Interviewee: Dottie Geare
Interviewer: June Hahner
Date: November 19, 1977
Dottie Geare was from Middletown, Virginia where she was a counselor at a community college outside of Winchester. She was a member of the Virginia coordinating committee, though she attended the National Women’s Conference on her own as an official observer. Issues important to Geare included the needs of rural women, especially health care for rural communities. Interview includes discussion of how to apply the lessons of the conference to her community in Virginia and how to organize on a grassroots level.
June Hahner: Occupation, the usual things. It’s on now.
Dottie Geare: Okay. I’m Dottie Geare.
JH: Can you spell that please?
DG: G-E-A-R-E. And I’m from Middletown, Virginia
JH: And your occupation? What organizations you represent?
DG: I’m a counselor at a community college just outside of Winchester, and I was a member of the Virginia Coordinating Committee. I’m here on my own, though. I’m not a delegate from Virginia. I’m an official observer, and I guess I’m here because I realize there’s a lot of history going on here and I wanted to be part of it.
JH: You think the conference is important, then?
DG: Oh, extremely important, yes, I’m really impressed with it. The quality of women that are here, that’s what excites me, the competence and the energy and it’s all coming together at one place at one time.
JH: What do you think will be the results of the conference? Can you tell yet?
DG: Well, it’s setting a plan of action. What the content of that will be I don’t know. I’ve been reading through it just this morning, and what I’ve read so far looks pretty solid. I don’t know how much controversy will be generated around some of the issues, but some of that of course will be changed. That’s certainly the most concrete outcome. I think some of the other things women can do just with the awareness of women of national kinds of things that are going on, the exposure in the media of a lot of very competent women down here for a serious purpose, I think there’s going to be an awareness that women are here to work and to make a difference. Women who have never been to conferences and seeing something like this being run completely by women, I think that’s impressive right there. We’re not used to seeing women functioning at this level. It’s inspiring.
JH: How did you get interested in all this?
DG: I’ve been interested in women’s issues for several years, five or six years, and working as a counselor I try to get together classes and things along those lines for reentry women at the community college, and someone along the line got my name, I guess, and I got involved in the Coordinating Committee to plan the Virginia State meeting and so got to know a little more about things that were going on, on the state level.
JH: So you went to that.
DG: Right. I did. I workshopped on the needs of rural women in Virginia, got some people to come in and talk about some of the things that were going on, which was an education for me, too, because I wasn’t aware of things even in southwest Virginia that were…
JH: I think it would be interesting. I personally, I’m not caught up on any of rural women at all.
DG: Okay, well, some of the things that came out first were the health moves, the delivery services, that hospitals are simply so far away, and a lot of rural women are very poor. They’re farm professions. Transportation was, of course a big problem, just access to social services, and there was a lot of concern about outreach and community centered kinds of things, day care centers and health delivery services and social services for women who simply can’t always get to the cities where these places are located. Educational things, there’s a problem there just in terms of quality. The money that was put into education for everyone, of course in the rural areas is less in that there seems to be less concern about giving them the more up to date type things, so that was brought out.
We formally were represented in the specific centers that they had. We had a couple of issues that the farm bureau of Virginia brought out. Just that there are so many, many women employed in that profession that they thought it was important they be represented and have a chance to make some recommendations, which they did. I think one had to do with utility rates in order to provide higher rates for people in business and larger industries in urban areas they had to raise the rates for rural areas, and this was a concern that they brought up. There were a number of recommendations that came out of that workshop. And it was just nice to hear women get together, because isolation is the biggest problem when you’re a rural woman.
JH: Do you think this meeting will have any impact on your life, or their lives? What’s going to result from this? Do you have any idea? What do we do with this?
DG: Well, first the recommendations are going to the president and the Congress and state legislatures, if nothing else, to focus their awareness on the fact that woman are no longer going to just sit back and accept whatever people feel like doling out to us. And of course in Virginia part of the problem is women are seen as very protected, and men don’t seem to want to admit that there’s any kind of problem. We are the privileged class, and we are taken care of and we’re at home and our husband does everything and so forth, but that’s fine if you have a husband who can do that; if you have a husband period, and it’s simply not the case for a lot of women. And so I think it was important in Virginia at least for us to get together and say there are things going on that people aren’t aware of, or don’t think about.
On a nationwide level, of course, the problems are even more diverse. The media coverage is going to just reach a whole lot more people in terms of the response. And the numbers of people coming here, too, you know that there’s something important. The response it tells you that. So, people are going to be listening. It’s a good time to be a woman, I think.
JH: Sometimes people wonder how women make the transition from changing the individual action (unintelligible at 6:17) to a group, get from the individual to the collective.
DG: Well, I think things like this, meeting other women and hearing about the kinds of problems. We’re hearing things that are being done. For me, all the commissions and the task forces on this and that, and the shelters that are being established for battered women – there’s just so much going on. In my area of Virginia there’s very, very little happening, and it’s really encouraging to me to see some of the ways that women are organizing to deal with the kinds of problems that they have in common. And I’m getting lots of ideas as to techniques and how you go about organizing for change.
Hearing people talk about here’s what you can do, or here’s what we’ve done, this is a tremendous way of taking one individual and putting them in contact with resources and ideas as to how they can go back and get started with some things in their own time. There are so many different levels of listening to each other.
JH: It’s an event. It is an event, a historic event.
End of interview