Interviewee: Beverly Jones
Interviewer: Stuart Landers
Date: August 11, 1992
L: This is an oral history interview with Mrs. Beverly Jones, being conducted in her
home in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Today is August 11, 1992, and my name is
J: I do not understand the purpose of this [interview] in reference to feminism
because GWER [the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights] was not a feminist
organization, and I was so far from any notion of feminism at the time that
GWER was formed. We had a meeting [that was] either in some politician's
home, or by those two older and unmarried women on the faculty of the political
science department (I cannot remember their names) who were very active
L: Gladys Kammerer? Ruth McQuown?
J: You got it. Well, [the meeting] may have been at their home. But this was a
meeting of politicians, and it was on race. We had just recently formed the
Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, and one of these politicians said something
to me, suggesting that we were talking about equal rights for women. I was
offended to think that they would think that this major organization we had
founded was tuned in to such a minor question [laughter] as equal rights for
women. We were doing this big thing having to do with race. So, when you say
The Gainesville Women for Equal Rights was founded by a feminist I may
have been in some sense a feminist all my life, in the sense of fighting for my
rights but I was totally ignorant, I would think almost completely, of the history
of feminism, and did not feel oppressed, and just did not put my problems, or
most other women's problems in that kind of bag. This came about after GWER
L: You formed the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights to address the race
J: Absolutely. [We were for] integration.
L: But in the late 1960s, you were concerned with equal rights for women -
J: Did you talk to Marshall [Jones] about this?
L: A little bit, yes.
J: I think we started GWER do you know the date of GWER's founding?
L: October 22, 1963.
J: We probably started earlier than that if that was the official date.
L: That was the first small, organizational meeting; the steering committee was
J: So that was in October of 1963?
J: Well anyway, [Betty] Friedan's book [The Feminine Mystique] came out in -
J: Well, somewhere in there do you know about Ed Richer? Ed Richer, as you
know, was very active in the student movement. He was one of the few other
faculty members who were active as such with my husband, in a real sense.
This was after the demonstrations were over at the College Inn. It might have
even been after they pulled the demonstration at the theater, but: the student
movement was floundering. They were not quite sure where they were going,
and they were feeling a little demoralized, and so forth. And they had decided to
add some zest and some intellectual backing and undergirding to their
movement by having a series of meetings but not just "meetings;" our meetings
had been practically parties. They were parties, actually.
L: Whose meetings?
J: The student movement meetings, whatever they called themselves at the time.
It was the same group of people who met, calling themselves twenty different
L: And you were in on all of this?
J: Always. I was always in on the student movement scene, but never a leader, or
considered a leader in the student movement. I was "the woman behind the
man;" I was Marshall's wife. But I was always in on all of the discussions and all;
I was never shy. Anyway, Ed Richer, in this series of uplifting, undergirding
sessions, gave a session on feminism, in which he talked about not Friedan's
book, [although] I think her book was published at that time. He talked about
Simone de Beauvior's book.
L: The Second Sex?
J: Yes, and about feminism in general. No, really, I would not say feminism in
general; he talked about the stupidity of women in general, [laughter] to think that
they were being treated fairly by men, and were not rebelling, and so forth. Ed
was always mocking. Ed's approach to people was attack; he knew no other
way to approach anybody. Anyway, he spent this time ridiculing the women in
the meeting. Judy claims that she moved closer to me during the meeting. I do
not remember that, but I do not doubt it. [Ed was] ridiculing us, and I think
specifically me, to think that I thought that Marshall respected me, or something
like that. I had major disagreements with Ed on almost everything anyhow. I
thought of him as quixotic; I guess I never thought of him as being as profound a
thinker as my husband did. So I really was not I sloughed it off. I just thought
this was Ed; I did not take all of this seriously. And we left this meeting, and
Marshall and I went back to our house with a young woman in the movement
named Bonnie Greenspan who was very active at the time. Bonnie Greenspan
was a very attractive, sad young woman, who was on dope. Ed told her mother
that she was on dope, and [that] she was living with some guy, and they were
both on dope.
L: As in they were smoking?
J: I do not know; I think they may have been smoking more than pot. I think she
was on heroin, but I am not sure anymore. But anyway, the mother's only
response was, "Was this boy Jewish?" [laughter] Bonnie just came from this
really weird, pathetic background. She was very bright and lost, and she had
some strange blood ailment that nobody could diagnose. Which is partly how I
think she got on drugs. Anyway, we went back to our house, and this
conversation continued, and we were sitting at our table in our dining room, or
our kitchen, and I was saying, "This is ludicrous; these comments that no man
respects a woman in the same way that he respects other men." And Marshall, I
think because of the presence of Bonnie Greenspan he probably would not
have done this if we were alone I think he felt obligated (as I look back at it in
retrospect), in one sense out of loyalty to Ed, to defend him in front of somebody
else in the movement. But two, I think out of honesty, [he] said, "No, what Ed
said was true." That that just was the case. So I pushed that, saying: "No man
respects any woman? Does that include me? You do not respect me as much
as you would another man?" He continued to say "Yes," at which point I just
wigged out, and stayed wigged out for a long, long, time. That led me to then
read this literature which Ed had brought forward. I do not know that I would
ever have come across it quite frankly, or [would have] ever been involved.
L: So a man raised your feminist consciousness.
J: Oh absolutely. And Judy's. If it had not been for Ed, I doubt very much that any
of us in Gainesville would have gotten involved.
L: Do you mind if I back up to get some background? I am trying to find out when
all of these people grew up, and when they came up. When and where were
J: I was born in Chicago. We lived in a little suburb of Chicago actually, called
Maywood. [I was born on] July 24, 1927.
L: And what was your maiden name?
L: Beverly -
J: Beverly. That is my name now, and that is what it was. I have no middle name.
I took a middle name, because everybody that I went to school with had a middle
name, and I felt very deprived. I later dropped it, because it was such an idiotic
choice. But Jews did not give middle names. I think middle names may have
come from saints's names, or family names, or something. It was not the custom
in our society, but I felt this shortage.
L: Tell me about your parents. They were Jewish?
J: My parents were Jewish. My father was born in this country to a man who had
immigrated into this country from Russia and Poland (that area), who was very
religious. [He] went to a place called River Forest, near Chicago, in old-
fashioned garb. I do not know why it was so identified with being Jewish it
seems to me a lot of people must have had beards in those days. He was
beaten up because of this [his appearance] and stuff like that.
L: Your grandfather?
J: Yes. But he was a farmer. I do not know what else he did. I know he had a
farm, and I think he had a store of some sort. I did not know him. Or if I knew
him, I was so young; I really do not have any memories of him. My father was
the youngest child in that family. My grandfather did, according to my
grandmother (which is kind of interesting), beat my grandmother. He even threw
her down stairs. My mother used to tell me that my grandmother was very
protective of him, and would always claim that these injuries had taken place by
some other means. I think I was led to believe as a young child that this was a
noble act; that this was the way that women behaved, because the story was
repeated by my mother several times.
L: So you knew the whole story: the beating and the cover-up?
J: Oh yes, I knew that whole story. Because, however noble my grandmother may
have been, when my mother married my father, my grandfather wanted them to
live with them, and have my father work on the farm. My grandmother took my
mother aside, and told her these family stories. According to my mother, she
said: "Do not do this; do not be foolish. This is not good for you. Get away from
here and live your own life. Do not get involved." So they did. My father,
however, was the youngest child and favored by the grandfather. And [he was] a
little weak, evidently, in many ways. My mother was perhaps the stronger of the
L: What was her background?
J: My mother came from Russia. She came here I think at sixteen. By weak, I do
not mean my father was not intelligent. I think he just did not have the grip my
mother had. My mother came from Russia. She was one of five girls. There
was a boy in the family who never got here; he died of starvation before they
could get him over here. But my mother's oldest sister came here first with the
man she was engaged to in Europe. They got married here, and then they sent
for my mother, and then they saved their money and they sent for the next one,
and so forth. My maternal grandfather came here, but he was a musician, and
the only job he could find here was painting houses. And he could not hack it.
So he went back to Russia, and they got caught there in I guess the First
World War and its terrible deprivation. The boy starved. They were forced to
work on the roads, as I understand it, and fed very little. Anyway, the boy died.
After the war I think my grandfather died. My grandmother and the one
remaining female came to this country. So my mother went to work at the
American Can Company at sixteen, not speaking any English.
L: In Chicago?
J: In Maywood, which is a far west suburb of Chicago. At that time, it was almost
the end of the line; it was country beyond where we were. It is not that far now,
but at the time it was very far. She went to work at this American Can Company.
She had worked in Russia, of course; there was child labor. She worked in a
cigarette factory and a cigar-rolling factory. She used to tell us stories about
L: How religious were your parents when you were a child?
J: Zilch. If my father had any religion, I do not even know about it. Well, he went to
temple, [although] not very often, but on high holidays, or something like that.
My mother used to perform the household rituals in the sense of lighting candles
on the sabbath, and saying these prayers over them. And I think for a while she
attempted to keep a kosher home. But she was so far removed from any real
religious training. I think she said her prayers in either Hebrew, or she said her
prayers in a language that she lost touch with. She no longer even knew what
she was saying when she made these prayers. I think that could not help but
break down the ritual. [laughter] So we went to temple occasionally. I remember
as a teenager, I actually considered doing something at the temple, teaching
something. I went in and talked to this rabbi, and [I] was just so utterly turned off
by him, that I guess that was my last [show of interest]. My brothers, however,
got a Hebrew education in the old-fashioned way. They went to Hebrew school
and got clobbered. That was the teaching technique of the time.
L: To beat it into them?
J: If you did not do right it was not just the Hebrew school, although I do not think
these guys were particularly adept you stuck out your hand [and] you got hit
with a ruler. That was supposed to elicit the right answer. Some technique!
[laughter] It was mysterious.
So my mother stopped saying these prayers. After a while she was cooking
bacon on the basis that she had decided that bacon was good for our health
(she was very pragmatic).
L: So I take it that they did not have any problem with you marrying an
J: They thought it was better than my marrying a black. No, I think they did; my
mother wanted me to marry "a nice Jewish boy." All of this emphasis on
marrying into the faith has very little to do with religion. I mean, Koreans in this
country want desperately to have their children marry Koreans, no matter what
religion they are. They wanted you to marry into the faith, presumably to keep
the faith. But [they] essentially [wanted us to marry into the faith] I think in a way
so they would not be outsiders. It is a terrible fear that your kids are going to turn
against you, and become Americanized, become something else, and be
ashamed of you. There is a provincialism. Yes, my mother wanted me to marry
a nice Jewish boy; but I found that most of the Jewish boys I knew were too nice;
they were not very attractive.
L: What did your father do for a living?
J: I did go with a black guy. When I said lightly that they were happy, by the time I
got around to marrying Marshall, they were all very relieved. He came from a
good family, [of] independent wealth. As one of my older brothers said, "All of
the good men are married already anyway." What did my father do? He did all
kinds of things: he scrounged, he scrambled. He was in the paper business, the
junk business. They used to buy used paper, and then sell it to the paper mills.
They used to buy junk, and then sort it out and sell it to various places [such as]
metal dealers, and stuff like that. They had a candy shop at one point; my
mother made all of the candy. It was right across the street from the school that
I went to. Once they were successful in this store, the principals decided, "This
is ridiculous; we could be making money selling candy." So they forbade the
children from crossing the street during recess, and so forth. They started selling
candy in the school, which was very hard on the business. They had a furniture
store in another little town nearby, where my mother sold used furniture to
primarily Italian immigrants. She did not speak Italian, and they did not speak
Yiddish (obviously), and she used to write them receipts in Hebrew. They used
to pay her by the week, and she would write these receipts in Hebrew. [They
were in] Hebrew script; they were actually in Yiddish, but they were in Hebrew
script. What they did with these I do not know, but they trusted each other and
she made a go of it. My father had an accident, and was home-bound for a long
time. He got hit by a streetcar. My mother got on a horse and buggy, and
continued this route that he had, selling paper, which was a very unheard of
thing in those days. People that she sold it to were very impressed and kind.
L: Would you characterize your standard of living, or your class position, as working
class? This does not sound like a comfortable middle class life.
J: It was not a comfortable middle class life, and yet it was. We were on the lower
end of the middle class, but I would not say we were working class, because we
did not work for anybody. And this business later turned into a tremendously
L: The paper business?
J: No, trucking. My father [created] an extremely successful trucking business. It
was a cross-continental trucking business. My father got a truck when things got
mechanized, instead of the horse and wagon. My brother got all excited about
this. As a matter of fact, my father and mother were separated at the time. And
my older brother, in visiting my father and seeing this truck, was just so excited
that he pressured my mother into going back to my father so that he could be in
on this tremendous opportunity. And he made it a tremendous opportunity; they
became multi-millionaires. My father grudgingly approved every truck; he "did
not need another truck, you never needed another truck," until it was just totally
out of his control.
L: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
J: I have two brothers and two sisters.
L: Where do you fall in this group?
J: I am the youngest by ten years. And there is a twenty-year difference between
my oldest sister and myself. When we were poor I remember the Depression
years. I remember things [about] my father, who sold things to so many different
companies. He would come back with boxes of broken cookies that one of these
companies had given him (like the Nabisco company). I suppose that was worse
than not having any cookies at all. It made you feel kind of poor-ish, but we
always had food. We always had good food, as I can remember it. Though
there were these kinds of little creepy things I wore my sister's clothes. It did
not matter as long as you were neat and clean, but of course it mattered
desperately. And I was so poorly dressed, so inappropriately dressed. I never
realized it until I was grown and saw pictures of my childhood, and there I was in
high school with my sister's black crepe dress trimmed in velvet, feeling very
"yum-yum" looking [laughter], but totally inappropriate.
L: Did you go to a public elementary school?
