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Title: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974. Interview A-0324. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: McKay, Martha C., interviewee
Interview conducted by Riggsbee, Belinda
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 92 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-31, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974. Interview A-0324. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0324)
Author: Belinda Riggsbee
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974. Interview A-0324. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0324)
Author: Martha C. McKay
Description: 86.2 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 29, 1974, by Belinda Riggsbee; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974.
Interview A-0324. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
McKay, Martha C., interviewee


Interview Participants

    MARTHA C. McKAY, interviewee
    BELINDA RIGGSBEE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
What do you think were the major reasons for the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, it's somewhat complicated. I think that probably the majority of the legislators simply didn't want to have to be recorded on it one way or the other. I think it would have gone on through if groups of preachers and women who were making a lot of noise in opposition hadn't gone down and started lobbying against it. It had not appeared to be controversial when it was first introduced. We knew that it had been fought in other states, of course, we tried to get it up as soon as possible, but anyway, they came down there. I think that once it became somewhat controversial, the fact of the matter was that the majority just didn't want to have to vote one way or the other. They tried, the Democratic leadership, tried to provide them with an out. I

Page 2
believe that had nothing to do with whether they were for it or against it. Because the Democratic leadership, i.e., Ramsey through Watkins, requested Tom Sawyer of Greensboro to put in a bill which would call for a referendum and that wasn't because they wanted to give the people an opportunity to vote; if they wanted to give the people an opportunity to vote on issues of real concern to the state, they'd do a referndum on coastal issues and things like that, like they do in California and other states. And no fault, we're getting nothing. Special interests are running the legislature and it was just an out for them. And that lies directly at the feet of the Democratic leadership. Then, beyond that, the Women's Political Caucus and the ERA Ratification Council, which had a number of women's organizations as a part of it . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Was that a part of the Women's Caucus, the Ratification Council?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We formed it and we paid for it. There were many women's groups that were in there. The Federation of Women's Clubs, the League of Women Voters, the AAUW, Association of Women Deans for North Carolina, the North Carolina Secretaries Association, United Church Women, just about every women's organization that was of significence in the state. But we of the Caucus, and those organizations . . . and the BPW, they were in there, the Business and Professional Women, they've been working, educating their membership on the Equal Rights Amendment for fifteen or twenty years. And

Page 3
they were a big help in terms of trying to something with the legislature. And then present and past women party officials helped working the party route. What happened was that a great deal of pressure was put on the house to defeat the referendum bill. You see, we had extra work to do that we didn't count on. And I think one reason that it was thrown from the house to the senate was that we were too successful in that effort. Because they expected it to be about even-steven, even a few days before, they were saying that it would be about fifty-fifty . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
You mean the referendum bill?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, that's what people in the legislature were telling us. Give or take a few, with the weight being thrown to the side of the defeat of the referendum bill. The vote, however, was something like eighty-six to thirty-two and I think that . . . I don't know whether to use the word "scared" . . . but it scared them that the women knew how to use the tools of politics that effectively. I mean, that when you begin to move toward the real challenge of power, those that have the power get challenged. The real channels of power is what I started to say . . . and I think that probably was it. I never went over there and interviewed people, but my guess would be that there was a little suprise that it wasn't accepted cheerfully in all quarters. Because what they did immediately was to throw it to the senate. And they did that by subterfuge . . . I call it subterfuge, I don't know what they would call it. They

Page 4
persuaded the people who were working for the bill in the house and mainly those who were on the house committee that would have to vote it out, that the chairman of that committee was ill and that the eighty-two to thirty-six vote or whatever, he was against the bill, thanks to Judge Susie Sharp . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Yes, I've run into her in my research.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah, well, this guy told me.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Now, was this Folger, Senator Folger was head of the senate committee . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, it was Kitch Josey.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Yeah, Kitch Josey.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Now, Kitch is a nice guy, I've known him for years, but he was against it and he told me that Susie Sharp's opinion influenced him more than anything else.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
And that was brought up at the February 8 hearing, the letter was read, was that the main expression of her opinion?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
She made some telephone calls. This is my understanding, now. She didn't tell me, but I understood him to say that she had made a telephone call. I believe that Kitch used to live in Greensboro before he moved east, and it seems to me that maybe he had lived in Reidsville for a while, which is where Susie Sharp is from. And it's my understanding, and I didn't try to track it down, but that she did make some telephone calls. I wouldn't swear to it, but that's my understanding. My memory is that I heard

