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Title: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: McKay, Martha C., interviewee
Interview conducted by Nasstrom, Kathryn
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: 156 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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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.
2006-12-17, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
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Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0076)
Author: Kathryn Nasstrom
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0076)
Author: Martha C. McKay
Description: 208 Mb
Description: 51p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 13, 1989, by Kathryn Nasstrom; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, 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, June 13, 1989.
Interview C-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
McKay, Martha C., interviewee


Interview Participants

    MARTHA C. McKAY, interviewee
    KATHRYN NASSTROM, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
This is Kathryn Nasstrom interviewing Martha McKay on June 13, 1989 for the Southern Oral History Program, Notable North Carolinians Project. I'd like first to establish a little bit of family background, where you grew up, family composition, that sort of thing.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and I went to school there, secondary school, then I went two years to junior college there. Then I went two years to the University of North Carolina. I have two brothers, both younger than I.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay. Since the focus here is going to be on women in politics, do you trace any of your interest in that to these early years, let's say, before college.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, yes, I think so. My family were strong, strong Democrats. My grandmother who also lived in St. Pete—in fact, her father moved to Florida from Tennessee after the War Between the States—she hated Republicans with a passion. And so, yes, I wore political buttons to school in grammar school. It was the South, as you know the South was solidly Democratic, came out of Reconstruction. Yes, I was very much interested in politics, in the Democratic Party.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Am I right in saying that at least for the two years you were at Chapel Hill, you were somewhat involved in campus politics at that point?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, I was very involved.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Would you describe the kinds of positions you held and the work you did?

Page 2
MARTHA C. McKAY:
For one thing, there were two parties, and I suppose there still are, I really don't know, on campus: the University Party and the Student Party. That's what they were called in those days. Terry Sanford was active in politics then and we were allies. Most of the sororities and fraternities were in the University Party and I was elected or chosen to represent my sorority in the University Party. When I talked to some of the people, most of them were men. Let's see, back then there were about three sororities.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Actually, would you say which years it was that you were at Chapel Hill? I should get those dates down.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I went there in '39, I graduated in '41. There was a steering committee, a University Party steering committee, which was composed of one representative from each fraternity and there were several other allies. Terry was an ally, although he did not belong to a fraternity. There were a number of people who were independents, more or less, who belonged to the University Party. Back then the people who were student help people were not allowed to join the fraternities and sororities, and Terry worked in Lenoir Hall and various other places as a student and so he was precluded. Whether or not he had any desire to belong, I don't know, but he was precluded from belonging as were all students who got student help. But anyway, I was told by the University Party steering committee that I could not go to their meetings and I asked why and they said, oh, well, we meet various places, various fraternity houses, and sometimes bad language is used and so on and so forth. And I said, well, too bad, no

Page 3
representation, then no falling in of our sorority with this party. So they let me go on the steering committee. And I guess I'm the first woman that had served on that committee. The Student Legislature was formed when I was in school at Carolina and Terry and I were both active in that. I guess Terry was Speaker or whatever the head person is called, and I was elected to be chairman of some committee. There were committees, structured something like Congress, I think it was the Election Committee, but I'm not positive. And then Terry put me on the Ways and Means Committee which was an important committee. As you probably know the students of Carolina have always had say-so over student funds, and they did then, so that wasn't just game-playing. So I served in that legislature with him and numbers of others. As a matter of fact Bert Bennett was in school then and he later ran, managed, Terry's campaign1 and was chair of the party. John Bennett here at this firm [Terry Sanford Committee Office, Raleigh] is Bert's son. And a number of others who were later allies in the larger political world. I managed the campaigns of a couple of people that ran for office. One in particular I think I remember was, I can't remember exactly what this man was running for, but I think it was Vice President of the Student Body or something. I managed that campaign. Then I worked for Lou Harris, the pollster, as editor of the Tar Heel.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So, he went to Chapel Hill?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
And we were good friends. We happened to be both majoring in economics. You know, if you're in the same school,

Page 4
or the same kind of classes, you see people more. Of course, there were a lot fewer students then than there are now. So I worked as a part of his campaign. He lost that by about, I don't know, he says about three votes or something. [Laughter] It was very, very close. The other man I worked for was one whose campaign I managed. There were some women running then. Women were running for Secretary of the Student Body, as usual, back then. But there were women who ran and won for campus-wide offices. But anyway, yes, I was involved and knew all the people that later became supporters of Terry when he ran for governor. Or, how can I say all, many of the people were active then and supported him later on.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And continued on.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
And continued on.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
That's my sense from people I've spoken to, that some connections made at Chapel Hill really have stayed through their political life. Your working for Terry Sanford now, that's quite a bit of time.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
A question I have related to that is: How much connection was there between students in college and their college political work and, let's say, the North Carolina Democratic Party? Was there anything along the lines of Young Democrats or Young Republicans? Were people in Raleigh trying to make connections with students, either at the Chapel Hill campus or elsewhere?

Page 5
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't remember activities along that line from my student days. I certainly remember them well later on when I was a resident of Chapel Hill, because I worked with many students. When Terry ran for governor lots of students helped at Chapel Hill and State and so on and so forth. So definitely by the time he ran, which he began preparing to run in '59, by the time he ran in '60, there definitely was a good deal of activity on college campuses. And those of us who worked for the party in Chapel Hill worked with those young people and got them in harness and got them to help. But I really don't have a memory of that happening when I was a student. But you see I wasn't from North Carolina, so it could have among North Carolina students and I didn't know anything about it. But I don't remember any big thing on campus.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you think that part of the greater connection in the late 50s and early 60s would have to do with the politicization of the civil rights era?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Not necessarily. When I went to school, and for some time thereafter, people couldn't vote until they were 21, right? And also, people were younger when they got out of school. [Laughter] . I had just turned twenty-one when I graduated. People now seem to be older. And also I can't remember when the eighteen-year old voting came in, but obviously that makes a difference.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Right.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
So that's all I can comment about that.

Page 6
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay. You majored in economics, is that right? What did you think you would do, what plans did you have for the next stage of your life when you graduated from Chapel Hill?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't know that I had any particular plans. As it turned out, I got married. But an economics professor that I had urged me to think about a career with the government and actually before I got out of school, or right after, I did take what was then called the Junior Economist Civil Service Test. I remember doing that. That was really at his urging. Actually, too, this is interesting, this man was kind of a mentor for me and there were very few women in his classes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What's his name?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
He's dead now, but his name was Rex Winslow. A marvelous professor who really did his best to get me and the other female that was in his class out of the class by all kinds of little embarrassing tricks that he used. But once he decided that we were serious students then he dropped all that. And actually his bias was against people being in his classes who weren't serious. And he just figured because we were female we weren't serious.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
He'd start there.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
He'd start there. He said he was in favor of the university giving a degree in sound and fury. Back then we had a musical organization called Sound and Fury, and he thought that would be great to give anybody that wasn't serious that degree, but just to keep them out of his classes. At the same time, he told me to take that exam. He said you should go ahead and learn

