As demonstrations for racial justice have swept the country and the globe, we share the outrage and sadness over historic oppression, systemic inequities, and daily injustices. We believe that silence is complicity and action is necessary. In this context, members of the Georgia State University Library community have been reflecting on how we can work for change.
I believe we can start by remembering our organizational values. One of the University Library’s key values is diversity: “We value all employees and users regardless of race, color, sex, religion, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, veteran status, or national origin, and strive to create a climate of openness, respect and appreciation.” I know that I, and our organization, often fall short and must do better.
Some specific steps the University Library has taken in recent years include providing training for managers on best practices for recruiting diverse job candidates, understanding bias, and reducing microaggressions; revising job descriptions for faculty vacancies to emphasize our diversity values; inviting keynote speakers to inspire our diversity work at our annual employee development day; and, in order to make the library more inclusive and welcoming to all, distributing buttons to celebrate students’ gender identities at the start of the last academic year. Some results of this work include increasingly diverse faculty candidate pools and expressions of appreciation from students who found a place of inclusion in the library. Perhaps the most important step, as we look to accelerate our work, has been a grass roots discussion and subsequent call for a task force, which led this April to the creation of a permanent Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DIA) Committee, to advise the Library.
The Library has taken a couple additional small steps in the past few weeks. We have used our blog to highlight reading lists, compiled by our librarians, of works that our community can read to grow in understanding and empathy on topics including systematic racism and inequities in the criminal justice system. We also added online access to several titles on these lists. Yet we have far to go to. Our newly-formed DIA committee has called upon the entire library team to support President Becker’s call for “each and every member of the Georgia State community to stand in solidarity in rejecting racism and violence and to commit to building a better future where opportunity is real and just.” Today I want to share a few specific steps we are taking to advance the cause of equity and justice.
Our DIA committee called on us to “center voices not traditionally well represented in academic libraries.” I have asked our collection development department to continue building our collection of ebooks on antiracism reading lists. Ebooks allow multiple GSU community members to access the books at the same time and despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. I hope these resources can be useful for personal growth and for faculty members reworking their syllabi for the fall.
The committee also asked for clarity, training, and library-wide conversation on safety, security, and our relationship with campus police. We have engaged in an initial discussion between library leadership and the DIA committee to begin this dialog.
The committee called on library employees to acknowledge “the pain, trauma, and anger many of our colleagues are suffering” and “learn about race and racism in the United States and Atlanta.” The university sits on land taken from the Muscogee Creek people. The downtown library is located on property appropriated, through the urban renewal program of the 1960s, from working class Black, Jewish, and immigrant communities who lived and conducted business here (Newman, 2000). Today, more Black students graduate from GSU than any other nonprofit university in the U.S. For decades, however, the college that was to become GSU excluded Black applicants, and the University System of Georgia only integrated when forced to by brave leaders, including Barbara Pace Hunt, Iris Mae Welch, and Myra Elliott Dinsmore, the three women who sued to integrate Georgia State (Daniels, 2019). I propose the University Library create a permanent exhibit in the Atlanta library that explores the history of this place.
Georgia State University, and the GSU Library, are works in progress. The university has received national attention for fixing broken systems and eliminating disparities in graduation rates. The university admits all qualified applicants, rather than gaming rankings though exclusion. The university has committed to racial justice through such initiatives as the Commission for the Next Generation of Faculty and the newly formed Task Force on Racial Equality. The University Library’s leadership is committed to the call from the DIA Committee to “create a more equitable and inclusive workplace” and “to dismantle oppressive structures and build in their place a more just world.” We look forward to working together as a team, with the support of the university, GSU alumni, and the broader Atlanta area community, in this essential work.
Jeff Steely, Dean of Libraries,
on behalf of the Georgia State University Library’s Leadership Team
Daniels, M. C. (2019). Ground crew: The fight to end segregation at Georgia State. University of Georgia Press.
Newman, H. K. (2000). Decatur Street: Atlanta’s African American paradise lost. Atlanta History, 44(2), 5.
As you prepare for Fall 2020’s blended learning model, you can enhance student success by reducing textbook costs with the library’s newest resource, Faculty Select. Faculty Select is a straightforward way to find unrestricted, online instructional materials at no cost to you or your students.
Faculty Select features:
Open Education Resources (OER) textbooks and monographs on a variety of subjects
DRM-free ebooks that the library already owns
DRM-free ebooks which you can recommend for library purchase
Search Faculty Select via our A-Z database list. When you locate a title of interest, you can preview it, adopt it for your course, or ask the library to purchase it.
To learn more, explore the Faculty Select Research Guide or watch this introductory video. If you have any questions about Faculty Select or other sources of free/low-cost resources for your students, please contact your librarian.
In 2019, the GSU Library shared an anti-racism reading list compiled by Ibram X. Kendi, professor and Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC. This list included links to the library’s holdings of every book on that list. These links are still live and relevant today.
However, we now find ourselves at an unprecedented moment in US history, with antiracist protests sparking across the country… and, due to safety precautions because of the coronavirus, no access to our library’s print collection. Here we are offering another, shorter reading list, also courtesy of Prof. Kendi (though there are many other anti-racism reading lists circulating now), with links to electronically accessible versions of these books where possible.