J: I went to an elementary school that was primarily black. I was one of five white
students in the school. I was a mamma's girl, and of course my mother read a
little bit of English. She could read a newspaper, but she was not big on these
things. She certainly was not into reading books. We had a house, with a house
behind it which we rented out. That was rented to a black librarian who taught at
the school. Those kids just had a much better family environment for learning
than I did. Anyway, my grandmother was my babysitter and she did not speak
English at all. I do not know how we got along; I knew a few Yiddish words at the
time. This had been a Jewish neighborhood at one time. When my brothers
went to school there, they went to a Jewish school. But by the time I went to
school there, it had all been broken down. Some people had sold their homes to
black people. They were moving block by block. That area of the town, the area
that we lived in, was primarily black, as was the school. And as I say, I was one
of about five remaining white kids, and terrified. I used to get chased home
every day. I was in a losing game of paying some kids to protect me from other
kids; they had a wonderful racket going, to not beat me up on the way home.
L: In high school?
J: No, grammar school; this was the very early grades of grammar school. I think I
moved into a different and white grammar school by the time I was in the sixth
grade. But then my mother used to meet me at recess time with a hot toddy,
because I was very skinny. And of course you can imagine how that went over
in this tough, black school. So it was really a little rough, and it was doubly rough
because as I say, they were more advantaged educationally than I was. So I
was not holding my own. To go anywhere, I would frequently, in walking down
the street, just have to run between people who would push me one way or
L: So the races did not get along very well -
J: I do not think the races did not get along too well; I think it was very tough being
one of five white kids. Oh, you mean in a school?
J: No, I do not know that you would want to say that. I think it was more than the
soul could bear, not to run this little scam on a person who was going to give you
pennies if you threatened them. It was just too tempting to deny.
L: Then you moved?
J: I was hardly ever there. My mother, by this time, had a lot of ailments, and we
used to go away every winter and summer.
J: Well, it depended. In the winter, we went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and my
oldest sister was married in California, so we went to California; we might go to
Florida, [or] we might go to Arizona. We [always] went somewhere warm in the
winter. In the summer we went to places in Michigan; South Haven, Michigan,
which was a Jewish resort. Which meant that yes, I was nominally enrolled in
these schools, which is another reason why I had trouble in the schools. I never
knew what was going on, and I had no friends. But I was hardly ever there; I was
there at the end of school and I was there at the beginning of school. That is it.
L: Did you go to high school in Chicago? or in Illinois?
J: I went to high school for two years in Maywood, which was a very anti-Jewish
high school; they were very unpleasant. There was a very strong Bund
movement in this little town in the Second World War; [they had] open Nazi-
L: Was it a heavily German immigrant town?
J: There must have been. I do not know how recently they had emigrated, but
there was a heavy German component. I think that I never understood any of
the teachers; they were so far and foreign. I felt, and have always been able to
feel for black kids and other outsiders who come into the school system,
because what we had were school marms. They were pinched. In those days,
you could not be a female school teacher and be married. You would be fired if
you were married. That was the way it was: to keep women out of the workforce.
Even if you were married there were some exceptions (the librarian was
married). But certainly you could not be pregnant, or anything like that.
Anyway, what this ended up being, it seems to me, is there were an awful lot of
women who really fit the stereotype of just being sort of cool, distant, and what I
had always thought of as a white Protestant. It was not until I became president
of the League of Women Voters in Pensacola that I think I got over that fear and
that alienation from people who were of that background, or who looked like that.
L: Where did you end up finishing high school?
J: In Chicago at a school called Marshall High. My father had died, and we moved
into an apartment building in a transitional area. It was a hotel, actually; a hotel-
apartment. It was a very nice hotel-apartment, but it was in this crazy,
transitional area. My mother always lived next to parks whenever we went
anywhere; it was next to a very lovely park. But I liked the school, because all of
that rigidity was gone. The teachers were hardly in control. [laughter] I mean,
they were barely in control, and sometimes not in control at all, which left me
L: Transitional: blacks moving in, and whites moving out?
J: Yes, but it was not just blacks; it was blacks, and Hispanics, and there were a lot
of Jews there. It was just a total melange. But the primary thing is that it was
just much looser. And of course the whole dress code had disappeared. This
was before black fashion came in, I guess.
L: Then what? Did you go straight to college after?
J: Then I went to the University of Illinois for a year. The University of Illinois at that
time was divided into dorms by religion.
You had to declare, of course. I lived in a Jewish house, and after a year, this
woman decided that she did not want to run a Jewish house anymore; she was
changing to a Christian House. And I could not find another place to live, so I
left. The blacks were not allowed on campus at all; they had to live in the town.
It was very difficult for them to find any place. If you could not find a place to
live, you could not go to school. I suppose it was just one of the ways they had
of keeping a quota. From there, I went to UCLA because my mother was in
California. I hated it. It was a society school; all of these girls wore angora
sweaters with their little bras. It was a sorority-like society.
L: Of which you had no use for?
J: Actually, I joined a Jewish sorority. It was so bizarre. I did this because my
oldest brother went into the trucking business with my father. He dropped out of
school when he was a sophomore in high school. My next brother went to
college, and became a doctor. He had it in his mind that this would be very good
for me, to join this sorority. One of his girlfriends had been in a Jewish sorority,
and he got her to write letters for me. I was just so bewildered by the whole
experience of being there. I remember going to these whatever they have -
teas, to look you over and so forth. That was a wild scene. Anyway, I joined a
sorority, which was really just a social club; you did not live there or anything. I
think I stayed with that for a year, or something, and then left. I was there for two
L: Did you take a degree?
J: No. I was there for two years, and I think I left there because I wanted to get
away from my mother. I was living with my mother, and I found it very confining.
I think that is why I left there. I was getting money from my family [during] all of
this time, and they did not want me to be far from home. I think I applied to a lot
of different schools; I almost went to a girls school, which would have been
disastrous. At the time I was going to interview there, my mother swallowed a
carp bone, and was in the hospital. I rushed back to be with her, and wound up
going to the University of Chicago. I had no big deal about the University of
Chicago. I entered the University of Chicago as a junior. But that was in the
time of Hutchins, and they had revamped the whole educational system.
L: Hutchins was president then?
J: Yes, I think so, or chancellor, or whatever they called it. [Robert Maynard
Hutchins was the president of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1945, and
served as chancellor from 1945 to 1951.] He did away with the athletic
departments. His notion was, "If you feel like exercising, lie down until this desire
passes away." Anyway, I wanted to transfer into the psychology department.
That is what I had majored in for some ludicrous reason. I could not get into the
psychology department because they were full, or something. The next
department that seemed like it was something called human development. But
in human development and I think in psychology and a whole range of areas -
they were no longer giving bachelors [degrees]. They had this new thing where
you were supposed to work straight through to your Ph.D., believe it or not. So I
was there; I entered this thing as a junior. I was just absolutely miserable; it was
a terrible time in my life, just awful. I was totally disoriented and down on myself,
and unable to hook up with anybody. Female or male, I had no friends. I had no
dates, I could not figure out what anybody was about, or what I was supposed to
be doing in life. I was a mess. I wound up having an affair with a very attractive
black guy. This just frightened my family terribly. I think I would have married
him, had he been willing to marry me. He was a little wigged out; he was afraid
to make this move himself. Anyway, my family just went berserk, and threatened
me with what were very real threats. I was sort of under house arrest. People in
the trucking business in those days had a lot of contacts with the underworld. I
do not know why; there were a lot of people in the trucking business who were
tied in. I guess it was partly because of the Teamsters. My brother kept telling
me that he could have me killed in this area for less than five dollars and have
me dumped off there. He was a rather violent guy, quite frankly, and I took his
threats seriously. So I decided, after all of this, to go back to California, which I
did. When I went to California, I went back having had four years of college with
L: To UCLA?
J: To UCLA. But not only did you not have a degree, [but] you had the option
(which I took) of not even taking grades; you could take pass or fails. When I got
back there, they said, "Well, we do not know what the hell this means." You
could even take registered, which just meant that you were just registered for the
course. You did not even have a pass or a fail. So, they let me back in, but I
had to make up a year's work to get a bachelor's degree. So I made up that
year's work, got a bachelor's degree, and stayed there long enough to get a
L: In psychology?
J: [Yes], in psychology.
L: Somewhere before you got your masters degree, you met Marshall?
J: Yes. I met him in graduate school in the psychology department at UCLA.
L: You were married when?
J: I think we were married in 1953. But we lived together for about a year before
L: He was transferred to Pensacola soon after -
J: To the School of Aviation Medicine.
L: What was Pensacola like?
J: It was like falling off of the end of the earth. I had always lived in big cities. My
early days in the black school might have led you to believe that I was prepared
for segregation, but it was really like falling off the end of the earth. It was a little
town. We got there during the rainy season, and it was like something out of a
novel; it seemed to me it was always raining. We would hear the birds, see the
strange vegetation, and the rain went on incessantly. You could hardly
understand anybody's language, the accent was so strong sometimes. And the
segregation was complete. I could not understand why people who were treated
so abysmally did not want to kill you; I thought that would have been my
response. I feared for my life. I was afraid to live in a place that was so violent
to the blacks. I felt that there must be a seething violence under that.
I am missing a part here. I was just about to take my exams for the Ph.D. when
Marshall was drafted. He insisted, and managed to pressure me into missing
those exams and going with him even earlier than he had to go to Pensacola.
[We went] through New York to visit his father who he probably had not seen in
ten years. The end result of that was that I did not get to study with the people
for the exams, I did not get to take them until much later, when they were on
course material that I did not know, and I was scared. I felt totally out of it. They
had this pass/fail system where you had eight exams, and you could have so
many minuses. For every minus you could have a double plus. But you had to
have at least six pluses or double pluses, or something like that. Well, I kept
missing all of this by one double plus; I did this twice. To tell you the truth, it
really would not have mattered. Years later I went back and asked to see these
exams, because it always grated on me that I did not get this Ph.D. I was so out
of it that I do not think I answered any of the questions asked of me. I could not
understand how anybody had ever given me a double plus in the first place.
They must have done it out of pity, or else the average response to these things
is so bizarre that if you just write good English, you get a passing grade. It was
bewildering to me how the thing was scored. But it was embittering. I tell you
this because I think it led to my feminism; it fit in. I could not understand how I
ever allowed myself to [be like that].
Coming out of Maywood, and coming out of this family's background where
Jewish women Nobody wanted me to go to college; it was a waste of time and
money. I was only going to get married anyway, I was not going to do anything.
It might ruin my chances of a good marriage if I had too much education.
Everybody was always concerned with what the boys in the family were doing.
There was always an understanding that you were less important, and on my
part [there was] the desire to show them that I was as good as any of them. Part
of that desire to show them was getting this Ph.D., you see. So there was a
bitterness that I was not able to do that, in the sense that it took me a long time
to understand how it was that Marshall had brought this off, why I had
cooperated with it. How desperate I must have felt to be able to do it, because I
did not want to do it.
When I got to Pensacola, it was awful. Not only were there all these strange
people and all of this violence, but they did not even have a college in this town.
They did not have a junior college. I had majored in clinical psychology; if I was
going to do anything at all, I would have to set myself up in an office of clinical
psychology. To tell you the truth, by that time I had already had a residency in
clinical psychology and [had] decided this was madness. It had come home to
me that nobody really knew anything, that all of this was just theory and
conjecture. There was no empirical evidence in this area.
L: So what did you do in Pensacola?
J: I decided to write. I spent a long period of time the first time we were there
writing. We went back a couple of times. The first time I was there, I wrote short
stories. I write well. I had more interest in writing than I had in I would not be a
clinical psychologist for anything. How anybody can think they were going to
change the world by going into psychology or psychiatry now eludes me, but as a
kid it seemed to me that there were people who were crazy, and psychiatry was
the answer to this.
L: You mentioned being the president of the League of Women Voters in
J: Well, we were there the second time, but what happened to me the first year was
I barely stayed afloat.
L: Emotionally? Mentally?
J: Yes: emotionally, and mentally. [I] barely stayed afloat. I actually started
drinking at one point even in the morning. I scared myself half to death. It was
just awfully rough. We had no friends. We left there after Marshall's tour of
duty, and went back to school. We went to Berkeley. I enrolled in the political
science department which seemed closer to what it was I had always wanted to
do; mainly change the world. It now seems equally ludicrous that you could
change it through political science.
L: Was he teaching at Berkeley? [Was he] doing research?
J: No, he went back to change his profession. Marshall never wanted to be a
psychologist. His early training was in math and philosophy. In the philosophy
department, they wanted you to take a degree your master's degree in some
empirical science, and then come back and take your Ph.D. in philosophy.
L: So he did not have a Ph.D.?
J: He had a Ph.D. when he went there.
L: In psychology?
J: Yes, and he got it very quickly. He had never gone to UCLA intending to get a
Ph.D. in psychology, or to become a psychologist. He had gone there to fulfill
this requirement of taking a master's degree in some empirical science. But then
he became draft-eligible. So he quickly got his Ph.D. on some experiment where
I was his anesthetist, and we were doing these ludicrous things with rats. So he
had a Ph.D. when he got to Pensacola, but he did not want to be a psychologist.
It did not hold any more interest for him than it held for me, although he was not
in clinical. He was at least in experimental psychology. But he thought that
physiological psychology was a hot area, and that maybe with not too much
effort, he could make the switch there. [He felt] that had some real intellectual
potential, and potential for discovery. Well, we went to Berkeley and he took
these courses. I cannot tell you how inept he is with his fingers; he could not
slice a tissue thin enough to be able to get it on a slide. The whole thing was just
hopeless. He developed an ulcer. I was pretty happy in political science. I was
happy in San Francisco; I loved San Francisco.
L: Did you take a degree?
J: No, we were only there for less than a term, or maybe a term and a half.
L: So then back to Pensacola?