Page 7
shorthand and typing, because that's the way you'll have to get in. And actually, because of him, I did attempt to learn shorthand, which I gave up. [Laughter]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Some things are too hard. [Laughter]
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, that was one of them. At any rate, I liked economics. I took whatever the general introductory course is, and I liked it a lot. I had planned to major in journalism because I had written for the paper in high school, wrote for the paper in junior college, wrote for the Daily Tar Heel. I had a column in the Daily Tar Heel. I was editor of the annual in junior college. And so journalism was what I was interested in, but once I took that economics course I liked it very much and I wanted to change. I was discouraged by whoever it was I had to go to. I remember his name was Dr. Wolf, he was wonderful, but I was discouraged. He said, oh, it doesn't matter what you major in, he said, you're only going to get married anyway.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Now, who is this Dr. Wolf?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
He is also dead. He was a professor in the School of Business.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
As well.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Seems to me they called it the School of Business back in those days, instead of Department of Economics. But anyway it was all in one pot, so to speak. Despite his discouragement, I changed my major. I majored in economics. But my idea had been, go into journalism. I met my husband at Carolina, and what happened after we graduated in '41, things looked pretty bad. England was already at war, and something was passed here called-

Page 8
-it was draft for a year and a day, passed in this country. And so, we thought, the man I married and I, we thought he would probably be drafted in that, so we kind of speeded up our process and went ahead and got married that summer.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And his name?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Herbert McKay, "Hotch" McKay. Actually, he taught school the first year we were married, which was '41. And of course in December, Pearl Harbor came. Anyway, that's why we speeded up our plans, because of that year and a day draft. So I got married, and, actually, went to work at the shipyards—again, through this same professor, Rex Winslow. The controller from the NC Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, which was a subsidiary of Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, went to Carolina looking for people to work.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'll bet.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
He [Dr. Winslow] recommended me, and I was interviewed and hired and at that point we thought my husband would be drafted. Actually he tried to volunteer and was turned down because he had very bad sight in one eye and nobody would have him, in terms of enlisting. So we both went to work down at the shipyard. We stayed there during the war. I worked first in, what did they call it back in those days, it was IBM Machines when they had about, I don't know, ten or twelve machines that do what a computer does today. They had an electric accounting machine, sorters and multipliers and collators and a whole huge warehouse full of machines. I worked on the floor and then I did payroll controls, then I worked on the controller's staff. And

Page 9
then when we moved to Chapel Hill after the war I went to work for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Again in, today you'd call it data processing. I can't remember what we called it then. IBM Machines is all I know. [Laughter]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
The company name it belongs to.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
They did all the record keeping, the payrolls, all that stuff for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So this would have been in 1945, 1946. As I was looking through the biographical materials you sent me, trying to establish a starting point for your work in Democratic Party politics in North Carolina, it seemed to be sometime in the mid-50s you started in doing precinct work. Is that right?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, probably. No, it may have been before that. I believe I began going to precinct meetings as soon as we moved to Chapel Hill, which would have been when the war ended, which was August, '45, as I remember, '46 or whatever. I started going to precinct meetings and working in campaigns and raising money and going to the district conventions, county conventions. Back then, it was really the smoke-filled room business. By the time we got to the district convention, everything was all cut and dried, everything was all planned. The men had decided who was going to be a delegate to the National Convention and so on and so forth. I got on some district committees, like the Congressional District Committee, which only come into play if the Congressman resigns or dies in office, that kind of stuff. So I did the precinct and county work and was becoming active in the district level and that's about where I was when Terry

Page 10
decided he was going to run for governor. So I went to see him in Fayetteville and he put me to work.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I mentioned to you before we started that part of my interest is in documenting women's political activities in this period, in your case it fits neatly right at the end of the war, '45, up until the resurgence of the women's movement in the late 1960s. I suppose my first question is really a general one of what issues did women organize around in this time? Was it determined largely by the Party or were there women who had there own ideas about what they wanted to see happening in the political process?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
You really have to look at campaigns, I think. When Terry ran, I really in effect co-managed his campaign. Bert Bennett was his campaign manager and I was head of the women's activities, but I was involved in all the smoke-filled room meetings. Terry had me in all of them. But I also had a women's group and our theme, because this was Terry's theme and this was the way we were able to organize women, was education. It was that simple. For education, the money situation in North Carolina has never been good, but it was very bad at that time and people were really concerned and so we organized the people. We had mass meetings at six or eight places around the state, had a steering committee. Now it wasn't just to organize. We reviewed position papers and brochures and so on and so forth. I think Liz Hair of Charlotte was a part of that group. We were into the substantive part, which is the way Terry operates. He doesn't put people off to the side, and so we were operating on

Page 11
both levels, organizing and working on the education agenda. Education, clearly, in that election was preeminent. Now, when he was elected, he asked me if I wanted to go on the Democratic National Committee and indeed I did go on it and then I became a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. Then Doris [Cromartie] and I organized all these Democratic women's clubs around the state. In terms of issues that I was interested in, I think we wanted, back then even, to get more women on boards of commissions. I went to Terry at some point and asked him if he would form a commission or a council on the status of women. He said that he certainly would, for me to get up the list, and so I did. And I got Anne Scott,2 who still lives in Chapel Hill, to agree to be chairperson of that commission. I went for people like Anne, and there were others, although she's certainly outstanding. I didn't want it to be a club-type thing. I wanted it to be issue-oriented. Now, we didn't know enough to go for money and didn't go for money. We must have had a little bit for maybe traveling and stuff. But Anne did, she and the group—I didn't go on it myself—did a report on the status of women in North Carolina, mostly as far as work is concerned, that's my memory. That report has got to be somewhere, I don't know where it is. But it was a good report. But we didn't have any money, we didn't really know enough, as I say. It seems to me the first time we asked for money, and got it—I don't even know that we asked for it before this—was when Jim Holshouser was governor. Grace Rohrer and several of us who

Page 12
were active in the Caucus [North Carolina Women's Political Caucus] went to see Holshouser about appointments and also money for the Council on the Status of Women and we got some money, no doubt from the legislature, but Holshouser supported it. Prior to that time, I certainly was beginning to be conscious of the status of women. I remember in the early '60s I gave a talk to a group of women students and my talk was based on Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex. I think our Commission on the Status of Women—and as I say, I can't remember if it was called a council or a commission—was the first in the country. Terry just did it by executive order.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So even before Kennedy's national one or following immediately after?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, after, I mean Terry and Kennedy went in at the same time. So that was January, '61. I went to him probably in about '63 on this commission, council on the status of women, and it was formed, and it's been there ever since. As I say, some of us were certainly aware of women's issues. Women's wages, you know, women had been exploited in North Carolina textile industry lo these many years and labor has never gotten a foothold to amount to anything in this state. It's here but it's not a powerhouse. You know, we're the least unionized state in the country. So certainly we were aware of some of those things. At least, I'm talking about the leaders, I'm not necessarily talking about the person in the street. People continued to be concerned about education, public school education. I will say that the whole time that Sanford was governor, I had the opportunity to

Page 13
submit the names of women for all the boards and commissions and, as a matter of fact, Terry was receptive to all this. I think all of them went past me. In other words, all those openings. He was prepared—and I'm not sure he announced this, he may have even announced it—[to place] a woman on the highway commission, and then the men that were on there just had a breakdown, just went bananas. He had to back down. I can't remember whether he announced this and then had to back down, or the word got out, or whatever. It was a woman in western North Carolina who would have been terrific, but the backlash was very bad so he backed down on that. He did put a woman on the Board of Conservation and Development, which no longer exists. Back then the Commerce Department had a Board of Conservation and Development and he put Gladys Bullard of Raleigh on that board, who had worked very hard in his campaign and is a terrific woman, still lives here. She was the first woman who had ever been on C and D, that's for sure. I was conscious of that, and others were. I certainly had optimum chance to make input into that kind of process. That's for me.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So it seems that a lot of the progress in this period had to do, really, with Terry Sanford's willingness to appoint women to positions.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
My recollection too is that somewhere at this point—at least within the Democratic Party, I don't know what was going on in the Republican Party—that women started being interested in more of an equitable representation within the party structure.