These books are available as ebooks, either through the GSU Library or through HathiTrust’s Emergency Access Library. The links here will take you to the electronic version, regardless of where the electronic book “lives.”
The Library’s Research Data Services (RDS) Team completed another successful round of the RDS@GSU Data Certificate program. A whopping 153 people earned certificates in the Spring 2020 certificate period — a 62.77% increase from the previous Summer/Fall 2019 certificate period (94 awardees). Because we’re all about data, we want to share some data about our 153 awardees to highlight their accomplishment.
Our 153 RDS@GSU Data Certificate awardees attended 971 workshops in total, averaging 6.35 workshops per awardee. While 79 (51.6%) completed the required minimum of five workshops, the remaining 74 (48.4%) awardees attended six or more — with the honor of “most attended workshops” going to three awardees who attended 14 workshops each. Quite impressive!
RDS@GSU Data Certificate awardees attended workshops across a wide variety of topics offered by the RDS Team.
Georgia State students were the largest awardee group, representing 109 (71.2%) of the total awardees, with 74 (48.4%) graduate students, 34 (22.2%) undergraduates, and 1 (0.65%) post-baccalaureate. GSU staff, faculty, and alumni represented 17 (11.1%) of the total awardees. Non-GSU awardees represented a sizable portion, at 27 (17.6%) of the total awardees.
Almost all of the GSU Colleges and Schools had representation among our awardees – as did some administrative offices and the University Library (“Other GSU” category below). The College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) had the most representation, followed closely by the Robinson College of Business (RCB) and the School of Public Health (SPH).
Varieties of academic departments were represented from the various GSU Colleges & Schools.
Awardees were sent PDFs of their certificates, listing the individual workshops they attended. Because of the COVID-19 campus closure, we weren’t able to have our certificate ceremony — but here is a virtual cake to congratulate our data nerds!
Congratulations to our 153 RDS@GSU Data Certificate awardees!
We commend you for your commitment to becoming data savvy, and we know what you’ve learned will benefit you in your studies and career.
“So what’s interesting is that I got elected as a mom — motherhood and apple pie. [Then I] came down to the legislature and before I knew it, I was Cathey Steinem! I wasn’t Cathey Steinberg, I was Cathey Steinem. Because that’s when all they knew about the Women’s Movement — that my colleagues were Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug.” –GA Legislator Cathey W. Steinberg
This April, we were scheduled to debut the exhibit ERA: Absolutely Yes in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Collections at Georgia State. While postponement of the exhibit and panel discussion has happened, conversation on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment builds in response to a new television show, Mrs. America. Archivist Morna Gerrard and exhibit curator Samantha Harvel recently had a conversation with historian Robin Morris about the struggle over ERA ratification in Georgia. The first part of this interview covered general impressions of the show, writing the history of women’s lives, Phyllis Schlafly’s motivations, the importance of print culture to the movements, and Morris’s meeting with Schlafly. In the second post, we discuss the importance of state politics as a hinge between grassroots and national movements, shifting political identities in the 1970s, the woman who switched sides, and the formidable organization of STOP ERA forces in Georgia. This third and final part of the discussion covers Schlafly’s Gerogia lietenant , the fight for homemakers and religious women, Shirley Chisholm and race in the ERA movements, and some concluding thoughts about seeing this history and pieces from the archives brought to life on the screen.
Schlafly’s Georgia Lieutenant
Morris: The STOP ERA leader in Georgia was Kathryn Dunaway and she was always a little self conscious that she didn’t have a college degree. She had a high school diploma and the number two leader was Lee Wysong who I think had an associate degree or secretarial school degree. She did work, she worked at her husband’s, her husband owned a business. They weren’t lawyers. Kathryn Dunaway’s husband was a lawyer and a former legislature. One thing I wanted to say, because Morna and I have met and talked to Lee Miller, she said briefly, in an interview, that she never supported the ERA. I found in the Nixon Library that she did. Lee Miller, at this point, was not big in ERA. It was more like if you deliver us busing, then I’ll deliver Georgia ERA. She was trying to work a deal. Lee Miller, at this time, was in Columbus, Georgia leading a National Republican Women’s campaign against busing. So she’s not involved in the ERA at all.
Conn: By against busing, you mean?
Morris: Against busing for the purpose of integration. Or just against forced busing.
Making the case to homemakers and religious women
Conn: Samantha, when we talked last time you said one of the things you were most interested in was finding groups like Housewives for the ERA and Christians for the ERA. I’m assuming this was in a later stage of ratification. At that point, had the language been firmly coopted and just about responding to language Schlafly articulated? Where it’s housewives vs the coastal elite. Were those the terms the debate started with or were there other terms that we haven’t seen in the early episodes Mrs. America that we’re going to see in our ERA exhibit? What was the positive message in favor of the ERA?
Harvel: What do you mean by terms? As in “housewife,” “Christian?”
Conn: Right, in trying to make the local push for Georgia women, “women” wasn’t enough of to appeal to since that identity was being fractured. So did it come down to using Schlafly’s terms, like you work in the home so who gets to speak for homemakers? You’re religious so who gets to speak for religious women. Or was there a separate line of discourse going on?
