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tv   Reel America Conversation on Womens Rights - 1974  CSPAN  February 18, 2019 4:55pm-5:31pm EST

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women's year. since then international women's day is celebrated on march 8th. next, a conversation with martha griffiths of michigan and patsy mink of hawaii. wendy ross of the u.s. information service conducted the interview. >> united nations has designated 1975 as international women's year, a year in which member nations will focus their attention on ways to further advance the status of women around the world. i'm wendy ross, usis congressional correspondent. to discuss the changing role of women in the united states, we have with us two distinguished members of congress, representative martha griffiths, democrat of michigan, and representative patsy mink,
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democrat of hawaii. mrs. griffith, who has served in the house of representatives since 195 served after 19 years of service not to run again for re-election. as a lawyer, she has served on the powerful house ways and means committee, the only woman ever to have served on that committee. she has also been a member of the joint economic committee. before coming to congress, she served in the michigan state legislature and was also a judge. mrs. mink has represented hawaii in congress since 1965 and was recently elected to another two-year term by a wide margin of votes. also an attorney, she serves on the house education and labor committee and the interior committee. before coming to the house of representatives, mrs. mink served in the hawaii legislature and lectured on business law at the university of hawaii. welcome. >> thank you. >> in recent years, women in the united states have begun to
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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's sometimes been called? >> i think one of the things has been that they're 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 the tremendous discriminations against them. then having discovered those, they have discovered the tremendous discriminations against them when they were homemakers and i think this is the real root. wouldn't you say that's true, patsy? >> i would say that's true, especially in social security, which you have been such a marvelous leader in calling attention to the people in the country, the discriminations women in that law. there i think that because the women have not, until recently,
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reached retirement age after having worked a full lifetime, only now are beginning to realize that there is inequity in the law and have brought these matters to the attention of the people back home. and this has created a greater interest, i think, in politics and government. >> how is there inequity in the social security law, mrs. griffiths? >> well, a woman's husband cannot draw on her social security. and until i was a member of the ways and means, even if she had been out of the workforce for a year and a half, even her own children couldn't draw if she died. but i think one of the really 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 her if she had a husband. and she said, yes, but he was killed in world war ii. so they said, well, was he under
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social security? and she said, i believe he was. and she brought in the number. 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 have under her own. now, i think that is absolutely awful. >> well, why doesn't the tax-writing committee of congress, the ways and means committee, do something about this? >> well, we need more women on the committee, that's really the answer. >> we've been working very hard. but you see, this is where the discrimination lodges. i have tried to twist this whole business in a man's mind, so that they would appreciate that what we are complaining about insofar as a woman working all her life and not being able to leave her benefits to her husband is a discrimination against the man. >> of course! >> but you see, the men in the congress say, well, i don't need my wife's support or benefit. i'm capable of working.
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and it's this mentality that prevents them from seeing that the basic law is wrong and that women should not be taxed then if they can't leave the same benefits to their husbands. well, we're working on it. we're just at the very beginning stages, i think, of this whole movement to reawaken the sense of equality in this country. >> isn't one of the main purposes of the movement to give true equality to both men and women, not only -- >> of course. >> not only to women. >> of course. that is exactly what the equal rights amendment would do. for instance, in this country, the way for a woman to be supported at the taxpayers' expense is to get rid of her husband and then take her children down and go on welfare. but her husband couldn't do that. no matter how great his need. in many states, he cannot draw aid to dependent children for his children, which is, of course, nonsense.
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if they need something, they need it just as badly. the law is even sillier in that having gotten rid of the legitimate father of the children and 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. you can't explain it. why do you want to pay her if she's gotten rid of her husband? take care of the children with a stepfather if you won't do it with your own father. >> the equal rights amendment, which you really marshaled through congress -- >> yes. >> -- after it had been introduced since at least 1923, but never got through congress until 1972, largely due to your efforts, what exactly will it do?