J: He decided that he just could not hack it; he had to go somewhere. And of
course he had entree at Pensacola. And so we went back to Pensacola, with the
notion being that I would have children. As Marshall said to me (and I believed
him), "You are going to want to have children sooner or later anyway. Why don't
we go back there, you have children now, and then after that I promise you can
take the next pick of where you want to go." It was an absolutely standard story.
L: And you bought into it?
J: I bought into it. I had never really thought about having children, or whether I did
or did not want to have children. It seemed reasonable, [and] he was desperate.
I think I was not too interested in political science anyhow. I do not know what I
thought, but I bought into it. And that is what we did. I got pregnant in San
Francisco; I think I was pregnant by the time we got back to Pensacola. I had
J: Yes, which I speak about in the paper; husbands being so attentive when you
have this first child. But then that is it. I had a premature separation, and was
just sick, sick, sick. I almost bled out; I almost died. It just took me a long time
to recover. I was cold [and] I was weak. It led to many fights, because I just did
not feel up to taking care of the kid. My family provided a maid. We were both
getting money from our families. But it was not enough; I just could not pull it
together. So then I had Sue, and I was so out of it with Sue. I had lost this maid,
and I put an ad in the paper for another maid, and the phone rang almost
constantly. I went to answer the phone while I had the water running in the
kitchen. When I returned, the whole kitchen was flooded with water. I remember
being so defeated that I just sank to the floor in this puddle of water, watching
water come out of the faucet, continuing to flood the kitchen. At that moment a
maid appeared at the door who surveyed this scene. Oh, God, they must have
understood us so well (black women who were maids for white women). She
rushed into the room, turned off the water, grabbed a broom, and swept the
water out of the kitchen something I would never have thought to do. She
literally kept sweeping this water out of the kitchen, opening the door so it could
get out. I do not know whether I hired her or not, but I was certainly indebted to
her. But I was just totally zonked.
I had joined the League of Women Voters; I do not know how or why, but I had
joined. There was in this town I do not know whether Marshall brought this up
but the top brass in the Navy was running something called Operation Alert,
which was a right wing anticommunist group that terrorized the town, and
terrorized a good part of the country. This went along with a big censorship
campaign in the libraries, censorship in the school, insisting on space in the
curriculum for them to teach these courses in which they raised these big maps
on a screen, where one country would turn red, and another country would turn
red, and they were crossing the borders. Anyway, they brooked no interference.
I was already in the League of Women Voters, because through the League of
Women Voters I met a woman whose last name was Jacobson I cannot
remember her first name right now and she was a member of Friends of the
Library and of AAUW.
L: American Association of University Women?
J: Yes, American Association of University Women. The AAUW turned out to be
the defenders of liberty in this town. They were the only people who fought back.
L: The League of Women Voters did that.
J: No, we fought back after I became president of the League. But originally, only
the AAUW and the Friends of the Library did anything to fight back. The Friends
of the Library tried to keep the books on the shelf, and the AAUW tried to keep
them from doing these terrible things in the school system.
L: Friends of the Library was mostly women?
J: I would imagine; but there were men in it too. I was not a member of Friends of
the Library. I was just impressed that the Friends of the Library turned out to be
the radical group in the town. You would have thought the churches or
somebody might have moved more rapidly than the Friends of the Library, but
they did not. Not a one.
L: So you became president of the League of Women Voters?
J: Yes, but the thing about it is that this Operation Alert was vicious in their
response to people who fought against them. And Jacobson not only had
crosses burned on her lawn, but she had her telephone tapped I am sure she
did and she got anonymous threatening letters and anonymous threatening
phone calls. People were scared; they were very frightened. I think they had
reason to be frightened.
L: Was race an issue in this conflict between right-wing -
J: [It was] not much [of an issue]. They were of course against blacks, but I do not
L: It was all politics: anticommunism vs. communism.
J: Yes. They would have thought things promoting integration were communist. In
that sense, I suppose you could call them racist. But that was not the focus of
their attack. The focus of their attack was the conservative, autocratic takeover
of the town and the country, I think. So I knew these people, and that is how we
got involved in race. Jacobson and her husband were also in touch with
people at just about that time the sit-ins started. The Jacobsons invited us to
go somewhere with them. Oh no, they asked us if we would send out a letter
soliciting funds to the people we knew, to help the sit-in movement; which we
did. That put us on the list of these right-wing people. But it also put us in touch
with the black people. Marshall was then asked to speak to them. They were as
chauvinistic as anybody in a way; they never would have thought to ask me to
speak. It was a great honor to have him speak. He gave a good speech, too.
L: "They" being the NAACP?
J: No, I do not think it was the NAACP; it was the black church people. If there was
an NAACP in Pensacola, I do not know about it. The kids who were sitting in I
do not think were in the NAACP, but they became the people who -
L: They later went to school in Gainesville.
J: Yes, and it was they who approached Marshall to ask if he would be the faculty
advisor to the student movement. So there we were, and that was my contact.
While I was piddling along, I joined the League of Women Voters, and it was my
saving grace. I mean that literally; I think I might have just wigged out.
L: It got you out of the house and gave you something to do?
J: It gave me some intellectual stimulation. I was just starving for it. Marshall
works. You cannot imagine his work hours. He works right after dinner. When
we go have dinner with him, we will drop him right back off at work. He has
always been like that. Everybody down there played bridge, or did these other
things that had absolutely no interest to me. They played word games [and]
charades. To me this was like a nightmare. So the League of Women Voters
gave me intellectual stimulation, [and] it gave me some amount of self-respect.
But I was so far gone in terms of I want you to understand that I graduated with
honors from UCLA. After I decided that it was to my advantage to have good
grades; it never occurred to me earlier in the game, frankly. Anyway, I graduated
with honors from UCLA and was never afraid to speak up in class was, if
anything, a little snotty. But by the time I had both kids, and even though I was in
the League of Women Voters, I had lost so much self-confidence that they asked
me to introduce at some meeting the school-superintendent. I could have done
that by putting a little thing on a card, and simply reading it. I was so terrified of
that experience that I resigned from the League, saying that I just did not have
time. I said that I was so pressed, that I was writing a book.
L: From being president?
J: No, I was not president; I was just a member of the League of Women Voters,
and they asked me to do this. As I say, I was just so intimidated that I resigned
from the organization, rather than make this little speech, or rather than say I
could not. I stopped going to meetings on the basis that I was writing this book
and that I was so busy. Evidently, there must have been something in my
demeanor that made them believe me, because maybe two years later, they
called and they were desperate, and they asked if I would be president. At the
time they asked me this, my son was running something close to 104 fever, and
we were sponging him, and [were] in contact with the doctor. It was a
horrendous moment. I told Marshall who it was, because I was leaving to go to
the telephone. I said, "Oh God, can you imagine them asking me to do this?"
And Marshall said to me one of the great pieces of advice he gave me "You
had better do this. If you do not do this, you are finished. You have got to do
this, and I will help you." And he did. So I said, "OK, I will do it." I had to give an
acceptance speech. Well you can imagine, if I could not read an introduction,
now I had to give this whole big acceptance speech. It was not just an
acceptance speech; it had to be a speech on something. I cannot remember
why, but it was a whole big speech I had to give. He had made up for me these
huge placards which I put on this thing. I only had to point to these things; I
could never lose my place because I had all of these things written down. I just
had to change from one placard to another placard. It all made sense, because
these were charts and graphs, and people wanted to have this information. I
cannot remember what year this is, but I had a little introductory speech saying,
"In the last election, when President so and so ran against President I could
not remember the name of this damn president. I was just blank. I thought it
was all going to end right there, when somebody in the audience said the name
of the president, [and] thank God I was able to go on. But it was that little
gimmick that permitted me to [deliver the speech]. This was a little social club.
In the South there was almost this landed gentry. There were the people who
had been there the longest, who had these mansions, and this was their social
club. They did not do anything; they did not do anything that they were
supposed to do. The League is a very structured organization. You have a
national program, you have a state program, you have a local program. You are
supposed to work on all of those things, you are supposed to use the material
they send you, and you are supposed to feed back to them. They did not do
anything. They just met, and occasionally they said something; off the cuff, ad
hoc, whatever came to their minds.
L: You said it was a political garden club?
J: Yes, sort of. [They were] very nice people. Actually, garden people are nice
people; very nice people. But I used it as a vehicle. As Marshall said, "If you do
not do this, you are finished." I was not only going to do it; I was going to do it
right. I went in there, and within a couple of years there was nobody; practically
none of the old people were left. We just ran them off the board by the workload
and intensity. They were not hostile; they just did not want to do all of that. They
never thought it was wrong to do it. They just did not think it was necessary to
L: To start to oppose the [anticommunists]?
J: No, it had nothing to do with that. They now had all of these programs. They
had national programs and they had a U.N. thing. They did not want to do any
L: The League of Women Voters?
J: Yes, the League of Women Voters, and these people who had run it as a garden
club. It was not that they were opposed to their program; their program had
nothing to do with this Operation Alert.
L: You wanted to make the local League of Women Voters a more efficient chapter
of the League of Women Voters?
J: [I wanted to make it] a bonafide chapter of the League of Women Voters. That
is all I wanted to do. I had been terribly impressed as a Jewish kid growing up
during the Second World War with this Bund in this town and so forth; I was
frightened. It never appeared to me that it was beyond the realm of possibility
that the same thing could happen here. I viewed the League and organizations
like that as organizations that could ensure that it did not happen here, by doing
right, and by educating people. The League has always had a liberal program.
So these people as I say were not hostile to me; they were just taken aback
by this. I was so much younger than they were, I was just energy out to Kazoo.
It got tiresome; they did not want to do that, so they would just resign. So I could
replace them with young people who were equally committed to doing
something, and we just became a cracker jack organization. Well we did have a
U.N. Day celebration. A U.N. Day celebration was considered communist by
these Operation Alert people. We were all so intimidated we had also gotten
warnings that we actually got police protection for our U.N. Day meeting, even
though we had our legislators there, and so forth. That is how weird this town
was. We did a lot of lobbying. The League was very powerful in Florida in those
days. As I said, by the time I left there, I had regained an awful lot of self-
confidence; I had put myself together fairly well. Not to withhold any avalanche,
but I had lost that fear of older Protestant women, which had just plagued me.
By the time I left there, I felt comfortable with everybody.
L: That is who the League of Women Voters was.
J: That is who they were. Once I knew them on a social basis, and had tea with
them, and understood them, [the fear] was just gone. If all of these people
remain foreign, it is easy to maintain that kind of an attitude. We left there for
L: You came to Gainesville in 1962.
J: In 1962, before I finished my full term of being president. I was cleaning up odds
L: Were you in favor of moving to Gainesville? Did you have a choice? Did you get
J: I thought anyplace was better than Pensacola. I did not want to leave, because I
had really found this wonderful niche. And not only did I find this niche, it had a
ladder. You went from the local leagues to the state leagues to the national
leagues, and I knew everybody in the state league, and they thought well of me.
I was reluctant to go; I was reluctant to go because I was really involved in these
things. I wanted to have everybody put in their right spot before I left so that it
would go on forever (I do not know how long it went on, in fact). On the other
hand, I think I wanted to go back to school. I thought that I had to do something
other than this, or at least it appeared to me that I did. I do not think I resisted it.
L: So in 1962 you moved to Gainesville. What was Gainesville like in 1962?
J: Oh, I don't know. It was a big improvement over Pensacola, in the sense that it
had a movie theater that showed foreign films (which was unheard of; in
Pensacola it would have been considered subversive). It had places to eat out.
It had a lot more activity. It was just a lot bigger. It was small, but it was a lot
bigger than Pensacola.
L: Racially, was it the same situation?
J: No, it was better racially. It was not deep South. You may have had
segregation, but you did not feel that it was held down by force. Every white in
Pensacola and every white in the deep South in the old days felt it their personal
responsibility to make sure that segregation worked. Anybody who got a little bit
out of line got personal attention. That was not the case in Gainesville. In the
first place, you did not see that many blacks, and you are in a college
community. And in the second place, they were treated much more casually. It
was as though they had a right to be there. It was almost like a big city; you just
did not have that feeling. You did not have that feeling because you were not
black [laughter] and you were not living in those black areas. But it was not the
same in Pensacola, you were not black and were living in a white area anyway,
but you felt it everywhere; it was just heavy, heavy handed.
L: Who did you begin to associate with in Gainesville?
J: We never had close friends in all of our married lives. We have had movement
friends. [When] we came to Gainesville we had known Bernie [Wilse Bernard]
Webb, who was the head of the lab in which Marshall served in Pensacola.
Bernie left Pensacola and went to Gainesville as the head of the psychology
department. And that is why we left. Bernie just made it possible for us.
Although Marshall did not wind up in the psychology department; he wound up in
the department of psychiatry in the medical school. Or maybe he had a joint
appointment. But it was because of Bernie that we were able to go without any
applying for jobs, or looking around. We were close friends with the Webbs
when we were in Pensacola. They were really our only friends, and they were
wild friends. We drank a lot in those days. Bernie is a wild, colorful person.
L: What about his wife? Was she a movement person?
J: No, she was a good person. I have no idea how intelligent she was, because
nobody ever talked to her that seriously. When you are with Bernie, he insists on
taking over the situation. He originally went to Pensacola without Mary to apply
for this job, bought the biggest house he could find (a big old wreck of a
mansion), plopped her down, and, well, it was up to her to make something of it.
I think they had three or four kids. She wallpapered, she painted, she sanded;
she turned this wreck into a very beautiful place, at a very great expense to
L: This was in Pensacola?
J: Yes, in Pensacola. But it was an old mansion, it was right on a lagoon, and we
were the beneficiaries of her labor, in the sense that we enjoyed her house, we
enjoyed swimming in the lagoon, she was a tremendous cook. We enjoyed
going over there to play cards. Mary generally fell asleep half-way through the
evening, because she was so utterly exhausted.
