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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frances Farenthold, December 14, 1974. Interview A-0186. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growing visibility of women throughout the South

Farenthold offers a comparative look at the role of women in politics throughout the South. In so doing, Farenthold distinguishes between political power and visibility. While acknowledging that in some southern states women still greatly lack political power, she believes that women were becoming more visible throughout the South and that this visibility was the first step towards political power.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frances Farenthold, December 14, 1974. Interview A-0186. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
Let me ask you this, if you take the eleven states of the old Confederacy and this will just be very impressionistic . . . but if you rated them on a scale of one to ten in terms of progress made of women in politics, and ten was the highest, one the lowest, how would you rate each one, starting with Texas?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
Well, it would be so impressionistic that it would be worthless.
JACK BASS:
Well, I . . .
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
Let me ask you, was it North Carolina that elected a woman to the Supreme Court . . .
JACK BASS:
Yes, as Chief Justice. She had been on the court for some time.
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
She had been on the court, but even so, to date, we do not have a statewide . . . I mean, if you are looking at that . . .
WALTER DE VRIES:
A statewide officer?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
Yeah, that is a woman. I had those figures, and the thing that makes me hesitate about the deep South states is that I have had the figures about other states, the total number of women office holders. And they have been from 6%, which was in Texas of 17,000 elected office holders . . . yeah, 1100 are women. 6% in Texas to 12% in Oregon. But during that, I never had any occasion to check the old South states. Now, I can tell you, I've been in Louisiana and . . .
WALTER DE VRIES:
What's your impression of the way that they are organized and . . .
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
Organized caucus-wise?
JACK BASS:
Not just caucus-wise, but in terms of influence as well and the degree of development, I guess, is what I am talking about?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
I don't know that much. I can tell you just my impressions. I can see, for example, in Louisiana . . . I can speak several ways, I can speak of just the last couple of weeks when I was there with the caucus and there is a strain between the black and the white women. It is a pitiful little thing beginning, but there is a strain there. Then, you go over to an affluent place like the Sophie Newcomb campus and you find young women just amazedly conscious of where they want to go. But that doesn't say anything about political power, if you want to call it that, or even visibility. Visibility is the first thing.
JACK BASS:
Projecting ten years, and in the South, do you see the role of women in politics being a significant force in terms of change?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
I hope so, that's all I can say.
WALTER DE VRIES:
What have you seen in the past ten years?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
Well, again, on that I have to pretty much limit myself to Texas. I have been traveling in the other states the last two or three years.
JACK BASS:
What will this change mean? Beyond strictly women's issues?
FRANCES FARENTHOLD:
I hope that it means less racism. You know, I used to say over and over that I hoped women could be the bridge to the more conspicuous minorities. I don't know if that is going to be the case. It's pitifully little right now. But I see women really emerging.