Page 5
more than one person say that. That she had made some, quote "discreet" unquote, telephone calls. At any rate, Kitch Josey has had a couple of heart attacks, but he was able to run for the legislature and was serving and they persuaded one of the very nice legislators that was trying to steer it through the house that . . . of course, they put him in a box and I'm sure that he consulted with others, but they put him in a box, that the vote had been a big blow to Kitch Josey and that he had a couple of heart attacks and that he just wasn't able to call his committee meeting on the following Friday. And the vote was on about a Wednesday, I believe. So, as soon as that young man told me that, I said, "You've been had." However, what can you say, you know, there's a kind of a courtly gamesmanship that goes on and you don't question somebody if they say that someone is ill and they wish to do . . . of course, Charlie Phillips from Greensboro says that he would have.
In other words, that he would have questioned that. "Well, too bad, then let the vice-chairman run it. Too bad, I'm sorry he's sick, we'll have the meeting anyway." Someone who had had more experience, you know, like . . . I said Charlie Phillips, isn't Charlie from Greensboro?
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Yes.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I believe that he made that comment, that that was just really wild, "just too bad . . . "

Page 6
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, at any rate, as I say, with a more experienced legislator . . . however, this young man, he is young, it's only his second session. He has ambitions, you know, to either stay in the legislature and work up the ladder, or run for statewide office or something, and therefore, you just don't throw your weight around. Besides, he accepted it as genuine, you know and it just didn't occur to him to say . . . he just didn't have the experience to come back with what Charlie Phillips later said he would have done. So, at any rate, they got by with it. Because, you see, it would have passed in the house, clearly. Although, we know that there were some people who voted against the referendum bill because they felt that it was wrong. They had been told very clearly in testimony that it was the duty of the legislature to vote . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
I think that John Sanders mentioned that to me . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, I'm sure he did. He didn't mention much, but he mentioned that. So, that was very clear, that it was their duty and no matter how the state voted, they would have to take a vote on it sooner or later. Of course, we knew that it really didn't have anything to do with that. And then, they pulled this maneuver and . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
So, by copping out with the referendum, it prevented them from bringing it back up in the house before the senate . . .

Page 7
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Back up? It hadn't been up.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, I mean putting it before the floor of the house.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
And they were sure by the eighty-six, thirty-two vote, as we were, that it would pass. And as I say, the whole thing was, "I guess that we better give the boys an out." Those were the words used when Sawyer was asked to put the referendum bill in. And so, since that didn't give them an out, they had to give the boys an out by saying that Kitch Josey wasn't able to have this committee meeting. It was due to come up that day and without question would have been referred out that day. Which meant that it would have gotten to the floor of the house the next week. Since it wasn't held that day, I believe the senate committee either met that very same day or shortly thereafter, and they voted it out.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
The very next day, following the referendum vote.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah, that's what it was, the house committee, I believe, had been scheduled to meet on Thursday. I remember now, because it was Thursday night that I got the message that it had been postponed and it was Friday morning that I called up Whichard and asked him what the hell had happened, about 7:30. Or maybe he called me that night. It doesn't matter.
At any rate, then the senate committee met on Friday and I believe that it was voted out by an eight to seven favorable majority. But you see, the house knew we were worse off in the senate than we were in the

Page 8
house, they knew that. The senate all year long, last year and this year has been, as H. L. Mencken used to say, "a Sahara." I mean that it has just been devoid of leadership, character, you know, the whole smear. They have been perfectly awful. The legislature hasn't been good, but the senate has been dreadful. Also, we had worked on the senators, we had worked on those committee members very hard to get a favorable vote. Because a bill that doesn't get a favorable vote is hardly ever voted on favorably and they would have used that for an out on ERA. We worked very hard on the committee. But, we had not lobbied the senators, we had spent, I don't know, five or six weeks or whatever the time period was, doing nothing but working on house members. Nothing. I mean, I could pull out my . . . that's what I had marked. We just went over and over them. I called people like Pat Taylor to call Hightower. I mean we used everybody, I mean, we've been doing it for years, we just haven't gotten credit for it. If I was to pull out my phone bill, you'd see . . . my phone bill one month was three hundred dollars. We raised money, fortunately, we raised money, so I didn't have to pay for this one, although I've paid for plenty. I imagine that I called at least six hundred dollars worth. And see, we had, she's a Republican woman, and he was assigned to her, and she reported back to here that Locke, no. See here, I marked on this, this one is signed yes. See, we sent out things and over fifty

