Interviewee: Carol Gaddy
IWY TX 203
Interviewer: Sister Marie Heyda
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Carol Gaddy was from Little Rock, Arkansas and she attended the conference as an official observer with the Arkansas delegation. Interview includes discussion of: historic connections of the IWY to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848; the opposition to the ERA in Arkansas; Gaddy’s belief that conservative women have co-opted the term “pro-family” when feminists are also pro-family; Gaddy’s experience working for an employment agency, and her opinions on women and wage inequality. Gaddy identified as a feminist.
Carol Gaddy: Okay.
Marie Heyda: Could you identify yourself first?
CG: I’m Carol Gaddy. I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m here as an official observer with the Arkansas IWY delegation. I put together the exhibit, with some help but primarily my efforts, putting together the exhibit that’s in our Arkansas booth on women in Arkansas history.
I’m particularly interested that this conference is making such a strong connection with the historic women’s rights movement in this country. Seneca Falls South, the torch bearing, is just an inspiration. It’s the most inspired thing anybody ever thought of. It gives me goosebumps, tears, and the whole bit. It’s really important for people to understand we don’t know about our history. Women’s history has been completely obscured.
MH: May I add right there that students in college are so glad if you make an assignment where women are included also – the girls will very often choose that.
CG: I think that’s a really good sign. I’m teaching just an informal course through my church on women in history. It’s amazing. Starting out, I decided to do some goodies with them on some little games and see first of all if they could name ten – who are the ten women that they most admire, you know, famous celebrity women, living or dead? And then to see who were the five women that you know personally that you most admire? Think about it. That got us off on an interesting discussion and we went on from there.
MH: What about the women in Arkansas? Is a majority for ERA?
CG: I think so. Polls certainly indicate – nationwide polls of course, and polls that have been commissioned within the state – that a majority of people support the goals of the women’s rights movement. I think what we may differ on to a certain extent is some of the code language. Arkansas is in the Bible belt, as is often pointed out, with a very strong fundamentalist influence, and we have encountered very strong opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment itself, for example.
MH: Because of the leadership of the Church?
CG: Yes, in Arkansas it’s primarily the Churches of Christ that are organizing an anti-movement. And there are other conservative groups.
MH: Because Christ was the one who first began to show the equality of woman.
CG: In fact, there’s an interesting article in today’s Houston paper that a theologian – she’s actually not a theologian, she’s a historian of very early biblical times – in examining the new Gnostic documents that have been uncovered, says that in the very earliest Christian times that women were included in the rituals as far as being sort of priests and the whole thing –
MH: That would probably be Gnostocist [sic] and that would be early Christianity.
CG: Yes, very early Christianity.
MH: And she discovered that? Isn’t that interesting?
CG: She said that apparently it wasn’t until about the second century with Tertullian and some of the others that they began a backlash and really cracked down and said it’s all men and so on. I suspect that that may have been also in the same way that the Jewish patriarchy was somewhat of a reaction against the female goddess thing.
MH: What do you think about the meeting being held over in the Astrodome, by the group that calls themselves majority?
CG: I think they certainly have a right to meet and that’s fine. I do feel that they are misnamed, however, because national polls show that the positions we hold are in fact held by a majority of Americans. I also resent a good deal their co-opting the terms pro-family and pro-life because I feel that as a feminist I am a humanist, and humanism is essentially and basically pro-life and pro-family and pro-human. I really object to the co-option of those terms. But everyone has a right to their opinions and to express their opinions. I think it’s a shame that we’ve been polarized and it’s a shame that the press seems to gloat on that and really play it up. Although I must say that the two Houston newspapers have given great balance and I think accurate coverage.
MH: Is that right?
CG: No, I haven’t seen the TV yet. I haven’t had a chance to see any of that. I’m very hopeful that it won’t get distorted and a true picture of what’s going on will come out.
MH: I would say in your own right you’ve never suffered too great a discrimination, it just happens that you –
CG: That’s not necessarily true. I feel like I had a lot of situations happen in my life that for a long time I felt were unique to me and were my own personal neuroses and things of that sort, that I began to realize simply had an awful lot to do with simply the culture that we live in.
I’m not personally, by temperament, suited to the traditional quiet, docile, feminine role. I’ve battled with this for a long time, and finally the women’s movement, I guess I’ve always been a closet feminist only I didn’t know what it was. And when the women’s movement started articulating some of these concerns as far as attitudes in society it was like finding the light, because it’s very clear. I, for example, was told when I was a teenager that, if I wanted to be popular with boys I’d better shut up and not talk, because I was too smart and I was going to scare the men away and things like that.
I was not really prepared, my family didn’t take my education seriously, everyone just assumed I’d get married and, well, maybe I’d sometimes work when the kids didn’t need to be taken care of and so on, but no one ever prepared me to take care of myself in the world. No one ever encouraged me in any way to do that. Nor did anyone encourage my mother to do that, and finally at the age of fifty-five, after four unhappy marriages, she’s finally learning to be a real person in her own right. She’s been battered and she’s had reproductive freedom problems and so have I, and I really think that all of these issues hit us very personally as women.
I also worked for an employment agency for three-and-a-half years and I can tell you that, despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and all the other legislation, it’s pretty much a dog-eat-women world out there in the employment market.
End of Interview