Illinois state representative Susan Catania, Clara Day and Marguerite Klimkowski discuss the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
BROADCAST: Nov. 1, 1978 | DURATION: 00:54:02
Discussing the Equal Rights Amendment with Illinois Representative Susan Catania and political activists Clara Day and Margaret Klimkowski.
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Studs Terkel The ERA, Equal Rights Amendment and Illinois has the distinction, dubious indeed, of being the only northern industrial state, its legislature that has not passed the ERA Amendment and thus holding it up nationally. Ironically, Illinois was among the first states to have passed a 19th Amendment. And that's the theme of our conversation this morning with three women who are directly related with the battle for the passage of ERA, and it's to break all sorts of misinterpretations and generalities that only upper-class women are for the ERA. So we have Susan Catania, who is a state legislator from the southwest side, and back in 1972 when she was still sitting in the gallery, she was a co-sponsor of the ERA and then has been battling for it ever since. And also she's a member of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women. With her is Clara Day, who -- Her title is a long one. She's a business representative of Teamsters Local in town, who is a vice chair, first vice chair of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women and have been very actively engaged in the battle, and Marguerite Klimkowski, homemaker, use that phrase deliberately, was Illinois -- A President of the Housewives for ERA. And so we'll just sit around and talk about it, what it means and how to get it passed in the last part of the 20th century it seems incredible that the battle still has to be fought in this respect. And so in a moment the program after this message. And so Susan Catania we begin with you. It was 1972, you're in the gallery, you're visiting, Springfield.
Susan Catania Right. We got a school bus to raise money for my campaign because I was then running for my first term in the legislature. And it's not really terribly pleasant to ride a school bus all the way to Springfield and back, but people did that figuring if they paid the money to the campaign instead of to a bus company to go on a more elegant bus it would help the women's movement in getting me elected. We went to Springfield and we were all horrified at the quality of the debate. I will never forget one of the gentlemen on the House floor stood up and said "Oh, we've always had equality here in the Illinois legislature. I remember when the first woman, Lottie Holman O'Neal, was elected. We put in a special toilet for Lottie. We called it Lottie's potty." and I quote that to you only because it is part of the transcript of the Illinois general assembly. I thought that that was fairly demeaning. It was not atypical of the quality of the discussion. However, I think at least the discussion has been upgraded since then, but we still haven't ratified the ERA here in Illinois.
Studs Terkel We'll come to yourself and your experiences and how how the battle goes. Clara Day, you know, very often we hear the phrase, ERA, that Black women, most of them hardworking women, are not too interested in that, they have other problems. You hear this so often.
Clara Day Well, I've heard that too. But I must admit that my background coming from a double standards of discrimination as a Black person and as a woman and it caused me to maybe fight just a little bit harder. But yet I must admit that I had to listen at some of the myths to iron them out in my mind to really try to understand if we had, if Blacks had any gains from the Equal Rights Amendment. And of course looking at my Labor background, working for all people, I decided yes, and why not. So with the Equal Rights Amendment just give other strength to the labor movement to enforce and gain some of the rights that we tried to gain for all of our members.
Studs Terkel I know this by way of just identifying our voices. Marguerite Klimkowski, homemaker, you know, the very phrase itself, you know. Oh, housewives, happy housewives, contented housewives, are not interested in the ERA.
Marguerite Klimkowski Well, I, I would probably differ with that statement. My husband and I and our five children live in Palatine and I first learned about the ERA when I took a women's history course and discovered that we were in danger of possibly not getting that amendment ratified. So I began studying more about it and why it would be so good for women. And then I joined Housewives for ERA. Homemakers, our role is very important. We're very important to society. I believe the family is the backbone of society and we need to protect it. And we need to guarantee the legal rights of women because they assume, they get married and assume that these, the institutions will protect them, and they find out that that the institutions don't. So that's why I'm working for ERA, to try to get ERA passed to help the homemaker.
Studs Terkel Now we're open. So now we come, you know what would be kind of good, as we talk about this, how you came to feel as you do about the world, particularly as through the ERA, your own experiences and that, how did it begin with you, Susan Catania, Representative Catania?
Susan Catania Well, I ran for the legislature because I had worked for over seven years for a chemical research company as their information director. I majored in chemistry at St. Xavier College and did a year of graduate work at Northwestern. Then, of course, it was very hard to find a job because most companies didn't want to hire a graduate of a Catholic school who was reasonably attractive who looked like she would get married and get pregnant, and, they assumed, quit. So I did find a job. I did stay there for over seven years. But the company, which was a rather small company, hired a man to be a marketing manager who had no background at all in chemistry or physics. They were paying him $20,000 a year. They were paying me $10,800 a year. I was informally helping to train him in his job and I felt I could do --
Susan Catania Yeah. People say you have to be twice as good as a man to make half as much money when you're a woman, and I'm afraid I hadn't really ever thought that that was true. I thought only really paranoid cynical people felt that way, but all of a sudden it happened to me. So I quit, and went to apply for unemployment benefits because somebody said, "You left for good cause." At the unemployment office they said, "Why did you quit? You were making a good salary for a woman."