Page 9
percent of them were signed yes before they walked in the door. We know who signed and then who chickened, which is a kind word for it. At any rate, here they are, signed "yes", signed "yes", . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Would you comment on Mike Mullins and Gordon Allen backing out at the last minute?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
OK. Just let me finish this. So, we had done all that work, as you can see, and so we were fearful. However, we went to work on the senate and we didn't have but about five days. And we worked like dogs and we had it. When they walked in there, we had it twenty-five, twenty-five. And they knew it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
And you believe that you had it.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We did have it. We had it in commitments. We can't help it if they are liars. You know, they're not honorable men. Gordon Allen wrote a constituent and said, "I intend to vote, I haven't made up my mind all those times, but now I intend to vote, when it comes up, for ERA." And he wrote that the weekend before. On Saturday night before that vote, we had it. As a matter of fact, we had it twenty-seven on Saturday night. Well, two that had been kind of wavering, flaked out before Wednesday.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Who were they?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
One of those that we thought we had a chance with was Barker. The Democrat Barker from Wake County. And he flaked out. We found out that morning, and somebody else that we thought we had flaked

Page 10
out.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
But, that still would have been twenty-five.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
When they walked in the door, it was twenty-five, twenty-five. Mullins had given his committment, and so had Gordon Allen. In writing. So, I had exactly . . . see, you understand that the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment had nothing to do with it. Gordon Allen did not want to make Jim Hunt a hero. Hunt had already announced that he was going to break the tie. Right.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
In favor of it.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's right. And by that time, Allen must have realized that every woman who had ever worked in politics, practically, was for the ERA. Every organization. The women who worked the system were for ERA. The ones who were against it, we never heard of them before or since. The woman who headed it up was a proud and avowed member of the John Birch Society. And they don't run politics in North Carolina. So, I think that it was very simple. Gordon Allen did not want to make Jimmy Hunt a hero. And again, he went over . . . I saw him go over to Deane, Charlie Deane and kneel down and start talking to him on the floor. And then I saw Charlie put his head down and of course, what he was doing was telling him that he was going to change his vote.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARTHA C. McKAY:
. . . if I had been Charlie and I don't criticize Charlie, everybody has to operate in his or her own way. But I would have

Page 11
said, "Gordon, you gave me your word and I'm really going to ask you to keep it." That's part of the rules, too, you can do that. He hadn't released him. Of course, it's usual that people do release people, but with a twenty-five, twenty-five, I would have said, "Sorry Gordon, I've helped you on this bill and that bill and I want you to, I'm asking you, I will not release you." I figure myself, that Mullins would never have had the nerve to switch if Allen hadn't switched. He was a freshman and I may be wrong, but I figure that he wouldn't have.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, was there any visible signs with Mullins, like you say the way that Gordon Allen went over and talked to Charlie Deane?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, because you see, Mullins is a Republican and I tell you the truth, I don't know who was keeping up with the Republicans. Taylor was with us, Charles Taylor. He was the minority leader. I guess he still is. See, I had him marked "OK." At any rate, I don't know, I can't say. I feel myself that if Allen had not . . . and you see, I think that Alford is the first name and Allen is the second, he's the second name called and I question whether or not Mullins would have gotten up there and been the one to cause the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. But I think that Gordon's reasons are very, very simple. He has had an interest, so it is said, in running for governor. We all know that Jimmy Hunt is running for governor and it would have made Jimmy Hunt a hero.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, what will you do next time? In '75, differently?