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>> what it will really do is to force governments, when they make a law or pass a regulation or whatever they may do, to make it apply equally to both sexes. they cannot discriminate on the basis of sex alone. they would not be able to discriminate again in social security. they wouldn't be able to discriminate even in the tax system. at the present time, single people pay more taxes on exactly the same income than married people. but since this falls most heavily upon women, they would have to change it, because it is a sex discrimination. we also have these lovely little things in the pension laws. if a company has a pension and it's integrated with social security, they do not have to pay anyone a pension who makes less than $6,000. well, who makes less than $6,000? why, women, of course.
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>> well, mrs. griffiths, until we -- congress passed the equal rights amendment, of course, it still must be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become part of the constitution and five states still have to ratify it for this to happen, 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 didn't apply the 15th. when the 15th amendment had been written, which said every citizen could vote, in the name of heavens, why couldn't women vote? why did you have to have the 19th amendment? well, of course the answer was, they didn't consider women people within the meaning. the court had to admit they were citizens. otherwise, their own wives would have been deported. but, they never really considered them people. >> what chances do you see for ratification in 1975,
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international women's year? president ford recently said that this would be a very appropriate way for the united states to celebrate international women's year, for ratification of the -- >> it will be ratified. >> this -- >> in my -- in 1975, it will be ratified. >> mrs. mink, you've introduced a very far-reaching bill in congress involving women's rights in many areas. why would such legislation be necessary if the era is ratified? >> well, it was introduced largely pending the ratification. it seemed to me that we still needed to focus on the major inequities that existed in federal law. so that people would not forget the basic reasons for era in the first place. as martha indicated, if era is ratified and when it is, the changes, for instance, in social security will just have to be
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made. otherwise, it will be litigated. and i would hope that the congress would just 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, for instance, we were the first to ratify era. following that, we have had to take a systematic look, chapter by chapter, in our revised laws and make all the changes. it just doesn't occur automatically. and so the status of women's commission, for instance, in my state, has made it their number of one priority, to just cleanse the laws of everything they regard as being sex discrimination. this does not happen by and of itself, merely because we have ratified era or have a law similar to it in our state constitution. so i suppose the bill i put in would serve that purpose even after rat occasion. >> so what you're saying is that the equal rights amendment applies to federal law, but then
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we have -- the states have to -- >> it applies also to state law. it applies at a local level, too. 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'll fire the men. it applies any place where government acts within the united states. >> i see, where government acts, but it would not apply to private businesses? >> that's right, it does not apply to industry. >> so what is the united states doing in this regard? >> well, we have the 1964 civil rights act that applies to them. >> and then, of course, the -- the higher education bill of several years ago applied to women, is that right? could you discuss that, mrs. mink? >> yes, that was with reference to any policies and regulations and hiring -- this includes hiring and firing policies of the education departments and the local communities, as well as universities. this is a very important step
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forward. and quite complicated and i guess there is a growing awareness among educators that they haven't been entirely fai . not only in who becomes an administrator and who gets to be principal and who gets to be the deputy superintendent of curriculum but generally, in the way they have administered their educational policies. so i'm fully in support of the amendment that we've put into the higher ed bill. >> and then, of course, this past congress, the women's educational equity act which was the bill that you sponsored and worked very hard for was recently signed into law. could you talk about this, the need for this legislation? >> yes, it's always been any belief that no matter how many laws we passed or how many constitutional amendments we were successful in having ratified, that the major problem in any society was the attitudes that people grew up with or were
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made to believe were sacred traditions of their civilization. so 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, then we'll never be rid of the basic causes of sex discrimination. so the women's educational equity provision, which is designed to provide moneys for small groups, institutions, women's organizations, school systems, universities, whatever, to try to grapple with this problem do some very intensive work in curriculum revision, textbooks. why do all of the women, for instance, in a child's primer have to be pictured as
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homemakers with aprons on in the kitchen? never anything very exciting beyond being a nurse. the doctor is always a man. the lawyer, the engineer, the statesman is always a man. and this is the kind of very 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 really to free the human spirit, to make it possible for everyone to achieve according to their talents and wishes. >> another subject which concerns you is daycare legislation. could you talk a bit about that problem in the united states? do we have enough daycare facilities for children of working parents? >> well, martha could probably comment for expertly on the only federal program we now have for daycare, which became a part of the special services under
