Interviewee: Dorothy Barker
Interviewer: Peg Strobel
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Dorothy Barker, 48, lived in Morton, Texas at the time of the IWY conference and attended to represent the opinions of Christian women. her stance at the time was anti-ERA and anti-abortion, with the exception of medical necessity. She served at one time as the Cochran County Democratic Party chairperson. Interview includes discussion of: Barker’s objection to teaching public school children about homosexual lifestyles; her acceptance of homosexuality as a choice; and Barker’s support of traditional, Biblical gender relationships.
Peg Strobel: …here at the International Women’s Year Conference, and I’m speaking with Dorothy Barker. Dorothy, first could you give me your address, and your phone number, and your age? On the tape, please.
Dorothy Barker: My name is Dorothy Barker. My address is 602 East Lincoln Street, Morton, Texas. My phone number is area code (806) 266-5484. And my age is forty-eight.
PS: And what brought you to this conference?
DB: I attended the IWY conference of Texas in June, in Austin, Texas. I came in with a group from Lubbock. We live in a little town west of Lubbock. And felt the need… we are not delicate. I have twenty-eight people from my area, in my little town, who were attending this conference with us. As a result, the four of us attending the state conference in August.
PS: And what do you hope to see happen here at the conference? What do you think are the important issues that you would like to see acted upon?
DB: Well, at the site meeting, we were very disappointed. We felt like we had attended a rigged meeting, at the site meeting. Those of us who didn’t agree with some of the issues were not allowed to speak. The microphones were turned off, at our site meeting. Our parliamentarian, or anybody who tried to get to a mic to call for a point of order, or to call for adjournment, or whatever, would be called out of order. We felt like we had not had a fair meeting in Austin. We feel like the fifty-six delegates do not represent us. We only had about four women who represent how we believe in the issues.
And, to me, the thing that bothers me most, was I believe in freedom for everybody. But when they start imposing their rights on me, they are infringing on my rights. And I felt, at the site meeting in Austin, a homosexual element, was my main objection. The homosexual ladies presented resolutions to include homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle, to be taught in public schools, to be taught by homosexuals. I object to this. I don’t think we should have abortion on demand. I think abortion should be considered very carefully from a medical angle only. And these two issues were the main ones that I object to.
PS: How do you feel about the Equal Rights Amendment?
DB: I feel that women should have equal rights. As far as pay, I think women should be paid equally to men for the same job. I feel that women should not be discriminated against because they are women. But I also feel that we were guaranteed equal rights in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I know that we can complain to the justice department, if we feel discriminated against in any way. I feel that there is the Equal Employment Act, there is a loaning act. There are many acts that have passed congress, that ensure us our equal rights. And I feel that the Equal Rights Amendment is superfluous – that we don’t really need it. And there are too many fringe things coming in on it that I do not like, as a Christian woman.
PS: What are some of the things that you think are coming in that could be destructive?
DB: The homosexuals’ movement. I do not agree. I think homosexuals have a right to be homosexual. But they do not have a right to infringe on my rights, with my children, and teaching in public schools. If they are considered a minority, then we’d have to hire them, people would have to hunt homosexuals down. And I think the world’s always had homosexuals. But I think they should keep it in their private lives. I don’t think we need to recognize them publicly. Nor should we have them required to teach in our public schools.
PS: Um, do you think that the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would make it necessary for homosexuality to become a public question? I’m trying to understand the connection between the Equal Rights Amendment and the homosexuality…
DB: Well, what I’m trying to tell you is that, in our site meeting in Austin, we attended workshops. One of them was the alternate lifestyle workshop. I have copies of the resolution that the homosexuals presented. It was drawn up by the NOW organization, requiring that homosexuality be taught as an alternate lifestyle in public schools, and that the homosexuals, or persons who have counseling in homosexuality, would conduct these workshops. I object to this.
PS: You think if the Equal Rights Amendment is not passed that the homosexuality question will subside? Again, we were talking about the Equal Rights Amendment. You said you thought it was superfluous. I understand that people who support often support – although, not necessarily support – homosexual rights as well. But I’m trying to understand if you think there’s a necessary relationship. You know, if the Equal Rights Amendment is going to mean that we have to go out and recruit homosexual teachers. Or if you think that the issues can be separated. That we could pass the Equal Rights Amendment, not have the question of homosexuality be part of that.
DB: I believe I’m right. I know I’m right. In the Texas meetings, the homosexuality resolution passed. And they will become, at this meeting in Houston, they will be among the recommendations and resolutions that will be passed on as representing the thinking of the women of America at this meeting. Now, I don’t know what congress will act on. But I think it’s definitely a big issue in this meeting, in Houston, and the homosexual people in the state. Homosexuals are here, and they were in Austin. You could spot many of them. And they were very vocal in their demands. And, as a result, their resolutions were passed in our state meeting in Austin. And these same resolutions will be presented, have been presented, here, in this Houston meeting.