Harvel: I think that brings up where some fraction occurs in the pro ERA movement. I think the rhetoric of I’m a housewife for the ERA, I’m a Catholic for the ERA, I think that comes from the pro ERA movement, in Georgia especially, really trying to not come off as a threat. In the show, Schlafly was talking about how the women’s liberation movement was godless, and the’yre not even married because no one wants them. I think a lot of conservatives in Georgia were really scared of feminists and of the women’s liberation movement. The housewives in ERA was really making a concerted effort to communicate that “we’re not trying to do away with housewives,” “we love housewives!” Or that it’s not against God to go for the ERA. I think those were really important arguments to make in Georgia. I’d be really interested to find out if organizations like that extended out into different states. But you also have in Georgia’s pro ERA movement, more similar to what we have seen in the show of women’s liberation movement, advocates for abortion, not necessarily religious, not married, or divorced, or lesbian. So you have these two conflicting sides showing up in Georgia and trying to work together for the same cause.
Gerrard: During the time the pro-ERA folks were travelling the state of Georgia to encourage people to get on their side, it tended to be Cathy Steinberg and Joyce Parker would go together. Cathy was the primary sponsor at that point, she’s also a Yankee with a strong Jewish accent, a very attractive woman, definitely that sort of northern, liberal physicality. Joyce was this little church lady, very pretty, delicate little church lady who talked the same language. They went on a lot of trips together because Joyce softened the message and would be able to get across to the more conservative folks. Cathy had the legislative knowledge to go along with her.
Harvel: Margaret Curtis talked about how she purposely wore her cross all the time to indicate that she wasn’t one of those godless liberals and I believe in women’s liberation.
Morris: I think they had to be so purposeful about their portrayal because they were also fighting this national portrayal. Whether it was accurate or not, there did get to be this sort of crazy, unshaven, bra burning, throw your children in a day care commune Bolshevik nursery stereotype. Yeah, I think housewives had a problem. There was a scene where Schlafly’s in a meeting and she read a part of The Feminine Mystique where Betty Friedan used language that compared marriage to slavery.
Harvel: The concentration camp?
Morris: Yeah, it was the the concentration camp. This is only 25 years after the end of World War II, when she wrote it was only 18 years after the end of WW II, so as much as we think that’s charged language it was amazing at that point. And then there’s women like Kathryn Dunaway, who have aspired to get to that class where she could stay home with her children. She had worked while her husband went to law school, her family had lost money in the depression, that’s why she couldn’t go to college. So she aspired to this level of society, this social class where she could stay home with her children. She’s having grandchildren but now she’s feeling her legacy attacked by language like that. This whole language that pro-ERA women were trying to say were really this liberation, was counter to what other women saw: that being a housewife had liberated them from the working class jobs that Betty Friedan was never going to have. It’s really critical for Housewives for ERA when Judy Carter, the first daughter in law, comes out in that group. Rosalind does a little bit, but especially Judy is important for spreading that message and this message of a domestic feminism, feminist domesticity.
Harvel: What you’ve been saying reminded me of in the show what Gloria Steinem said, that “someone always gets left behind in a revolution” or something like that.
Gerrard: I thought that was a very important conversation they were having at that point. That was part of a much bigger problem with losing a lot of your potential supporters. There was always that discussion of, well if you’re pro-choice you’ve got to be pro-choice for people to have 15 babies if they want to have 15 babies. You should be pro-everyone. That was a real problem within the feminist movement.
Harvel: One of the women in the meeting said something along those lines, that “we’re all about women’s right to choice, if she wants to choose…” She was saying that, but there was this tone condescension that I think is really prevalent, where it’s like “yeah, you can choose that, if you want, but that’s kind of sad.”
Conn: In Mrs America they said “We don’t want housewives thinking we’re against them.” To which somebody replied “We are against them.”
Taking the Chisholm trail
Morris: The show gets across that the pro-ERA and the feminist movement is struggling with these disagreements and these different visions of what liberation looks like. But then there’s the scene when Schlafly doesn’t want to alienate anyone for their racist language with the Louisiana delegation and the woman from Texas says “Well, I’m a little bit more folksy than you are.” First of all, the southern accents in the show were horrible. But that aside, Phyllis says, “we all have to speak with one voice.” Phyllis kept a tight reign on the language. When I interviewed her, I asked her how she got some of these religious groups to work together and not fight and she said “Well, I wouldn’t let them.” That was it, that was the answer. She might have welcomed racists into her movement, but they’re not going to talk about race. She never talked about race, but it’s always there and she will accept anyone into it. The first hearings on Georgia STOP ERA, I think it was ’73 or ’74, J.B. Stoner, who was the candidate for governor on the state’s rights ticket, got up and gave this racist testimony about why you don’t need the Equal Rights Amendment and Kathryn Dunaway was like “oh hell no!” well she wouldn’t have said that, she would have said “oh heck no!” After that she controlled who got to testify. She was picking the pretty women. She got mad because one of the old women got up there and talked too long, so the pretty stewardesses from Delta couldn’t get up there and talk. She would control it and they weren’t allowed to talk about race.
My forthcoming book Goldwater Girls to Reagan Women (University of Georgia Press) goes back a little bit further. The series probably won’t have much of this, but it includes some of the African American women who are trying to be involved with the Republican politics and keep getting pushed out. I do really love Niecy Nash as Flo Kennedy in this. I just wanna give a shout out to that, because she’s awesome! They’re showing race really interestingly, in the feminist movement. There’s not much race in STOP ERA, but I just want to acknowledge that…There’s a couple of historians working on Shirley Chisholm biographies, so you can look for those books coming out too. I love that she’s starting to get her recognition, which is long overdue.