Susan Catania It started all over again. But while I was standing in the unemployment lines and going through incredible hassles trying to qualify for benefits, and trying to get dependents' benefits for the four children that we had then, which were denied to me. That's another whole rigmarole.
Susan Catania Right. But the law used to say that you had to have provided 50 percent or more of the support for the children during the 90 days before you made your claim if you were to qualify for dependents' benefits. So the clerks in the unemployment offices always assumed that women did not qualify, and they crossed off that part of the form. So I had two appeals going simultaneously in the unemployment compensation bureaucracy, saying first of all that I have been discriminated against because of my sex, and second that I should qualify for dependents' benefits. A friend of mine who was a member of the National Organization for Women asked a friend of hers if she would like to come with me as an advocate at all of these hearings. It's a very lonely feeling struggling through that kind of thing against the system. In return, I thought I ought to attend some NOW meetings. When I got there, I found out that these were nice, clean, well-behaved people with whom I could identify, unlike the image that I guess I had from reading about people in the newspaper who were feminists. I also found out about a bill that had been introduced in Springfield to put pregnant women on the same footing as everyone else when they went to apply for unemployment benefits. The law used to say that for three months before a woman had a baby and for four weeks after the baby was born, she was unable to work. Therefore, she did not meet the first criterion for getting unemployment benefits which is, ability to work. You must also be willing to work in actively seeking work. I went to Springfield to testify in favor of the legislation which would remove that proscription. I had never been to Springfield before, I had never been involved in politics except to vote, you know, voting for the person not the party. I was absolutely horrified at what I found in Springfield. They made jokes about the bill, they said, "Oh, is this a labor bill?" And the humor went downhill from there. I went back two more times. Ultimately, Governor Ogilvy signed a slightly modified form of the bill into law and by then I had decided that even I could do as well as some of the people I saw in the legislature and that if women's issues were ever to be taken seriously we had to have more women in the legislature. That was in the spring of 1971. There were only three women in the House out of 177 members.
Susan Catania There are now 18 out of 177. We are making great progress considering where we were just a few years ago, and I think it is largely due to the fact that we have not ratified ERA. Every time we refuse to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois legislature, the media coverage, and I think more and more people, become outraged at this affront to women. I remember the first time it was defeated I read about it in the newspaper and it said that the male legislators had cheered and applauded when the defeat was announced and I just got a really deep gut feeling that something had to happen to change that.
Marguerite Klimkowski That, what you just said, Susan, just to support what you just said, something I found happening with homemakers so much is that because the ERA hasn't been ratified, housewives have really gotten involved in working for the ERA. I had never, if someone told me two years ago I would have been on a bus at six in the morning going to Springfield --
Marguerite Klimkowski Calling -- You know, I wondered when I stopped becoming a homemaker and a feminist, you know, I am both of those things. But somewhere along the lines I was looked at as being someone who might be a little different. What was this all about? And my neighbors would question me on it and I've gotten more and more involved in working for it. But that's what's happened. We have women going down who are full-time homemakers, going down to Springfield.
Marguerite Klimkowski Yes.
Marguerite Klimkowski No, and the fact is that the majority of American homemakers are in the middle class, and it's the ERA that is going to reform many laws that will directly affect them. They are the most affected by it when it comes to domestic domestic law, marital law. But we have homemakers going down to Springfield and seeing what's happening, what's happening down there are becoming politicized and I think women are finally saying, "Yes, the family is very important and I want to be a full-time homemaker, but I want to define my role and I want to take command of it. I want to be assured in it." I think women are realizing that they have clout for the first time, that homemakers can affect what happens inside their family, what happens in the world. I don't think they will ever go back to where they were before that and I think those, these are some of the good things that have come out of ERA.
Clara Day Margaret [sic], I'd like to add also, women for housewives have come to realize, many of them that married to men that are maybe not in the upper income and they have found that, and they've discovered that, no place will a woman be guaranteed a man the rest of her life and they found themselves to be either widowed or either divorced and when they would go out into the world they'd find that everything is against them. And then why shouldn't women, if they work and if they do have a man to have income that be sufficient that they could stay home, then why should they not still earn the wages as a man have earn? I got involved, and I guess it goes back all of my life, because certainly as I said before we have been fighting the standards of denial and for Black women, we have always worked along the side of our husband. We did the same kind of work that they would do, our responsibilities were the same. The only difference society imposed on us when we went into employment field and they would pay the Black man more than the Black woman. But as I moved along in my own union and as a community service director getting into fields and community involvement on behalf of my local, I realized more and more of the problem than people other than my own union people. Of course it helps us to to enforce contracts for equality for all of our members, all of our members pay the same dues, not different dues from men and different dues for women. And without legislation and laws to cause us to have strength when we sit around a bargaining table, it certainly makes it harder for us, so unions have pushed for it, especially my union, and most unions I believe, as a matter of fact I see all the unions are pushing for the Equal Rights Amendment which gives us more power for our clauses as we negotiate.
