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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nancy Palm, December 16, 1974. Interview A-0194. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Conservative woman describes the public role of women in politics

Palm explains that one of her major regrets during her political activism of the 1950s through 1970s was that she had never ran for public office. Palm declares that she did not support the women's liberation movement, although she also believed firmly that women should have a strong presence in government. She describes what she perceived as the special challenges women faced in politics, and her comments are revealing of conservative women's thoughts on the public role of women in the 1970s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nancy Palm, December 16, 1974. Interview A-0194. 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

WALTER DE VRIES:
Any regrets in the last twenty-five years? Anything you would do differently?
NANCY PALM:
Well, there has to be a lot of regrets. I guess if I had any one regret as a person - although I have had what you would call a platform here - is, had I been of a younger generation of women I would have gone into public office. I think that the mature woman in public office is one of the answers to our problems in government. I think that they approach government from a different point of view than a man does. I didn't know we were going to get on this subject. I'll just be blunt. A higher class woman goes into politics than a man does. A woman has to have a tremendous amount more going for her, both intellectually, morally and so forth than a man does to get elected in this country still. And while I have refused to join any of the women's liberation groups, I do think that more women who have raised their families or whose families are in a situation where they can should enter public office.
JACK BASS:
What's the difference in approach?
NANCY PALM:
They approach government from a philosophical and an idealistic level rather than from a practical level as a man does and what he's going to get out of it for his business or for himself and what good it's going to do him. I think a woman literally her whole being is caring for others. She cares for others. Where a man's characteristics are to protect his own interests. We see this over and over in politics. I wish Judy Petty had beat Wilbur Mills and she may yet. She's a smart woman.
JACK BASS:
Why aren't you active in women's political caucus?
NANCY PALM:
Because I have never felt downtrodden and I have never felt discriminated against. I have felt that I don't want to get anything simply because I'm a female. And I don't mind competing with men on their level. I beat two very prominent ones in Houston for this office. I just don't see the need to go out and stress the fact that some man has kicked you in the teeth. Because frankly if he had kicked me in the teeth, I would have kicked back. I don't see their whole point.
JACK BASS:
Isn't their point that more women need encouragement and need to understand that difference and need examples?
NANCY PALM:
Well, the women who are preaching it are not the ones to be preaching it then. I don't think they make a very convincing argument.
JACK BASS:
Do you find, among women, a psychological barrier to entering politics as candidates? Why is it that more women don't enter politics as candidates? Because collectively, more women tend to have more time than men.
NANCY PALM:
Women are more active at an organizational level, and they are effective there. It's pretty hard to make the break between a family, or to get a family organized to where you have got the time to go into it. And then, frankly, I think it's just one of these psychological barriers that politics has been so dirty that the man ought to do it and let the clean little lady stay at home. We have two excellent Republican women in the state legislature. One a senator and one a representative from here. And I wish that the men in the state legislature were of the same calibre as those few women.
JACK BASS:
Do you think the Republican party tends to be more open and receptive to women candidates?
NANCY PALM:
Yes, I do.
JACK BASS:
Southwide? Nationwide?
NANCY PALM:
I would say nationwide. We are a minority. And when you get a good candidate, you don't really care what sex they are. If they are willing to go out and work and present your philosophy and you can get them financed.