Morris: There’s a scene in the Shirley episode, episode 3, where they’re at the democratic convention and Betty, Shirley, Gloria, and Bella are all there signing books and I was like, damn, those are some badass women! I thought that was such a cool scene. Phyllis could also do that at her convention.
Gerrard: I have a little story about Shirley. Dewald, whose papers we have, she was very active with the democratic party. She and her husband live in my neighborhood, they hosted a party for Shirley. There were so many people there that the police arrived, so many people on their deck that the deck almost collapsed! There was a lot of support around here for her.
Concluding thoughts: it’s fun and validating to see this history brought to life!
Morris: I feel like my research is finally, like I’ve always been doubting does it have significance and I’m like IT DOES!
Harvel: When I told my friends I was doing an exhibit on the ERA they were like, what? The ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment. And they asked that thing from the 1970s?
Harvel: And I was like, well kind of, but also now. So now I can be like just go watch the show.
Gerrard: I really enjoyed stuff that I had known about for such a long time and I’ve thought about and I tried to picture in my mind. It’s kind of fun to see it brought to life.
Morris: There’s this other part, with Gloria having an affair with a man. In Revolution from Within and even in her last book My Life on the Road, she talks about her lack of self esteem during the period that the show is portraying. It’s really interesting having that perspective on Gloria. She’s coming across so powerful and so strong, but I keep thinking of how she was writing about her insecurity at the time. I’m not sure if I’m projecting that or if that’s coming through in Byrne’s portrayal.
Gerrard: I feel like she’s got some frailty to her in the show. Her physicality, she kind of hunches a bit, her head is down a lot.
Morris: And she’s hanging her hair [over her face]. She’s aware of how she is coming up. There’s the great scene where she asks Bella, oh you only want me for my pretty face, and Bella basically says [no, I want your body too.] That’s who she was in the movement, she was the pretty one.
Harvel: It was cool seeing the Ms. Magazine launch party. Ms. Magazine is the first thing I ever looked at in the archives at GSU. So I really enjoyed that.
This April, we were scheduled to debut the exhibit ERA: Absolutely Yes in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Collections at Georgia State. While postponement of the exhibit and panel discussion has happened, conversation on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment builds in response to a new television show, Mrs. America. The first part of this interview covered general impressions of the show, writing the history of women’s lives, Phyllis Schlafly’s motivations, the importance of print culture to the movements, and historian Robin Morris’s meeting with Schlafly. This post covers the second of a three-part conversation with Morris, archivist Morna Gerrard, and exhibit curator Samantha Harvel. We discuss the importance of state politics as a hinge between grassroots and national movements, shifting political identities in the 1970s, the woman who switched sides, and the formidable organization of STOP ERA forces in Georgia.
Connecting a national movement with the grassroots
Conn: Robin, in your article “Organizing Breadmakers: Kathryn Dunaway’s ERA Battle and the Roots of Georgia’s Republican Revolution” you write, “A focus on women in the ranks of national leadership provides valuable information into the changing make-up of political parties, but it obscures the incalculable contributions of women at the grassroots level. However, a study of the grassroots participation likewise misses the large national sweep.” That was a fascinating point your article keeps coming back to that, if you think about the ERA in terms of a massive national movement that then just gets localized in Georgia, you miss something important. Still, if you think about it only in terms of something local without the national context, you also miss vital information. So you seem to be saying that there’s something about this ERA ratification fight explicitly that connected local and national politics. Where and how do you see this overlap between the local and national in terms of what we see in Mrs. America and the local, Georgia fight over ratification?
Morris: I do think that’s one that the show is missing and it may get into it. I’m really excited for the Houston episode in a few weeks. But, it’s missing the state level organization. I think the state level is the hinge between national and local. One thing the show is getting at is Phyllis’s amazing network, which she had been building for years. She was active in the Republican Party. In 1967, she runs for and fails–basically, it was a rigged election–the National Federation of Republican Women. So all the women who are for Schlafly walk out, but she still has all those connections in every single state. So Phyllis is able to contact state leaders and the state leaders can contact the grassroots leaders. She’s able to turn the Equal Rights Amendment into a local issue, instead of it being all in Washington; she’s able to go in and talk to their congressmen, talk to their state representatives, in their local offices–which is so key–and say, “do you want girls on the local high school football team?” That is something that’s going to stick out for them in a way that talking about social security and things like that can feel so removed. But when you’re talking about, do you want your daughter in a fox hole, they make it such a localized argument, but it has this national implication. It’s hinging it all on the state level, like on a seesaw you have federal and local, and the state is like the pivot. I really see the state level as being so critical in this. Georgia was amazing, their organization: it never had a shot in Georgia. Sorry, Georgia. I’m fascinated by the strategy of it all. Morna used the word “manipulative,” which I think is one word. I always think of Phyllis as strategic, which I guess is the kinder version of manipulative [laughter]. But I am so fascinated by this organization. It’s mind-blowing when you get into it.