L: What sort of movement activities did you begin to get into very soon after you got
J: I did not get into anything very soon after I got to Gainesville; neither did
Marshall. He tried to get back to work, I guess, and I joined the League of
Women Voters. I had done such a stellar job in Pensacola, and since I knew a
lot of people on the state board I think I kind of naively expected that I would be
handed some plum in Gainesville. But of course nobody knew me. The state
board people were not there. They held an election, and my name never came
up or should it have. They did not know me from a hole in the ground. I had
not done anything there. I was bewildered by that, and a little taken aback. That
was the organizational aspect. I tried to go back to school.
L: Did you get involved in the Council for Human Relations?
J: I do not know. Somewhere along the line I got involved with Pat Farris.
L: Was it with the [Alachua] County Democratic Committee?
J: No, they got me into that. I must have gotten involved with Pat and Shirley
Conroy I knew both of them independently of that, because they asked if I
wanted to be in this Democratic committee thing, and got me into that. How I
knew them, or why I knew them, I do not know. I tried to go back to school, and I
went to see Charles Farris, because I wanted to go back into polisci. As an
advisor he was impossible. He told me that I could come back to school, but in
those days it was very difficult for an older person to go back to school. You had
this age thing. They indicated to me that they were very reluctant to have me do
L: You were about thirty? Thirty-five?
J: I was about thirty-six. My first kid was born in 1956. I was thirty-one then. So
anyhow, when Charles first told me that I could come back to school, [he told
me] I would have to take a full course-load, and I would have to maintain a B+ or
an A average, or they would throw me out. I was absolutely nonplused; I did not
see how I could possibly do that with two kids in the house. I just stalled; I could
not bring myself to attempt that. Of course, it was not even true. They were
admitting people on other grounds. Charles was a nice guy. I just happened to
hit him on a day when he felt pompous, and he was going to give me this line of
crap. If [only] I had had the wits about me to go to somebody else and say,
"Well now, this can't be." But I just took that as a defeat; that is the way it was.
L: Well how did GWER come about then?
J: Well, I think I was already in the Democratic committee. Do you know when I
was on this Democratic committee?
L: [For] Pat Farris, that was her main thing. She became chairman of it, or
something like that. She tried to get other progressive-minded women involved.
J: Maybe that is how I got into that. Do you know what year that was?
L: It was before the fall of 1963. So [it was] within the first year of your arrival.
J: Somewhere along the line before GWER I am sure I was on the Democratic
committee, and I was in the Democratic Women's Club of Florida. I was a vice-
president for our region [of the Democratic Women's Club], and I was attempting
to organize our region of Florida for the Kennedy election. I cannot remember
which Kennedy, but we had these rainbow flyers, and I was going out to all of
these strange little towns. It was a very fun time for me, and very educational. I
was like a traveling salesman; you would go in and give people a pitch. I even
had a madam of some brothel, somebody who was on a county committee, and I
was contacting people on their county committees, and so forth. They were not
excited about the Kennedys, and it was doubtful as to whether they were going
to back them. So this was an effort to get that [backing]. But it was also a lonely
kind of thing. I remember Marshall taking the kids around, saying: "This is your
mother's territory." It was kind of a fun time. It was interesting geographically.
Anyway, then Marshall got involved with this black kid whose name eludes me
that we knew from Pensacola.
L: Jesse Dean?
J: Jesse Dean. Anyway, Jesse got Marshall into this thing. To tell you the truth, I
was a little nervous. I am a little chicken; I am afraid of physical contact. I was
not all so gung ho to begin with. I think it was partly because I was a little afraid.
L: Were you being pushed into forming a women's support group?
J: No, I was not excited about Marshall's getting involved. It all began so gradually,
and so slowly. The first thing they did was ask him if he would be the faculty
advisor. So that is a normal thing. All I mean to say is that it was not coming
from me. It is sort of surprising, because I was always very big on integration
and our movement, in a way more so than Marshall. But they did not ask me,
they asked him. So, I did not have to come to grips with it. But anyway, they got
involved. And then all of these colorful people like Ed and Barbara Richer, who
was quite a character You have heard about Barbara?
L: Not very much, no. Was she from the North?
J: Yes. As Ed was fond of saying, she was this big Swede; she was very strong.
He used to ride on her back around the house. It was just ludicrous; they were
crazy people. And then of course, the Harmelings [Jim and Dan], who were just
so charming and so nice, and so able. They were very appealing kids. All of
these people started coming over. Marshall is just enormously skilled
organizationally and interpersonally. He learned an awful lot out of my stint with
the League of Women Voters. We ran that as though it was some big
corporation. It was a testing ground; Marshall says he learned most of what he
knows about organizational work out of those days. He was very skilled. I do
not know who was pushing who, but the thing built and built. The students or
Marshall? I think they were both equal forces in terms of building that
movement. Judy [Brown] claimed that they cursed him every morning, that "this
son of a bitch was taking their movement, and carrying it away." Of course, he
courted them tremendously. It was a very interesting thing. He wanted to make
sure he was in their favor, and they were all together. That is the way that
Marshall does things anyway. He never does things by fiat. If there has to be
some decision made in the department, he will go and talk to each individual
member of the department before they all meet, to try to take into account
everybody's feelings, until he finally makes a recommendation that he is sure
everybody will go with. Well, Marshall made his rounds. That is what he did with
the movement as well. Anyhow, they were picketing, so I was getting involved.
They did not meet in a meeting place like normal people would do. They would
have these movement parties. To somebody who was as into organizational
work as I was, it was like a nightmare. You could not tell when they were
meeting, and when they were partying, because half of the discussion was
carried out on the dance floor. It was carried on in this one-to-one kind of thing
that Marshall was doing. So it was not like they were all standing around talking
about "Well, what should we do about this?" People would be drinking and
eating, and would finally say, "Well, what do you think? OK, we will do it
Thursday. What time?" And then it was over. You were never even sure if it
really took place. Was everybody really in on this? Did they know what they
were talking about? But that is the way it was done. They were all very content
with that mode of operation evidently [laughter].
L: Why did they need a faculty wives support group?
J: They did not need a faculty wives support group. This is what happened. They
were going along like that, and I was in on this stuff, and counseling and adding
in my two words as best as one could in this kind of a wild atmosphere. But
Marshall and Ed and I got together, too, which is probably where I had my
biggest input. Well, they got bogged down in this picketing of the College Inn,
and it was getting close to finals. The kids had to get off the line and do
something; they had to spend more time studying. Somehow, I think the
Thanksgiving vacation got involved.
L: It was late October; it looks like Thanksgiving.
J: I do not know why that should have been such a pressure, unless that coincided
somehow with exams. But in any case, it was clear that some of these students
simply had to get off the line if they were going to remain students in good
standing, and it appeared that the line would collapse if that happened. They
wanted people on the line. Marshall had been talking to me for quite a long time
about why I did not start a women's group. I do not know what he had in mind; I
do not know whether he was looking for more people at the demonstrations, or
for more town involvement. I cannot remember anymore. But I know that at that
particular point, he desperately needed to have people on the line. I am not sure
how far in advance of that we actually started talking. When did you say our first
L: As I understand it, according to the first issue of Focus, there was an
organizational meeting on October 22, and fifteen women appeared. They were
all white, and all faculty wives.
J: So that was at the end of October. We may have had a smaller one a little
earlier than that, but not too much earlier. And I did not get those people
together; a woman named Terry Alt got those people together.
L: What can you tell me about Terry Alt?
J: Not very much. She was a very able young woman. I do not even know what
she was doing there. Marshall could probably tell you more; I do not even
remember if she was a student or a faculty wife, to tell you the truth. We were
talking to her about this. Marshall was giving the pitch on why I did not do this. I
think Terry just said, "Hell, I will do it; I will get these people together."
L: How did she get them together?
J: [She] just called them, I guess; it was not hard to get them together. We met at
my house, I believe.
L: Do you remember who she decided to call?
J: No, I think everybody probably knew which women had shown any interest at
that time. I do not know. Some of those people were church people. She may
have known them through that context. She may have been a faculty wife who
knew them in some other way. I do not know.
L: Is it possible that someone got a petition signed by faculty members, that started
calling wives? A petition signed in support of what the student group was doing?
J: Was there such a thing?
L: That is what I have heard. I do not know if you remember June Littler?
J: To tell you the truth, I have been very embarrassed, because I have heard you
mention her several times, and I do not remember her distinctly. I do know the
name and I know she was there.
L: She was a non-traditional age student who was arrested in Ocala, and then
takes care of her private life for five or six years, becoming president of GWER in
the early to mid 1970s.
J: That was after I left; I would have to know her as a student from Ocala. I do not
remember her, I am sorry to say. What did she look like? Anyway, what did she
say? Was she at that original meeting?
L: No, but there was a petition circulated. Somebody in the student group went
around and said, "Dr. so and so, we need faculty support for legitimacy, [and] we
are going to run an ad in the paper. Will you sign this?"
J: Was there such a thing?
L: There were ads in the Alligator and in the Gainesville Sun.
J: How many names were on that thing?
L: As many as 200 I believe.
J: Is that right? But that was not early in the game. Oh, but this was during the
time that we might have been formed. Yes, I think that is a very real possibility.
L: I think somebody took that list of men's names, and called wives.
J: I think that is very possible. It really is; I just did not do it. I think that I had, in the
meantime, begun to lose a lot of self-confidence again. It was just disastrous to
be a housewife, in the home and not doing anything. I think I was slipping back
into nowhereville, and really almost having a transient psychosis. I think that I
was reluctant and too insecure to go out and try and start the thing up. I just
really came to that first meeting when they got these women together.
L: Do you remember anything specifically about these early meetings?
J: Once they got together, this is a little bit like what happened to Eleanor Smeal
and myself when we first started Pennsylvania NOW. I was sort of the senior
person in Pennsylvania NOW, before Eleanor got there. Just having these little
beginning meetings. Ellie came in just rearing to go, with tons of energy. [She]
clearly wanted to be the president. It was all right with me; by this time I had
about had it with organizational work, and I knew what the burden was going to
be. That is a little bit the way it was when I got in with those people at this
[GWER] first meeting. I wanted desperately to do something again. There were
these lovely people like Joan Henry, and I remember them always being a little
bit older than myself. Maybe they were not, but I remember them that way. At
least the ones who were perhaps the most senior taking part in it; the ones who
might have had the credentials to become the first president. Joan Henry had
held some very high level volunteer positions (in the Red Cross or something)
somewhere else outside of our area. She came from Kansas, or something.
L: [She came from] Oklahoma.
J: She knew a lot about organizing; she had done a lot of organizing before. But
she was very gracious about it anyway. If I wanted it, it was mine. So I really
just sort of took over at that point and took over the chair of the organizing
committee. I think that we remained as I remember it as an organizing
committee for quite some time. We organized, we got bylaws, we finally had an
election. I think that by the time we had the election, we had already been in
operation almost a year. So I wound up with a three year term. No, I think I had
put into the bylaws that you could only have two years, or something. So I think I
had a three year term, but I was elected twice. I served two terms and then I was
out. I had written the bylaws that way because in Pensacola, every ex-president
was on the board. It was impossible to do anything, or talk to anybody, because
they were all saying, "Well in my term, when I was president . ." It was just
ludicrous, and it was clear that it would not work that way. It is very hard to be
thrown off, and Joan was very aware of that, because she had that same
experience of having been the head of something and then leaving, being off the
board and being totally out of it. She knew how difficult that was.
L: Once you did your two years as president for the Gainesville Women for Equal
Rights, were you away from that organization?
J: Absolutely. And most of the women could not wait to have me go. I am
authoritarian. I know I am good at it, but they were happy to see me go. Joan
tried to get them to put me into some position where I would be doing something,
partly because it would be valuable for them. But partly because she understood
the terrible wrench of leaving, and it is an awful wrench.
L: That explains why you drop out of the documents.
J: I was out; I had done my stint. I helped the student movement immeasurably. It
was a gown movement; there was no town involvement when they started. Now
it is a town-gown thing and all of these other things are going on. But when I
tried to get back into the student movement having been gone for this period of
time, it was impossible. It was very clear. Marshall could not even give me my
due in public, for fear of losing face.
L: Do you remember the ways in which black women were brought into GWER?
J: I think we sent out invitations. We probably got the names of black school
teachers. I think that would not be unlikely. We sent them invitations. [We]
might have gone through the churches; we might have done both.
L: Do you remember a meeting where there was a panel of black women?
J: Absolutely. That was arranged by one of the white church women; it was never
something I would have dreamt up. This was all like witnessing in church. If you
know what I mean by that; it was a very churchh" thing to do. It was a nice thing
to do; it would never have occurred to me. It was a little bit consciousness-
raising, but we were not thinking about it in that context. When they got together
it was wonderful, because they got these black women together. There is this
one particular woman, whose name I cannot remember, she got these women
together, and they all talked about what it was like to be black in this time and
place, and the indignities they suffered. It was both embarrassing and
enlightening. I know the woman who organized it did not mean it this way, but it
was a wonderful ploy. By doing this, the black people were elevated to a
position where they clearly knew something that we did not know. They were
teaching us. They did indeed; they had information that we did not have, and
they were educating us. It was obvious that their words were having a real
impact. It gave them a position that they would not have had just coming to a
meeting in which people were saying: "Now listen, we have got to get together."
It made it clear that this was not an egalitarian organization. We did not know
them. It was their movement, and we were going to help them as best as we
could. I think had I done it that way, I would not have had the sense to do that.
It would not have occurred to me. It worked very well and people learned a lot.
We spent many meetings talking about who we are, going around from one
person to the other: "Who I am, how I came to this, what it is I hope to gain, what
problems I think we should deal with." Attempting to build a consensus. I think
some of these people may have been Quakers, quite frankly. And of course
consensus is the heart of Quaker action or inaction. They do not vote, they just
talk and talk and talk until they decide on something.
L: What organization is closest structurally to what GWER became? I am
curious about possible models.
J: I do not know what GWER became, but obviously I built it on the League of
Women Voters structure we had bylaws except that it did not have a state
and national component. I do not know; most women's groups are like that.