Studs Terkel I was just thinking just out loud as we're talking now, what we're doing at this moment, Marguerite Klimkowski and Clara Day and Susan Catania, is breaking stereotype. One of the things that Marguerite said a moment ago and Clara did, too, and you, Susan, is that the word feminist had a certain connotation, and the press played a role here, too. They were pretty good, generally, and so did TV, that the people who are different, you know, generally, isn't this, hasn't this been the case, Susan, that ERA has been associated in the minds of many people, wrongly, of course, with women who are sort of upper-class or single women who are career women, has nothing to do with the great many women who are keeping a home or working very hard for a living.
Susan Catania I think there's been a definite effort on the part of the radical right to promote that idea. Last year when we were at the National Women's Conference in Houston, the far-right, very conservative people organized a, what they billed as a counter-rally on the other side of town and they called it pro-family and pro-life, implying, of course, that the rest of us were anti both of those. My roommate and I thought that was pretty funny. My roommate was Matilda Jakubowski, who is on the CTA Board, who has eight children. I have seven children, one of whom was with me because I was breastfeeding her because she was only two months old. So, between us, we had 15 children, just the two of us. And here we were, being tarred with this.
Susan Catania Well, you see, they just avoid the whole subject. They try to find other people. For instance, when the self-appointed president of Stop ERA, who happens to be a resident of Illinois, is invited somewhere to debate ERA, I suspect that she tries to get someone to debate who is single, preferably will wear a pants suit if it's on television, and will not look like everybody's idea of a typical homemaker, so that she can imply that this person doesn't understand children, hates men.
Studs Terkel By she, you mean Phyllis Schlafly, of course. Isn't it incredible, I'm thinking, I'm editorializing, that she is taken seriously in so many quarters. How would you explain that? The year is 1978, it's the last third of the 20th century, and we're debating the subject of equal rights for women. This is the part I find --
Susan Catania She's a member of our Commission on the Status of Women, too, incidentally, we are appointed by the legislative leaders, and a couple of years ago, Bill Harris, who was the Republican minority leader in the Illinois Senate, appointed her to the Commission on the Status of Women and people in the press called me and said, "Well, good heavens, what are you going to do?" I said, "I think that Senator Harris is entertained by women engaging in hostilities in public, but my constituents don't send me to entertain Senator Harris, so we will be very polite and we have been."
Clara Day Sure.
Susan Catania But it's interesting. We do have a little bloc of anti-ERA people on the Commission on the Status of Women, and Clara was talking earlier about women who are recently widowed or divorced who have to get into the job market, the Commission addressed that problem a couple of years ago by supporting legislation to establish displaced homemaker centers which, incidentally, has now been signed into law. We do have a city college displaced homemaker center here in Chicago, and there is another displaced homemaker center downstate in Carbondale. But the anti-ERA people on the Commission opposed that, and they opposed the displaced homemaker principle in the platform that we adopted at the National Women's Conference. They said that the government already spends too much money on women, if you can believe that, and they opposed that, and last year when we were trying to get more money for the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission, I looked at the roll call on the amendment that would have decided whether it would get more money or less money and the people who wanted it to get less money were almost all opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment. So you see, these people give lip service to wanting women to have equal rights. They would be the first to say, "Oh, yes, we want to help widows." They would -- They're the people who stand up and say, "You must be for motherhood and apple pie," but when you explain to them the nitty-gritty of what motherhood nowadays is all about, they are not prepared to put their money where their mouth is at all.
Clara Day And the next thing that I've noticed is when we start talking about the percentage of women that is head of the family and we start talking about how they are to meet the everyday needs and bills and send the children to school, nobody seemed to have answers for that. The anti-ERA people do not have an answer. Even when we present the vast majority of women that heads the family, they have no answers for it.
Susan Catania Case in the Supreme Court where they said health insurance policies don't have to cover pregnancy. We talked in the Commission on the Status of Women about whether we should send a letter to our members of Congress supporting the legislation, and our anti-ERA people said, "Well, in that General Electric case, wasn't that woman unmarried? We certainly don't want health insurance policies to be promoting immorality."
Marguerite Klimkowski The fact is, whether you work inside the home or outside the home, you're essentially a homemaker. And those women who are, I think is something like 17 percent of, 16 to 17 percent of American families now are headed by women. So many of the women that, what I have found in cases of the fact that every marriage ends in cases of divorce or death or desertion, women really suffer under the law. I know personally friends who are who were divorced before they were married 20 years, and lost their Social Security, and found out they lost retirement and life insurance, medical insurance, found out that they get maybe one-third of their husband's salary, but also have to raise the children, have all the mental and physical strain that goes along with that. Well, these are homemakers and they need protection and they need to be told that this isn't a chattel relationship, that this is a partnership, and that their contribution is really important. There was, there was a case in Virginia of a woman who was married for 36 years to an army man. The last 14 years, they moved 12 times. When she was divorced she was 56 years old her husband divorced her. And at that time she found out she had no social security, she wasn't eligible at that time. She had no retirement, she lost her insurance, her car insurance would not be covered anymore because she was because she was divorced. She got minimum alimony. If her husband died, she would have lost that alimony. She finally was able to get a part-time job. This displaced homemaker program is doing great things for women who find themselves in this predicament. And there are many women in that predicament.