Shifting political identities and the woman who switched sides
Conn: When you said that the ERA never had a shot, another thing that I found interesting in your article is that you said it was surprising Georgia advocates for the ERA were never able to get it ratified in a time when Jimmy Carter was president, a majority of the Georgia legislature was democratic, and at a national level they were nominating many Republicans in favor of the ERA. So, when I think of this kind of identity cleavage–and I think a lot of the best scenes in the show are like when you see the two groups of women walking up the staircase, going down different political paths and looking across at each other, so powerful–I think in contemporary terms about our nationalized Republican and Democratic super identities. But, it seems like there was a different kind of cleavage here, where it seemed like it cut across Democratic and Republican lines in really interesting ways. Could we talk about the strange political affiliations? I’m interested in what this was like to live. This was what, an 8-10 year struggle in Georgia where neighbors, Republicans, and Democrats had this really strong disagreement that didn’t necessarily line up according to political parties. That sounds really intense and hard.
Gerrard: Yeah, you know Margaret Curtis was ostracized by her friends. She lived in a pretty conservative part of town. She lost a lot of her friends because she actually spoke up. She represented herself as a housewife for the ERA, so she wasn’t like, “I’m going to burn my bra” or anything like that. She still was herself, but it did affect her social life.
Harvel: In most of the oral histories I’ve listened to, people didn’t talk a ton about their personal lives. Margaret Curtis did a little bit. The biggest personal conflict that I remember from my research is the woman who switched sides halfway through.
Morris: Oh, Eliza Paschall—-!!!
Harvel: Yes! She’s what first came to mind, Guy, when you were talking about the long battle for ratification and what that looks like. Having a woman who switched sides halfway through is quite interesting to me.
Morris: I love Eliza! I can talk about Eliza later, but let me get to the question. Right now we’re so polarized in our Republican and Democrat and then Democrats within their Biden or Bernie, but in the 70s there’s still a little bit of fluidity. Georgia and the south really just started coming out for national Republicans in 1964. Then George Wallace ran in ’68 and ’72, and he’s running outside of the party structure as the American Independent Party. So, this is the moment when the south is making its shift, so the lines of Democrat and Republican don’t necessarily mean what we think of them and weren’t as hardened. Even Phyllis Schlafly, in 1967 when she lost that National Federation of Republican Women election, walked out of the Republican Party. So she had this new flexibility to step outside of the party boundaries. She can challenge both parties and she can attract women who may not have been affiliated before. I think there’s this moment, especially in the south, but just sort of nationwide, where the parties are in flux. And gender hasn’t been talked about, sexuality hasn’t been talked about. Abortion, which I think comes across really well in the show, is that abortion is becoming something people are talking about more publicly and taking issues on. These things aren’t as hardened as we think of them now. A great example of this is at the very end of episode 3, the credits music is “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” sung by Anita Bryant, who in 1972 sang at both conventions, at the Democratic and the Republican conventions which were both in Miami, which is where she was. So, they even had the same entertainment. I love that detail. They don’t let you know that, but I was the dork that was really excited to hear Anita Bryant singing at the end of the show.
I can talk about Eliza Paschall because I love her too! She’s a Scottie, Agnes Scott class of I wanna say ’36, she might have been 38, I’d have to look that up. She’s so amazing! She’d been a big Civil Rights activist: she headed the first office of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in Atlanta, and then she co-founded the National Organization for Women and was Atlanta’s “Feminist of the Year” in 1970 and co-founded NOW in the same year. In ’78 she changes her position. Her papers are at Emory and she has really amazing writing, because she’s an Agnes Scott graduate, about that she spent her life tearing down walls between black and white and she saw the feminist movement as trying to build them between men and women. My favorite thing she ever wrote is “Alice in Abzug Land” where the housewife Alice falls through a hole and enters this world where Bella Abzug is the Mad Hatter and it’s just a fantastic piece of writing. I think the next project I want work on, I’m gonna start this summer, is a collection of Eliza’s writing, because she’s got beautiful writing from the time she was an ambulance driver in World War II until she we went to work for the Ronald Reagan White House, she worked in the Office of Public Liaison.
Opposing the ERA in Georgia
Conn: After the first two episodes, I’m not sure what the show will focus on. But the A-list actor is playing Schlafly, and the focus of the first episode is more from the STOP ERA side. Samantha, our last conversation suggested that our research for our upcoming exhibit tends more to the pro-ERA side. I was wondering how seeing the perspective from Mrs. America, what you might have seen a little bit differently, what some of the frictions might have been, how you perceived Schlafly after your research, and how she’s going to be portrayed in our exhibit. What are some of the differences between our exhibit, which may show more of the pro-ERA activism versus the show, which focuses on the other side?
Harvel: Since the last time we talked, we’ve been including more anti-ERA perspective. There’s this wonderful oral history that was done by Jess Jones that presents the history from an anti-ERA perspective in Georgia. We’ve been trying really hard to include more of that narrative. The second panel of our exhibit addressed that anti-ERA movement, their tactics and their strategies. It was really interesting to see that reflected in the show, especially when they depict something we reference in the panels like an oral history I listened to of someone talking about how in the Georgia legislature the women would come and they would bring cookies and jam and all these things.
Gerrard: With their blue hair and their curls.
Harvel: I also enjoyed how they showed that the women’s liberation movement really underestimated the power of the opposition. I think that was pretty common. I don’t know if that comes down to, they didn’t think anyone would want to oppose it or some educational elitism, “these women don’t have degrees,” “they’re not smart,” “they can’t do anything,” which is really interesting because it’s supposed to be the women’s liberation movement.