Almost all of them are like that, except for the left-wing. Women tend to be
democratic and they want to have bylaws, partly to ensure the democracy, so
that you know when your term is up, and there is a peaceful way of changing
command, and there are no hard feelings. So you write bylaws, and you
distribute the work through committees. I do not think there was anything
particularly special about the bylaws.
L: This format was something that you all were fairly familiar with because you had
all been in other women's groups?
J: I would have thought so. What was the format?
L: A board with elected and appointed members.
J: We had appointed members?
L: Of the board, yes.
J: Really? Who were they appointed by?
L: I do not know, it is in the bylaws.
J: That is surprising to me; that is a move I thought I would not have made. That
may have come from somebody else.
L: Then there were also committees. Each committee did its thing, and the
chairman reported back to the board.
J: That is standard for not only women's groups, but almost all groups. That is how
the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] would work; I was also a member of
the ACLU somewhere in those days in Gainesville. I cannot remember which
years; Marshall was president for a while, and drove me crazy with the
informality with which he ran his meetings.
L: What else do you remember about early Gainesville Women for Equal Rights
J: As I say, we had all of the usual things. We tried to set up a telephone
committee, which I did very successfully with some friends [Sondra Offord and
Gladys Satz] that we knew who were very good with that. [They] had little kids
and did not want to get out, so this was something they could conveniently do.
We put out a newsletter. I cannot remember who did that, but I remember being
a shuttle between these.
L: Was there a battle over the name of the newsletter?
J: Well, I do not know if there was a battle, but I remember great discussion over
what it should be. Why, did somebody else say there was [a battle]?
L: You had said something that made me think that.
J: No, we wanted to get something that was catchy, and was not trite. We had
names and names and names till we arrived at that, but I do not think that there
was any battle.
L: What sort of women tended to be active in GWER? I think you mentioned earlier
something about some that could only telephone -
J: Well, there were people whose husbands did not want their wives to be active.
They felt themselves to be not securely placed, and were afraid that if their wives
were active it would jeopardize their positions. I think that they may have felt that
if their wives were active it would jeopardize their marriage. I knew people in
Pensacola, Florida who would not permit their wives to join the League of
Women Voters. [The husbands] would just discourage them from it, saying:
"What do you need that for? You do not have time for that. You have all of
these other problems." Essentially, it is like not wanting your wife to be
employed. You do not want your wife to have that amount of independence.
You do not want her to have outside friends or contacts. Anyway, I think there
were some guys who were actually threatened by their wives becoming active,
and by having almost moral numbers on them. They did not want to march for
one reason or another. And if their wives marched or became active, then their
wives tended to look down upon their husbands if they were not active. Rather
unfairly, perhaps, because they were not the bread winner. The wives were not
making the money. I do not think they all realized what might be at stake here. I
think it was kind of hard on some of the men, but I think that was the case. And
furthermore, I think a lot of people compared their husbands to Marshall. He
was very good-looking in those days (and still is). He was very energetic, and
very smart. I am not sure that all of these men were so happy to have this
comparison: "Why can't you do what he is doing?" There were some people
whose wives would have liked to have been more active, but they were not. The
women we had were good women. Some of them came out of the churches,
and some of them came out of other organizations. A lot of them came out of
the democratic committee, like Pat and Shirley Conroy. Of course those people
were interested in political science. I think Shirley Conroy's husband was in
L: He is an historian.
J: She was into politics. Anyway, they were very good. And the black teachers
were great. They were solid and they were self-respecting. I never got the
feeling that they felt intimidated by us, or that they misread their association with
us, or wanted to become personal friends, or were using it as a social entree.
There were men, too. I want you to understand that we were considered the
Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, but at many of our meetings if not all of
them aside from board meetings there were black men present. These were
primarily black school teachers. When we went to organizing in terms of the
registration drive, there were a lot of black men involved. Maybe that is when
they came in.
L: Was there ever any discussion of making them members?
J: The black men?
L: Any men.
J: No, I do not think so; not that I can remember. Nobody was very hooked into
membership. We were hooked into membership in the sense of doing things [in
an] orderly [fashion]. I do not think they ever asked to be members; I do not
think it ever became a question or a problem. People were really task-oriented.
There just was not a jockeying for position. I cannot remember any of that, and I
think I would remember that. I must say I have never been in other organizations
where that has not taken place. There are always people in organizations that
are primarily concerned with being a leader, or feeling hurt that you did not do
L: What were the important tasks that you can remember?
J: Well, to tell you the truth, I do not remember. All I remember was our picketing.
I kept saying to Marshall: "What did we do after the picketing?" in preparation for
you coming here. I know we picketed at the College Inn. As he points out, it
was not long after that we were picketing at the [Florida] Theater. We had
marches. A lot of it was consciousness raising in a different form. We would
simply call a march, and we would march somewhere, and people would give
speeches, and we would make manifestos, demand things, and that would be it.
We would then go home. Well, it took a lot of time to organize these marches
and put out the information. So we picketed and we marched. Many of us sat in
with the sit-ins at the college.
L: Where were sit-ins held?
J: Whatever the administration building was, I cannot remember what it is called.
L: Tigert Hall.
J: Yes, Tigert Hall. Then, of course, we did this registration drive. I think that I
particularly pushed that because we saw ourselves primarily as a resource, as
the adult aspect of the student movement, and in support of it. But the student
movement it appeared to me was failing desperately. They did not integrate
the restaurant. They pulled the picket at the Theater (for sound reasons,
L: They decided not to go to Jacksonville to protest at the company headquarters of
the Florida Theater chain?
J: I do not know anything about that. All I remember is that they pulled the picket
from the Florida Theater because we were having a city election. I think I may
have gotten involved in the city election. Those two women in the political
science department, Gladys Kammerer and Ruth McQuown, said we were
"throwing the election by this, and that they were good guys and are not going to
win." It appeared to me that we simply had to do something positive that would
show some results, if the whole thing was to stay alive. It seemed to me that the
registration campaign was a wonderful vehicle, because it was necessary.
People ought to vote, and for all of the obvious reasons. The registration
campaign was also a very good organizing tool. So anyway, we did this big
registration drive which was very interesting and involved a lot of black people. I
must say that some of those people were absolutely incredible. This one woman
was holding down two eight hour jobs, and was involved in this registration
campaign. One [of her jobs] was a night telephone operator in a hotel, so she
got to catnap a little bit. [She] was just doing extraordinary amounts. It was
interesting how terrified people were to register. It was very scary territory, to get
over to the county courthouse, go in, and put your name down for registration.
They did not know what was going to happen to them. I think they expected
reprisals. It was a very gutsy thing to go register to vote. Of course we got
charged with registering people illegally, and we had to defend ourselves in
court. We also spent some time trying to build the legal arm of the thing; [we
were] trying to court lawyers to do things for us.
L: Your main lawyer was a man named Earl Johnson, a black NAACP lawyer from
J: It is possible; I do not remember. We tried to court some people in town; I think
a guy name Golden, perhaps, who we got nowhere with.
L: Do you remember any of the struggles with the local school board?
J: Not really. Did we have any struggles? What were we trying to do?
L: Well, do you remember a man by the name of Tiny Talbot, the superintendent of
J: Oh yes. I do remember that. What were we trying to do? We were trying to
integrate the schools. Marshall and I had a case--our kids--and sued to integrate
the school system. They were plaintiffs in a case to integrate the school system.
L: You sued for the right to send your children to a black school?
J: No. We sued to integrate the school systems. We must have argued that our
children were denied some privilege. We would never have done that; we would
never have sent our kid to a black school. I hate to tell you that, but it is true.
L: Why not?
J: Because it was inferior education. I mean, they were terrible. I just would not
have done that. It would have been cruel. Our kids were not prepared for that;
maybe some other kids would have been. We did not do that. They were
plaintiffs to integrate the school system. I do not know what happened in that
case to tell you the truth. I cannot remember anymore. If you find out, I would
like to know what we did.
L: OK. Do you remember going up against the Boys Club?
L: How about a tutorial program?
J: That sounds reasonable. Boy, that would have been safe. I do not know;
it sounds like something we might have done. I think actually that the
students did that, though.
L: The students were involved in that. They were the ones mostly that were
J: I think so. I think it may have been their program. Maybe we had some part of it.
L: Do you remember a woman named Chris Antenen?
J: Who was she?
L: She was the president of the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights early on.
J: I knew nobody after Joan. Joan was the next president [after myself]. After her,
I lost track [of GWER]; I was stunned to find out they were still in existence some
years later. I could not believe it.
L: I have been told that you and Joan Henry were the central personalities.
J: I think that is unquestionably true. And very different personalities.
L: I have been told that you were polar opposites.
J: Well, I would not go that far; she was strong.
L: What was the difference? Tell me about Joan Henry.
J: I think Joan was older than I was. She was mellower. She had had more
experience. She just had a different style. I was a ramrod. Joan would have
considered that I think she was raised altogether differently than I was. She
was almost like a southern lady. She must have come from gentle people; she
came from wealthy people. I think that she had almost a country club
ladylikeness about her. She was well-mannered. I hung up on her once,
actually, and she said she never forgave me for that. Before she died, we had
this conversation; I had heard she was sick, and called her. She said to me,
"Well, I always liked Marshall better than you anyway. I never forgave you for
hanging up on me." I had forgotten that I had ever done it, to tell you the truth. I
picked up the phone immediately after I hung up on her and apologized to her.
Joan would never do that; she would never lose herself that way.
L: You described yourself as a ramrod?
J: Yes. I pushed. I could be very diplomatic and get people involved, but they felt
like they had been run over by a truck; when they got through with me, they did
not know whether they had made a voluntary decision or not. They may have
liked me, they may have found me fun, but they found me a heavy personality. I
was just not going to let up; I was going to push. Joan just was not like that. I do
not know how her presidency went. I do not know what they accomplished or
what she did. I do know that I consulted with her always, just as Ellie consulted
J: Eleanor Smeal. When we started Pennsylvania NOW, remember I told you
[how] she came into this meeting, much younger than I, all rearing to go? She
pushes very hard too. In fact, she has so much energy, that she wears down her
opposition by simply holding the meetings until they all fall asleep. People were
just dying. After the opposition leaves, she holds the vote. But Joan was no
pushover; she was a determined woman who just did things differently than I.
L: What about Carol Thomas? Do you remember Carol Thomas?
J: One could hardly forget Carol Thomas. She was never involved with GWER, or
if she was it was in some bizarre way. She was involved with the student
movement. Carol Thomas was a radical and did shift to radical feminism. She
was like a movement social worker. People lived in her house; they stole her
toilet paper. Half of the time she did not have any soap or toilet paper or
anything. People were just walking away with her house. She felt that was their
right. She had to cope with that as best as she could. Her kids suffered, [and]
her husband suffered.
L: How did they suffer?
J: They suffered from not having toilet paper, not having food, and having all of
these people living in the house, and having no attention. People would just live
there; they would just move in and stay there until they got a place, or they got
off dope, or until they got healthy. It was like a flophouse.
L: What kind of a person was her husband?
J: He was a very nice guy. [He was very] tolerant. He finally could not take it
anymore, and left her.
L: Do you have any idea what happened to Carol Thomas? Do you know where
she is now?
J: She went to Judy's burial. I do not know where she is, but Carol Giardina is in
touch with her. I paid for her fare to go down to Judy's funeral. I got a thank you
note from her, but I cannot remember where it came from. I am sure that she is
still doing her thing, which is this very personal kind of social work. Carol helped
a lot of people in a way that I could never bring myself to do. It is both admirable
L: Tell me then how you started moving toward the feminist movement and the
J: When I left GWER I was completely out. Although Joan would have liked to
have given me something to do, the board that she had said, "No, we have had
enough of her, thank you." So I was completely cut out. I was not really
prepared for that, frankly. But I thought that I could switch gears and just go right
back into the student movement, which is what I tried to do. And then it became
very clear to me that one, they never held elections, [and] two, they did not let
the women speak. Once a conversation was going on, some woman would try to
say something, and they would just talk right over her. She would get out her
first sentence, and somebody else would just start to talk, as though she was not
even saying anything; nothing else was happening. She had finished. Or they
would let her speak, and the conversation would resume at exactly the point it
was before she said anything, as though she had never spoken. This was utterly
mind-boggling to me. I just could not believe that this was going on, and that my
husband was the head of this group. I think it was during this period that Ed
gave his little feminist speech. That just threw me. I stopped trying to get back
into the movement, and started reading feminist stuff and [I] started writing this
paper, which took me a long time to write. I meant it to be a book.
L: This is Toward a Female Liberation Movement?
J: Right, it was meant to be a book. I was going to go on and on and develop it.
L: How did you begin to collaborate with Judith Brown?
J: I did not, to tell you the truth. Well, I began to talk to Judy about feminism. We
drank a lot in those days, and Judy would come over when we were on our way
out of Gainesville. We had left our house, because I think the people we had
rented it from had come back. We were in an apartment building. Students felt
free to drop in; everybody dropped in. It was not like Carol's; they left. [laughter]
But Judy would come over, and we would have these long, drunken
conversations at night. Frequently, we would disagree on things. I know we had
run-ins on this feminist thing, and were talking about feminism. I remember
cursing her once: my curse was that she would have twelve children. But
anyway, she took that very seriously, like I had really hexed her.
L: Were you close friends?
J: No, because it was hard to be close friends with Judy. Other people have
managed that, but Judy had a very peculiar temperament. I suspect that her
breakdown was not all due to the outside contingencies of what was happening
in her life; she was always very fragile.
L: But her breakdown was a good deal later?
