Interviewee: Eva Lee
Interviewer: Charlotte Kinch
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Eva Lee, married with two daughters, was a nuclear physicist from League City, Texas who volunteered at the IWY Conference. She was an active member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and was not involved in the women’s movement otherwise. the interview includes discussion of: Lee’s opinion that the feminist nature of AAUW has hurt her local chapter’s success; her support for economic equality; Lee’s belief in more traditional social roles; and her experience as the only women in her physics courses. Issues important to Lee included equal pay and opportunities in higher education for women.
Charlotte Kinch: You’re Eva Lee and you’re a volunteer here at the convention.
Eva Lee: That’s correct, that’s correct.
CK: Would you tell me your address, please?
EL: I live at 2240 Webster Street in League City, Texas.
CK: How did you happen to come here as a volunteer?
EL: Well, they were looking for volunteers and I’m active in my AAUW at home and so I said if they needed me I’d help.
CK: Are you otherwise involved in women’s issues aside from the AAUW?
EL: No, not really, just in the AAUW.
CK: AAUW is getting to be quite a feminist organization, though, isn’t it?
EL: It is, and it has hurt our AAUW chapter actually.
CK: Do you think it has here?
EL: I know it has. I know it has hurt our chapter because it went too fast too far the other way. There are many people in our area who are interested in women’s issues, but take more of a middle of the road view. We have some very strong feminists in our group and then we have some middle of the road and a few conservatives, and when the very strong feminists took over our membership dropped from eighty to about ten. They now have someone in the middle of the road as president and it’s coming back up very nicely.
CK: When you say middle of the road and the highly radical, how do you define that here in terms of the issues that are involved?
EL: You have to understand this is my definition and not the group’s definition. To me, the middle of the road, I’m a nuclear physicist and I feel like I should be able to earn equal pay and I should not be handed in promotions and things of this sort, that I should be accepted equally for my educational level. And I think I should be accepted not because I’m a woman but because of what I can do. I don’t go way out on the women issue any more than I do the minorities issues; that I should be hired because I am a woman to make an equal number. I don’t feel my daughter should be playing on the football team.
I think that girls softball teams and boys baseball teams should be separated. They’re not physically the same. So this is what I consider middle of the road. I was amused at big parade going on in our area at a Little League opening by some of the more radical, what I consider more radical women, because girls were not allowed in Little League. At the same time, across the road in the gym I was attended a gymnastics meet that was only girls allowed and nobody was bothering it. I mean, their physical nature is just different for different types of sports.
So in this sense, this is where I guess divide radical as opposed to – I still feel like my husband doesn’t like to cook and one of the greatest pleasures of a woman is fixing his breakfast in the morning instead of at night, and the smile on his face is worth it, and I reap tenfold from that. So I don’t think it’s wrong. I don’t believe in saying we work and you’re going to have to get breakfast Monday and I’ll get it Tuesday. On the other hand, he would vacuum the whole house. This is middle of the road to me, a division of the jobs but something that he feels comfortable doing, something I feel comfortable doing.
CK: Do you think that as a result of this conference that there will be any changes in your chapter? Do you think that some women will become more conscious of what you call the middle of the road feminist issues: economics, jobs, this kind of equality?
EL: It’s very possible, although I don’t think we have too many people here from our chapter other than – we have a lot of people working here from my chapter. I have picked up a lot of literature to take home and read and evaluate, and I am interested to see. I think that people should get into the conference and should adopt a little more of a middle of the road view. We need this. I did attain a success, and I do know that I had to work twice as hard and twice as long to get it, but to stand up and fight would only turn the other people off.
You cannot legislate a man to want to hire a woman for a job he doesn’t want to. You just have got to wear them down, I think as women have always done with their wiles a little differently. I am fortunate, I did very well in my profession, and as I say I did work extra hard and I put in more time, and I know that I had to be better than the man I was against to get promoted. But that’s life. Life just isn’t fair in any area, I don’t believe.
CK: It probably isn’t. I guess that what we want to do is try to make it a little more fair for our daughters than it was for us.
EL: And I believe it is. I believe right now it is fairer. I am sure that my daughter, who wants to be a veterinarian, is going to have things much easier than I would have had at my time if that’s what I had wanted to be. I do believe that it is easier now, and I certainly would like to see both my daughters to be able to do better in the future a little easier than I had to do it, not having to stay to work until ten o’clock every night and things like this. I think they should be able to be promoted, be accepted into some of the medical fields or whatever field they want to go into.
I was a physicist and I was the only girl all the way through school in my classes. You
can tell by my grey hair, you see that I went to school some time ago. But my girls, one has just graduated from UCLA and one is in high school, and I would like things to be easier. I think it should be fairer, I really do.
CK: It’s not so easy to be the only girl on campus, is it?
EL: No, it’s not. It is not. And, I used to have professors who would tease me, but it didn’t really bother me and I enjoyed it. So you’re a sister and a good friend, but I don’t think any one of those boys would ever have thought about dating me. I wore horn rimmed glasses and was a studious type, and a girl in physics was a freak at that time.
End of Interview