Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The emergence of NOW in Chapel Hill and the effort to legitimate its authority

Slifkin talks about her own personal reasons for joining NOW when a local chapter was founded in Chapel Hill. With anger as her original impetus, Slifkin almost immediately became one of the organization's leaders and at once set out to make NOW seem like a legitimate organization within the community. She specifically emphasizes her use of rhetoric in lending a sense of authority to the Chapel Hill branch of NOW.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. 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

LYNNE DEGITZ You mentioned in the other interviews (with Emily Adams in Fall 1994) the variety of reasons women got involved in NOW. Why did you get involved?
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
Well, I never thought of it. You're angry. That gets you started. But once you're in it, you keep going.
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
We had a funny system in the local chapter. We started off, I was treasurer. You know why I was treasurer? Because I could add and subtract. That's why I was treasurer. We had somebody else at first, before we were officially a chapter. She couldn't add worth a dime! And I got so disgusted, I said I'll take over. So somebody else had to be president. I don't know that they would have wanted me anyway. But that was sort of the informality of it all. And after I decided I didn't want to be president, I was, I think number three, I said, that's enough for one person.
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
But there were projects I was interested in. So in order for my letters to different people to have some credibility, I would put down "Chair of the Education Committee" or "Chair of Compliance", so it sounds good. You know, I would bring it up to the chapter, "I'm interested in this. Do you mind?" "No, go ahead, do it!" That's the way it was. It worked fine. I don't know that anybody else pulled that sort of trick, but it worked fine. And I did that on the state level when Cynthia Drake, my predecessor, was president, I said I was, I don't remember, I said "Do you mind if I put myself down as Chair of the Task Force of whatever?" She said, "Go ahead!" (laughs) Whatever. So what. But it was fun that way and it accomplished. That's the thing. Are you getting your goals. And it worked.
MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
And I remember once giving a speech to I think it was Seratoma. This is another ironic thing. When Poquita advised me not to have my name on that news release, I was being asked by men's civic clubs, as a member of NOW, to come and speak. I mean, listen, isn't there something wrong here, something strange? But that's the way it was. I think the first one I did was when I was treasurer. And I said in my correspondence, "Chair of Speakers' Bureau." And so it was legitimate.