Studs Terkel I was thinking of what is ERA specifically. Suppose you do this just to answer some of the vulgar comments, [unintelligible] describe them, made by some of the opponents about why, you know, it's almost cartoon stuff. You know, men and women using the same toilet, you know, etc., I'm using the vulgar approach, you know, as you so often -- What will Equal Rights Amendment Illinois do?
Susan Catania Well, I think it's important for people to know what it says, because it's just a very straightforward statement. And I think most people reading it can understand what it means and what it's likely to do. Section 1 says, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the United States or any of the states." Section 2 says, "Congress shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this article." and Section 3 says "The states will have two years to bring their laws into compliance." That's it. And people all over Illinois, after you say that to them, say, "Well, where's the part about abortion? Where's the part about the bathrooms?" and so forth. Interestingly enough, we have a provision in the Illinois Constitution that has been in effect since July 1st, 1971, you know, the new Illinois Constitution. It's Article 1, Section 18, that says, "Equal protection of the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the state or its units of local government." And that has been interpreted by the courts to have exactly the same meaning as the proposed 27th Amendment, ERA, to the United States Constitution. The first case was brought by a young man who was a ward of the state who wanted to get married at the age of 18, and the law said boys had to wait till they were 21, girls could get married when they were 18. The court said you may not be discriminated against because of your sex under this new provision in the Constitution, and they let him get married in all the cases --
Susan Catania Exactly. We are referred to the 14th Amendment and told, "Well, the Supreme Court is beginning to handle that in a way that might protect equal rights." But you see, the 14th Amendment has never been used to call sex a suspect classification. It was put there to make race a suspect classification for Black men. And in Section 2 of the 14th Amendment, it mentions male citizens three times because that's what it was for, of course. And one of the arguments that the anti-ERA people use against ERA is that it will be a great take-away of state's rights because it has this Section 2, "Congress shall have the power to enforce." But if you look at the 14th Amendment, I think it's Section 5 in the 14th Amendment, identical language, "Congress shall have the power to enforce." So you see, their arguments go back and forth and around in circles. Hardly anybody goes and gets a copy of the Constitution and the Amendments, though, and looks at this and reads it. I'm always meeting people who are terribly emotionally wrapped up in this and are very frightened by those three letters ERA. And I always say, "Have you read it?" And they invariably say, "I've listened to a lot of debate on it. I've heard people speak about it on television. I've studied it very thoroughly," and I keep saying, "Have you read it?" and they haven't.
Clara Day They listen to things like, "Women will have to lift 200 pounds," or the toilets, for instance. And every time you ride an airplane you share the same toilet, and I'm sure they're going to have locks on it.
Clara Day We do at home, too. We don't have separate facilities. And the Equal Rights Amendment, saying equality for all, means the same as it would say for men. For instance, if men are equal, they receive equal pay. They receive equal pay for what they can do. If one man can lift more than another one, then no law says he has to, solely because the Equal Rights Amendment apply to him, and so it will be with women. If women can afford to lift, let's say, if we're going to deal with the more strenuous equality under the law. There are some women, of course, can lift heavier objects than some men can. But then let's not start at the most strenuous part, let's start at professional women that many times are kept out of the professional ladder by being labeled some similar name, 'assistant,' let's say, or some other clerical name, solely to keep her from earning the wages that what would be termed, her superior. Give her a chance to be equal. Let's think about the things that she can do using her brains and not only the physical ability to lift things, but professionals, the executives up the ladder that way, if we can get those wages in line certainly the ones that are lifting things will take care of itself because if he can't lift it, whether you're a woman or a man, you can't lift it, and then who lifts anything anymore anyway?
Studs Terkel You know what we should do now? Let's take a slight pause, and perhaps we can even talk about, you know, Susan Catania's experiences and your your observations of the Illinois state legislature. Why Illinois is the last of the northern industrial states holding out? Perhaps this, too. And of course your own observations and experiences, we're talking with Susan Catania, who is a state representative of the southwest side, and Clara Day, who is a trade union spokesman and is a member of the Illinois Commission, as is Ms. Catania, M-S Catania, Representative Catania, of the Illinois Commission on the Status of Women, and Marguerite Klimkowski, who is the President, the Illinois President of the Housewives for ERA. We'll resume in a moment after this message. And so picking up the conversation. Again, I'm hitting this again because of I'm always stunned, it's 1978 and it goes on and they cheered at the time it was beaten when you were still in the galleries watching it, Susan.