Page 12
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, of course, we hope that there's a chance that it will be passed. I don't know how many more legislatures that could pass it have it yet to come up this year. I don't know, you know, I just haven't given that a great deal of thought. I hope that the Caucus will send out next fall, letters like we did, asking people to sign the return. Although, of course, there's nothing you can do if they don't stick with it. I suppose, you see, we didn't even start working until . . . we could have been working on election day or the day after, as soon as we found out who was elected. We didn't. Actually, it was a tactic to keep quiet about it and we decided that the less that was said, the better. We did not know whether Schlafly would start her big assault in North Carolina, although she had in Florida and other places that I knew about. Then we couldn't. I suppose what we would do is just get going earlier. Basically what causes a legislator to take a position on an issue is the folks back home. And that's the way we worked, you know, the lobbying. I wasn't calling those people, I was getting the home folks to call them and write them. As a matter of fact, a legislator from a coastal county said that his mail had changed dramatically from con to pro, after we started working. I guess that we would just start probably earlier. I hope that not only a letter next fall, but that the women who are asked to work for candidates will ascertain whether or not they favor the Equal Rights Amendment before they work for them. In the fall

Page 13
elections.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, with this in mind about getting the folks back home behind it, what efforts did the Women's Political Caucus make to inform the housewives and the woman of the lower socioeconomic levels of the meaning of the ERA?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, most all of us are housewives. So, I don't know who you would call a housewife. You mean a housewife that isn't working?
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
I'm really stereotyping some of the people that came down anti-ERA.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, I'm a housewife and Betty McCain's a housewife and Julia Miller's a housewife. Most all of us that worked on it are housewives.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, let me say just the lower socioeconomic levels, then. Maybe some of the not so well-educated.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, we have had on our policy council since the very beginning Pat Lingler, who is head of women's activities for COPE and we had on the board at that time, or on the policy council, a woman who I believe is an officer in the Meatcutter's Union. Elsie Hale from Fayetteville. And then there was union that was working for us up in Asheville and they wrote me, I can't remember the name of it, but they were awfully good about it. So, we had the union workers. Of course, you don't ask the welfare rights mother to take her money and make a long distance call to the

Page 14
legislature. For most of them, it's a matter of survival. They simply don't have the means to operate the way that middle-class people do. So, I wouldn't say that we've made any concerted effort to go after the low income, just for that reason.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Did you get any support from those areas? Did you talk to those people, did they say . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, they understand.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
They did understand?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, I couldn't speak for the group as a whole, but the ones I know do.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
And they weren't afraid of these things like being drafted, or having to go to the bathroom with men, or . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Are you talking about the low income people?
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Yeah. Some of the people . . . it seems to me that there were a group of people that didn't really know what it was all about.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, that's true.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
And this is where the emotional issue became involved.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's true and that came from the preachers.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
The fundamentalists.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's right. The Bible Belt. Up in the mountains. I'm sure that the mountain people were against it and probably the average person, and that's quite low income. And it's very hard

Page 15
to communicate up there. You know, they just don't have the transportation and the clusters of population that we have in the Piedmont. But I'm sure that there was a great deal of ignorance about it, fostered by the Baptist preachers and of course, as far as I know, the Roman Catholics are against it. There was another organization in this country, I forget the name of it, that was headed up by Roman Catholics and of course, Schlafly is a Roman Catholic.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
It could have been Happiness of Women.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I believe that's it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
H.O.W.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's right. They were all into the Catholic thing about how it was contrary to the wishes of the Mother of God and stuff like that. And it is thought by some people that some conservative elements in the Roman Catholic Church gave them money. I never . . . you know, I didn't see any formal activity on the part of the Roman Catholic Church down here.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, you have partially answered this one, but maybe you want to add. Is there anything else you could tell me about the political scene, as far as political deals going on? Trading of votes?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, Julia Miller1 would know more about that. She worked over there every day. As far as trade-offs were concerned, all of us came to the conclusion that when push came to shove, that