Morris: I think there was a lot of “those states are so backwards.”
Harvel: Later on I think they do scrounge up some evidence, they find some constitutional lawyer’s report about what the ERA will do.
Morris: It’s the Yale Law School journal that they dig up. That sucker circulated all over the STOP ERA. I think Schlafly’s greatest argument eventually–in the early episodes of the show she’s still figuring out the argument–but I think her greatest argument against the ERA was the uncertainty of it all. So she could make these claims, like: that means we’ll all be in the same bathroom, or girls will have to be on the football team, or women will be in the foxholes. Then her response can be, “well, prove me wrong.” So, did she tell a lie? I don’t know, we have gender neutral bathrooms now. A lot of her fears about the ERA have actually come forward. We have gay marriage, we have women in combat–they just aren’t getting combat pay, necessarily–but a lot of it has come true. I think the uncertainty of it all was her greatest weapon, because it was more like things may not be perfect now, but… What Eliza Paschall is really saying is change the laws you don’t like, but don’t give the federal government the blanket power because then you can’t control it anymore.
Gerrard: And they were not about big government.
Morris: Which is why I think it’s important that the movement came across as a local level, grassroots movement, instead of a top down, even though it’s a lot of Phyllis at the top. She was really empowering the grassroots. She retained control, definitely, but that was important to not be top down, for her. I think that was one of the other problems, even within Georgia, and Morna and Samantha might know more about this because you do have the ERA papers at GSU, but in an early meeting of Georgia women Mamie Taylor was saying that we know it’s gonna pass, we just want Georgia to be one of the first 38. But they were really focusing on Atlanta and weren’t going out even to the bigger cities of Macon and Savannah, they were really Atlanta based, whereas as soon as STOP ERA gets going they are in every town in Georgia.
Gerrard: They were so organized and that really came through when we were talking with Lee Miller. They were super on top of this. Beyond all that, the Republican party has a lot to thank these women for, because they were extremely effective at just doing everything for the Republican party. If I was going to war, I’d want these women managing my war efforts.
Harvel: I think you’re right, that it was very Atlanta based at the beginning. I think later they did try to expand. Margaret Curtis talks about how they’d hop in the car and they’d drive all over the place. They definitely had several meetings in Athens. Athens became a big hub. I remember talk of Macon a couple times. They would go all over the place down there, all the way down south. But they were a little slow on the uptake, not quite as efficient as the STOP ERA campaign.
Morris: By the time got they got out there there’s already a STOP ERA group.
Gerrard: Rural groups generally tended more conservative. Even if they’re not necessarily conservative, they still see these urban educated women as uppity. There is a divide. I think that it was probably easier for the anti-ERA people to make footholds in rural communities. They’re speaking a lot of the same language.
This April, we were scheduled to debut the exhibit ERA: Absolutely Yes in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Collections at GSU. While that exhibit and the opening panel discussion have been postponed, the history of the Equal Rights Amendment has been widely discussed in response to a new television show. Mrs. America depicts a variety of pro-ERA advocates and leaders of the feminist movement, such as Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Shirley Chisholm, juxtaposed with Phyllis Schlafly and the leaders of STOP ERA. Archivist Morna Gerrard and GSU graduate student Samantha Harvel, the curator of ERA: Absolutely Yes, recently talked with Robin Morris about Mrs. America and the fight over ERA ratification in Georgia. Morris is an associate professor of history at Agnes Scott Collegeand author of the manuscript Goldwater Girls to Reagan Women (forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press) about women’s work building the New Right in Georgia from 1955 to 1982. The first part of this discussion between Gerrard, Harvel, and Morris (below) covers general impressions of the show, writing the history of women’s lives, Phyllis Schlafly’s motivations, the importance of print culture to the movements, and Morris’s meeting with Schlafly. The next two parts will cover the fight for ratification in Georgia through the lens of the show.
What’d you think of the show?
Morris: I’m really enjoying it; it’s exciting to see this story up there. I think the 70s haven’t gotten enough attention and now that we’re getting attention for this era and especially the women’s politics and how the women’s politics are messy, I think that’s really exciting!
Gerrard: I think it came through with the back and forth between Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan: it’s not easy, it’s not sweet and lovely and nice. They all had different egos and issues, and I think they captured that really well. I feel like they captured the essence of the 70s really well too, and the politics.
Morris: The music is great! The music is so good and the fashion is so good. I mean, for 70s fashion. I love how Tracey Ullman is portraying Betty Friedan’s arrogance. There’s a scene in the elevator where they say something about the movement and she says “I am the movement.” I love how they’re getting these personalities in there.
Harvel: I’m really enjoying it! I really like the fact that it’s both sides of the story. When I was watching the trailer I got the idea that it was only about Phyllis Schlafly, but I like that it’s about both sides of the story and the inside look at the personal lives, especially watching Schlafly trying to navigate her personal life while trying to do all this professional stuff, but not professionally. She’s clinging to this identity of being a housewife, but she’s out here doing all this stuff outside of the home: having meetings in Washington, going on interviews. I found that conflict in identity interesting.
Writing the history of women’s lives
Gerrard: Well, she had help at home, didn’t she?