Susan Catania Yes.
Susan Catania They cheered again in June when it was defeated. We had two votes in the House in June. Going back again to our Illinois constitution, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention wanted to be sure that states' rights were protected, so they put a provision in saying that a three-fifths majority would be required in both houses to ratify either an amendment to the Illinois Constitution or an amendment to the United States Constitution. We challenged that after both houses had had votes on ERA where a three-fifths vote requirement was made. We took it to a federal court and a three judge panel in the Federal Court said that a state constitution could not dictate the terms for ratifying a federal constitutional amendment. In our arguments, we pointed out that, historically, simple majorities had been used to ratify federal constitutional amendments and, in fact, in the court's decision in one of the footnotes towards the end they quoted Patrick Henry, who said that there shouldn't even be an extraordinary majority of the states required to ratify because he said, "There will always be evil men in the states trying to stand in the way of what is good and just," but for the United States Constitution to be amended, two-thirds of the Congress must approve the amendment. And incidentally, ERA was in the Congress for 49 years before it was able to get out. And that's another story.
Susan Catania Forty-nine years, that's right. Women's suffrage was in the Congress for 71 years, and now people are complaining because, you know, we went more than seven years to ratify, but 71 years!
Susan Catania For women's suffrage. Forty-nine years for ERA. And then all these extraordinary majorities on top of it, two-thirds to get out, three-fourths of the states have to ratify. And then on top of that, the Illinois legislature has this three-fifths rule. But the court said that because the power to do this flows from the federal government, it is unlike anything else we do as a state legislature. The power does not flow from the state. We were simply selected as state legislators when the drafters of the Constitution were looking around for a way to get these things ratified. So it flows from them, and they did not say what majority should be used. So the Federal Court said it will be up to each house to set its own rule for the majority and the anti-ERA people, who are not to be underestimated, had very cleverly played on the fact that the language, of course, is still in the Illinois Constitution, it says three-fifths is required even though the court has said we don't have to abide by that. And they've succeeded in getting the three-fifths rule passed every session since then. So that's why it's so hard to get it ratified in Illinois.
Marguerite Klimkowski Well, I think the history of the ERA is very, very interesting, the fact that there's always been a women's rights movement in this country from the earliest times; 1848 was the first, the first meeting, an organized meeting, in Seneca Falls, and women made declaration of rights then that they were determined to be included in the Constitution and to get the right to vote. Women worked very hard for the 14th Amendment, hoping at that time they would get their rights. And so then we went into the suffrage suffrage amendment, and working for the 19th Amendment, and Alice Paul, who was a suffragist and worked on the 19th Amendment, essentially wrote the text of the of the ERA that was, its final refinement was up until I think 1943 was the final version. But she essentially wrote the text. It has nothing to do with, it's something that's been historically in our country, it's not a product of the '60's or discontent, it's the fact that women work, the Constitution is based on common law. Women were excluded from the Constitution. In the legislative history of the 14th Amendment, women were excluded from that. I think the point should be made that if women were included in the 14th Amendment, why did we need the 19th Amendment to get the right to vote? We have our political rights, we now ask for our legal rights, and when it comes to the homemaker, essentially nothing is going to change. Women are very nurturing. They enjoy staying home, raising their children, being wives. We are simply saying we finally realize that the institutions economically, socially, politically, and legally don't reinforce us. How am I going to convince my daughter that she should become a homemaker? Will it depend on what state she happens to live in? Don't go to Louisiana, because in Louisiana the husband is the headmaster and totally controls all the property? What state should she not go to in order to be guaranteed her rights? The ERA will simply assure that the government cannot discriminate in over-classification of all men or all women, but view people as individuals. Men and women are different. Well, women are different from each other also. And the law should respect that.
Susan Catania The equal rights provision in the Illinois Constitution proves, of course, that all of those horrible things are not going to happen. We've now been living with it for seven and a half years, and people who were going to get divorced got divorced, people who were happily married stayed happily married. No one was forced to use a bathroom they didn't want to use. Nobody got drafted who was a woman. We managed to get rid of the draft, as a matter of fact. So the anti-ERA people, when you confront them with that, say, "Well, it's different. It's different language, it doesn't mean the same thing," but the courts have said it does mean the same thing, then they say, "You have it in Illinois so you don't need it."
Marguerite Klimkowski There are 15 state, 15 or 16 state ERAs right now and I know the League of Women Voters wrote to each one of the governors of those states and they all responded that in no case was the ERA a detriment to the state, but in fact was the impetus for reform and revision. And in every case, specifically the homemaker, it helped her vote.
Studs Terkel Marguerite, let's take the suburb where you live, Palatine, and if ever there's something called middle America, I don't believe that phrase, there's no such thing as middle America, there's a variety.