Page 16
only women put women's issues first. And I would say that's probably true, with very few exceptions. I don't know of any who traded or failed to trade, but I would guess that . . . I mean, we know that certain other people were pushing other bills. And they're saving their green stamps for their bills. And I just don't think that many of them would have been willing to trade on this bill. Except the women. And of course, that did not include Betty Wilke. The women in the house, of course, worked hard and all of them were for it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
To what extent do you think that legislators really understood the issues? Did they make an attempt to understand?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think many of them were ill-informed and we did our best to get them informed. We tried to play even that low-key. Elizabeth Petersen, who is a lawyer, and a woman who is at Duke, I believe she teaches medical law, she was on call, plus I believe a man from the Duke Law School, plus a couple of lawyers in Raleigh. And we tried as best we could, but of course you see that when we got there toward the end, we were working under a terrible time bind. Because the referendum vote had nothing to do with legality or what would happen, or anything else. But, in terms of making personal appointments with people who seemed not to understand and seemed to be willing to listen, we did the best we could with the lawyers who were willing to go. [unclear] was, I don't know if she made trips to Raleigh, but she tried to help us the best she could

Page 17
from Winston-Salem. I think it's fair to say that there were fears that were unjustified and there was either misinformation, or lack of information.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Governor Holshouser gave his verbal support. Did it make a difference and would active support on his part have made a difference?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah, active support would have made a difference. I had it written down somewhere, but the Democrats came through better percentage-wise than the Republicans. A lot better. In the senate. Because that's the only place we had to doubt. I didn't even bother to do the percentages on that eighty-two, thirty-six vote. I think it's in my ERA file. Well, at any rate, basically Grace was working on that end of it. We did ask his help and of course, he had made the statement, when he made he made his State of the Message, that he favored the Equal Rights Amendment. And then when he was asked if he was going to work for it, he said that no, he wasn't. He was going to work according to his priorities. Or some statement to that effect. However, I think it would have made a difference if we could have got to him a little sooner. We asked him . . . he was out of town just about the time of the vote. I think he went out on Monday and we made an attempt to get to him and to ask him to get to just two people. And I don't know whether he did or not, I doubt it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Who were they?

Page 18
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I can't remember. Two Republican legislators, senators. And where we felt that he could have some influence. And he was in Washington at some kind of meeting. I don't even know whether the message even got to him. But yes, it could have made a difference.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
How would you assess Senator Ervin's political influence on the General Assembly?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
He sent one letter to everyone. A mimeographed letter or some kind of letter that was written mechanically. Saying, I believe, that "a constituent of mine has asked me to do this." I really started to write and ask him which constituent. And I believe that he enclosed copies of his congressional testimony, or something from the Congressional Record. After that one letter, I never found his tracks. I don't think he did much else. I don't think that he actually lobbied. It's been the policy of the people in Congress to leave the legislature alone. And although we had offers of support from some people in Congress, they said that they would do what they could, particularly some who had been in the General Assembly. But I don't think that Ervin lobbied. He doesn't usually operate that way. He sent the one letter. He may have contacted a few people, but he didn't do any massive lobbying. Of course, everyone already knew that he

Page 19
was . . . you know, you could almost discount his influence, because everyone knew where he was, we've known it for years. But Susie Sharp, and then there was another woman judge . . .
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Naomi Morris.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Naomi Morris was against it. They probably did us more harm than Ervin. As I understand, Naomi Morris worked actively against it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, I haven't come across her name in the newspaper accounts or anything. Do you know anything about her, where she's from?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Oh yes. She's from Wilson. She's a judge. And see, it's been the practice of people appointed to the bench to stay out of the legislature's business, and out of active politics, so it is not exactly protocol for them to have messed in it. But it's my understanding that they did. Now, as I say, if Susie Sharp did much, she was very, very quiet about it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
I believe that Naomi Morris spoke at the February 8 hearing, didn't she?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
There was one hearing when I was in Houston.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Or Winifred Wells, she's a judge too. It might have been her.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
She's either a judge or a lawyer, I don't know which.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, she spoke anti. Maybe it wasn't Naomi Morris, then.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't know, because I was in Houston at that time, I wasn't there. If you are there, you tend to remember, so I don't remember now. But I know that those two, Morris and Sharp, did hurt