Page 14
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think that's right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you have a recollection of how that proceeded?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Somewhere along the line, and I really can't tell you when, we began to work on the party plan of organization. Jane might remember more of that than I do. She's clearly much younger than I am. But still she's been active for some time, and she was one who worked on the plan of organization.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Is this Jane Patterson?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes. And at some point we got that plan changed so that at every level of the party organization, if a person of one sex was the chair, the vice-chair had to be a person of the opposite sex. Terry might have been governor when we got that in, because he would have supported that, that's for sure. It might have happened way back then. Gladys Tillett, now dead, was very aware of this kind of thing, working for it. Terry put Gladys on the UN Commission, Human Rights, I think.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
No, I think she was on the—she may have been on that one as well—but I think she was appointed to the . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Status of Women?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Commission on the Status of Women, yes. There's actually an interview with her in the Southern Historical Collection. I think that's where I must be getting this recollection from.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Gladys was always a feminist. That's right. It was the Status of Women instead of Human Rights that she went on. So, yes, we were aware of things, and working I guess as best we

Page 15
could. Obviously we didn't organize separate from the Party, but we did work to change the balances within the Party.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I suppose my next question has to do with figuring out who these women were and where they came from. By that I mean both geographically within the state—where did women reside who tended to be interested in these kinds of issues? And then also, did they tend to come from certain organizations? Had they been active in some kinds of women's groups, whether it be the League of Women Voters or women's clubs, something along those lines?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
They were party people.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
All party?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, party people or people who if they weren't involved in the party had overriding concerns about government. I don't think there was any other spawning ground. I remember I heard Paul Douglas speak at Chapel Hill when I was not a student. I lived in Chapel Hill and I went to hear him. He was a great hero, certainly one of mine . . . (he was a senator from Illinois) . . . saying to that group—and of course Chapel Hill was very taken with the League of Women Voters—that women ought to just stay so long in the League of Women Voters. They ought not to stay indefinitely, ought to serve an apprenticeship and get out, and get into politics, which is true. And so we've had some League people come into politics, but, no, I wouldn't say that it was anyone in particular. In more recent years BPW [Business and Professional Women] has become very aggressive in terms of women's issues, more than the League, I think. But, no, I think it was more party. The people I remember were party

Page 16
people and interested in the party. Or else interested in Terry and/or education, those issues. There were rural people, they were all over. They were all over the state and they came from all kinds of backgrounds.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
You mentioned education as one of the areas that most interested women in politics. I'd like to take off from there. A question that may be too general to answer, but I'm wondering if there's a certain common motivation or set of beliefs or set of interests for the women who were active at this time? Is it possible to generalize in that way?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think most of them subscribed to the historic positions of the Democratic Party. I think that most of us who continue to be active, even if it's intermittent, it's based in the party. Those two things. The things the party stood for. To me Franklin Roosevelt was a great figure and I was very happy that I was able to vote for him. My first vote was cast for him. So the things that he stood for. Raising the level of, not just education, but the economic level of all people in this country and serving those who were not ordinarily served by the class structures. I think it's the party. In my view that's still there, we need to go back to those issues, viable, valid issues.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It's interesting that you mention Roosevelt. I can't remember now—I've done a set of these interviews, who said what starts to blur—but someone made a comment that ever since she could remember—and so she must have been born, I don't know, let's say sometime in the early 1920s—that while she was growing

Page 17
up and was old enough to think about these things, Roosevelt had been President. She didn't know what any one else being President could be like.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's right, he was president for a long time. However, I remember Hoover, even though I was a child. We all hated Hoover, justifiably so in terms of the condition of this country, not in terms of anything personal. I've read a little bit about him since, and he was a decent person and a good man and had laid some groundwork for some things that ought to happen. He just wasn't incisive. It was clear when Roosevelt came in. But anybody that lived through the Depression remembers those things. I've heard many Democrats say, "too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash," so lived through hard times, bad times in this country. Hope it never happens to them.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
That's for sure.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
And Roosevelt did something about it. My mother was a WPA artist. She's a good artist and she got work working for the WPA. Painting, I don't know, murals in school cafeterias or something like that. He did something. So of course if you were affected by all that, one remembers it.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Especially at the age that you were at. It must have been very, very striking. Off on another tack, I'm curious about an organization that flourished in the North, the National Women's Party. Well, I shouldn't say flourished, it was a small number of women. I've heard it generalized that the National Women's Party didn't really exist in the South, it didn't make any inroads. Do you have any recollection of that?

Page 18
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, I didn't hear about it until we all got active in the caucus and other things, until the women's movement came along. I've read some of the stuff that they sent out and obviously they've been there a long time and they did a whole lot. I don't know how much of a push they ever put on in the South. There are some people who belong here and there but I don't ever remember any, and I don't think it was necessarily their way of doing things. They seemed to propagate their issues and ideas just through their literature and so on and so forth. I don't think it had chapters, that's my perception. It sure never did down here and I don't ever remember anybody trying to start a chapter. I don't believe they had chapters. I think it's just a national membership organization.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think it is too. I was figuring that if there had been anything the least bit visible during this time that you would have been aware of it. So I was curious if you'd heard anything.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't remember it, no. I just remember getting literature from them and knowing that they were there. Of course, they were suffragettes originally, and they had quite a record, I think, of accomplishments.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And certainly the ERA connection is what carries through, I think, to the work that you have done. I think that there is a general characterization of the period that we've just been talking about, 1945 to the late '60s, as a time when there were certainly women active for women's rights, but there wasn't

Page 19
a movement, a broad-based movement that drew on a variety of groups. Would you agree with that characterization?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think it's probably true. We were just trying to work through the party, as I said, and I personally was never in favor of the Democratic women's groups becoming like a federated group, and I fought that when I was on the Democratic National Committee. Later they did become that. A woman who lives here in Raleigh, who's a friend of mine, was then living in Tennessee and she was instrumental in doing that. But I fought it. I didn't think we should have a separate organization for women. I thought we should stay in there and fight for women to be amalgamated into the larger group. I thought if we formed a separate group it would always be off to one side. So what work was done on the part of most of us that were working, all of us who were Democrats, was done on the basis of trying to change the party and also women's appointments and that kind of thing.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Actually that's a good starting point for the next period I want to cover of the late '60s and the early '70s. I mentioned to you before we started taping that I thought the two interviews that are already on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, done with you in 1974, do a good job about talking about the beginnings of the North Carolina Woman's Political Caucus and certainly the first go-round with the ERA campaign here. But picking up on what you just said, that you thought you fought the separation aspect and were interested more in amalgamation, did your ideas about that change in the early part of the 1970s?