Harvel: Yes, I thought that was interesting, too. I was like, are you really a homemaker? Are you the one making the home?
Morris: I think so many women had help at home.
Gerrard: Oh yeah, on both sides.
Morris: Yeah, on both sides of this. She doesn’t really talk about it often. This is something I come across in my work when I’m writing about conservative women: how much of the personal life do I put into it and how much do I keep. I was interviewing a woman, Lee Ague Miller, who Morna was with me for, and I asked her about how she was doing this balance. She just said, “I had help.” And I knew that was just the end, so ask the next question. But then I started thinking, with Schlafly and for so many women, no one is talking to Jerry Farwell and asking him, “so who’s raising your children?” or, “who’s throwing the ball with your son? Who’s raising your boys to be men?” That’s something that I’m always having to deal with, these expectations that we talk about women’s personal lives in a way that we don’t talk about men’s personal lives. That’s something that I’ve been struggling with as I write, the expectations of writing history and portraying the history of women’s lives.
Harvel: I think that’s a really good point! The reason Schlafly’s personal life is interesting to me is because she identifies as a housewife. If that wasn’t a part of her identity, it might not be as relevant. But as such an important part of where she’s coming from, it’s a really interesting factor.
Morris: Yeah, I need to keep forming how I think about this. I know it is part of what she says, but she’s also never shied away from these other identities she has. She does portray herself as a mother and as a housewife and talks about how women can do it all. I’ll keep thinking about this.
What motivated Schlafly?
Gerrard: I might be off base, I felt like she used this “I’m a housewife thing…” She was very manipulative, as far this portrayal of her is concerned. “I’m not going to make it being this serious person who can talk about SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks] and about all of these important men’s issues. So this is how I can find my way to power or prominence, but going this route because this is what people will listen to me, if I talk about that.”
Morris: Yeah, definitely. I am so convinced that the reason she gets into the ERA battle at all is because the men would never listen to her talk about the things she really cared about, which were strategic defense, national defense, nuclear preparedness. She’d been involved in Republican politics since 1956 and its not until 1972 that she would start talking about women and gender. She had been such a voice on the right wing of the Republican party and kept getting dismissed. There’s a scene in the first episode where she meets with Barry Goldwater, which I really hated because Peter MacNeill looks nothing like Barry Goldwater, and I kept thinking who is this supposed to be? I think overall the women look great! But the men, I’m kind of like, who is that? Also, it shouldn’t have been Barry Goldwater it should have been Sam Ervin, but that gets nitpicky. If she had won either of her two other races for congress we would absolutely have an Equal Rights Amendment now. She would never have fought it and if she hadn’t been involved in it, it would have passed, probably by the end of 1973.
The importance of print culture
Harvel: I think they’re hitting the nail on the head about Schlafly’s attitude and her communication techniques. I really like that they’re showing how effective the newsletters were, how important those were. That’s going to be a part of the cases for the exhibit. I’m planning to feature how they used these newsletters and letters. I think that’s going to be really interesting for current college students, because people don’t think about how movements happened before the internet. What did you do before you could group text all of your friends to say, “Hey, let’s show up to this protest.” It all starts with The Phylis Schlafly Report, which we have couple different copies of in the archives. So that was really exciting to see. The one we’re using in the exhibit is from 1981, so a whole decade later than the one that they feature.
Morris: Her biographer, Carol Felsenthal, said that one issue, the February 1972 issue where she first mentions ERA, became a collector’s item for feminists, just like the first issue of Playboy. She’d been doing The Phyllis Schlafly Report since she left the National Federation of Republican Women in ’67/’68 and by 1971-2 she had 3,000 subscribers to it for $5 a year, so that’s pretty good income. By 1980, toward the end of the ERA battle, she was up to 35,000 subscribers. So this movement really does get her the national platform that she’d been trying to get. And the newsletter is so important. When you look at it, it’s cheap to produce because it’s just blue ink on white paper, but she didn’t have copyright on it. She would tell people “go mimeograph this.” So when you go to elected official’s papers they have The Phyllis Schlafly Report. The women are taking that to them. Women all over Georgia were using that. She gets her law degree, which I think they’re leading up to, she gets her law degree through this movement, but she’s not writing in esoteric legal language. She’s not making legal arguments, she’s making arguments that her followers will follow and repeat. That’s the language of the Report. She teaches one platform issue per issue of the newsletter, so she might have ERA, SALT treaty, Panama, ERA. That was another way for her, once people got hooked on her talking about the ERA, to still talk about national defense. She was never all ERA all the time. Later she gets into ERA and labor, ERA and abortion, ERA and homosexuality, how do we get out of Vietnam, things like that. She’s amazing, I have no idea how many hours were in Phyllis’s day.
Harvel: What did the woman say? “We don’t have to worry about the fringe?” Because Schlafly was the “fringe.”
Morris: Betty Friedan said I’ll never have to say that f-ing name again. Morna you might remember, was it Friedan’s son and Schlafly’s son that had the same advisor in graduate school?
Gerrard: I didn’t know that.
Morris: I think it was Friedan and Schlafly that had the same advisor in engineering or something, and they were like, “Let’s just not talk about our mothers.” I’ll have to look that one up.