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social security and it dealt with those on welfare or potential welfare recipients. it's always been my view that beyond that, government had a responsibility to provide educational services to young children before school age, and that really we didn't have but 600,000 spaces in the entire country for early childhood education. and this was far too few when there are already 6 million preschoolers whose parents either single or both worked. and therefore, we were falling far behind in providing this very, very needed service. >> one of the problems that we have with it is that the states or the bureaucracy itself want to write in very special regulations. i remember when i was a member of the state legislature, that they wanted to have very special
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regulations for the buildings which made it almost prohibitive. now, in many instances, they have to have very special regulations for what the child is to eat and so forth and so on. so we have great difficulty with it. but we do need daycare. and we are giving it most inequitably to people in this country. some of the very poor can get it, not all by any means but some. but then the middle class can't get it at all. they're 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 shouldn't cost the same amount as sending a child to harvard. don't you think that's really it? >> one of the things that's so difficult to explain is that we have a daycare program under 4a of our social security act for those on welfare. the minute the woman goes to work, she loses that opportunity
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for care for her preschooler. and so while we're saying the whole program is designed to get women to go to work and to be self-sufficient and get off of welfare, we discourage it. >> of course. the whole welfare program discourages women from going to work. the truth is that the welfare program is what the congress of the united states has done for women. and let me tell you, it's not good. what we are saying to them, 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. because if you just permitted those women to have jobs and have a decent wage, rear their children, you would have a greater demand upon the entire economic structure and we could well afford it. >> what chances do you foresee in the near future of congress really grappling with some of these very central issues? >> well, it already did when on
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1971,when the congress in a very prolonged debate over the issue for four years finally passed a comprehensive childcare bill, which was vetoed by president nixon and set back the whole program tremendously. and it's taken us until now, december '71 to this current time, where we're now again beginning to regroup and decide we're going to go it again. i think with the new congress coming in and many new faces, many more women involved in politics at the local level, there's a far greater awareness of the importance of this issue. so i'm looking forward to the 94th congress really enacting a bill which will be the first for our country. and really, it's almost too late. most of the countries of the world have childcare programs.
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certainly part of europe and asia have recognized the importance of providing quality for young children. it's only our country, i think, martha, that has failed to recognize this responsibility. >> well, perhaps in international women's year, this can be really grappled with. >> we can do something. >> yes. in the 1974 elections, women scored significant gains at all levels of government. in fact, more women than ever before were elected to political office. women have had the vote in this country since 1920. why now are they doing so much better? why not before? >> well, i think one of the answers is that they have never run in such numbers, and they have never realized before the exact issues. now, many of them do. they're well informed on the issues and they are running. many of them are running as patsy and i did with the support
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of our husbands, but they are trying. and i think that it will change american politics. i have 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 was a big help in this election. >> how will it change politics, women's participation in greater numbers in the political arena? do you agree, first of all, mrs. mink? >> well yes, i agree. you have to recognize, it took us 150 years to get the vote. and 50 years is really, in terms of time, not a great deal. in terms of developing from just gaining the right to vote and the important position that i think so many women hold in their respective communities, we may not have the numbers, but i think women are really listened
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to if my state is typical. we have many in the legislature and they're the leaders. they are in the forefront of public opinion, in the middle of public controversies. they're not afraid to express themselves. and i think it's going to make a tremendous difference. it's going to, i think, just shake up the system and make it far more responsive to the human questions that confound and confuse the electorate as a whole. so i'm really very excited by it. and like martha says, our difficulty has been that not enough have run. we can't expect every woman, because she's a woman, the minute she runs, she's going to be successful. that's not possible. so we do need to have the numbers in there, competing. and given the numbers, i think we're going to be more and more successful over the years. >> and one of the ways in which it changes is it permits a different viewpoint on every law. i can remember that we were once arguing some years ago over who was to get the jobs in a particular make work program.