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MARTHA C. McKAY:
No. I thought we needed the caucus, but as a group that could promote the interests of women and work for women to get elected. But also continue to work for women to play a larger role in the party and to push for what we hadn't been able to achieve inside. That group is not in competition with the party. We were ready for it because we hadn't got where we thought we ought to get working inside the party until the women's movement came along, the Women's Political Caucus. That galvanized women to organize and to form groups that did have some power at the polls and could get some leverage (on that basis) for change in the party and also in terms of running for public office and appointments. And also legislation. We had been able to change some legislation in North Carolina, create some.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think it's easy to focus on the ERA and it certainly is a popular topic now. But then I think also of the . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Equitable Distribution . . .
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
of Property Act, right.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Right. And there are some others. Kathy Sebo, no longer in North Carolina, was in the state Senate and did a report, she did a report on legal status of women. Probably there was a committee. Kathy was head of it. Good report on that, which has to exist somewhere. I had it at one time. Kathy wasn't a lawyer when she was elected. She began going to law school and eventually got her degree and so that was just simply a look at the laws, the North Carolina laws, and the extent to

Page 21
which they discriminated against women. And there are several we've been able to get changed.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I do have, after reading those two interviews, a couple of areas that I'd like to flesh out some information about the early years of the Political Caucus. And the first question is that, I think that in North Carolina, as with the National Women's Political Caucus, there was an effort to line up women's organizations in support. So the letterhead lists all of the women's organizations that worked with it. But I'm wondering too if any women joined into the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus that hadn't particularly been active in politics before for one reason or another. So I suppose the question is, was there any way in which a new constituency came in at this point?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, I think some new people came in.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Could you describe who they were, not so much names, as what was their link to the Caucus?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well I think I've mentioned BPW. They had their own legislative agenda and it's quite impressive. They have an annual meeting, and I spoke to one of their annual meetings at one point. And they've had other people. There's no question but what they, on their own, galvanized their people to get into ERA and lots of other things. They have other things on their agenda. So I'd say no doubt some people from BPW. Ruth Easterling who was in the General Assembly was active when Terry was Governor. She was head of BPW in North Carolina at one point. It may have been while he was governor, but she pushed for, and helped, and wrote Terry at the time when we were asking

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for the Council on the Status of Women. And there are numbers of others from BPW that have become active. Some from the League [of Women Voters]. Now today, maybe for the past, I don't know what, six or eight years or so . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
My next question, along the lines of the groups that the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus drew on, is, I'm wondering if there were college students involved at all?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, there were.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay. Would you describe a bit about that.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
There was one young woman in particular whom I remember from Carolina. I can't remember her name, but she was—let's see, we first met in the fall of '71—she was involved all the way along. I guess young people were just moving into their alternative styles. At any rate she always showed up with a headband on and very long hair and what not. But she was a part of the group and I guess—she was definitely on the steering committee—and I guess through her and through others on college campuses we reached out to young people. I have neither any knowledge or any recollection of how many came to our first meeting which was in January '72. I know we had a thousand women, I'm sure we had some young people, but I don't have any idea the numbers. But they were involved.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
The meeting was at Duke. Was the decision to have the meeting there, did it have anything to do with reaching out to students or was that a coincidental thing?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
It was because Terry Sanford was President of Duke and we wanted a place to meet that we didn't have to pay for. So I called him up and asked him if we could meet there and he said yes. He also arranged for their food service to fix lunches for us for a dollar each. Actually we had some women to come from

Page 24
women's prison. They wrote and wanted to come and so they were obviously with somebody. Pretty good group there.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
To me that seems like a remarkable turn-out.
The next general question I have is in some ways trying to locate the Caucus in relation to other things that were going on at the time. And my question revolves around the idea of any tensions or splits or conflicts that might have come up for the Caucus around related issues but not central necessarily to electoral politics. For example the labor organizing drive at the time. Was there conflict within the Caucus as to how to respond to that? School desegregation throughout the state. And then around the issues of race, Shirley Chisholm's candidacy in '72. How did those things work out in the Caucus?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
The issues you mentioned, first, in your list, no they didn't come into play. Actually we had a set of goals which was to get more women into public office and we thought that was a pretty large agenda to stir up the Caucus with and to start caucus groups in various locations around North Carolina. In terms of somebody like Shirley Chisholm, that was absolutely up to individuals. I mean the Caucus, when we started out, decided that they would not endorse. We thought, to my memory, we thought that would be divisive. And also we had Republicans and Democrats and we were kind of feeling our way. So we decided the Caucus would be stronger if it did not endorse. Later on, and perhaps appropriately, they decided to endorse. I mean, I can't remember how many years it was, but down the road. But when we started we did not endorse. And I think that probably precluded

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some of the disagreements and the differences that might have come had we endorsed. We always made it clear, among ourselves at any rate, and when asked we made it clear, that we were not prepared to work for a woman per se, that we were working for people who supported the agenda that we wanted to see put in, whether it was for a male or a female.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Right. So in that sense it was similar to the National Caucus's agenda. Did issues like labor organizing and school desegregation just not come into the picture?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, not that I know of.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Related then to the National Caucus. I know that they set certain guidelines but gave the states a lot of flexibility. How did North Carolina proceed relative to the national organization? What flew in North Carolina and what didn't?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I had not anticipated taking the presidency or chairpersonship, I forget what they called it, of the Caucus, when I set out to organize it. I had my own business and if you have your own business and it's small, you know, you're it. It turned out that by the time we went through the series of planning sessions—and everybody worked very hard, we got a lot of work out of Chapel Hill people, and everybody on the group had worked very hard. Our first meeting, it got out that we were going to meet and when it got out in the paper, my response was, anybody can come that wants to. It would be against everything we were standing for to exclude women. So we had a little bit larger group than I had anticipated. Seems to me about 125 came to the planning meeting. And we had Republicans. Grace [Rohrer]

Page 26
was vice-chairperson of her party. We had a woman from Charlotte who's very strong and outspoken, a very active Republican, who I found later was warned by the male party bosses in Charlotte not to become a part of the Caucus. She told them to go peddle their papers and came on and became a part of the Caucus.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And who was this?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Marilyn Bissell. Marilyn later became a state legislator, went to law school, (still living in Charlotte and married and with daughters), and became a lawyer. Now I can't remember the sequence, whether she went to law school first and then ran for the General Assembly, and whether she lived and took it up there, and served in the General Assembly. Then she ran for judge in Charlotte, and I can't tell you what court, whether it's municipal court or district court. Anyway, she's a judge in Charlotte.
By the time we went through all this planning process, and we had a divergent group, young, old, black, white, they really almost insisted that I take the first turn as chairperson. In my view, simply because in the process we'd gone through, they trusted me and then everybody didn't know everybody else. So anyway, you understand what I'm saying?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Yes.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
The Republicans trusted me. Okay, so I took it. So I went on the NWPC [National Women's Political Caucus]. When I went on the NWPC they didn't have any by-laws or rules or anything else. It was kind of an ad hoc thing. And they were fighting like mad, which was discouraging to say the least.