Marguerite Klimkowski Well, it's really interesting because this this really spokes out. We are opening up chapters all over the state and we just opened up one in Palatine, and it's amazing we'll get 15, 16 homemakers together and they'll hear about ERA and they'll have all the material there, and they'll say, "This is it? This is what it's all about, the clamor? I can't believe it." And then they say things, they realize what it's like in other states, Illinois is a little better because we have our own ERA. But when they realize the protections they don't have, it's it's just that they're stunned by the fact that we don't reinforce the family in the United States by the ERA. Very personally, I think, talking about role models. I have a six-year-old daughter and she's been very much into, all my children have been very much motivated by seeing me work for ERA. My six-year-old, I just cannot get over the new game that she has, she plays ERA. She and her friends get together. I just love it. They play ERA, they go downstairs and they make up posters saying, "ERA is for women, it will protect the home." And they march around our court and they play little ERA games. I go, that's a side of the 20th century or at least a carry-over from for many years in the past. But women are getting involved. We start, we've started chapters, they're writing to their legislators, they're finding out, you know, who is for and against ERA and why, they're going down to Springfield and lobbying and they're trying to educate --
Marguerite Klimkowski And they're running for office. Yes. Women tend not to get into something, they tend to back up and say, "I have to know everything about this situation. I have to examine it and really be well-informed," and that's good. But sometimes it keeps them back from really getting into jobs and political office when they could get in and really do a good job.
Clara Day Margaret [sic], you're right. ERA is for families, too. And a good example is when it takes two two members of the family to work to cause the income to meet the prices of the rent, education, and all the things that go with it. Why is it then that a man's wife should be denied equal pay solely because she is a woman? ERA is for families. ERA, women that are working for ERA has worked towards many legislation that affect men. We fought for the social security to be changed so that men could collect social security should their wives die first. This is one issue that we worked on for years and women realize, even the antis realize that we are not down with men. I like to use my well-thought-of phrases that, "No, how could I be? My father was a man. My brothers there are men. My husband is a man," you know. And in those that have boys, men, I just happen to have one girl. But equality is for everybody.
Susan Catania You know, in speaking about about some of the federal legislation that comes down, that has come out. Title VII and equal pay. I think it's important to realize sometimes the antis do say, "Well, we've got all this legislation, why do we need more legislation when it comes to Title VII?" I think first of all, the federal government is exempt from that and someone did a computer search on the federal government, and there are something like 800 sex-based regulations in the federal government that only the ERA will handle. The Equal Opportunities Commission has something like, what is it, 108,000 backlog of cases?
Studs Terkel You know what I'm thinking, I'm looking right now, and I'm thinking, the three of you here, and Marguerite Klimkowski, homemaker and you have notes and you know what you're talking about, I want to ask you a question. When did you first become interested in this? I have a reason for asking this.
Studs Terkel What I'm thinking, of course, is a great many women, particularly housewives, "My husband knows more than I do. This is too complicated for me. I'm doing the work of the house, and there's the laundry and there's the cooking, getting the kids ready, you're raising human beings. I really don't." You see here, two and a half years. You took a history course.
Studs Terkel I'm saying this, everyone can catch on very quickly. Every woman, every woman and guy, but the fact is, just listening and watching Marguerite it occurs to me that it's almost a metaphor. You know, that any -- And it's clear, it's clear as the dickens, isn't it, many issues, whether it be anti-nuclear movements or ERA.
Clara Day But Margaret [sic] realized that she needed the sort of education to raise a family as well. She spends most of the time with her children, and she needs to teach them more than changing the diapers and washing the dishes, when they're doing their homework, when they asked a question that they see on TV. Margaret [sic] should be able to answer them as well as the father should.
Marguerite Klimkowski That's right. To have a better educated, well-assured wife and mother only adds to the situation of the family and helps help strengthen it. I have I have a quote that I really think is interesting. Walter Lippmann said, "We do almost no single sensible and deliberate thing to make family life a success. And still the family survives. It has survived all manner of stupidity. It will survive the application of intelligence."
Studs Terkel Yeah, we have to come back to this state. We're in Illinois. You know, "The whole world is watching" was a phrase back in 1968 during the convention. So Illinois and I I'll bring up a subject, the governor. He says he's for ERA, right?
Studs Terkel Now, I was curious to know, it's impossible for me to think that a governor of a state who has power cannot twist the arms of a couple of his colleagues in government. I'm starting to remember the time he backed somebody who was against ERA as against the opponent who was for ERA. He said, "I'm not a one-issue man." No one asked him what the other issues were that impelled him to back the other one. Now, can we talk about this a bit because I'm a little, I'm a little bewildered by the fact that he is for the ERA and somehow the impression is for up to a certain point.
Susan Catania Yes, a lot of my colleagues in the legislature are amazed to find that I think of them as being pro-ERA or anti-ERA. They say you must never get that involved in an issue that you identify it with the person. And I say this is the one issue with which I do do that. Because if you're against it, it means you don't think I'm as good as you are and I may be better than you are. So while I would hesitate to advise anybody to vote for someone or against someone on the basis of one issue, this certainly is one of them.