PS: You had told me before that you were politically a very active person. Can you describe some of your other activities? And also I would be interested in knowing what made you decide to go to the Austin meeting in June. How were you drawn into that particular activity, as well?
DB: I’m politically active in the Democratic Party, and have been for many years. I am a county Democratic chairman, and I don’t mind being called a chairman in my county, Cochran County, Texas. I am also on the same Democratic executives’ committee meeting of Texas. I represent the twenty-eighth district, senatorial district. I am not speaking at this time on my constituents. I can speak for the people in my little community, because I have twenty-eight of the women here with me. I’m not sure that I can speak as vocally for the twenty-eight senatorial districts. So, really, I’m speaking for myself. But I have been politically involved. I became interested in politics back in the sixties, when President Kennedy was our candidate. A lot of people (unintelligible at 07:17). I have, for the Democratic tickets throughout the time I’ve been involved. As a party person. I do support the Democratic ticket. Always.
But I felt very good about President Carter. And the fact that he was a Christian man. I am first a Christian, then I’m a Democrat and I’m a strong supporter. And I felt that we were electing a president the same way. He put his Christian principles for the country above his own political preferences, perhaps. I think that, like it or not. And I’m disappointed in the president. He claims that the minority people have elected him. I think he’s wrong. I think the Christian people elected President Carter. And it bothers me that he hasn’t stood up for the Christian principles that I believe in.
Um, I have been to all the same conventions now for thirteen years, Democratic state conventions. And I have helped elect. I’ve worked on Senator Lloyd’s business campaign in Texas, I have worked on Congressman George Mahon’s campaign from my district for Congress. I have worked on Governor Briscoe’s campaign. I have worked on many of our state officials. My state representative, my state senator. We have good people in government. But I can see a subversive movement in government. It bothers me. And it seems to me like that the Democratic Party is not been willing to take a moral stand that we need to take. And I, as an individual, feel that I must take a stand on the moral issues.
PS: You feel that Christianity has something to say about equality among the sexes? You think that equality between the sexes is mandated in Christianity? Or do you think that Christianity suggests that there should be an unequal relationship? Or do you think it has, really, nothing to do with relations between sexes?
DB: Oh, I think it has a lot to do with it. The Bible teaches, very plainly, that the husband should be the head of his house. That a house needs a head. And I feel that God frowns on women taking over the head of their households. I think that the Bible teaches – and it’s a very clear-cut moral issue, as far as I’m concerned – against homosexuality. And I think that children need a father and a mother. And I do definitely feel that there is a Christian teaching on these moral principles — that the husband is the head of his house, and a father and a mother having children and rearing the children. In the event a woman is thrown into a situation, that she cannot, if there is not a father or husband, I feel that there is sufficient protection under civil rights and under the Equal Employment (unintelligible at 10:01).
PS: Have you felt, in your own life, as an active woman politically, now for nearly seventeen years, or more, have you felt it difficult both to be so active in public community affairs and to be an effective mother and wife? Do you feel any kind of tension between that?
DB: Not at all. I feel that I’m very definitely a liberated woman. I feel that I’m not a weak person, I’m not one whose husband tells her every move to make. My husband and I agree most of the time on issues. But there’s been no conflict with my involvement in politics and my home life. We have a good home life — I’m the mother of four sons. And I think that with (unintelligible at 10:51), we should seek divine guidance. People would make their lives principally, and foremost, on Christian principles, then there won’t be the conflict that I think with your viewing as a Christian, and take a stand politically. Involvement.
PS: Um, what kind of work does your husband do? And are you a homemaker, or have you worked outside the home, as well?
DB: No, I have worked outside the home. I have worked in the fort clerk’s office in our community. But I’m not employed regularly. My husband is the farmer. We farm in West Texas. Cotton, principally. We just have a good home life, good solid home life. And good Christian principles that we rear our boys by. And I feel like the Bible teaches that the husband is to be the head of his house, and that you ought to rear your children under Christian principles in a church of some kind. I’m not dead set on what church, but I feel like it’s important to this nation that people rear children under Christian principles. (Unintelligible at 11:53) And a woman alone can do it. Easier, really, that you can go out and buck the elements of war.
PS: I was talking earlier with some women from Minnesota. And I’d like to ask you a question that came from that conversation. They were saying that in Minnesota rural women face a particular problem. And I don’t know if this is because of state law or not. That, unless the husband writes a will, leaving a share of the farm to his wife, if he dies, she can make no claim on that property that’s in his name. There is not a community ownership of the farm. I know, for rural women in Texas, that this is also a problem?
DB: No, I think that, if that is the case, in that case, that’s very foolish. No, Texas does have community property rights. We have half ownership. Women in Texas own half of whatever is owned communally, owned jointly by her husband in life. I think that’s poor. I think states need to straighten out this stuff. I would…
PS: (Unintelligible at 12:59)
DB: …very foolish.