Page 20
us.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
According to the newspaper accounts, you told women at the convention that the state was being deluged with outside money to fight the ERA. Where was this money coming from and what groups within the state were receiving it?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I'm not sure that I said that, or . . . I think that Betty Friedan said that.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Yeah, I know that she said it. Well, maybe you didn't say it and the newspaper account just credited you with the comment.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I said that . . . you know, we knew that it had happened in other states and I may have said that we assumed that it was happening in here. I don't know, I saw someone not long ago . . . in the first place, the women reporters told us that their papers would not give them the time and money to really try to investigate that, including big papers, the New York Times, the Post, and so forth. I saw someone not too long ago, and I can't remember who it was, that said that definite tie-ins had been made. Maybe in Oklahoma, where Hargis operates. Now, I'm not saying that it was from Hargis, but it wouldn't surprise me if he hadn't put money into it. But Schlafly, they've never been able to pin her down, and she spends a lot of money. Betty Friedan went to Kentucky and found that women had been brought in and put up at motels and so on to fight ERA. And of course, the question was, where did the money come from? As I said, I saw someone not too long ago who said that they had actually

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made the connection and had actually found that either the John Birch Society, or Birch-type organizations had spent money. And as I told you, I also heard that the conservative Roman Catholics had spent money. I have never seen any article or anything that actually documented that.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
What effect did Betty Friedan's appearance at the convention have on the congressmen, if any?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I would think that probably it would be a net plus, although she said one thing that is not what you call good PR. That is, she said that if they don't vote for it, go out and beat them. I mean, you don't say that before you take a vote, you know, you don't threaten. But the reason that I say it was probably a net plus, is because I suspect that the women who heard her, went out and did more than they would have otherwise in terms of working for it and getting involved. But that's the only thing where she said something she shouldn't have.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
What about Phyllis Schlafly's appearance before the legislature, or her influence with the legislature?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Legislators tell me that, and lobbyists too, that people appearing at the hearings don't change bills and don't change people's positions, that's what they tell me, I don't know. It doesn't really make any difference as far as the legislature goes. I suppose that if you had something really dramatic to testify or something and it gets in the newspapers and the constituents start

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putting pressure on them, it would make a change, but otherwise . . . that's what they say.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
What was your opinion of the media coverage of the controversy?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, there were only a couple of papers that really were trying to do a good job and trying to help. The Asheville paper had an excellent editorial. I believe, and I'm not sure about this, but it seems to me . . . I get mixed up, there have been so many stories, but maybe the Durham paper wrote a good series about it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
The Charlotte Observer, I think, wrote a good editorial.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah, the Charlotte paper had a good editorial.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well informed.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah. But they didn't do anything like what other papers in the country did. Well, I'm not talking about all other papers. They didn't do anything like some good papers did in this country. I have something here that I'll show you if you want to see it, from Seattle or somewhere like that, where they did a whole supplement on the Equal Rights Amendment, the history of women's suffrage, and possible ramifications and so on and so forth. Why, the News and Observer didn't even have a series. And I don't even think they were for it. They backed into some kind of mealy-mouthed editorial, but I think they could have done a service, because there was so much misinformation and misunderstanding. But, they didn't face it. As I say, those two had good editorials, but the papers

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should have run a good series. You know, the Equal Rights Amendment has been coming up in Congress for thirty years and so isn't exactly something that came on them overnight.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
In one newspaper, I believe it was the Wilmington paper, I noticed an article mentioning that the National Organization of Women fighting for lesbian rights, and it was very near an ERA article. Do you think that things like this had an effect on the issue?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, I think it may have, but not because the . . . it was in the News and Observer right under, or right over an ERA story. And what some benighted soul did was to cut out the NOW story and xerox it and send a copy to every legislator. Of course, I think that the juxtaposition hurt. I don't know if the person cut out both stories or whether they just xeroxed the NOW story. Of course, if you read the NOW story, you found out that it wasn't NOW as an organization, but one workshop had come up recommending that the women's movement take on the lesbian fight, or however it was. And of course, many men don't know the difference between NOW and the Women's Political Caucus and so on and so forth. So, I expect that the fact that it was sent to every legislator may have done some damage, I don't know. Again, I would have to question. It may have reinforced some negative positions, but whether it would have changed anybody from plus to minus, I doubt it.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Do you think there is a real need for a constitutional