Studs Terkel The reason I ask is that I'm a little disappointed in my colleagues, journalists on television and the press, who, when meeting the governor on those programs you see on TV, never asked him, "What were those other issues that impelled you to back the anti-ERA --
Susan Catania I remember one case where he did attend an ERA event over at the Preston Bradley Center and then on the same day he buzzed up to the North Shore and endorsed an anti-ERA candidate. When asked why, he said "Well, he always cooperates with me. He votes with me when I want him to in the legislature." So it sort of reminds me of the Chicago political machine, you know, "If you shut up and take orders we'll get you back in office."
Susan Catania People must tell their legislators that this is an extremely important issue. We're now hearing legislators saying they're not going to vote for it after March 22nd, 1979 because they don't approve of the extension. And we can talk about the extension if you like. But we may have even more trouble getting the votes after that, because some legislators are saying, "I won't." You ask what can be done. People must tell their legislators that they expect them to vote 'yes.' They expect them to vote to change the rule to require only a simple majority.
Susan Catania Not very many, but it won't take very many to make the difference, and it takes only a simple majority to change the rule to require a simple majority to ratify it. Cook County has 30 of the 59 legislative districts. Each of those 30 districts has one state senator and three state representatives. So what people must do is find out who each of those four people is right now because we're going back in session November 14th and we can bring it up as soon as we get back. It's on the calendar, ready for action. So the people who are in the legislature right now need to be told, "This is what we expect from you." And then the people coming in in the new session starting in January also need to be told. People running for election.
Marguerite Klimkowski What's so amazing about this whole thing is that I think it's like 150 major organizations support the ERA, well-known organizations. Every president, including Dwight Eisenhower and first lady, support the ERA. Many mainstream churches support it, and we're dealing here, every poll has always shown a majority of people in favor of it, including Illinois. And yet we are working with such a small minority of people that we're trying to counteract I think sometimes we get a distorted view because in the media those anti-ERA forces play upon the things the very things that will scare a person into saying, "Well, maybe I won't even think about this ERA." If you can grab people at the level of suggesting abortion or homosexuality tying it up with ERA. There's so many psychological conscious and subconscious feelings we have about sex that you can scare them away from it. If you think it threatens the family, they'll, they use these and misrepresent so many of the facts in order to put pro-ERA people so much on the defensive that we have to wade through a lot of this. I I don't understand why it hasn't passed in the Springfield legislature. I think it's obvious from the last vote that it has so much to do with political, being a political football and not the merits of the ERA. I find in my own district I have a rep who has voted 'yes' and 'no,' and one would wonder why.
Marguerite Klimkowski Yeah, we have two representatives who vote 'yes' and one who has switched back and forth, and there's an overwhelming support for the amendment in our area. So it's really difficult to understand the reasons for switching a vote from a 'yes' to a 'no.' But we'll be down there. We were down there last session, baking cookies and bringing them to the legislators, and lobbying and hoping that we could convince them that we homemakers would like ERA and we'll be there again in the future. I just hope that the Illinois legislature, those who are voting 'no,' realize the responsibility they bear. If someone wants to talk about taking women out of the home maybe the Illinois legislators ought to think about the fact that they're taking women out of the home to come down there.
Susan Catania There's a whole feeling still on the part of some male legislators that women are a special interest group, that women will come to Springfield and want something, and that they ought to be able to vote one way or the other and satisfy all the women who would then go home, much as they would vote in response to education lobbyists or lobbyists from the real estate profession, or whatever. And they're slowly having to come to grips with the fact that women are not a big lump out there. They keep saying, "Well, until all you women agree on this we're not going to vote for it." It's a difficult thing.
Studs Terkel This is an incredible equation of, say, women's women's movement and ERA with the real estate lobby, I mean the equation of the two, as though it was a special interest group that doesn't involve every aspect of our lives.
Susan Catania Right. And if we can't agree, you know, they say, "Well, until you women stop squabbling among yourselves," now, when on earth did all the men ever agree on anything? So you see, we're treated as some little --
Susan Catania Group that ought to be able to get itself together. But when you turn around and say, "Well, when are the men all going to get themselves together?" You see, you can turn all these things around and it is a beautiful way to point up ingrained attitudes that people may not even realize they have.
Susan Catania It could come up as soon as we go back in session November 14th. It's available on the House calendar for action. Corneill Davis is the sponsor. You know, he was the one who had it the second time we voted in the House. It's now in postponed consideration. He's retiring after 36 years of a great civil rights career in the legislature and I think he would like nothing better than to be able to pass it before he leaves.
Susan Catania Pressure.
Susan Catania Yeah, but we also need to hold on to the people who are 'yes'; Stop ERA has been pouring money into campaigns, a thousand dollars per anti-ERA legislator is not an uncommon contribution this year.