J: Yes. I think it had something to do with her genetics, or her physiological
condition. You would be sitting in a room having a conversation with Judy
(thinking you were having a conversation, anyway) by yourself or with other
people there, and Judy would suddenly pop up, walk out of the place, slam the
door, and say: "I cannot take this anymore; this is too much for me!" You would
never know what the hell it was she could not take, or what was too much for
her. It was like out of the blue. She was suspicious. They suspected Marshall
of manipulating them; she was suspicious of being manipulated, or of being
taken advantage of in general. She was not very open, or very forthcoming, and
there was a big difference in our age and position in the world in terms of her
being a student. I was married with two kids a world away from where she
was. I went on a trip once with Judy. It was the most awkward [trip]. I knew she
wanted something, and I could not figure out what it was that she was angling
for. She kept making me more and more nervous. I began to think that maybe
this was a sexual pass. I thought, "This cannot be; I must be crazy." But I did
not want to let myself in for this. It went on and on, and in the end it turned out
that she wanted to borrow some money from me, or something. But it took the
whole night [for her to ask]. No, she wanted to go to a meeting of radical women
and did not want me to go. She kept saying, "Do you mind if I ask you
something personal? This is a very personal thing; I hope you will not take
offense." It took so long. It is hard to get close to somebody who cannot
express themselves with greater ease or more confidence. And she did not want
me in these things. Well, I left there [Gainesville]. We had a lot of conversations.
I liked Judy; she was a part of the group. I think she liked me, [but] we were not
close friends. I am sure we both saw faults; she saw faults in me and I saw
faults in her. But then I came here [Hershey] and she was interested in feminism
but I do not think it had become a big thing. Somehow she found out from
somewhere I think through SNCC [Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Committee] or some black group that there was this radical group of feminists,
and that they were going to have a meeting. Judy belonged to CORE [Congress
of Racial Equality], and maybe she found out through some woman in CORE
who's husband was one of our lawyers. Anyway, she found out from somebody.
These groups of radical feminists were starting to pop up here and there.
L: Was it Red Stockings, perhaps?
J: Well, I do not know who she found out about this from, or how she made this
contact. It may have been through Kathie; I did not know that she knew Kathie.
J: Kathie Sarachild, who was with SNCC, and who was the head of Red Stockings.
Judy found out somehow that there were these groups. They were very small.
There was a group in Chicago and I think some people started to get together in
New York. And then Judy found out about this.
L: Were you still in Gainesville at this point?
J: No, I was here; I had come up here and was still working on my paper.
L: So this [the paper] never came out before 1968?
J: No, it came out in 1968. Judy came up here. She had read some versions of it
before I came here, and she said, "You have got to get this paper out; you can't
just keep working on this. This has to get out now, because this is the time when
it will have its impact. I will help you with it." I cannot write with somebody's
help. It is not a committee kind of thing. I did not want or need her to finish the
paper. But I did see that if she had some way of marketing it and of doing
something with it, then maybe that was the thing to do. For all I knew, I could
work on it for another twenty years and it would die with me. Maybe that made
sense. Judy said that she would just wait here. She wanted to just finish the
paper, and I said I would not go along with that.
L: She wanted to finish it herself?
J: Yes. This was her notion of collaboration, of how we would get this out. I am
very attached to my writing. I would not put my name to something I had not
seen. I would not say, "Sure we will finish this. I will give you this half, you put
on another half, and we will publish it together." I had no idea what she was
going to come up with. Nor did I know that I really wanted my name on it before I
saw it. She had seen what I had done, but I had not yet seen what she was
going to do. So I said, "OK, why don't you give me a couple of days to finish this,
to wrap up my part. I will just sort of summarize it here, and put my name on my
part. And then you go ahead and add whatever you want to, and put your name
on your part. We will publish it jointly that way." She said "OK," so that is what
we did. The first part is under my name. I make out that I am the older author,
and I maybe do not know how young people are doing this, and [that] the
younger author will address these other problems, giving her a lead into her
L: What sort of impact did this have once it was published?
J: An enormous impact. [It was] unbelievable and it was shocking. I was taken
aback quite frankly, and [I was] very buoyed by it. There were about four years
between that and my getting active in NOW. Those were hard years for me. I
was trying to write, I was isolated, and I was trying to keep up. Every time I
stopped one of these organizational things, I would sink back. And I was having
problems with my kids, I was having problems with Marshall, [and] I was having
problems with myself. My son just did not take to my being a feminist. He would
say to me, "Yes sir." I would say, "Don, why are you saying 'Sir' to me? If you
want to be polite, why don't you say 'Yes, Ma'am'?" "Oh, I thought you wanted to
be treated like a man." He was very snide and nasty; it was just tough. He was
rebellious anyway; if we said "white" he said "black."
L: He was an adolescent at the time?
J: Yes, it was tough all the way around. It was hard being our kid. We dragged
him to every demonstration, and he never agreed with us. He told Marshall in
Gainesville that he was nothing but a destroyer; [that] he did not want to build
anything, [but rather] wanted to tear things down. Don did not want to have
anything to do with that. In great measure, he was right; I was the integrationist
and Marshall did want to tear things down. Anyway, to get back to the success
of the paper, it was wonderful because every three to six months, I would get
another letter asking permission to republish it in some anthology. It was great; it
just buoyed me up and carried me over until I got into NOW [National
Organization for Women]. I was in NOW so long.
L: What about early consciousness-raising groups? Do you remember anything
like that in Gainesville?
J: In Gainesville, no. I do not think so. Maybe Judy not in what you would call
feminist consciousness-raising. Of course we talked about feminism and the
problems of women, about what it was like to have children, and about what was
being done in the movement. So we talked about all of these things and about
what all of this meant, but not in terms of this personal testimony kind of thing
that consciousness-raising was really all about.
L: Define that for me.
J: Consciousness-raising? The way it was done, I found absolutely abhorrent.
When I was with Judy before she died, she tried to go through the same thing.
These people would get around, and talk about their personal experience with
oppression. This came from a book called Fanshen [William Hinton, 1966].
Kathie [Sarachild] read this book, about some guy's experience in the Chinese
revolution. What these people did in China, to induce them to get into the
revolution, was to "speak pain to remember pain." These people would get
around and they would say, "No, I do not have any problems." Then somebody
would start talking about their problems, and then somebody would say, "I have
to admit, I have that problem, too." Pretty soon, everybody would get very
agitated saying, "Yes, those goddamned bastards have been doing this all
along." Well, that is what the [participants in CR sessions] would do. They
would get together and talk about (for example) the difficulty of having female
orgasms. This is irritating to me, because this was one of the things they talked
about. Then you were expected to talk about your difficulty. Because this was
raised as one of the topics for the evening, you were expected to confirm
everybody else's feelings by echoing your own: "Yes, I have had this problem,
and it's because he has done this and this." And so, people would do that. If you
did not happen to have that problem, you were still expected to talk about it. I do
not doubt that women have these problems; female anatomy is tremendously
variable. People could have these problems for any number of reasons; it just
never happened to be one of my problems. I had a lot of problems, but this just
never happened to be one of them. In one of these groups, if you were with
Judy or Kathie, you could not say that. They were supposed to be
consciousness-raising; you were supposed to tell the truth. You were supposed
to be talking about your relationship to this thing. But you could not say, "I
understand what you are saying, and I think everything you say is true, but I just
have not experienced that."
Well, this would then be considered resistance (as in psychoanalysis): "You
really have this problem, but you are not willing to share. You are trying to
detract from the legitimacy of other people's complaints." What it ends up being
is, "You are a troublemaker, and you ought to get the hell out of here." In that
kind of a format, the person who was leading these things had no difficulty in
controlling the organization. If you do not go along with what is the "politically
correct" thing to be confessing at that consciousness-raising group, you are not
very welcome. You do not tend to go back, and you then tend to build a little
close coterie. This is how it gets perverted.
In its essence, it is a group of women sitting around talking about things that they
have had mutual problems with. Women have always done this, [although] not
in the same context. You talk about your problems: how to raise your kid, you
cannot do this, how do you do this? This was another thing how do you handle
your husband when he comes home and says, "Goddamnit, I expect my dinner
to be on the table at six o'clock. Where is it?" It is not how to handle him, but
what right does he have to do this, and how do you feel when this is happening?
Well, all of this in the very early days of feminism was very helpful to people who
had difficulties. It was certainly very consciousness-raising to me when my
husband said that no, he could not respect a woman in the same way he
respects a man. That was instant consciousness-raising. This was the kind of
thing that women sat around [discussing]. I was never into it. I felt I did not want
to reveal my inner secrets. I did not feel it was necessary for me to do this, and I
certainly did not want to be treated as someone who was a spoilsport for not
claiming to have problems I did not have. So I did not have these kind of
meetings in my home and I assiduously avoided going to them.
L: But you were willing to write these kinds of things?
J: Write about the problems of women?
L: There is a section in this [the paper] about the dynamics of marriage and
J: Oh, I was quite willing to talk about my problems [and] about problems of
women. Absolutely. This is entirely different from sitting around in a circle of
people. You can imagine that, can't you?
L: It is the difference between being general and being specific and personal.
J: And choosing what it is you want to say in the way that you want to say it, and to
have the effect without the pressure ... If the women know each other and know
their husbands, it is a very risky thing to do. You want to build consciousness, but
you do not want it to get back to your husband through a third person that you
said something particularly embarrassing to him or that he will find aggravating.
When you are sitting around with a faculty wives group, that is just not good
politics; it is stupid, I think. And it will not work, because people do not feel free
to express themselves. If you are meeting in some big city, you do not know
each other, you are never going to see each other socially, and you are with a
whole bunch of strangers, you are getting together to talk about these things,
[and] you are meeting at some battered woman's shelter, I think that it probably
works, then. Fine. It seems to have worked for Judy and these other people.
But I do not think it did work, because, as I say, they seem to have retained a
certain anti-feminist attitude toward women of wealth, toward women who had
maids, toward women who were professional.
L: Did you have a maid?
J: I always had a maid.
L: You did not have any problem with that?
L: I guess not, then.
J: Why would I have a problem with that? What is the matter with having a maid?
Would you say to some man who had a secretary: "Have you ever had a
problem with having a secretary? You did not think you should do your own
writing? You did not think that was a bad thing to do?" He would look at you like
you were crazy. Why should I have felt that it was bad of me to have a maid
helping me clean the house? I cannot understand that. I literally cannot
understand that. It seems to me [to be] pure sexism and the double standard. If
it is women's work, you are not permitted to delegate it that is the sexist
position; that is where they want women to be: to feel guilty about delegating
housework. Do you realize that it was a big feminist thing to put your kid in a
nursery school at one time? We had a friend of ours here who was a
psychiatrist, whose wife started a nursery school here in 1968 in Hershey,
Pennsylvania. This was considered a really bold act. It was considered a bold
act in 1968! To put your kid in a nursery school, did you not feel guilty about
L: Would you have ever done that with either of your children?
J: I did, of course! My son went to nursery school before he was toilet trained and
[he] cried bitterly. I was not a natural mother. I do not think most women are
natural mothers. It is a horrendous, mind-boggling job which I describe in my
thing as like flying a plane: hours and hours of pure boredom interstruck with
moments of terror in which you are having a to-do with your husband over
something and you are on the verge of losing your marriage and thinking what
you should do with your life. "Oh God, how should I raise these children?" Or
terrified that you are going to drown your children because you just cannot stand
a moment more of the screaming while you are washing them in the bathtub. It
is not a pleasant or easy job. And if you have got a mind that is going to waste
doing these shitty, crappy, dumb, stupid things, you resent it. I think you are
better off putting your kid in the nursery school, or having a maid who likes to
take care of children.
L: But it was not a common practice in the 1960s?
J: No, it was not a common practice. My son is married to an engineer, and they
have a nanny. They also with our help now have a maid. Their first thing
was to get a nanny, and not a maid. My daughter-in-law's money almost her
total salary goes to hiring this woman. She comes in, and it is a strictly
educational job. From the minute she is there, she is teaching this kid who is
now only two years old, and doing all of these things with her. [She does] not
[do] a stitch of housework. I do not understand it: I had the money to do that,
and it never even occurred to me. It just did not even occur to me. You can hire
a maid to help you with the housework so you could take care of your child. But
to hire somebody to take care of your child? You knew British royalty did that,
but it was just not a concept [I considered].
L: We discussed during dinner the difference between the way you were thinking in
terms of feminism and the radical feminists' thought.
J: It was my experience as a mother that really made me a radical feminist. I found
it an almost unbearable experience; I would never do it again. I love my kids and
I get a lot of reward from them, but I think if people knew what it was going to be
like, they would rarely have children. They were just swept into it by some
romantic horseshit, or something. Because the amount of self-sacrifice involved,
and the amount of one on one self-sacrifice [is very great]. It was one thing to
self-sacrifice for the movement, for feminism, or for integration. But the
sacrificing of your life for somebody else's life who does not appreciate it and
who thinks that you are probably interfering with their life and ruining it, [is
another thing]. Even if they do appreciate it, it does not matter; you are
sacrificing your life for one other person. It does not always seem like a very
good deal [laughter].
L: Well, tell me about getting involved with the National Organization of Women.
J: I was here and was trying to write about feminism. I wanted to know what was
going on with NOW because I was trying to write about the movement. NOW
had formed in 1966, I think.
L: Betty Friedan formed it, is that correct?
J: It was formed actually, at a meeting. I found Judith Hole's summary of this
wonderfully helpful in this book, The Rebirth of Feminism. This book has a
timeline in the back, which is very helpful.
I just read the timeline last night. If I have read the book, I do not even
remember. I think they formed in 1966. They were formed by a group of women
who somehow, in Kennedy's first administration, had pressured him into having a
committee on the standing of women.
L: The Commission on the Status of Women.
J: That then proliferated into state committees on the status of women, and so
forth. Of course to get on a committee for the status of women, you had to be
some sort of professional woman. They just did not pick housewives. You had
to know somebody, [or] be "somebody." So these women were meeting in New
York, and after some particular rebuff, they decided to get together. Betty
Friedan was one of them. They formed this organization. They said it was an
organization. Because I was writing this book, I went to one of their
organizational meetings and was totally turned off, and rudely treated by Friedan,
who did not even know she was being rude, frankly; she is kind of a crass
L: This was after you moved here?