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and one of the women was suggesting that they be 50% for women, 50% for men. and one man rose on the floor of the house and said, what do you mean? it has to be given to the bread winner. who is the bread winner? the only real poverty left in america outside of the aged are in those families that are supported by women. so that that woman needs to have that opportunity at that job. but you see, you have to have some women there to understand this. many of the laws that have been made 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.
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finally we changed that. but there were all kinds of laws like this. >> you both have combined, it seems to me, very successfully, marriage and politics. what do you say to people who say that the two might be incompatible? how have you done this? >> i think that's probably the most offensive question that's ever asked, because i truly believe that men and 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. and i've never heard anyone ask a man, how has it been on your family? it's seldom asked. now, because women are getting into politics and the question has become more prevalent, you
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see stories in "time" and "newsweek" on the suffering wives of men politicians. >> right. >> but it used to be, martha, that only our poor husbands were picked on when it was a question with regard to families and how difficult it is to adjust. i don't think our problem has been any different than a male politician's problems. >> i agree with you. and let me give you one little incident. we were invited, my husband and i, recently, to the white house. and my husband -- for dinner. and my husband really didn't want to go. and i said, well, why not? he said, because some woman will sit beside me who will say, and what do you do for a living? and when i say, i'm a lawyer, and she will say, what kind of law do you practice? and she will come very close to saying, and how much do you make? and i said, well, when she asks you that question, why don't you say to her, and what do you do for a living?
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and if she says, well, i have eight children, why don't you say, well, i mean other than that? you know, why do you assume that a man of a woman politician isn't doing anything? he's probably highly successful or she wouldn't be a politician. don't you think that's right? >> that's right. >> but it's infuriating. >> when you both got into politics and actually, when you both were in law school, was it easy for you in those days? was it difficult? do you think it's easier for women nowadays to try to enter the professional world, so to speak? >> oh, i think it's just a whole new world compared to when i was struggling to get into it. it was really very difficult. i hate to say it, and i won't mention the name of the law school, but i got into my law school on the grounds that they considered me a foreigner.
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i got in as -- on the foreign quota. someone in the law school had not read up their american history and hadn't realized that hawaii was annexed in 1898 and that we were all american citizens. but it was very difficult getting into school and getting into the profession. i couldn't find a job. and when all of my contemporaries at home say, oh, my goodness, what you've done to politics at home and, you know, i wish we had never heard of patsy mink, i'll say, well, it's because of all of your attitudes that drove me into politics. if you'd given me a job when i came home from law school, i would have been very happy just drawing a paycheck each month. >> but you have much of the same problems starting out? >> well, i was married, and my husband was in law school. and for some reason or other, that law school seemed to think, well, you know, he'll take care of her and it's all right. in fact, they had the nerve to say in front of the other women
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in the law school, and there were very few, well, mrs. griffiths is the first woman that's ever come here that didn't come to find a husband. and one of the sharper girls and wittier said, well, i think you're right, and as a matter of fact, i have looked them all over and i'm thinking of transferring. which i -- i thought was very good. but i originally -- you know, they had the attitude, well, mr. griffiths will see to it that she's all right, she's not going to be any trouble. it was nonsense. >> well, you believe this is changing now, that it's easier for women. >> oh, absolutely. >> i think the law schools in particular are very conscience of the fact that they have excluded women, capable, intelligent women who would otherwise qualify for 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
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professional education in all fields, not just law. >> what do you see as the impact, not just on women but also on men and children of the women's movement? >> well, i think, in a way that the women's movement has been a result of the impact of changing times. that is more education for women, but more divorce in this country. women have to look at the fact that they're going to have to be responsible for themselves. the old myths just don't work. so that in place of it being the women creating an impact, they are reacting to an impact, i think. >> i think this has done a good deal for men in the country. it's given them a greater sense of freedom and independence, where before they had this notion that in order to be, quote, a gentlemen in our society, they had to have, quote, a dependent wife, you know, that they would display at cocktail parties and nothing beyond that.