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Actually I became co-chair of the NWPC after I'd been on it a few months, just about the time, maybe the summer of '72, about the time of the convention. It was only later that they formed by-laws, etc. It seems to me, yes, there were some dues. There were dues and we were paying a certain amount of money, which nobody had a problem with. But I don't think there were any other mandates. When the first national meeting came along there were bylaws, but I don't remember any structures at that earlier point.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
The first national meeting then after 1971?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
In 1972. No, no, after we organized. We organized in 1972. Then, seems to me, that next meeting was 1973. It was in Houston and that was a pretty large meeting.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Was the organization more organized than it was in '71, '72?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think that's probably right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It's something that evolved over time.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well that's right. There was a group that wanted to control it and I think that they meant not to have a formal organization. And actually when they did get by-laws there was difference of opinion over that. When I say them, I mean Bella Abzug and the people that stood with her, [they] wanted to control and indeed did control for a long time. I think that's the reason, it's my view, that today the Caucus is now second to NOW in terms of money, membership, influence, everything else.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Even though NOW takes on a larger agenda in terms of the kinds of issues it considers.

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MARTHA C. McKAY:
Sure. Mind if we stop for a minute. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We were talking about the National Women's Political Caucus and there were numbers of well-known figures on that board when I went on it. As we moved along it became clear to me, and to some others too, that Bella Abzug and the group around her—I guess Gloria [Steinem], although Gloria has never been as confronting and abrasive as Bella—their major goal was to control and to have a power base. I'm not saying they weren't feminists, of course they're feminists, and Bella had done some terrific things in Congress. But, for instance, when we went to the convention in '72, Bella had lost her race and she was using the Caucus as leverage for a power base and her interests as opposed to Caucus interests. And that was too bad. And this went on for some time and I do think it stunted the growth of the Caucus. For instance, in the '72 convention one of the National Women's Political Caucus's big things was abortion. It wasn't one of ours, I mean in North Carolina. We had a workshop on ‘reproduction and its control’ when we met and people expressed their views, but we didn't have a series of platform stands and so on. We worked mainly to get women into public office. But down there, they had made lots of noise about abortion. Then when it came time to act (the platform they wanted was not adopted as a party platform, it was part of the minority report), when it came to be presented to the convention, they didn't want to call for a roll-call vote. That was because Bella was playing footsie with McGovern. She'd lost her congressional seat, McGovern didn't want it to come up and so they didn't want to

Page 29
take a vote. They told everybody to make a lot of noise, blow whistles and stuff like that. Well, because, it's my view, if you're in an organization, once they adopt an issue, you've got to work for the issue. I had been working the floor, having been assigned a number of states on that issue, and I thought it had a fair chance of having a good showing. So at that particular convention I sent word to Bella that I was going to call for a roll call vote on that minority report. Well, you know, all heck broke loose. They didn't want that. We did get it, and it was a surprise, etc. With that kind of thing going on, what was happening, it's even beginning there, some of your leaders from the various states were saying, well, this is not what I thought it was going to be. Betty Friedan saw the whole thing, in fact one reason she urged me to start the Caucus here was she said that there had to be some yeast in there from around the country or else it wasn't going to be what it should be and what it could be, a democratic reflection. But then before the '72 convention when they finally got their by-laws, they fixed it so—they changed what the group came up with—so that the control still rested with what I call the Washington-New York axis. Also, I could have stayed on there. The Caucus here said, we'd like you stay on there, you stay on if you want to. But the person who was going to be president next, she went with me to a meeting and I thought she was enjoying it and I thought it was only right for me to move out, so I did. Since that first year of the Caucus, let's see, I can't remember exactly when Grace [Rohrer] was president. But at any rate she was involved, we were both

Page 30
involved. Grace ran for Secretary of State in '72 and did not get the support of her party. If she had she would have won. She got 45% of the vote and only raised about three or four thousand dollars, it was small. At any rate, Grace and I have talked since those days about the fact that we probably moved out too soon, too fast.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
In what sense?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I have always felt that if you serve in an office that you do your thing and then you leave. I felt that with the Democratic National Committee. The times I went to those meetings as an incumbent there were lots of people who were ex-DNC members who kept showing up at these meetings. Not that they could vote or have any impact, but I just think you do your thing, you move on. One of the functions of leadership is to provide new leadership. But this was a new organization, this whole thing was new to the women in this state, and Grace and I think we probably should have propped it up and supported it for a longer period than we did. I did what is my habit to do after I serve, I guess I stayed on the board or something for a year, but basically I moved on out. That's not to say I dropped out of the organization, but I moved out of any kind of, not just decision-making role, but process role. It was a little soon for a baby organization to lose its parents. [Laughter] Which, as I say, Grace and I have talked about, and we feel we probably did move off, in a way, too fast. You don't have to remain president, you can remain in a supporting role.

Page 31
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It seems too, although maybe I'm making too much of a connection of this, that very soon the Caucus was deeply involved in the ERA campaign here in North Carolina.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, we were involved in that when I was still president. 1973.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So when it first went down to defeat in '74
MARTHA C. McKAY:
'73.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
No, '73. Okay, so it seems right off the bat the organization had sort of . . . something it had been working for go down in defeat.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Yes, but it wasn't that bad. That's the closest we ever came to passing it and the only reason it didn't pass is one guy switched his vote after the Senate was in session. That particular man had committed himself in writing to vote for it. And has made noises since about running, but he's never come out to run, and if he had you can believe there would have been organized opposition. Guy name Gordon Allen. He switched and Charlie Dean, the floor leader for the bill—if it was a bill, or the resolution, whatever it was—let him switch. Good guy, nice guy, for the all the right things, but not really strong. I mean a strong leader like Bob Byrd in the senate would have said, "No! You've given me your word." They hold, in the U.S. Senate, they hold the darn troops together. At any rate, that's what happened, and of course his name, Allen, was right up there near the front. We watched him from the gallery go over and speak to Charlie Dean and got down on one knee and had a big conference, then went back and said that he—I don't know if it was the

Page 32
second, third vote or something—that he was going to change his position. I don't think that we had any sense that we had been terribly done in or working to no avail. We darn near made it, and that was closest that the ERA ever came in North Carolina. Because Jim Hunt was Lieutenant Governor and he was prepared to break a tie, and when they walked in that room it was 25-25. Betty McCain and I worked on that together, although we weren't out front together. She worked her side of the street and I worked my side and we communicated on the telephone all the time. If this was in the other interview I gave, stop me.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Actually the process by which Gordon Allen walked and the fallout from that you did describe in that other interview.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
But you see the reason it was in the Senate is because we were too successful in the House. Terror struck the hearts of those guys when the house vote was—I can't remember what it was—but it was over, 60, 70, I don't know. At any rate there were only about 40, it seems to me, "anti" votes. So we were too successful. Then when they were able to get Bill Witchard to agree to postpone the next vote in the House they were able to switch it to the Senate. Betty and I and the people here working—we had an organization set up, we had some paid people here in Raleigh—didn't have but about a weekend to work on the Senate, maybe five days, not much, when they pulled that switch. But we knew it was 25-25 and Gordon Allen had put it in writing to his constituents. Of course you always go to their constituents, to get the commitment from them. Anyway, I did go over that, so that's enough of that. No, we didn't feel like

Page 33
deflated balloons or anything. We felt we fought the good fight. Of course we were disappointed.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Did you just think then that if you spent more time the next time around it would be successful?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think we probably were more sanguine than it turned out we should have been about the next time around. In the meantime the opposition got organized. We didn't have that organized opposition, not organized the way they were later on, that first time. Of course we were angry. We were angry because it was simply a maneuver on the part of the leadership, two or three people, that did that. It was not what you might call the will of the groups. It was just maneuvering. Well, of course, that's par for the course, the General Assembly or any other body, that's not something you would say was unique.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
In the next, what would it have been, almost ten years that North Carolina women were working for the ERA, was that the primary focus of what the Caucus did for the next ten years?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think it came up about four times. It'd be '73, '75, '77, '79, I think it was defeated. I think time ran out. Yes, I would say so, yes. And lots of other groups like BPW and so forth. Yes, I think that was the primary . . .
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Focus?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, primary, yes. When we formed the Caucus there were two women in the General Assembly. The next time the General Assembly met there were nine. That was a plus seven. Then we kept going up, the numbers kept going up, so obviously women were running. They started running for county commission,

Page 34
and so on and so forth. We have increased the numbers of women in public office a great deal since we started. It was almost a rarity. There were numbers of women [who] seemed to hold registers of deeds office. There were quite a few of those. But in other offices, county commission, the mayors . . .
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And I think too especially, I read something recently, the school boards . . .
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, women had served on school boards, but probably more women are running, I don't know. Rutgers [University] has probably got those figures. They do a good job of keeping up with women in public office. Yes, those two things, the ERA and women in public office.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think maybe at this point I'll move to a more general question which is to ask you what progress you think women have made in North Carolina politics in the last fifteen years?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I think that we in North Carolina, as would be true in any state, we more or less reflect the national trends to some extent. In the world of work, and probably in politics, women have gone, you know the same old story, two steps forward and one step back. I think in the past—during the Reagan administration—that we certainly have gone back in the world of work and to some extent this is reflected in other segments of the society, including the parties. The Democratic Party now is trying to move away from having to deal with all the special interest groups. And there's some point in that. It got to the point where the DNC had, I don't know, something like twenty-two caucuses. Everybody you could think of had a caucus. And I

Page 35
think there's some point in saying you just can't move on that basis. If you have so many caucuses that are threatening to stop the works and so on and so forth. So I think there needs to be a move back to what the party stands for, the old populism brought up to date so to speak. I think they need to go back to that. I think there's been a backlash. I think the whole abortion thing, the anti-abortion movement, springs from either conscious or unconscious behavior, and I suspect a lot of it is unconscious, to want to put women back where they were. Barefoot and pregnant. I think that women moving into all these new roles—and I think it's been shown in studies, certainly has in terms of women in management and the world of work—are a threat. And oftentimes perhaps in personal relationships. I think that the abortion thing is an attempt to put women back where these people think they belong, the pro-life, whatever you want to call it. In terms of the party, I don't think we're where we were a couple years ago, four or five years ago when Hunt was governor. We have to look at the fact that we now have a Republican Governor and the party's a whole different ball of wax when you're out of power than it is when you're in power. Of course, as you know, there were women who didn't like what Lawrence Davis said about—he is the current party chair—about the fact that he's opposed to abortion. And there was a little brouhaha over that. Today I don't really think there are any women that are helping to call shots in terms of the party, and I think there were. Of course there were when Betty McCain was party chair and also when Jim Hunt was governor. Betty was a person of influence in the Hunt

Page 36
administration. We had a woman executive director of the party who did a bang-up job, really good job.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And who was that?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Janice Faulkner. Very, very good. In my view she did the best job of executive director of anyone we've had in the last ten or fifteen years. But it's very hard when you don't have a leader, it's hard. It's a kind of an ebb and flow where people are coming together and calling the shots and there is no leader. It's difficult, and it's hard to draw any real conclusions when we're leaderless. Women are not out, yet they're not being pushed in terms of the party. They're probably are groups of men that think they should be calling the shots and aren't, or helping to call the shots. Perhaps some of the younger people. So it's hard to draw a comparison since we're out of power. But the party in North Carolina is not in good shape, because of the lack of leadership. You've got to have a focus, you've got to have a leader.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
One of my questions for you, which I think you've just answered in a way, is, what's in the Democratic Party for women at this stage? And I think especially my question comes from seeing that your entire time in politics you've been as committed to the party as you've been to women's organizations, electoral politics organizations.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I've always had a commitment to the party and still do. I don't know that the commitments were equal. When we formed the Caucus, and in the years following that time, I certainly made a commitment that I was going to spend my time and

Page 37
whatever money I had working for women candidates. Of course when Sanford ran there was no question that I would do whatever he wanted me to do. We are fifty-year friends and furthermore I think he's an outstanding public servant. I'm sorry, I've lost my train of thought. We started out where?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Most recently I asked generally what's in the North Carolina Democratic Party for women?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Okay. I think the party is trying now to make it clear that they don't want to and can't respond to all these special interest groups and I think they have a point. So within that I think we have to work for women and work for holding the party together. I think now we have to work for that double thing. I think we have to work for both. That does not mean we stop looking for women candidates and that we stop supporting them. There's an organization on the national level and I have talked about this to some people here and who knows, we may pull it off one of these days. There's something out of Washington called EMILY's List. That stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast. I really think that it's something we probably should do here. They have been successful recently in two seats that were filled. Women that they supported won. One was Quayle's seat in Missouri and to tell you the truth I've forgotten where the other one was. It might have been Alabama. Anyway, two seats, two women ran. They have a very pragmatic, tough process that they go through in terms of selecting the candidates they will support. Then they select a small group, relatively speaking, and then they give them money. They gave Barbara McCulsky, I

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believe they gave her, if I'm not mistaken, I'd have to check this, I don't know, three or four thousand dollars, does that sound right?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'm afraid I wouldn't know.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Anyway, they gave her a substantial amount of money and they gave it early. That's what you have to do. You can't wait until somebody's in a hot race. You've got to give that money early so that people can have an organization, and a base and money to raise money and so on and so forth. Some of us are kind of looking at that idea for North Carolina. I think that we're still committed to identifying women who can and should run and supporting those women however we can. Certainly there's a group of us who think that we have to do what EMILY's List has done, whether or not we have the money, and that is to have a narrow focus. And I think most of us are thinking about the General Assembly.
There's a new woman, relatively speaking, legislator that's showing a lot of leadership and that's Sharon Thompson from Durham. A lot of leadership, we need some more Sharons in there.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Isn't she getting a lot of support from the new speaker?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't know. I think he's given her some tasks to do, but she was not one of the twenty who voted for him.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think that's right. I don't think she voted for him.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
No, I think she probably belongs to the Kennel Club.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Meaning the Liston Ramsey Kennel Club?

Page 39
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, all the people who didn't vote for Maverick. Sorry, that's a Freudian slip. [Laughter] Ramsey and others formed the Kennel Club and that means all the rest of the Democrats.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Is that the same as being in the doghouse?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, that's just what they call it. [Laughter] Betty [McCain]'s going to speak to them before long. I think they're trying to—obviously they're not obstructionists, it would certainly be cutting off their noses to spite their faces—I think I read that at their next meeting they're going to invite the people who supported Mavretic to come to the Kennel Club, so they're trying to bridge some gaps there. So, we need some more people like Sharon. As I say, I guess Mavretic is giving her some tasks to do. That's my assumption. I don't know that that's the case. Anyway, she's working on the tax bill right now, in the House. And she's showing a lot of leadership. We have some other leaders there. We have had some women in the General Assembly and probably still do, who have held back in terms of operating on the basis of commonality of interest with other women legislators, the Caucus and so on. We lost a good one when Ruth Cook went to the Utilities Commission. We need some more people like Sharon.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
If you could say, generally, what it will take for women to be successful in North Carolina politics, what would you say?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
You thinking about the General Assembly or the Party, or what?

Page 40
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I suppose the General Assembly because that seems where women have ended up. But even, let's say, women running for state-wide office.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
We've never had but two to run. Margaret Harper ran for Lieutenant Governor not too long after the Caucus was formed, and Grace [Rohrer] ran for State Treasurer. I don't think any other women have run. We're behind other states in women running for state-wide office and that's where some of the women are complaining that the party hasn't supported them. Now of course the party can't support people in the primary. But informally people get together and pick out somebody and try to help them, particularly in the governor and lieutenant governor races. I think—and I think a lot of other people think—that the party should have had some kind of pow-wow before the last election and figured out how they could support a woman and a black running for Council of State, because there were two vacant seats. It's a little bit hairy. The party itself can't do it, but movers and shakers can do it. In terms of how they will fare in terms of running, it's going to have to be the same way everybody else runs. I mean you've got to find candidates and stake yourself out and start early and get the money and so on. What we need to find is people who are willing to take some leadership role and take some risk and then get there. See, not everyone has done that. Betsy Cochrane I think is a good example of a woman who has fulfilled very well a leadership role. We also have to have women who are politically astute. And not all the women are politically astute in terms of recognizing what is happening, the

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by-plays and the strategies. Wilma [Woodard] is one who always did and knew how to operate in that milieu, but a lot of people haven't. Wilma's the only one that I can think of who was elected by her peers, the press, and lobbyists as one of the twenty most influential legislators. They do that every time they have a session. I don't think there's ever been another woman on that list. That may be wrong because Betsy Cochran might have gone on it last time, I'm not sure. Wilma's certainly the only Democratic woman, because she knows how to operate in that milieu, and she knows what you have to do. I think sometimes this is hard for women. It's my experience, working with women managers at AT&T, that when they began to understand (at least this was true of some of them) what the management game was all about, and what you had to do to play the management game, the reaction would often be, if that's the way it is I don't want to play, let me go back to my chemistry lab at Bell Labs or whatever. But that's the way the world is and I think if there's one place we've failed, and I don't know what the answer is, it is to help bring some women along who understand the political world and how you have to operate in the political world. There are always strategies and trade-offs. And there are rules—don't lie, keep your word, be discreet, etc. But I don't know how to pass along these skills. One thing that bothers me is I don't see as many young leaders coming along as I would like to. The other thing is—and I've talked this over with some of the people that I've worked with over time—is how do you, how can you, share and transmit your learning experiences

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to somebody else. I don't have any answer for it, I don't know. More young men than young women will get in campaigns of all kinds; nationally they will rush off to Vermont or somewhere to work on a campaign. Every once in a while you have a candidate where you see troops of people go along. But for the most part, the people who do that are young men. Then that's the crucible, so to speak, and that's where they learn and we had very few women doing that. Partly because women work, women are parents, women are the caregivers. Anyway, I don't know the answer to that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It seems you've commented on two things, really. One being structural elements of child care and leaves, and that sort of thing that are harmful to women's advancement. But earlier too I think you talked more about an attitude that comes through socialization. You mentioned the women you worked with at AT & T saying, I don't want to be part of that.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
That's right. That's the way it's played out among many women managers within corporate cultures.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I would say it's impossible to pinpoint what's a structural element and what's an attitude. The two play off of each other.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
It's conditioned behavior more than identifiable attitudes, in my view. Behavior of all people, men and women, is conditioned. Women have a lot of skills, a lot of strategic skills, a lot of political skills. In the world of work they simply don't see them as appropriate, let's say, to the corporation, therefore they park them at the door when they go to

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work. In the political world, for the younger women, there's no apprenticeship. We don't have an apprenticeship system, and we don't know how to structure one. National campaigns are good apprenticeships. We have a young man working on a project here in the office who worked in the Jordan campaign. There were women who worked there [for Jordan], but this man had a key role. When women get in there, as you know, very few of them get key roles, on whatever level of campaigning. I went to a conference in Washington—when I was up there with Senator Sanford—of women who had had key positions in Democratic campaigns.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I had been talking about the meeting that had been convened in Washington. It seems to me the Democratic National Committee was one of the sponsors, but it doesn't matter. There were women from about five areas in campaign organizations: campaign manager, finance director, field organization, press, PR and media, and political director. It was a large group, an impressive group. McCulski's campaign manager, who was a woman, was there. Liz Patterson, who ran for Congress from South Carolina, had a woman campaign manager, she was there. I was there as finance director from the Sanford campaign. There were a whole host of women who had had positions of significance in campaigns in '86 and in larger numbers than I had known of before. So that is a plus. What they seem not to want to take the time to do, and this was brought up—it was just a one day meeting, but there were some subgroup meetings of various specialists so to speak—was to figure out some way that they could pass along their learnings and their experience. They simply wanted to move on their own behalf to other campaigns or to other positions or to leverage whatever they could. And they wanted to share that day. But in terms of trying to figure out this question that I have, which is how do you pass along what you've learned, and how do you get apprentices and get them into the pipeline, I was pretty surprised and certainly disappointed that they backed away from that idea. Now, one thing is happening here, if we can get some money for it, with regard to NC Equity, which may be, if not a total, a partial answer to that