PS: Um, have you been in any of the sessions in the convention so far? And can you give me some of your reactions to what’s been going on? You know, just your impressions as a non-delegate, what’s happened.
DB: Yes, I’ve been in all the sessions. I was there for the opening session and left yesterday to go to the pro-family session at the Astroarena and came back last night for the closing session. And I find it very much like our state meeting in Austin. I believe eighty percent of the delegates — twenty percent probably feel like I do across the nation. Eighty percent of the delegates are passing the issue, the resolutions we (unintelligible at 13:41) in our state meeting. I thought the national convention doesn’t have a chance of doing anything but that, because of the overwhelming delegate selection. In Texas, like I told you, out of fifty-six delegates, we have four who stand for the things that I stand for. And I think this is true over the nation. People do not really represent grassroots. It was a hand-picked-out thing by women who felt the same way. Fed up the state conferences, I mean these conferences are the result of that.
PS: Are you familiar with the claim made by the other side, about the Mississippi and, I think, the Alabama delegation? That they were also hand-picked, but in a different way? Are you familiar with those charges?
DB: Yep. I think that could be true. Had the people known it, in every state. It could have been reversed. I think it probably was, in some of those states, a reversed (unintelligible at 14:42). But it still went to the people who had the most delegates there, at the state meeting. At the Texas meeting, it was a very close decision. Each time the chair would call in favor, the other side, or the people who were in charge of the meeting . . . there were not enough of the people I felt like there to be more of a fair situation. That’s what happened in Mississippi and Oklahoma. More of the women who feel as I do turned out in these states. And, as a result, they carried their delegation. (Unintelligible at 15:12) people with them. But only about twenty delegates, I understand.
PS: As I was talking with the Minnesota women, I’m interested in the process by which grassroots people get involved in these issues and these conventions. So I’m interested in how you recruited these twenty-eight people in your community. You know them through democratic activities? Or through church activities? Can you explain somewhat how you got these people involved?
DB: As a grassroots person, politically, I probably get the information if it comes to me. I try to get it out from my people. On this particular meeting, I got no notification of it. Probably, I’m thinking there were people who do that I wouldn’t go along with the set-up, as if. I was notified by a Christian friend of mine who lives in Lubbock, and there’s no one in town, she called me and asked me if I could attend the state meeting. And I knew very well about it, but I began to find out about it. I do teach a Sunday school class in the morning – teach a class of young married women with children. And we discussed in class meetings. And a group of my women thought – from my church: young women, who are mothers – decided they wanted to be present (unintelligible at 16:28).
Out of the twenty-eight, I have about twelve from my church, who are with me, here at this meeting. The other ladies are from different churches. We have Catholic ladies, we have Church of Christ Ladies, we have Baptist ladies, we have Methodist ladies. Our little community is well represented church-wise. Most of them are church women who are attending this meeting with me. Different ones invited me to speak at their meetings, the thought society at the Catholic church, (unintelligible at 16:55) various organizations who had heard about the Austin meeting and had invited me to speak. And each time I spoke, we would recruit anywhere from two to four women who were (unintelligible at 17:08), who felt as I felt.
(Tape pauses 17:09-17:11)
PS: Also, are you anticipate that, because of this mobilization of these women who are interested in the same issues, do you anticipate that you’ll continue to meet together over other issues? Do you see the twenty-eight of you, having come together on this issue, working together politically on other things? Or do you see this as being a one-shot mobilization of women around this specific issue?
DB: Some of the women are already involved politically. Some are not. And I don’t think we’ll ever be. But they feel very strongly on this issue. I doubt . . . I think there’ll be a lot of letters written, a lot of grassroots participation on this conference. To our congressmen, to our state representative, to the President of the United States. I think he’ll hear from our little town of Morton, Texas. But I doubt that . . .
PS: How many people are there?
DB: About twenty-five hundred people, population total. But I doubt that they’ll be involved with me politically, except the ones who already are involved politically.
PS: Is there anything else about the convention, or about any of these issues, that I haven’t asked you about, that you’d like to put down for posterity?
DB: No, I believe we’ve covered it pretty well. I appreciate being here with you. I hope I’ve been helpful to you, in some way.
PS: Yeah, well thank you.
(Tape pauses 18:40-18:44)
DB: I think people need a personal relationship with the Lord. If you have it. I think people who turn to drugs or to alcohol, or these kind of things, are looking for something. And I have a very personal relationship with the Lord. I lost a sixteen-year-old son five years ago, in a tragic accident. And I have learned what God can do in a time of crisis in your life. I tell you, you can learn to meet the problems of life. And they won’t knock you for a loop, if you turn in the right direction. And I feel like, if people would turn to the Lord, the building, the city, in order the church known, they carry that method as a person. So important. And I think if women who are looking for equal rights, they can find it in the Lord, who can be liberated in Jesus.
PS: Were you active in the church before this tragedy happened, also? Or, did that make a difference in your church participation?
End of Interview