Page 24
amendment like the ERA? Is it needed as a symbol of victory for the women's movement?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I'm not much for symbols. It's needed because the constitution of the United States is not applied to women, who remain special categories of persons under the Fourteenth Amendment. I don't care about the symbols, I want equality under the law.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
The last question. What kind of support or involvement came from the following: college campuses, black women, men other than legislators?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
One thing that we could have done that we didn't do, and we really did have some men working for us, was to do what I think they've done in Florida now. They have a whole men's committee for ERA chaired by some man that is well-known. And we should have done that. We had support from men and such as the Asheville paper with their good editorial and as I said, some congressmen and certainly some of the men legislators were awfully good in working for it. Helpful. But we should have asked some men to form a committee, that would have been very helpful, I think. And we just didn't . . . well, as I told you, we were lying low and then, we just didn't have much time. College campuses . . . no, not much. Obviously, there are political activists on campuses, women and men. But the ones who are politically active are the ones whose families have been in the political system, or who have got interested in some way, and they always help. There was the daughter of a legislator at

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Greensboro who was helpful and there were certainly people. But in terms of a group as a whole, I don't think there was any concerted effort. We really didn't have time to go and organize and have rallies, although we certainly put out the word. We made requests in various ways, where you would write home, or when you go home, see your legislator on the weekend and write your legislator and say where you are from. And I think some people did that, some students. But in terms of any identifible formal effort that they organized, no.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
And black women?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We had the Caucus women, who were part of the telephone network. Alfreda Webb was working for us, Elizabeth Cofield2 was trying to help us in Raleigh . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
[audio missing]
Would you, you may not want to, describe the typical pro-ERA woman, in terms of socioeconomic level, marital status, children, educational level, job status, could you?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think it's a mixture. You know, most of the women are middle class, because they are the people who have either the money or the freedom plus having had the background in terms of being educated on the issue and so forth, to get into it. We had people all the way from grandmothers to teenagers who were for it.

Page 26
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Well, what about the anti woman?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I really don't . . . I don't know this woman from Reidsville.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Dorothy Slade.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yeah, I don't know her. I just know that she's a Birch Society woman. I think that probably the people who are fundamentalist in terms of religion would compose a large part of the people who were against it, I mean, you know, about the whole thing that a woman's place is in the home and a woman is subject to her husband and all the stuff like that. And of course, I think that there were some whose fears were aroused by the women who were working against it. I think that they had a fear that they might indeed lose some privileges, not knowing that you really don't have any. But the only legitimate one, you can say, is the draft.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Were any of the pro-ERA women ever . . . was this a conscious fear with them at all? Did any of them every candidly admit that, "Well, gee, we might be drafted." Was this ever a question?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, never. They say, "Well, we'll take that. That's part of it. We want the duties as well as the responsibilities of citizenship."
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Could you see any support coming from geographical section of the state than from any other? Maybe urban centers would offer more support.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think that's right. The Piedmont of North Carolina is generally better informed, the communication is better, the newspapers

Page 27
are better. It's easier to get to people in centers of population. I would say that probably the bulks of the troops, although we certainly had troops in the eastern part of the state and more there than in the west.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
After the defeat, why did pro-ERA people object to the proposed state constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Because they had some kind of darling qualifying phrase in there, "except for everything that's already in the law." That was just a sop, you know, thrown out by people who got scared that they wouldn't get the support from the women that they had had before.
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Where was the action of the North Carolina Woman's Political Caucus and other pro-ERA groups channeled after the defeat.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We just played it into the woodwork. We were all exhausted. It took up money, although we raised about two thousand, we spent more than that, and it took up money that we really needed for other things. Not that we resented it, we didn't at all, but you know, it knocked a hole in our Caucus budget and it really kept us from going whole-hog. I think for example, if we hadn't had to spend the money on ERA, by this time we would have had a half-time executive director. We had enough money, you know, to do that. We figured that we would have to have a certain amount of money before we could really get started, but that just knocked a hole in our plans. We just went back to our other priorities. We have worked some on legislation

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this year, and a lot of women are running. But immediately afterwards, we were just all . . . and then Houston came immediately afterwards and some of us went down to Houston. We just tried to recoup, we were all so exhausted.
END OF INTERVIEW
1. Member of the Policy Council of North Carolina Women's Political Caucus and Chairperson, ERA Ratification Council, a coalition of women's groups.
2. Member, Wake County Board of Commissioners and Charter member of the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus.