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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974. Interview A-0324. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

ERA necessary to guarantee legal equality

McKay explains that the the Equal Rights Amendment was crucial in terms of providing women with equal protection before the law. It was this legal equality and the responsibilities of citizenship that it entailed, rather than its symbolic worth, that made it so important, argues McKay. She then goes on to offer some generalizations about both pro- and anti-ERA women.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, March 29, 1974. Interview A-0324. 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

BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Do you think there is a real need for a constitutional 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 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 Cofield * was trying to help us in Raleigh . . . * Member, Wake County Board of Commissioners and Charter member of the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus. [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
BELINDA RIGGSBEE:
Would you, you may not want to, describe the typical pro-ERA woman, in terms of socio-economic 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 teen-agers who were for it.
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 aflarge 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."