wait for other people to lead, because if you do, won’t happen. If you feel strongly about something, take hold of it and go. Someone asked earlier about building coalitions. The best way to build coalitions is to get out there and do something and they will come. It’s like saying if you build it and they will come. Well, the way you build movement is you get out there and you move and they will come and you can’t wait for other people to do it. If you want a movement, then get up and move, okay? BARBARA: I’ve got one last question. When are you all going to run for political office? We need you all there. (People talking once). PN: Well three of four of us have. Barabara: That’s right! Are you going to keep on it, again? PN: Maybe. Celia: No, I have too many skeletons in the closet. Helen: Maybe. BARBARA: Well, thank you very much, panel, I think been a wonderful session.
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