tv Reel America Conversation on Womens Rights - 1974 CSPAN December 9, 2018 4:00pm-4:36pm EST
you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. >> the united nations designated 1975 as international women's year. since then, international women's day is celebrated march 8. next, on "reel america," from 1974, a conversation on women's rights. the national commission on the observance of international women's year sponsored the interview, which wendy ross conducted.
>> 1975 has been designated as international women's year, a year that countries will focus on advancing the status of women around the world. i am wendy ross. to discuss the changing role of women in the united states, we have with us two distinguished members of congress, representative martha griffith, democrat of michigan, and patsy mink, democrat of hawaii. ms. griffith chose not to run again. a lawyer, she has served on the house ways and means committee, the only woman to have served on the committee. she has also been a member of the joint economic committee. before congress, she served in the michigan state legislature and was a judge. mrs. mink has represented hawaii since 1965, and was recently reelected by a wide margin.
also an attorney, she serves on the house education and labor committee and interior committee. before coming to the house of representatives, she served in the hawaii legislature and lectured in business law at the university of hawaii. welcome. in recent years, women in the united states have begun to organize themselves to improve their status in society. what do you think has caused this movement, this women's movement, or women's liberation movement, as it has been called? >> i think one of the things is they are so much better educated. secondly, so many more of them have been forced by economic necessity to go to work. and when they have gone to work, they have discovered tremendous discriminations against them in work. they have also discovered
tremendous discriminations as homemakers. wouldn't you say that was right? >> i would say that's probably true, especially in salsa security, which you have been a marvelous leader in calling attention to the people in the country, the discriminations against women in that law. there, i think because the women have not come until recently, reached retirement age after having worked a full lifetime, only now are beginning to realize there is inequity in the law, and have brought the matters to the attention of the people back home. this has created a greater interest, i think, in politics and government. host: how is their inequity in the social security law? >> a woman's husband cannot draw her social security. until i was a member of ways and means, even if she had been out of the workforce for year and a half, even her own children could not draw if she had died. i think one of the incredible
inequities came to my attention the other day. a woman who had worked for 35 years under social security went to draw her social security, and they asked if she had a husband, and she said he was killed in world war ii. they said, was he under social security? she said, i believe he was. he had worked 18 months under social security, and she had paid in for 35 years. she drew more money under his entitlement than she would her own. i think that is absolutely awful. host: why doesn't the ways and means committee do something about this? >> we need more women on the committee. [laughter] >> we've been working very hard. this is where the discrimination lodges.
i've tried to twist this whole business in a man's mind, so that they can appreciate the what we are complaining about, as far as a woman working offer life and not being able to leave benefits to her husband, is a discrimination against the man. >> of course. >> but the men in congress say, i don't need my wife's benefit, i'm capable of working. it is this mentality that prevents us from seeing that the basic law is flawed, in women should not be taxed if they can't leave it same benefits to their husbands. but we are working on it. we are at the very beginning stages, i think, of a movement to reawaken equality in this country. host: isn't one of the main purposes of the movement to give true equality to men and women? not only to women. >> of course. that's exactly what the equal rights amendment would do.
for instance, in this country, for a woman to be supported at the taxpayers expense, you get rid of her husband, and they go on welfare. but her husband could not do that. no matter how great his need. in many states, he cannot draw aid for his dependent children. which is nonsense. if they need something, they need it just as badly. the law is even more silly and that. having gotten rid of the legitimate father of the children, her married husband, and gone on welfare, then if she marries again -- and this would be true even if she married rockefeller -- those children could remain on welfare. so, you can't explain it. why do you want to pay her if she has gotten rid of her husband?
take care of the children with the stepfather if you won't do it with their own father. >> the equal rights amendment, which you really marshaled through congress, introduced since 1923, but it never got through congress until 1972, largely due to your efforts. what exactly will it do? >> what it will really do is force government, when they make a law or pass a regulation, or whatever they may do, to make it equal to both sexes. they cannot discriminate on the basis of sex alone. they would not be able to discriminate again in social security. they would not be able to discriminate even in the tax system. in the present time, single people pay more taxes on the same income as married people. this falls most heavily upon women. they would have to change it because it is a sex discrimination. we also have these lovely things in the pension laws.
if a company has a pension and it is integrated with social security, they do not have to pay anyone a pension who makes less than $6,000. who makes less than $6,000? women, of course. >> mrs. griffith, we passed the equal rights amendment, and of course it needs to be ratified by 3/4ths of the states to become part of the constitution, and five states still have to ratify it, but until the passage of the equal rights amendment, was there no protection for women under the law in our constitution? >> not really. they never applied the 14th amendment to women. they did not apply the 15th,
which said that every citizen could vote. why couldn't women vote? why did you have to have the 19th amendment? the answer was, they did not consider women people within the meaning. the court had to admit they were citizens, otherwise their own wives would've been deported. but they never really considered them people. host: what chances do you see for ratification in 1975, international women's year? president ford recently said this is an appropriate way for the united states to celebrate international women's year, ratification. >> it will be ratified in 1975. host: mrs. mink, you introduced a far-reaching bill in congress involving women's rights in many areas. why would such legislation be necessary if the e.r.a. is ratified? >> it was introduced largely pending the ratification. it seemed to me we still needed to focus on the major inequities that existed in federal law.
so that people would not forget the basic reasons for e.r.a. in the first place. as martha indicated, if e.r.a. is ratified, changes in social security have to be made, otherwise it will be litigated. i would hope congress would get about the business of repealing some of these laws before the actual ratification, but when it occurs, it will be an absolute necessity. in my state, we were the first to ratify e.r.a. following that, we have had to take a systematic look, chapter by chapter, in our laws, and make the changes. this doesn't occur automatically. the status of the women's commission, for instance, has made it the number one priority to cleanse the laws of everything they regard as being sex discrimination. this does not happen by and of
itself merely because we ratify e.r.a. or have a provision similar to it in our state constitution. so the article would serve that purpose after ratification. host: you're saying the equal rights amendment applies to federal law, but then we have the states -- >> it also applies to state law and at the local level. the local school board can no longer say that in the case of a depression, first all women teachers will be fired, or all married women will be fired. and then we will fire all the men. it applies anyplace where government acts. host: but not to private business. >> correct, it does not apply to private industry. host: what are we doing in that regard? >> we have the civil rights act in that regard.
>> and the higher education bill of several years ago applied to women. can you talk about that? >> yes, and it includes hiring policies of the education departments and local communities, as well as universities. this is a very important step forward, and quite complicated. i guess there is a growing awareness among educators that they have not been entirely fair in who gets to be administrator, who gives to the principal, who gets to be the superintendent of curriculum.
but generally, in the way they have administered their educational policies. i fully support the amendment we put in. >> this past congress, the women's education equity act, which was a bill sponsored that you worked for a hard for, could you talk about the need for this legislation? >> it's always been my belief that no matter how many laws we pass, or have ratified, the issue in society was the attitude of society that people believed were sacred to their civilization. as long as any part of our society adheres to a sexist notion that men should do certain things and women should do certain things, and then begin to inculcate our babies with these notions through curriculum development and so forth, we will never be rid of the basic causes of sex discrimination. the women's educational equity provision, which is designed to provide money for small groups, institutions, women's organizations, school systems,
universities, to try to grapple with this problem, do some very intensive work in curriculum revision. why does the women in a child's primer have to be pictured as a homemakers, in the kitchen? never anything very exciting beyond being a nurse. the doctor is always a man. the lawyer, the engineer, always a man. this is the kind of subtle way in which, in my view, girls and women are discouraged from fulfilling their potential. and so i suppose the purpose of my bill is to make it possible for everyone to achieve according to the talents and wishes. host: another subject which concerns you is day care legislation. could you talk a little bit about that problem in the united states?
do we have enough day care facilities for children of working parents? >> martha could probably comment more expertly on the only federal program we have for day care, which became part of the special services under social security. it dealt with those on welfare or potential welfare recipients. it's always been my view that beyond that, the government had a responsibility to provide educational services to young children before school age, and that really we did not have but 600,000 spaces in the entire country for early childhood education. this was far too few when there were already 6 million preschoolers whose parents, either single or not, worked. we are far behind in providing this needed service. >> one of the problems we have
with it, the states or bureaucracy itself want to write in special regulations. i remember when i was a member of the state legislature, they wanted to have very special regulations for the building, which made it almost prohibitive. now in many instances, they want to have very special regulations for what the child is to eat and so forth. so we have great difficulty with it. but we do need daycare. and we are giving it most inequitably in this country for most people. some of the very poor can get it, but not all. and then the middle class cannot get it at all. they are not given exactly the same basis as others. if you're going to have it, in my opinion, it should be given to everybody alike and we should make arrangements to do it. but it should not cost the same amount as sending a child to
harvard. [laughter] >> one of the things that is so difficult to explain is we have a daycare program under the social security act, for those on welfare. the moment a mother goes to work, she loses an opportunity for care for her preschooler. the whole program is designed to get women to go to work and be self-sufficient and get off welfare, and it is outrageous. >> of course. the truth is that the welfare program, is what the congress has done for women, and it is not good. when you are caught in this trap, you are there forever. by this means, you protect jobs for men, theoretically. of course, you don't, really.
