Interviewee: Elise MacBride
Interviewer: Charlotte Kinch
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Elise MacBride, an engineer, lived in Omaha. Her family emigrated from Ireland when she was two years old. MacBride had two sisters and a brother. MacBride became active in the women’s movement after high school. MacBride attended the IWY conference because she was a supporter of the ERA and planned to share what she learned about the amendment with her family members who might not know where they stand. Interview includes discussion of: MacBride’s initial worries about the anti-ERA protesters; her belief that her mother is a feminist but is just learning more about feminism; her Irish relatives’ support of equal rights legislation; and MacBride’s plans to become a United States citizen and support the ERA.
Charlotte Kinch: Elise MacBride
Elise MacBride: Elise MacBride (Note: First name pronounced “Eye-lish”).
CK: And where do you live now?
EM: I live in Omaha.
CK: Do you have a street address?
EM: Yes, 1511 Olin.
CK: What is your capacity here at the conference? Why are you here?
EM: Why am I here? I’m here because ERA means a lot to me, and as my future as a person in this country, to be able to support myself because it’s a known fact that I have to work for the rest of my life and I have to be able to support myself, and ERA should be part of the Constitution.
CK: You’re committed to it. You were not born here.
CK: How old were you when you came to America?
CK: Your mother and father brought you.
EM: Yes, they were about twenty-five, twenty-six.
CK: And they emigrated from Ireland.
EM: Yes. I’m still a citizen of Ireland.
CK: Are you planning to take United States citizenship?
EM: Yes, I’m in the process of it now.
CK: I’m interested in what you said a while ago about the Irish people and the ERA there. Why don’t we put that on the tape?
EM: Well, my aunt came over and visited this summer, me and my family, and she’s a nun and she travels across the world, across Europe and across the United States to different orders, and she speaks to them and she deals with them and tells them what they need to do and everything. And she and I were talking about it once and she said that ERA had already passed over there quite some time ago, no problem, and she said she couldn’t understand why there was a such a big thing going on about it here. And that really amazed me; it made me feel good because the country that I come from has passed ERA and has realized that, you know, Irish Catholics have nothing against ERA. I don’t see why America has.
CK: What are your hopes from the conference? What do you think will be the result of it?
EM: I think it’s going to be good, I really do. When I first started thinking about coming down I was a little scared because some of the information I had received said that a lot of anti-women were going to be down here, and anti-ERA, and it wasn’t going to be good. And then as it got closer and closer things changed around and I realized the people who were coming down here were going to be the people who are really concerned about the whole situation. That’s why I think it’s going to be very positive because everything that’s going on now is right.
CK: What are you going to do when you go back to Omaha now?
EM: Well, I’m going to tell everybody I know what happened. The first thing I’m going to do is take all my literature over to my mom’s house and show it all to her. I’ve got two friends, my brother’s girlfriend is in high school and she hasn’t made up her mind on how she feels about all this but she’s interested, so I’ve been showing her some information and her mother is interested too, so I’ve been giving them information on it too.
CK: What kind of work do you do?
EM: I work for a university, Creighton, in Omaha. They support a closed circuit TV station that is called Biomedical Communications, and I’m an engineer.
CK: Is your mother a feminist?
EM: I think she is, but I don’t think she realizes that she is.
CK: This happens sometimes.
EM: Well see, she’s just now becoming aware and it’s really great to see, because just a year and a half ago she was all closed in her little shell and she was living at home and everything was just fine, no problems so she didn’t realize what could happen if your husband got into trouble, if you’re married and you rely on your husband solely for everything, and you just assume that he’s going to take of everything that you’ll ever need in your whole entire life. A year and a half ago she realized that was not true, and she started reading more and more about it, and then she started asking me about it because she knew how I felt, so realizing that she has to rely on herself to get along in America today.
CK: It’s nice when you have rapport with your mother.
EM: Yeah, see, this is what really makes me feel good because within the last year she and I have gotten a lot closer and she’s been so closed to everything. She’s more open to all ideas, and she has her own opinions. She and I don’t agree on everything, but you can’t expect that.
CK: What would you think, with your own daughters now, your feelings as a feminist, how would you try to transmit this to them?
EM: Well, I’m not planning on being a housewife or a mother or a home economist. I’m planning on making a business career for the rest of my life, but I do have two sisters who are younger than me and I haven’t in any way pressured them or asked them about it but they have come to me and asked me for tee shirts and so on, and I didn’t realize how much they were really – they are for ERA too, and I didn’t realize this until they had asked me for some information and for some tee shirts and buttons. That’s when I started talking to them about it. We just talk to each other. We get along, and they think it’s good too.
CK: Do you think, though, working for women’s concerns is developing a community among women and ease of communication between the generations of women?
EM: I think it has. I wasn’t always involved with the women’s movement as I am now. When I was in high school I didn’t really know what it was, and I talk to more women now than I ever have in my life. I’m more concerned about other women than I ever have in my whole life.
End of Interview