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problem. North Carolina Equity is [funded] primarily by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. I'm on the board of that organization and we're going for other proposals to do a couple things. One would be to do a series of interviews of women who've been elected to office in North Carolina, various kinds of offices, and see what they think it took for them to be elected, and to draw up some kind of profile of what it takes to get elected in North Carolina. That's one part of this project. Another part of that same project is to do an opinion survey in North Carolina, get the money for an opinion survey, among women to see what the issues are among women, what their concerns are. And still another part of that is to form an organization of women elected officials that would meet, let's say, annually, and have some kind of agenda and begin to figure out how it's part of this whole process that Equity would be trying to figure out. How do you get more people in the pipeline. I think that is terrific, and I hope we get to do it. And I think after they did the profiles and did the interviews and got one or more profiles, or maybe a composite profile, plus the opinion survey, that they would have a general meeting of women in North Carolina who were interested in this kind of thing. And women are beginning to meet again now. There's something called WOMENELECT in various parts of the state to try to identify people who can run for the General Assembly and figure out ways to support the people who are willing to run. As I've told you some of us are talking about the money part of it, too. So I think all of that's good. Something is happening even though I told you, at the party

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level, the party's pretty much in disarray, not just in my view, but in a lot of people's view, because we've had a lot of defeats. We don't have a focus, we don't have leader.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Someone also described to me the women's legislative agenda and the effort across party lines, in this case, to identify women's issues that aren't divisive. Places where women can work together within the General Assembly and try to—what you've been describing as party work—and then this being bipartisan.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
The Equity effort would be bipartisan. Equity is a nonprofit organization so it would be bipartisan. It wouldn't be just party. It would affect, hopefully, both parties. I have the book put out by the Women's Legislative Agenda. Actually, women agree now and have agreed for some time on the central issues, which are that women are tired of being left out of decision-making. They want to play key roles in the organizations that they work for and support, which certainly would include the parties. The economic issues, there's no disagreement there and women, as I mentioned before, have lost ground and certainly they're losing ground along with minorities in terms of the Supreme Court decisions. Those are clear issues which will hold women together. Pay equity, I think there have been several conferences on that. I think it's clear what could hold women together, e.g., child care. But you've got to pick two or three central ones to go on. And I don't know, Legislative Agenda is in a different ball park, I think, it's got

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a wider spread. It's the agenda as opposed to getting women in there to do the agenda.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Right. And I take it then that the Women's Legislative Agenda is trying to avoid things like abortion on which there won't be agreement.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't really know. I've got the book in the other room. I don't believe there's anything in their book about reproduction, reproductive control. Was there? Have you looked through?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I haven't looked at it.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't think there's anything in there. I'm not sure. But there plenty of people still working on that. I mean Planned Parenthood groups. Planned Parenthood people, some of those either have been central to or participated in the political process. Definitely. And the NOW people, too. There was a woman here in '77 and '79, who's unfortunately now moved out of state, Terry Schooley, she moved to Delaware. She did a fantastic job of organizing in various counties around the state the last time the ERA came up. Really did it right—door to door, census tract by census tract. I don't know if NOW has anybody that good now, but they did a good job then. It was really a professional operation.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Well, my point was more that certain groups are trying to avoid the abortion issue.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I'm sure that's true.

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KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Simply because it's so divisive when it comes up. It might be ultimately impossible to avoid, but it seems that there's an effort to do that.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Probably so. I don't think that attempt is going on in terms of the WOMENELECT organization. That effort is going to be bi-partisan, i.e., a Democratic caucus and a Republican caucus and Equity is not sponsoring that, that's something else. It's the other project I described to you about profiles and so on that Equity will be involved in. We're trying to get money for it, we haven't got it off the ground.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What's interesting for me to think of as a historian is that just now people are writing the history of the late '60s and early '70s and so they map out how NOW was related to the Caucus, was related to this and that organization. Now we have the same, a profusion of organizations, but how they will all interact ultimately remains to be seen.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
Well, obviously they can join forces in any political campaign with one party or another, or with one campaign or another, regardless of party, however they want. They don't do that as organizations. Most of them have constitutions and bylaws that preclude them from being partisan, so it's just members that have to do the work. They don't do it as organizations, which may be a liability I don't know. Although NOW nationally certainly endorses candidates. I guess they have here, I'm not sure. But that's been somewhat divisive too.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
We've covered quite a bit of ground, really more than I thought we would be able to in this time. Is there anything

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you'd want to add either in clarification or amplification of any of the topics that we've covered?
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I don't think so. I have said that I think that we've gone a step or more backwards and I think most women are feeling that right now. I think they're regrouping and they're not giving up. I think the focus at the moment is the General Assembly. We also would certainly like to be able to identify and support a woman to run for Congress in one of the Congressional districts. I think we're going to have do just what EMILY's List does and look at the incumbents and whether or not any seat is going to be vacated and so on. I mean you have to be really pragmatic about how you select candidates. I think that's what we would like to do. And also it's a real challenge to get some younger leaders coming along into this whole thing. Those of us that have been in it have been there a pretty long time. There are some coming along, but not as many as you'd like to see.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
When I spoke to Jane Patterson—I think she was the first person I interviewed for this series—she made the same point.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
I guess we don't know where they are. There's a young woman who's the new president or chair of the Caucus and apparently she is able and energetic and wants support and wants to learn. As a matter of fact, I just heard yesterday they're going to get a grant from Z. Smith Reynolds to support their organizing efforts. So that's encouraging that they have a person. But the Caucus has not maintained the level of

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membership and activity that we had when we started out. There's no question about that. I think what I'm seeing and what I'm feeling, too, is some dispiritedness on one side in terms of the way we're going back or have gone back—including the Supreme Court decisions which are bad, bad news—plus kind of a digging in on the other side, that some of us that have said we were finished, or wanted to turn to other things, are going to try to address this thing, one way or the other. So I think you see both of those things among women who have been leaders and who have been involved in all these things we've been talking about. But then we have the dearth of young leadership thing that I mentioned that you say Jane mentioned. I don't know what the answer is to that one. We hope that Equity can play a real role in this state with regard to public policy as far as women's issues are concerned and as advocates. Maybe if we can get money for this project I described to you that may have a chance of making a difference. So we're still plugging away.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Thanks very much for your time today.
MARTHA C. McKAY:
You're welcome, Kathy. There is one thing I'd like to clarify, Kathy. I did mention that we are somewhat devoid of statewide leadership, in that we don't hold the governor's seat or the lieutenant governor's seat. And clearly Senator Sanford is our leader in this state in terms of elected officials. But it's simply outside the realm of possibility for him to do his job in the United States Senate and provide the leadership that this state needs in terms of its party on this level. That is not to say that he's not available. He does make himself

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available, and actually he's going to a good many counties now, holding open forums and seeing people and listening to them. He's going to cover about a third of the counties in this year, 1989, between thirty-five and forty. Actually, I think it's a matter of choice. I've seen what he goes through in Washington, and I think it just logistically precluds, in terms of the work he has to do, a strong role in North Carolina. But I think he does not choose, also, to try to run everything. So I want to make it clear that we certainly have a leader in Sanford. But I think by the nature of things, he's not able to provide ongoing presence and leadership to the state party.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay.
END OF INTERVIEW
1. Sanford campaign for governor, 1960.
2. Professor of History, Duke University.