if you just permitted those women to have jobs and a decent wage, you would have a greater demand upon the entire economic structure, and we could well afford it. host: what chances do you foresee in the near future of congress grappling with some of these central issues? >> they already did, the daycare question in 1971, congress had a prolonged debate for four years, and they finally passed a conference of childcare dear that was vetoed by president nixon and set back the whole program tremendously. it has taken us until now, until this current time, where we are beginning to regroup and decide we're going to go at it again. i think with the new congress coming in and many new faces, many more women involved in politics on a local level, there is a greater awareness of the importance of this issue.
i am looking forward to the 94th congress enacting a bill that will be the first for our country, and really, it is almost too late. most of the countries of the world have childcare programs. certainly all scandinavian, a good part of europe, and asia have recognized the importance of providing adequately for young children. it is only our country, i think, that has failed to recognize this responsibility. >> perhaps in international women's year, we have really grappled with -- in the 1974 election, women scored significant gains at all levels of government. more women than ever before are elected to political office. women have had the vote in the country since 1920. why now are they doing so much better? why not before?
>> i think one of the answers is that they have never run in such numbers, and they have never realized before the exact issues. many of them do and are well informed on the issues, and they are running. many of them are running, as we did, with the support of our husbands. but they are trying. i think it will change american politics. i always thought it was wrong that women would not vote for women. they do, but so do men vote for women. and there were no women in america in watergate, and i think this is a big help. host: how will the change politics, women's participation in greater numbers? >> we have to recognize it took us 150 years to get the vote.
50 years, in terms of time, is not a great deal. gaining the right to vote and the important position i think so many women hold in their respective communities. we may not have the numbers, but i think women are listened to. in my state, it is typical, we have many in the legislature, and they are the leaders, in the forefront of public opinion, in the middle of public controversies, not afraid to express themselves. i think it's going to make a tremendous difference. i think it's going to shake up the system and make it far more responsive to the human questions that confound and confuse the electorate as a whole. i am really very excited by it. and like martha says, the difficulty is not enough have run. we can't expect every woman because she is a woman, that the minute she runs, she will be successful. that's not possible. we do need to have the numbers in their competing, and given the numbers, i think we will be more and more successful over the years.
>> it permits a different viewpoint on the law. i can remember arguing about who was going to get the jobs on a particular work program. one of the women was suggesting it be 50% for women and 50% for men. one man rose on the floor of the house and said, what do you mean? it has to go to the breadwinner. who is the breadwinner? the only real poverty left in america are in those families supported by women. so that woman needs to have the opportunity of that job. but you have to have women there to understand this. many of the laws have been made
on the theory that men will always hold these jobs. therefore, the surviving widow is given a pension. i changed the law that permitted it to be the surviving spouse. if patsy and i had died, our husbands would not have gotten our pensions, but the men's widows pick them up at 9:00 the next morning. we change that. there were all kinds of laws like this. host: you both have combined, it seems to me successfully, marriage and politics. what do you say to people who say they might be incompatible? >> i think that's probably the most offensive question ever asked, because i truly believe many women are equal, and that just as it's difficult for a man in politics to have the kind of relaxed family life and leisure situation in politics, it's the
same problem for women. it's really no different. i've never heard anyone ask a man, how has it been on your family? [laughter] now because women are getting into politics, the question has become more prevalent. you see stories in time and newsweek of the suffering wives of male politicians, but it used to be a question with regard to families and how difficult it is to adjust. i don't think our problem has been any different than the male politicians. >> i agree with you. let me give you a little incident. my husband and i were recently invited to the white house. my husband really did not want to go. i said, why not? he said, some woman will sit beside me who will say, what do you do for a living?
and when he tells her he's a lawyer, she will ask what kind of law he practices, and come very close to asking how much he makes. i said, why don't you say to her, and what do you do for a living? and if she says, i have eight children, why don't you say, other than that? [laughter] >> you know, why do you assume that a man of a woman politician is not doing anything, he is probably highly successful or she wouldn't be a politician. don't you think? >> that's right. >> but it's infuriating. host: when you were both in law school, was it easy for you or difficult?
