Interviewee: Dorothy Franklin
IWY TX 179
Interviewer: June Hahner
Date: November 19-21, 1977
Dorothy Franklin attended the National Women’s Conference as an alternate delegate from South Carolina (she was also interviewed at the preceding state conference). Franklin was fifty-four years old and had three sons at the time of the National IWY Conference. Franklin was also active in the NAACP and the McCormick Civic League. Issues important to Franklin included: care for senior citizens, childcare centers, and prenatal clinics for unwedded mothers. Interview includes discussion of: Franklin’s concern for the young people in her community and her efforts to provide them job opportunities; Franklin’s work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Franklin’s observations about the range of women at the conference; and Franklin’s hopes that her activism would allow her children and neighbors’ children to have more educational and employment opportunities.
Dorothy Franklin: Area code is (298) 35. (Recording fades away and back at 0:15) 465-2579.
June Hahner: I think I can see your name on your name tag. Ask if your name’s spelt right. “Franklin,” right?
DF: Uh-huh. Franklin.
JH: What’s it (unintelligible at 0:30)?
JH: Oh. What?
JH: Oh, I should know your state but I can’t quite figure it…
DF: South Carolina. (unintelligible at 0:43) Just say South Carolina.
JH: Are you coming here for any particular reason or a group you’re associated with?
DF: Yes, I’m associated with the IWY from Columbia, South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. And, you want to know all the organizations I’m a member of?
JH: Why, yes! You want to tell us? (Laughter)
DF: I’m a member of the NAACP. I’m a member of McCormick Civic League.
DF: I’m married for 32 years.
DF: Have five grandchildren. Had four boys, one preceded me to the grave. Was elected as an alternate to the International Women’s Convention. I’m here to enforce more care for senior citizens, daycare centers for children, and prenatal clinics for unwedded mothers.
DF: I’m so sorry that I can’t vote as an alternate on the same policies.
JH: Yeah, I understand that.
DF: But in case of tomorrow, or Monday, if some of the delegates are not here then I will be able to vote.
JH: Of course.
DF: I’m not finding anything…The only thing that I really disliked was when I first got here, it wasn’t organized like it should have been. Plus we had to wait so long. But, just hoping, just hoping that this conference really means something to younger women. They are here from, I’d say sixteen to eighty-four, because we had an eighty-two-year-old woman on the stand this morning.
JH: I missed part of that.
DF: Yes, it was real wonderful and women have been kept back. They can vote now. But I think, in voting, we should be elected to some of these offices. I’m fifty-four years old and I don’t see myself being pushed into anything now. But I have so many people in my neighborhood and so many people that I know, women that is, that is capable and able of such things and I think we should push it.
(Recording skips at 3:23)
DF: Well, let’s see. How I got interested in all of this? I first started off working with people doing nurse’s aide work. And I went from there to SCLC, that’s Southern Christian [Leadership] Conference under Dr. Martin Luther King. Okay, and by about fifteen years ago. No, I would say twenty. We didn’t have but two blacks on our registrar’s book in my public county. So, in working with SCLC, you know, back then all blacks that voted, you had to read at least a part of the Constitution. So, we had a lot of people who couldn’t read and write so we took classes how to teach them how to read. We had people that when they worked, and when they got paid, they had to get the boss man or somebody to sign their checks.
DF: The first thing was to teach them how to write, print their own name on their checks. Okay, it went from there until it passed that they don’t have to read the Constitution of the United States to vote. That was a big help. So, then I started getting people to register to vote although when they first started they got fired. I did. We all got fired off our jobs. Some was afraid to vote. After they registered, then you had a hell of a time getting them out to vote.
DF: Because they was afraid then that, “If I leave my job an hour to go vote, when I get back I’ll wouldn’t have a job.”
JH: Mmhm. Isn’t at all fair, obviously.
DF: Right. So, I just got interested in people and started working. We had our, one of our seats in the House of Representatives, who were very impressed in blacks in McCormick County. Senator Hester. The late Senator Hester. And he worked so faithful with us until…he just encouraged me so much to go on and go on helping people. And the more I worked the more involved I got and the more I liked it. I just like people, period.
JH: I think I can see that. It’s like (unintelligible at 6:17), where were the people?
DF: Oh yeah, everybody’s people. Everybody’s human.
JH: Right, right. What do you think will come out of this meeting?
DF: Beg your pardon?
JH: What do you think will come out of this meeting?
DF: Well, I think it will be better for the American woman, here in the United States, if they all cooperate together. I really do.
(Sound of loud applause in the background 6:57)
DF: I’m trying to organize a young Democrat, among the young people. We don’t have too many young people that are okay. It’s a very small town and as soon as they finish high school there is nothing there for them to do but domestic work, going to mills. Well, I can see for me now. But not for anybody eighteen coming out of high school. If they are old enough, I mean, doesn’t have the money to go to college, he’s got to stay home. Well, our young people have started leaving. The men, young boys, are going into the service. There’s nothing else for them to do. (Speeches and applause in the background 7:48) So, a girl out there, she’s either going to marry. A couple years, divorce, two or three children to work for.
JH: Yeah, we’ve seen it.
DF: And we figure if we can get them something to do, to get themselves involved. We would keep the population there and in that way, the town may grow. See what I mean?
JH: Yeah. Mmhm.
DF: So, just, I don’t know. Women seem to be left out.
JH: You always…you fought a good fight for a long time.
DF: Oh, yeah. Some been accomplished, some been denied. But I’m proud of it myself.
JH: You should be!
DF: I like the work. Only one thing I regret. One thing really regret. Regret getting married and having children? No. It was a pleasure. I grew up with my children. We did things together. But there’s one thing I really regret: I had the opportunity to go on to school but I didn’t. So, that’s why I fight so hard now for my children, my grandchildren, and my neighbor’s children. To do what I didn’t do.
JH: My mother would agree with you.
DF: I tell them all. I have a lot of young people who really come to me for advice. I have a neighbor, doesn’t live too long down the street from me. Things about her, her own mother doesn’t know. If her head hurts, she calls me. Stop a head hurt, what you say? You know, like that. And I’ve been told by several people in McCormick County that young people who are out there, was out there, some had babies who are not married. That, “You did a good job with them. You brought them off the streets.”
DF: And I think I’m proud of my own self for doing that. If I can help you. If I can tell you something to help you, I’m going to do that. I’m not going to tell you anything that will harm you. And a lot of times, when somebody asks me something. I don’t give them an answer. I just make several statements to them and then I said, “Now you pick your choice.”
(Recording skips at 11:08)
DF: Beautiful! I think it is beautiful to see women from all over the world. I really think it’s beautiful. Now, whether they are concerned or just came to see, observe, see what’s going on. Maybe to get some ideas, I don’t know. But I hope that everybody here is for one thing and that is to see that women really get their rights.
JH: Beautiful, beautiful. I wonder what will result from the conference.
DF: What the result will be? Hang around until Monday and see. That’s the results. Whether we can get Congress to pass all of this. The President, so his wife said is morning, is 100% behind us. So, we will know Monday, how the voting will go. Whether we will have something to send to the President and Congress (unintelligible at 12:27).
JH: Yeah. I wonder how it’ll effect individual women, just being here.
DF: How it’ll effect women? Well, I don’t know. It was a question asked last night. Why all of the men? So, the statement was made that all of the men came to protect their wives. (Laughter)
JH: Oh, I didn’t hear that. Protect them from what, I wonder.
DF: They what?
JH: Protect them from what?
DF: That’s what I wanted to know. Protect them from what? We didn’t ask them to come. It’s something that I don’t know. (Laughter)
End of Interview