Susan Catania You mentioned Mrs. Schlafly. She is not even registered as a lobbyist in Illinois, even though the Lobbyist Registration Act makes it very clear that someone who comes to Springfield and exerts that kind of pressure ought to be registered, so you can't trace the contributions, although Stop ERA now, because it is making these contributions, ought to have records that we can begin to look into. We've never been able to trace it all before.
Marguerite Klimkowski I was amazed the first time I went down to Springfield that was the, I belong to the League of Women Voters. And we went down there for our convention on a two-day convention and we decided also to lobby for ERA. And there was a scheduled press conference with Jan Holtwall, the president, and there were about 200 people there who had registered to come for the convention and were also there for ERA. Well, it seems like the opposition is very much a reactionary group, they don't schedule too much of their own things, they just follow what's going on with ERA and if there's something scheduled, they come. It's the first time I saw our leading opponent operate and I was shocked. I could not believe how people followed: "Here are your signs." You know, we pro-ERA people go home and we buy our posters and our Magic Magic Markers and our kids help us make up signs. Well, people would get off the bus and they were, "Here's your Stop ERA sign. Take your sign. Don't keep your sign. Make sure you return it." And then, "Okay, follow us. Stand here." There was a minister in a monkey suit saying, "Don't monkey with the Constitution." It was a carnival, but unfortunately that's what the media. That's what the TV showed that night, not 200 women from the League of Women Voters lobbying for ERA. It is so difficult to counter that.
Clara Day Margaret [sic] and Susan, one other thing that I've noticed how they evade issues when it's put to them directly, they'll change it to subject or they'll say something else. We asked a question at one debate once. What about equality for women that heads their family? And of course this woman that stood up and asked that question happened to be a Black woman. And they started out on the issues that Black people have had equality, that all sorts of legislation are passed for them, that they don't need anything further. And I tried to get the floor and say "We were talking about women, not Blacks," you know. But she just avoided the issue of equality and the law.
Studs Terkel Yeah, you know, it's interesting, just what all three of you said here. When ERA people, women and men meet, you know, there's debate, there's open discussion, there's dispute, there's argument, but when a Phyllis Schlafly group meets, there is no debate. It's done. As you were describing that scene so vividly, in handing out you follow orders.
Clara Day But not with the facts, with distorted facts, you know. I think Representative Catania explained just what the Equal Rights Amendment said. She explained the power once it is adopted, what the states have to do back home, each state. Those those portions are never dealt with. They start with using our washrooms, they start with breaking up the family, and we all want to keep our families together. So if you look back over their debates, there are never no true facts.
Studs Terkel Because we're really talking about, quite frankly, use of intelligence and insults to intelligence, and we're talking about that. And by the way, one last comment before I ask each of you for a wind-up comment. I was speaking of my colleagues, the press, television have really treated it quite shallowly. I mean, it's continually, of course, most, I know most of them are for ERA, of course overwhelmingly, but that's not the point. News has handled something sensationally, bizarrely, or what they think is colorfully, and they never really get at the situation like covering up -- Covering the two debates will be so -- The two meetings will be so -- Obvious, go to documentary right then and there and then let it speak for itself. Let's have one last go-round. Marguerite Klimkowski, who is the President of the Illinois Chapter of the of the Housewives for ERA. Some thought as we.
Marguerite Klimkowski Well, I am very encouraged that we just got the extension. I believe that the Congress has reaffirmed the need for the Equal Rights Amendment and the opportunity to to ratify it. I I hope that we will continue organizing at the level of homemakers. We have opened up chapters in Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Libertyville, Downers Grove, Du Page, the North Shore; women are getting involved, homemakers are very concerned about getting their protections. There are some laws will be changed, some laws have already been changed. Nothing scary is going to happen, it's only going to enhance our our status and make us equal partners as it should be. I will be down in Springfield working to get ERA ratified shortly.
Clara Day I think now that we have the extension we must work to clear up the myths that's strung around over the country about ERA. I think once we clear that up, we will be smooth sailing. We need to explain what the ERA says in simple language so that people can understand it and we need not to lull for the next three years, we need to start out immediately towards passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and we need to express the fact that certainly it is a family's need, not necessarily for women, that women are part of the family, it's a family need. The Equal Rights Amendment is for all people.
Susan Catania What we are seeing right now is really a tiny minority standing in the way of a basic guarantee of human rights. First, two-thirds of the Congress had to approve ERA, then three-fourths of the states have to approve it. And here in Illinois, we have a three-fifths vote requirement, so we're getting down to a very small percentage of people. Nationally, it is the Confederacy that is standing in the way of ratification joined by Illinois the only northern state and a couple of western states. It is indeed ironic that the same people who wouldn't give Black people their rights are now standing in the way of rights for women. But this tiny minority demands equal time every time there's a pro-ERA statement made. So it looks much larger and much more influential than it really is. It's using fear. Dictators have always known that fear and superstition will serve as their best tool. I tell my colleagues in the legislature once you give us books and shoes, you do have to talk to us. But if you can handle it, equality is a lot more fun. But the legislators need to hear that from everybody back home in their districts.