do you think it's easier for women nowadays trying to enter the professional world? >> i think it's a whole new world compared to when i was struggling to get into law. i hate to say it, i won't mention the name of the law school, but i got into my law school on the ground that they considered me a foreigner. i got in on the foreign quota. someone in the law school had not read up on their american history and realized hawaii was annexed in 1898 and i was an american citizen. [laughter] but it was very difficult getting into school and the profession. i could not find a job. all my contemporaries at home say, oh my goodness, what she is done for politics at home, i wish we had never heard of her. i say it's because of all of your attitudes that drove me into politics. if you had given me a job where i came home from law school, i
would've been very happy to draw a check each month. [laughter] >> i was married. my husband was in law school. for some reason or another, that law school seemed to think it was all right. they had the nerve to say in front of the other women in the law school, and there were very few, mrs. griffith is the first woman to come here who did not come to find a husband. one of the wittier girls said, i think you are right, and i have looked them over and i'm thinking of transferring. i felt it was very good. originally, they had the attitude, mr. griffith will see to it she is not trouble. which is nonsense. host: you believe this is changing now? >> absolutely. >> yes. >> i think the law schools in
particular are conscious of the fact that they have excluded women, capable, intelligent women who would otherwise qualify for enrollment except for their sex, and are beginning to expand their admission policies and more and more women are having an opportunity for a professional education in all fields. not just law host: what do you see as the impact, not just on women, but on men and children, of the women's movement? >> i think and a way, the women's movement has been a result of the impact of changing times. more education for women, more divorce. women have to look at the fact
that they are going to have to be responsible for themselves. the old myths just don't work. in place of it being the women creating an impact, they are reacting to an impact, i think. >> i think it is done a good deal for men in the country. it has given them a greater sense of freedom and independence, where as they had a notion that in order to be "a gentleman" in society, they had to have a dependent wife, who they would display at cocktail parties. and nothing beyond that. i think now they are testing their responsibility in a different context. and both partners in a marriage i think are looking on themselves as people, and trying to do the best they can with their abilities and talents. host: one last question, we are short on time. a broad question may be unfair, but how do you feel that women in this country compare with women abroad in terms of rights
and responsibilities and status? and i realize it would depend on which area of the world we are talking about, but could you generalize? >> i've had members of the parliamentary body of developing nations, in africa, coming to me and saying i can't believe it. we have more rights than women in america have, and we were told that the women in america had everything. and of course we have nothing like the rights of european women. >> i think that's absolutely true, even with asia. so many people say to me, with the asian background and traditions, how did you break the barrier? i say, they are much further ahead in asia. they may have customs you don't understand, but when you move the customs aside, women are very dominant in asian cultures. they have a very good mastery of the situation, whether they are out in the front may be a question or two, but i think they are very important figures and make a significant contribution to their society. host: thank you both so much.
we have been speaking with two distinguished united states congresswomen on the subject of women's rights. a subject which all member states of the u.n. will be focused on in 1975, international women's year. >> you can watch archival films on public affairs in their entirety on our weekly series, "reel america," saturday at 10:00 p.m. and sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern, here on american history tv.
tonight on "q&a." >> i worked with four people that were future presidents, jimmy carter, bill clinton, barack obama, and to my surprise, donald trump. >> publisher of many best-selling nonfiction books. >> i also came to realize about donald trump, that in his heart of hearts, he believes that he always wins. he's been in new york real estate, gambling real estate, boxing, beauty contests, never been the target of a criminal investigation. that is astonishing in new york city. >> a conversation with peter osnos on "q&a." american history tv is on
c-span3 every weekend. here is a clip from a recent program. >> i would say that the. of most intense nativism in american history was actually from world war i to the late 1930's. that leads us to ask the question, are we getting back into that mode of intense nativism? are we still a nativist country? the answer i would say is no and yes. the primary reason i would say no is one really big thing has since the early 20th century, and that is intermarriage. i could put up a slide like this for virtually any group. i'm going to use american jews as an example. if you look at the history of intermarriage for american jews, of american or 99%
jews in 1900 work marrying other jews. -- samengs with a net thing with italian catholics. people stuck to their own group. but that started to change over time. time is the magic ingredient here. over time you get a situation where, all right, it goes up to 10%. by the end of the 20th century, nearly half of all jews were marrying people who were not jewish. to the point it was causing great anxiety within the american jewish community. there was concern in some quarters that there was too much assimilation. that it could be a threat to our religious and ethnic identity. but looked at another way, it is evidence of the melting pot is really melting. can watch this and other
american history programs on our website, where all of our video is archived. >> next on american history tv, a conservative scholar and a liberal historian explore the concept of populism and its role in the history of american politics, in an event titled the promise and perils of populism. they discuss populism in today's political climate. the university of missouri and the american enterprise institute cohosted the event. it is about 75 minutes. >> tonight we are looking at the promise and perils of populism, and we have billed it as a conversation rather than a debate. we have two preeminent scholars who will be talking together about populism and the current moment that we are in in american politics. i will give some brief introductions and then i will i