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i think now they're sensing their responsibility in an entirely different context, and both partners in a marriage, i think, are looking upon themselves as people and are trying to do the best they can with their abilities and talents. >> one last question, and we're running short on time, so it's a very broad question, maybe a little unfair to be asking it, but how do you feel that women in this country compare with women abroad in terms of rights and responsibilities and the status? and of course, i realize that it depends on which area of the world we're talking about, but could you generalize? >> well, i have had members of the parliamentary body of developing nations in africa come in to me and say, well, i can't believe it, we have more rights than the women in america have and we were told that the
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women in america had everything. and of course, we have nothing like the rights of european women. >> i think that's absolutely true. so many people say to me with your asian background and all of your asian traditions, how could you have possibly broken the barrier and i look at them and say, really, they're much further ahead in asia. they have some customs maybe that you don't understand but when you move those customs aside, women are very dominant in asian cultures and societies and have a very good mastery of the situation, whether they are out in the front may be a question or two but i think that they are very important figures and make a significant contribution in their societies. >> well thank you both so much. we've been speaking with two distinguished united states congresswomen, patsy mink of hawaii and martha griffiths of michigan on the subject of women's rights, a subject that all members of the united
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nations will be focusing on during the 1975 international women's year. this is wendy ross in washington. you're watching american history tv only on c-span3. on february 18th, 1915, president wid droe wilson screened the controversial film "the birth of a nation" at the white house. buzzfeed news recently reported that advisers to virginia governor ralph northam encouraged him to watch it too. here's film historian mike michon on the film's significance. my name is mike. i'm head of the moving image section here at the library of congress, the home of the largest collection of film and video in the world. today we're at the packer campus in culpepper, virginia, a
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facility that opened in the summer of 2007, dedicated to preserving our audio visual heritage. within this building we have not only the film video and sound recording collections of the library but we also have preservation laboratories that are dedicated to making sure that all of this material is available for future generations. we have in the collection the original camera negative for "birth of a nation." this is -- in 1915 this is the apex of cinema. everything that d.w. griffith has learned about cinematic grammar he throws into this film. it is an astonishing work. it's full of amazing storytelling techniques, terrific acting, beautiful editing. it is truly one of the most
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important films in the history of the evolution of narrative cinema. unfortunately, it's also one of the vilest racial tracks in the history of american cinema. so griffith was an unreconstructed racist who had very -- to be kind, paternal is tick attitude toward african-americans. so bir"birth of a nation" is th story of civil war and reconstruction based on a novel called "the klansman." it tells the story of the civil war and the portrayal of southerners in the film is very, very sympathetic, including the fact that the rescue at the end of the film is affected by the
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ku klux klan. so this is a film that is very difficult to watch out of context. people who see it today, people who come to it fresh without knowing the background, without knowing the era find it a very difficult film to deal with, but it's part of our job to provide the context for the film. i'm not excusing the inherent and grotesque racism of the film. i can look at it as a social historian you can look at it one way, very much a piece of its time, but as a sin amar story you can still admire the technique that d.b. griffith brought to this film. as a film it's astonishing. as a culture document it's still astonishing, just in a different way.
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you can watch the entire three-hour film "the birth of a nation" along with comments from historians and viewers on our website, c-span2.org/history. this is american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. next, the 93rd annual black history luncheon held this past saturday in washington d.c. each year the association for the study of african-american life and history establishes a black history theme. this year the theme is black migrations. as 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the forced migration of enslaved africans to the virginia colony in 1619. at the luncheon speakers reflected on the migration into slavery as well as the northern and western mra

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