J: [It was] after I had moved here, and I went to one of their meetings somewhere,
just to find out what they were about. But I was trying to make some point at this
board meeting; as I say, she was rude. A lot of people are rude, but I was very
sensitive at the time. She wrote a good book, but she is not one of my favorite
people. She is not altogether with it. She went off on this ego trip after she
wrote that book, and has never come down. Everything she has written after
that has been a biting and ignorant commentary of the movement. She attacked
NOW as a communist organization, which was ludicrous, and so forth. So I went
to this meeting, and put myself on their mailing list. I wrote to them saying that I
was interested in forming a chapter, and would they please keep me informed.
So occasionally, I would get some mail from them. [It was] very occasional,
because they had no newsletter. What they were was a group of women who
were more or less influential (but not too much so), but who thought that they
could be influential, and who were running under the name of an organization
that represented all women a strictly public relations outfit of maybe twelve
women. They would appear at meetings of congress saying: "We are the
National Organization for Women." They had individual memberships. You
could join the organization I think I was a member of the organization but that
entitled you to practically nothing. I think once every year, or once every two
years, you could go to a convention which was stacked. (And I describe that in
some of this literature, because we fought against it and eventually took it over.)
It was stacked because they had a nominating committee which they appointed.
These twelve people appointed the nominating committee. People who came to
this meeting were from all over the United States and did not know each other.
They had no way of knowing each other because there were no chapters, there
were no state organizations, [and] there were only individual memberships. So it
was very easy under these circumstances, having it in your city with your buddies
there, to simply have the nominating committee's recommendations confirmed.
And [that way] you maintained control over the organization.
Well, Eleanor [Smeal] started a chapter. She was educated in Gainesville, in the
political science department there. She came here [to Pennsylvania and]
married Charlie. Maybe she was from here; I do not know. But I think her family
was from Pennsylvania.
L: Did you know her down there?
J: No. I think we were down there at different times, too. She came here, married
Charlie, and had two children. Like most intelligent young women, she just
wigged out, and could not bear being in the house and not doing anything with
her head. She found out about NOW (I do not know how) and started a NOW
chapter, probably the second NOW chapter in the country. Wilma Scott Heidi
had a chapter somewhere. Ellie started this chapter in this little part of
Pittsburgh that she lived in. She is very ambitious and very able. She then
wanted to expand and get in touch with other people and I think build a power
base, but also to expand the influence of feminism as well. She got from NOW
(rather miraculously, given how tight-fisted they were with everything) a list of
those people in the area who were presumably interested in NOW, or in forming
chapters. [She] called a meeting, which was held in Chambersburg, which is sort
of the middle of the state, to get together and talk. It was very open-ended.
L: Can you put a year on that?
J: Yes, it was in 1972.
L: And you went and attended this meeting?
J: I went and Eleanor was not there. Something had happened with her family or
her life or something. There were a lot of people from Pittsburgh there hardly
anybody else. I went with somebody who they almost did not allow to sit there.
It was ridiculous. But [this person] was not a NOW member, nor interested in
becoming a member, and would not have become a member after being
challenged in this rude way as to why she was here. They wanted her to leave
the room. There was a woman named Joanne Gardner who was a very staunch
feminist and NOW member. She was such a staunch feminist that she started a
feminist caucus in psychology in the American Psychological Association. She
never could get a job anywhere as a psychologist; she was so abrasive. She did
have a job somewhere, and was fired. She never managed to get another job.
L: Now, you never took a job anywhere, correct?
J: No, I never had a job. But do not forget [that] I was only trained as a clinical
psychologist, and did not want to be a clinical psychologist. Anyway, we had this
meeting, and Joanne Gardner was there. With Ellie not being there she was sort
of the senior person, and she wanted this person I had brought with me to leave
the room before she revealed this tremendous information so that it would not
leak out anywhere. So she actually left the room.
L: Who did you bring that was so objectionable?
J: I brought another professor's wife who was interested in feminism and agreed to
take this trip with me just to see what was going on.
L: Why were they chasing her out?
J: It was ludicrous and ridiculous. When you hear what information it was she was
about to reveal that could not be revealed to the world, and that she was chasing
her out because she was not a NOW member, it was just idiotic. There are a lot
of people in the movement who are not exactly stable. They are partly drawn to
the movement for that reason. It allows for a lot of volubility and maneuvering,
and showboating. So they chase this woman out, and then Joanne Gardner
reveals to those present, because she is on the national board and knows this
information, that NOW has only 10,000 members. That was it.
L: How many had they been claiming in public?
J: I do not know; they had just been saying that they represent all women. But they
had 10,000 members and I could not have cared less. And the woman with me
would have cared even less than I cared. She was able to come back into the
room and the meeting proceeded. The question was, it was hard to know why
we were meeting. It was one of these amorphous meetings. If Eleanor had
been there, I suppose it would have been more coherent. But it was: "What are
you doing? What are your interests? Who are you? Where are you coming
from?" Well they had read my paper, [which] had made a tremendous impact.
So Joanne knew the paper and, like many authoritarian people, was a little
obsequious. "Does everybody know who this is? This is Beverly Jones."
L: Which is the last thing in the world that you wanted to happen.
J: Well, I did not care. The whole thing was ludicrous: the leaving of the room and
the big greeting of me. It was hard to know what was supposed to be going on.
It was all just so loose and so wild. So people said what they were doing. Some
people had formed this chapter, and one group had formed a nursery school,
which did not seem like a big feminist project to me. Although sending your kids
to nursery school was a big thing to do. They were not just forming a nursery
school, they were forming a feminist nursery school. This nursery school was
going to treat children differently so that, from the very beginning, they did not
have these sexual stereotypes. I could not get terribly excited about that. I
thought it was a nice thing to do, but it was not grabbing me much. So we went
around like this. It was at that meeting that they started talking about what they
needed to do. I had been in many organizations, including the student
movement, where you had these Trotskyites come in, and they never formed an
organization on their own. Why, I do not know. Their big thing was to take over
other organizations. So they would have these little cells. You had an
organization going, and all of a sudden you have three Trotskyites in there,
making it difficult to carry on the meeting, trying to take over your organization,
and trying to get you to go in a way that you had no intention of going. You are
having these big harangues it is just a nightmare; nobody gets anything done.
At that time, there was WEAL [Women's Equity Action League] and NOW, the
Women's Political Caucus had been formed, and there was a thing called
Catalyst. Several little groups which all had a very narrow mission. They did not
have a membership; they really were not membership groups. They were like
L: Were these the radical groups?
J: No, these were not radical; they were all professional women. WEAL was for
women in the universities who were trying to get better places for women in
universities by opening up the faculty to women. NOW and the Women's
Political Caucus wanted to get more women in politics. Catalyst was trying to get
more women into upper business levels. NOW was too; NOW was a
professional organization interested in opening up the top levels of things to
women. They were not talking about abortion and wife beating.
L: Were any of these women black?
J: They might have been. One or two [of them were] here and there.
L: Did you have any contact with any blacks?
J: No. In the movement?
L: The women's movement.
J: Not really. I do not think so. Not in the women's movement. We had some
black women occasionally in NOW in the Pittsburgh area. It was very hard to get
black women into NOW in the beginning. There are a lot of black women in it
now. But it was very hard to get them into it in the beginning because they were
a little intimidated; they were outnumbered, and did not feel comfortable. These
were all college educated women, by and large.
L: All middle class [women]?
J: They were all middle class [and] they were all college educated. I do not know
why it was hard. We did not know them, either. They were not in our circles; we
were not associating with them. And I think they had more pressing things on
their mind. I think they felt more of a loyalty to being black than they did to being
women, [and therefore felt] like they were traitors to go out and advocate
women's rights rather than black rights. I think there were a lot of reasons that
they were not there. We did not seem to be addressing their problems. We
were, but I do not think they felt that directly. So they started talking [at the
Chambersburg meeting] about what we should do; we should take over the
feminist movement, divide up and put a little core of people in every one of these
groups, and then we could meet and know what they were all doing.
L: [That] NOW should take over the rest of them?
J: No, not NOW. These people who were in this little meeting at Chambersburg
were only there because they happened to be NOW members. They were not
talking about what NOW should do; they were talking about what they as
individuals and we as an accumulated dozen people, should do.
L: Were they Marxist types?
J: No, they were not.
L: Oh, it was just this specific group of people?
J: Yes, [it was] these twelve people. They were trying to say: "We have now met
here. We know where we are coming from and what you are doing. Now what
should we do? Given the state of feminism and given our interest, how should
we proceed?" I think it was Joanne's idea that we should have a breakdown into
these little groups, and we should have three people join the Women's Political
Caucus, three people join WEAL, three join here, and three join there. We will
find out what everybody is doing, and then we will get together, meet as a group,
and we will decide what the best thing is for all of the organizations to be doing.
Then we will go in there with a unified program, and we will try to get them all to
do these things. It just seemed actually ludicrous to me. Under no
circumstances would I do this. You cannot build an organization, or accomplish
anything in that way. You certainly do not build a membership or get other
people involved. You are just playing around. So that was their major thing.
Well, if they were not going to do that, they thought they should form another
organization. I did not think that was a good idea. Their position was: Why
should they mess around with NOW, why not form their own organization? It
was early enough; they would not have to fight with anybody to figure out what to
do. This went on and on. I just thought they were crazy because NOW had a
name, it had prominence, [and] it had a big membership list. They were already
members of NOW. There was no reason to resign from NOW. There was no
reason not to build the organization they were already in. Why would they leave
it? They had no reason to leave it, and start a whole new organization from
scratch. They already had this ongoing affair. It just did not make any sense.
So we left that meeting with all of these ideas. We set another date that we
would meet and we would get together and finally decide what to do. We would
all think about it. I went home and wrote something which I no longer have in my
possession, but that I could get for you. I called it the Chambersburg Paper,
which essentially says that this is crazy and that what we should do is build NOW
stay in there and build it. If we did not think it was doing right, we could change
it. It was easier than starting out from scratch. Well Ellie came to the second
meeting. Also in that meeting, however, I said we ought to build a state
organization if we are going to get together here. That would be the first step; to
build a state organization which could in itself start more chapters and then we
would have something to work with, instead of this amorphous thing somewhere
else. Well Ellie liked that idea. Then the question was who was going to be
president. Given Joanne's greeting of me the first time, you can imagine that
she suggested that I be president.
L: And you just published the paper?
J: I published it in 1968 and this was now 1972.
L: The Chambersburg Paper?
J: Oh no, I just brought it to the meeting and circulated it. I published it later.
L: That was the position paper that everybody was following?
J: I think so. I did that because it is my way. I wanted to make sure that they had
it, [that] they read it, that they got the full argument, [and] that I did not have to sit
there and just start talking and convince them of it.
L: It makes sense that if they decided to go in your direction, to put you up as a
J: Yes, I think that is probably true, too. It also had to do with my publishing of the
paper. But then it became very clear that Ellie really wanted to do that. To tell
you the truth, I was not so hot to do it anymore. I thought it would be OK; I would
have kind of liked to do that. But if [Ellie] really wanted to do it, that was all right
with me too. I think it was very much like the position, as I draw the analogy,
between Joan and me in that early meeting. I think that Joan was prepared to
do it, and had sort of expected to do it. But then if I wanted to do it, that was OK
too; it did not matter to her that much. That is the way it worked out with Ellie
So then we started working on the state organization. We worked hard from
1972. We met, we organized, and we went all around the state getting different
women together. I think probably often that was women on the mailing list. We
contacted people who then brought other people. We talked about feminism. In
1973 we already had thirty-six chapters in the state, which was incredible. We
traveled all over, we started these chapters. Of course we then went into this
bylaw phase, board phase, and all of that kind of stuff. Then we finally held an
election in 1973, and we took office in January of 1974. We worked very hard at
building membership. One of my mistaken notions in life that was hard to give
up was not just of democracy as a good value in and of itself, but that democracy
will produce better results than autocracy and these kinds of closed
organizations. So we worked very hard at building a real democratic base with
full involvement of people. That was good with Ellie too; she had no objection to
that, although she was not very happy with a two term limit.
L: So did you become president next term?
J: No, I did not. What we did was we took over the national board. In 1974 Ellie
ran for the national board as did other people out of the Pittsburgh area. It
became very clear that they [ordinary members] just did not want this kind of an
organization. They did not want an organization in which the board was not to
be responsible to anybody but the board. They [the old core of NOW] wanted a
self-perpetuating board. They had a group in from Chicago who had a chapter in
Chicago. They were trying to outlaw any other chapter. They honored only one
chapter in the city of Chicago. They tried to unilaterally change their own bylaws
without any involvement of the membership and so forth. We actually fought
them in court, we withheld our dues, and we went to an election in which we
elected the majority of the board, we called it the Majority Caucus. We worked
very hard. I cannot tell you how we traveled. We traveled all over the east
coast. We had people in California; it was an east coast/California coalition. We
traveled up and down the east coast, all over New England with position papers
and speaking about what was the matter with the board and the organization.
They would not take any action. Literally, they spent all of their money on staff.
They would no sooner get money, and they would hire another person. Money
would just dissipate. They had no newsletter.
L: [They] sound like typical politicians.
J: It was unbelievable. You could never find out what the hell was going on there.
One time after we were already elected, their big move was to unionize the
employees. We could hardly afford to pay anything. The notion of your own
board unionizing their employees when you did not have any money for anything
else was just so bizarre! They were just off the wall. Some of these people were
really crazy. I never understood them, and I do not understand them now. I do
know we thought about their being CIA plants. They thought we were CIA
plants. It was just very hard to believe that they were working for feminism
because they just never wanted to do anything, or stand up for anything, making
it almost impossible for anybody else to do so.
L: Was the issue of lesbianism ever a center of controversy in NOW?