Gerrard: A moment I find quite interesting, and really quite important today, is when she’s just finished her interview with Donahue and he points out that she may have been not telling the truth. She pivots in a way, so relevant today, where she doesn’t acknowledge that she didn’t tell the truth but she just redirects where it’s going. And it’s like, so this is where “fake news” got a really good start.
Harvel: I think its using the slippery slope argument. If we let them do this then they’re going to do all these things so that’s why I can say that the ERA does this.
Gerrard: Yeah, you don’t have evidence that you can use so opt for potential anecdotal arguments.
Harvel: Later on I think they do scrounge up some evidence; they found a constitutional lawyer’s report about what the ERA will do.
Morris: It’s the Yale law school journal that they dig up. That sucker circulated all over the STOP ERA. I think her greatest argument eventually, in the early episodes of the show she’s still figuring out the argument, but I think her greatest argument against the ERA was the uncertainty of it all. So she could make these claims, like, that means we’ll all be in the same bathroom, or girls will have to be on the football team, or women will be in the foxholes. Then her response can be “well, prove me wrong.” So, did she tell a lie? I don’t know, we have gender neutral bathrooms now. A lot of her fears about the ERA have actually come forward, we have gay marriage, we have women in combat–they just aren’t getting combat pay, necessarily–but a lot of it has come true. I think the uncertainty of it all was her greatest weapon, because it was more like things may not be perfect now, but…What Eliza Pascal is really saying is change the laws you don’t like, but don’t give the federal government the blanket power because then you can’t control it anymore [see part 2 of this interview for info on Pascal] . Phyllis eventually sends out a list to every state to say here’s who you need to speak: find a woman in labor, find an African American woman, find a Catholic woman, find a Jewish woman. So she’s working it, but she’s also not telling her members you can’t be in the White Citizens’ Counsel. The character of Alice, by Sarah Paulson is completely made up, by the way. I don’t know what’s happening there.
Harvel: She’s just meant to act as an embodiment of Phyllis’s inspiration.
Morris: She lets us see how Phyllis is thinking and operating. Otherwise we couldn’t see inside of her head as much as we do.
Gerrard: There are moment though when she looks at the camera, and it’s just like this is what’s going on, I got this. That’s done so well!
Morris: Cate Blanchett is doing it so it well. Phyllis was always under control. She did not lose her cool. I love watching clips of her where Betty Friedan, you can just see that Betty Friedan loses her cool and Phyllis could just look at the camera and smile [laughter]. I saw her speak a couple of times and I think the worst thing you could do if you ever fought Phyllis Schlafly, the greatest protest you could have against her, would be to sit there and listen respectfully and not do anything. As soon as someone got up, I was at one at the Yale Law School where she spoke, and this woman got up and stormed out of the room and slams the door and Phyllis just stops while the woman has a temper tantrum, looked at us, and kept going. She knew, she was at that point like 85 and its like “I still got it.” She loved getting to that point where she could just incite people and she could be the calm, cool, collected one. It’s amazing.
Gerrard: It’s a skill.
Morris: I know, I don’t have that. Sometimes I try.
Gerrard: Can you tell us about reaching out to her to ask her to be interviewed?
Morris: Yeah, I interviewed her in 2009. I don’t remember how I initially reached out, I guess a simple letter or email. I had looked at the papers of STOP ERA at Emory and I had talked to the co-chairman–STOP ERA leaders called themselves chairmen–I had interviewed her. So I asked for an interview, she said no; she reached out to Lee Wysong to see if I was okay [more on Wysong in part 2]. I went to the Eagle Forum meeting, just to meet people and get in that network. Then I got to go to her office in St. Louis. I was really fortunate because her secretary, who had the fabulous name of Deb Pentecost–best name ever!–she and Phyllis allowed me to look in her archives. At one point she was like: well, I can’t let you in, but I can just make copies. So, I was like okay, can you copy these four boxes. And she said yeah, it’ll be $200. So I have a copy of the papers. It was amazing! Phyllis was really generous with me. Meeting with her, though, she’s so well rehearsed that I couldn’t really crack that. I didn’t get answers that other interviewers haven’t gotten. I think the grassroots interviews that I did were much more useful for getting to that and looking at papers. But it was a real honor and also really scary. She’s intimidating. I think she would’ve flipped out at the sex scene, which I think was egregious and unnecessary: no one needs to see a Phyllis Schlafly sex scene. But I think she was really concerned toward the end of her life with being a part of the story, that she didn’t want to be erased. So I think she would probably be speaking out against it, but she would also be flattered and excited to be included in the story.
Gerrard: She’d be loving it.
Morris: Yeah, she’d be loving it, but publicly hating it, I think. The story of conservatism is always Goldwater to Reagan. It’s always men. The story of the women’s movement is always Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug. I think she would be excited that she’s complicating this. She’s making everything messy, which she loved.
Plans to complete the library’s new entrance during the upcoming academic year remain on track. Contractors are expected to prepare construction bids this month as discussions continue between library administration and the architects about finishes for the spaces.
“While the temporary loss of the Library North entrance during construction is going to present some real challenges, the end result will be well worth it.” – Jeff Steely, Dean of Libraries.
Check out some photo updates of the project below. The university hopes to have the greenway completed, including the new entrance, by the end of the spring 2021 semester.
The University Library has developed a master plan for the Atlanta campus library as it aims to provide dynamic physical and virtual spaces.
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