CP: Right, and so when did you start covering then - the Equal Rights Amendment?
CK: Well, you know, I’ve been debating about that, you probably know more about that than I do, Carol, if you’ve looked at - I’m impressed by the archival work you’ve done. As I recall, let me kind of back up just a minute. The Equal Rights Amendment, when it passed, in Congress, this was in 1972, it was - it was really hailed as the right thing to do, and everybody was for it. In fact, it was kind of euphoric. One state after the other wanted to be first; they wanted to be second; they wanted to be third to ratify it. And, and it just, it – I compared it to like this super-chief speeding across the country, everybody ratifying it, everybody cheering until it hit Arizona and just crashed into this big wall of resistance, and - and that was a turning point. When I started covering it, the second part of this is, city editors really didn’t know what to do with this story. Most newspapers had a couple of women on the City Desk and all the rest of the news about women, and it was considered news about women, this was a woman’s story, was back in the women’s section. But, because it was a legislative measure, it couldn’t be put in the women’s section. So, I started covering press conferences, I really started covering it on my own, on my own time. I would just say to the City Editor “want me to do this,” and he’d say “oh, sure.” And, later I discovered most of the women that I know on other newspapers of my age were doing the same thing: just volunteering to cover it, because there wasn’t a lot of interest.
CK: So, that’s how I – I was doing it just part of the time; I don’t know how much actual coverage there was on the part of our legislative reporters. I doubt that there was a lot. You would probably know that better than I. I know - a lot of those measures that were introduced never even got out of committee, I noticed.
CK: So, it – it - to my recollection, Carol, and it’s only my recollection, it wasn’t considered a big political issue. I was really covering what became to be the either the sociological implications or the cultural implications. Because, it wasn’t too long before, I don’t know when it first became evident that it wasn’t going to speed through the Arizona Legislature, but it seemed to be my feeling or recollection is, it was a coalition of a – there were a lot of Mormons in the legislature, and very, very conservative Republicans. I don’t know if you know this, but we can talk about it later, Sandra Day O’Connor was in the legislature then, later Supreme Court Justice, and I believe that Jean Sharley Taylor, who was the Women’s Editor of the Arizona Republic, and quite an ardent feminist herself, organized a debate at the press club pro- and con-Equal, ERA “pro” and “con”, and Sandra Day O’Connor led the pro-ERA debate.
CK: Unhunh. You should check that out, and you really should try to talk to Sandra if you can, because that was a very interesting, looking, you know, later at how conservative she was considered to be. Oh, but very quickly, and I’m not quite sure how, it – it became polarized, and we’ve always felt that it was a mistake, or poor tactics, or erred somewhere, somehow in letting it become a debate because the “pro” people tended to have a kind of good legal backgrounds, and the – and the people who were against it were simply emotional. Phyllis Schlafly, by that time, had come to town and had organized her forces, and she was of – and she got a very powerful coalition together. They were debating things like well, “women will have to be drafted.” That was a big point, emotional point, and “there’ll be unisex restrooms.” And then, it became - the Republican women started getting kind of interested and – and being against it. And, I remember covering one talk, which somebody from the Eagle Forum, it wasn’t Phyllis Schlafly, said to these Republican women, “if this thing is passed, just give up your golf clubs and forget about your bridge games because everybody’s going to have to go to work by law.” So, that’s the kind of emotional argument that was being used. It was very difficult for me as a reporter, because reporters, as you know, are expected to be very objective. And, I felt, and I’ve discovered later, the other women around the country who were covering it felt the same way, I felt so emotionally involved that I bent over backwards not to – to – almost tilted in favor of the opposition, to the point that I think the City Editor, whose name was Bob Early, great guy, said to me one time, you know, “this is almost dull, you don’t have to be quite so,” he didn’t say “fair” but “put a little more color in it.” So, I just did these stories from time to time, and my main memory is that it was the essentially, when about 1976, something fairly definite happened because the Governor of Arizona, Jack Williams, who was a Republican, essentially the feeling was the legislature had turned down the Equal Rights Amendment, and it was the first state to do so. And, Jack Williams was interviewed, and I believe this was actually by Ginger Hutton, who was on the women’s pages, women’s section. But, she said “Governor, do you mean, you don’t think women are equal.” And, he said “no.” She said “why.” Well, he said “it’s in the bible,” and he quoted Genesis 2:18, in the King James Version as in, “the Lord said, it is not good that man should be alone I will make an helpmete for him.” That’s the King James version, and then he said “that’s Genesis 2:18 and put it in the paper so people will read their bibles for a change.” So that was - that’s how it ended in Arizona at least in 1976.
CP: Do you remember what the position of the paper was – the Arizona Republic?
CK: Oh, that’s very interesting. No, I don’t.
CK: And, if they took a position, and perhaps they did Carol, it - they didn’t take it very frequently or very forcefully. I was interested in your timeline of how long this thing dragged on. I hadn’t quite realized that. I think, again, it was - I’m sure if they took a position, it was against the ERA, because it was a very conservative editorial page.
CP: Did - did you run into any issues covering it, anyone trying to steer you in one direction or another or…?
CK: No, not really, it was - it was really amazing, because this was so new, I mean, women, essentially this was still a period where men were the breadwinners, and women, unless they were single mothers, stayed at home. And, women did not make news, and I remember covering when Shirley Odegaard announced the, I think it was the ERA Coalition, how nervous she was, I mean, we had never covered stories like this before. And, how nervous everybody was, and they kind of didn’t know quite how to do it, because women didn’t have press conferences.
CK: So it was, you know, it was kind of like the Civil Rights movement, in a way that blacks hadn’t quite seen themselves except in certain designated roles. It wasn’t - the activists in the women’s movement were not undergoing the physical danger that perhaps Civil Rights workers were, but we were appearing places we simply hadn’t been before. I mean that was really what – that was what struck me about it, and how articulate the women were who were on both sides, actually. And - and, then the…sudden appearance of this religion really turned my head around.
CP: Okay. I’ve had people comment about their impression of the supporters or their impression of the opponents. What was your impression? How would you characterize them? Let’s start with the supporters of the amendment.
CK: Well, the supporters, I have a - still have a framed picture from – and I must say our paper, to give the credit, we covered these things. I mean, they were - I’ve got a picture of Irene Lyons, Rasmussen now, standing in front of a big banner that – that says, “equal rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex,” in the throes of an earnest debate. She was very, very articulate. Irene was – was really terrific, and so were most of other…proponents. This was essentially, I guess, a new feminist ethic arising that we simply hadn’t seen, on the - on the other hand the opponents were, too. I mean, Phyllis Schlafly, I also remember covering, she had – they had dueling press conferences, now that I recall, she had something at the press club too. She - she was very articulate, but her arguments just didn’t seem – they simply were erroneous, and nobody really ever challenged her.
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From the collection of the History and Archives Division, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. Copyright and/or publication rights for all items in this collection are retained by this institution.