J: Absolutely. The strange thing about it is that the opposition was heavily lesbian,
aside from Betty Friedan who I think is non-sexual [laughter].
L: The opposition to you? The ones who just wanted to have the board?
J: Yes, but they were sort of covert lesbians. Mary Jean Collins Robson who was
on the board, was an overt lesbian. But strangely enough, after we took over,
many of these people came out and admitted that they had been lesbian all
along. It was just a very confusing thing. The issue of lesbianism is a very big
issue in NOW because it is a civil rights issue: women ought to be able to have
this choice. If they want to fuck other women, that ought to be their choice. I
was very strong on it from the very beginning, because it seemed to me that
denying women the ability to have a relationship with another woman was one
way of making sure that every man had a woman if he wanted one, and to keep
women subjected. I could see this happening. Once NOW got rolling, once
lesbianism became an open issue, and once we began going away to weekend
meetings, husbands became very concerned and much more accommodating.
They may have felt that these women had no choice in terms of men; they were
older women who were not too good looking. But the [husbands] were not sure
that [their wives] would not appeal to other women. Do you follow me? It was a
very strange and sobering kind of thing. Ellie and I were the central figures in
Pennsylvania NOW (just as Joan and I [had been in GWER]) until we left.
L: When did you leave?
J: I went to the national board in 1976. We were still somewhat active and would
go to the meetings in the state. Ellie and I were the central figures here; we
pretty much determined what went on in the state. For a long time after that,
Ellie had a big influence in Pennsylvania. They love her style, and a lot of them
came from Pittsburgh.
L: When did you leave?
J: I went to the National Board in 1976, I think. I think if we had been a male and
female organization, we might have avoided the lesbian feud. But we did not go
that way. Once we did not go that way, the issue came up very naturally
because women felt free to express themselves and say, "This is a problem for
us, we have got to face this and you have to back us." I thought that was only
fair, and that we should do that. But then what happened was that most of the
lesbian women There were some lesbian women who were married, or who
had been married and had children. But most did not, [so] they therefore had
more time to put into the organization. It was very easy for them to become the
majority of a board. So the problems of lesbians then became a bigger and
bigger issue. I myself think it has unfortunately overshadowed many other
issues, to the detriment of NOW and to the detriment of the movement. I do not
mean to say that their issues are not legitimate. Much of the overshadowing has
been by the press. NOW has always done other things than fight for lesbian
rights. But of course the press focuses on that, and sometimes they pick as
spokespeople people you wish they would not. But you have no control over
that. I think it is unfortunate. It is unfortunate, too, because the lesbian caucus
has become intimidating to the rest of NOW, and I think it keeps people from
trying to get a better balance of things. It is also controlled by a very small group
L: How long were you on the national board?
J: I was elected for two terms. I served out my first term, and did not finish the
second. I did not quit but I just stopped going, maybe a year before it was over.
It had to do with all of the politics within NOW. It never stopped. These people
had so many maneuvers that it was unbelievable. If you had an election, they
would steal the registration books.
L: It sounds like there was more energy devoted to fighting over NOW than to
J: That is almost what happened. I was telling Marshall that as I was rereading that
material. I happen to have an article in here, which I saved. I began to advocate
that we [Pennsylvania NOW] (and we did) incorporate separately. And I
advocated that all of the states incorporate separately. They were all being
drawn into these senseless, internecine battles that were just draining the energy
and taking time away from feminism. Which is why we doubted their motives
and wondered who they were, and why they were doing these things. I cannot
tell you the strange things they would do. They would cry at meetings [and] they
would have rages. It was like the commies and the Trotskyites. They would
stand up and start hollering and prevent your being able to continue the meeting.
So you come from around the country to hold a board meeting for serious
business, and now you cannot hold it. And now you are trying to meet in
separate rooms, and trying to figure out what to do. We did keep doing good
work, but it came at a terrible price.
L: So what did you do once you deactivated yourself from the national board?
J: I had a hell of a time. I finally read a bunch of communist literature, because I
thought there was something in communism, and I wanted to know what my
proper position should be. I was like so many people in the left; I was talking
about things I knew nothing about. You cannot imagine how many people have
never read the literature; hardly anybody has read the literature. So, I thought it
was about time that I knew what I was doing there. So I read Mao, and I read a
bunch of other authors. I could not believe it. When they finally got to the state
withering away, of course my question was "How? Why? When? Where?"
[laughter] I felt like such a dope. It had been a succession of disappointments;
we had brought democracy to NOW and it was bedlam. The work that was
getting done was [minimal]. And we did bring that to them; we brought the state
organizations and the chapters. Without the state organizations and the
chapters, I think it would have been all over. That is where the good work was
being done. They did not know about all of this other stuff. The people who
escaped were the people who were still able to work. Oh we were doing things; I
do not mean to belittle it. But it was not clear to me that democratization was the
answer to various problems, although it was a good in and of itself.
L: But you discovered that communism was not much better.
J: I was totally disillusioned with communism. Somewhere along the line I had
gotten disillusioned with education. Most of the jerks I knew were very highly
educated. They were no better off than people who had very little education. It
seemed like one disillusionment after another. I think there were a lot of others; I
cannot remember what was happening at the time. It was enormously unsettling
and it took me a long time [to get over it]. I really freaked out, and Marshall was
tremendously helpful to me. I was almost psychotic. I had just spent so much
time and so much of everything I had in this moral pursuit of making a better
world. I just could not hack it. In the first place, my health was shot. I was
serious about Ellie: she had a stamina that was unbelievable. It was the only
way we got through these things. These crazies literally tired before she did.
They would cry and yell, but eventually they just had to go to bed. And then we
could take a vote. It was agony to try to outlast them. And we spent all of this
time on the road in these smoke-filled rooms, and we never had any activity.
And then of course I would come home, and the laundry would be piled up, the
kids had to be driven here and there, and my daughter was taking ballet. My
daughter is a choreographer, you know. She was taking ballet in a town that was
an hour away, and you had to drive her and take her back. I was just a
shambles. I got so that I could not walk up a flight of stairs without pulling myself
up by the rail, hand over fist. I had gained enormous amounts of weight,
because all you do is sit in these rooms and eat something as a distraction to
keep awake, and keep yourself going. So my health was just a shambles.
Well, I finally came to the conclusion that I did not have to pursue this moral
road, that my daughter was pursuing an aesthetic one and I did not think any the
less of her. I did not have to say to myself: "What is the right thing to do?" all of
the time. I could say: "Which is the most beautiful? What is the proper
aesthetic response? Does this really work aesthetically?" My husband had
always talked about some philosopher's book whose name escapes me now, in
which he talked about these alternatives; one could lead an aesthetic life, a
moral life, or something like that. I thought, "Why not? It is the only thing that I
have got. I have to give it a try. I cannot go on like this." So, I went into
First of all, I became a little active in the anti-nuclear thing. We had Three Mile
Island here, and it blew up.
L: [In] 1979.
J: By this time, I was out of NOW. There was another reason I was out of NOW.
This whole nuclear thing got so [large] and I thought, "What the hell am I fussing
around with this women's thing? Christ, we are all likely to be blown to
smithereens. What difference is it going to make [then]?" So I was a little bit
concerned with this nuclear deal and the environmental thing before I got out of
NOW. For a little while I did do some work in it, but I could not hack it. I was just
totally played out. So, I went into photography. And for a long time, maybe
seven years, I did photography.
First of all, I moved to Philadelphia. Three Mile Island blew, and I thought, "What
am I doing here? The only reason I am in Hershey is to be with Marshall. I love
him, but there is nothing here." When you are politically active, it really does not
make much of a difference where the hell you are. But the things that are here, I
really did not appreciate at the time. I was not into botany .. And I was afraid to
be around Three Mile Island, and I wanted him to move. He said, "I cannot
move. What are you, crazy? I am chair of the department. Where do you want
me to go? Do you know how old I am?" So I said, "Well, if you are not going to
move, I'm going." So I moved to someplace where he could commute on
weekends, which had a library where he could study on the weekends. This
turned out to be in West Chester, near Philadelphia. This was before I got into
photography. It has a tremendous garden; maybe the most beautiful garden in
the country. It was just gorgeous. So, I started going to this garden everyday. It
helped me to get into this aesthetic thing. After a while, I kept thinking, "Is this
really as beautiful as I think it is?" I got a camera and I started photographing. I
got very involved in that. Then I moved to Philadelphia, and I went to the
Philadelphia College of Art and took photography. Then I moved back to
Hershey and got myself a darkroom, and messed around with photography for a
long time. And then I quit. I do not know why I quit. It was one thing to do
photography to become a good photographer. In the first place, it is enormously
expensive. This is before Marshall really started consulting. I quit in part
because of the money. It just took an awful lot of money to do it right. And then
you have the problem of what you are going to do with it; how do you market
yourself? That was a project I was loathe to undertake. It was one thing to do
photography, but I did not know if I really wanted to start going around to
galleries, start promoting myself, look forward to these little exhibits and worry
about ruining my chances of exhibiting in New York. And I got interested in
another project; I got interested in surrogate parenting through watching T.V.
L: Sponsoring children in other countries?
J: No. Remember we had the case of some woman who agreed to be a surrogate
mother, and then she reneged and this whole thing was on T.V. for a long time?
I got so sucked into that, and hated that woman so thoroughly. I thought her
such a designing woman who had really meant to leave her husband to snag this
other guy by whom she had a child. Furthermore, I thought what she was doing
was terrible [both] to these people, and to everybody else who might ever want
to hire a surrogate mother.
L: It looks like you reactivated politically.
J: For a very short time, but I thought of it in terms of writing. I was going to write
something on it, and then it turned out that the New York NOW chapter had
themselves gone to the legislature attempting to outlaw surrogate mothering,
which they have succeeded in doing now. They tried to get the national
organization to push it on a national level.
L: Is this your position on surrogate mothering?
J: My position is: If women want to do it, they ought to be permitted to do it. It is
their business, their bodies. They have been asked to bear children all of their
lives whether they wanted to or not, for some other reason. It is like housework;
it was never considered a terrible thing to do when you were married. Now all of
a sudden, it was awful to ask a woman to bear a child; my God, to have her do
that for money? She was doing it for free all of those other years, whether she
liked it or not! Now suddenly, it is an outrage that she is going to be doing it for
money. This was just another way of saying: "Women do not have the right to do
that. They do not have the right to: one, not have their own children; and two,
they do not have the right to have a child for money if they want to." So anyway,
I thought it was just horrible. I still had some allegiance to NOW (I still do) and I
did not want NOW to take such a terrible anti-feminist position. So, I wrote this
paper on surrogate parenting which I will be happy to give to you.
I went to my first national NOW meeting in God knows how many years. Ellie
practically fell off of her chair; I did not tell anybody I was coming. I told the
person that was the head of this committee, and that was the most bizarre
meeting I have ever been in. They wondered what I was doing there. They sort
of cancelled the meeting, because they thought I was there to take over their
position on their committee, and that it had all been orchestrated. I never went
back. When I was there, I had a small conversation with Ellie, in which she told
me a story about priests sexually assaulting children, and a case that had taken
place in Philadelphia. She had the details wrong; the case had taken place in
California. I was so taken by her account that I came back and did a computer
search. I found that this was happening all over the country. I became very
involved with writing a book on a pedophilic priest, and the church's role in his
cover-up. I worked on that for a couple of years until I broke my foot last August,
and was totally immobilized for a long time. I thought I might never walk again. I
did not seem to get well, no matter what I did. I had some other intestinal
problems also. It was a little bit like a near-death experience. I do not mean I
thought I was going to die, but I thought I would be lucky to get up and down the
stairs, and to be able to move around. And when I finally got well, which has
only happened in the past month or two, I really am so loathe to go back to
writing. I feel like, "Oh God, I want to enjoy life." Writing is not a pleasurable
experience to me; it is a duty. Sometimes I like to write, but by and large, it is a
grind, it is a duty, it is hard work. At this juncture, there is a man who I very
highly respect who started about five years earlier than I did on the same case
that I am starting with. His book is coming out in the fall. I think I am kind of on
hold, waiting to see what he has to say. If he said everything I wanted to say, I
think I am just going to back off. If I feel he has done a very inadequate job, or
has not told the whole tale, or has not made the points that I want to make, I
think I will go back and finish it off. But right now, I am just sort of [relaxing]. I
joined a club at the hotel, I decided to go swimming, and I am trying to organize
L: A health club?
J: Well, it is a pool. We have an extraordinary hotel here. It is sort of a health club.
You get the use of the hotel, the pool, and all of their facilities. It is such a
wonderful hotel. Remember I told you that I went away every winter with my
mother? We would hang out at these wonderful, big hotels, even though we did
not live there. This is like going back to those wonderful days of those great
musty smells in the hallways mixed with soap, and little hidden cubbyholes with
desks and writing paper, and hidden terraces. I am just thoroughly enjoying
myself. How long this will last, I do not know. I am not in a rush. All the time
that I was writing this book, Marshall was traveling. He wanted desperately for
me to go with him. It is much more pleasant for him if I am able to go with him.
He is going to interesting places. It is sometimes more profitable for him. Some
of the people we are consulting with like me, and like to have a woman there so
they can have a woman along also. We go out as couples. So he wanted me to
go for any number of reasons and I would say, "I cannot go. I have to finish this
chapter. If I stop now, I will lose it all." [I kept] putting it off and putting it off.
And now I feel like, "Oh Christ, I am not going to put it off." If I keep putting off
traveling and having a good time until I finish this book, it may be too late.
Maybe I ought to have a good time, and then finish the book. So, I think I am
really hanging in here to see what this guy's book is going to be like. Things
have moved enormously on this plane. I am sure that you are aware of all of the
T.V. shows and things that have come out now about these priests. So it is not
as though people do not know about it anymore.
L: That brings us to the present?
J: You've got it.
L: Well, I would like to thank you for talking to me.
J: Well, thank you.