Interviewee: Gretchen Kafoway
IWY TX 248
Interviewer: Lydia Kleiner
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Gertrude Kafoway, of Ardmore, Oklahoma, was a conservative activist and a participant in the protest of the IWY. Kafoway, 55, was a mother of 12 children and had one grandchild. Kafoway was Catholic. She held numerous leadership roles in conservative organizations. She was the national chairwoman of the Republican Party for Carter County, secretary of the Church of the United, and president of the Latin Council of Catholic women. Interview includes discussion of the Oklahoma State IWY convention where conservative women outvoted feminists to form the body of delegates and choose the platform. She also discussed her opinion on the ERA and abortion.
Gretchen Kafoway: I was in Stillwater as the result of a friend of mine, Margaret Edmundson, who was one of the delegates, and she was appointed, she didn’t know how, but that the Oklahoma delegation was very definitely pro-ERA and pro—you know—women’s liberation sorts of groups and she was very definitely in the minority. And what they did in Oklahoma was they—they, a Dianne Edmondson, that’s a different person,
Dianne Edmondson, she’s also a delegate, wrote a tape and they sent this tape around different churches and organizations and they did get the church women, who are mostly your homemakers, I did not hear this, to come to the dela—convention and they came by the busloads. And even on Thursday and Friday in Oklahoma they defeated the ERA in the conference, in the committees, but they changed the regulations so that the rule was that you could only vote if you attended a workshop—.
Lydia Kleiner: Oh!
GK: But the ERA was defeated in a workshop and they did not, and —when they had the conference, they had like 600 or 700 anti-STOP-ERA people really and they had only 200 ERA supporters, and the ERA people had a rump caucus and they went off and they did not participate in the official meeting at all. The ERA people left and went to that—that little theatre place—and they had a rump caucus, so the delegates from Oklahoma and none of the official slate that was presented by the IWY were elected, they were all the slate presented by the anti-ERA people, okay?
So the problem is we’re a bit different than most states and actually, the president of NOW organization said last night that there’s a large majority of delegates who were NOW members, which this woman was. And it is very logical if you—she’s on the national board —if you had the—she’s president of the NOW organization and she’s on the national board—if you had the organization such as that to disseminate information about the state meetings, you’re in a much better position to get those people to come than the general public, and so there no— little pressure to apply, the—the, a large number of people here are of a certain temperament.
Now, I’m not saying, that you know, nothing bad, but you’re getting a certain class of people. Because as they say, the information list, as far as I know, at least in our Ardmore, they made the remark that the letter came and it was not distributed. The person who received the letter did not realize the importance. Now I don’t know where they sent the letters, in other words, how the information about the conference was disseminated above and beyond the general press you understand?
LK: Right, right.
LK: So that you found out about it through a friend?
GK: IWY? Yes, I have a friend who’s on the…and as I said, a group that organized the protest movement.
GK: But how the official information was disseminated, I really don’t know. It was not, except through the general press, —that you’d thought that would supposedly be it, that the conference was being held, but I didn’t know—, I didn’t know about it through those channels.
LK: So at least you—.
GK: At least Oklahoma was different; so you should have that on your tape.
LK: Yeah no, I’d love to ask you a little more about that. Could you tell me what—what your own feelings are?
GK: My own…—opinions of that meeting was that they voted against quotas for women as a mandatory thing, they voted against more federal programs because we couldn’t afford it, not that they don’t approve of things, but you know just that the federal funding—there must be an end—, and they voted pro-life plank. Those three things they voted on—you might say—pretty much together. The other issues they voted on, you couldn’t tell; the votes were just every which way.
LK: Well, what is your opinion on those three?
GK: Well, I was very much in agreement. As far as the pro-life thing, I am Catholic. And so I had a bias. I also have twelve children. But as I say, I think it should be a probably a personal matter, but I don’t feel that we should, the government should pay for it. (Crowd cheering at 4:14)
I know that it may be handicap on the poor, but there are a lot of disadvantages and to say that the government should pay for something like that, I think is wrong. I mean your forcing a lot of people to you know, pay for it—.
LK: Right, with twelve children are you primarily a homemaker, then?
GK: I’ve turned into an activist but—.
LK: When did you turn into an activist?
GK: Well, we moved from Ohio to Oklahoma about twelve years ago, and at the same time, my children were getting to be old school and so on and so forth. And —and mostly because we need leadership in this country, we have no leaders, it’s that simple.
LK: So what was your first—?
GK: And I’m being forced into being leader. I’m a Republican, I’m—a Carter representative from Carter County, I’m the national committeewomen from Carter County for the Republican Party in Oklahoma, NSSA it’s been—, and I also have been state treasurer for Church of the United and have been president of the Latin Council of Catholic women. It is in those areas that I have worked.
LK: Can you tell me what the first public—you said it was about twelve years ago you started—you became active?
GK: Through my church work and through that I went to the Church of the United—?
LK: Were you in a women’s group in your church?
GK: Yes, and in the area association and then through that I got involved in Church of the United, which of course you know is interdenominational, you know about that…
LK: What role did you have in that?
GL: I was state treasurer and —the—, Church of the United came out opposed—I mean for ERA, and the vote was about 60/40.
LK: And what is your opinion on that?
GK: And—, I was against the ERA, I think it damages nation. I think it allows,—the second part of the ERA says that the federal government will have the right to—to—to enforce the legislation and that means the federal government will have rights in lots of new areas that have been before this have been state issues. For example, your right—18 year olds to vote is now a federal jurisdiction; the states have no rights in that area. Well this is also true addition of any area that sets—sets environmentally and so all of this is going to have to be settled in the courts, and a lot of the time, yes, but not all in the long sum, okay?
LK: Could I just ask you some biographical information, like where you were born and—
GK: I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I lived in Ohio for probably about 20—15 years of my married life, and have lived in Oklahoma the last—.
LK: Would you mind giving a birth date?
GK: I’m 55.
LK: Okay. And were you part of a large family yourself?
GK: Not really, five were in my family.
LK: And what kind of work did your parents do?
GK: My father was in the petroleum business, industry, in Oklahoma; he worked for a large company. And my husband owns his own business now, started in the basement. We have about—oh— about 35 people working for us.
LK: So, you are—you are also concerned about small business issues then?
GK: Definitely, definitely—.
LK: In that one area definitely—?
GK: I haven’t worked in that area, my husband had, he’s been —, he’s president of the school board right now and he has been president of the Chamber of Commerce, has been very active in our community, and I have, through my activity, I have been ah you know—.
LK: Right, right, does he support your—activism?
GK: I—I interviewed a woman who wrote the book, Mother Effervescent Liberty Moore, who wrote that? I can’t remember her name, so help me. I had coffee once with her because she was in Ardmore once—as a Arts and Humanities tour, and she looked at me and she says, “You know, you’re more liberated than I am because I have to wear makeup and look beautiful,” and I said “You don’t even have to wear makeup.” (Laughs)
Which is true, but it boils down to human relations, in other words, there’s no such thing as justice and equal rights, or anything else, unless you —unless you have, have equal rights and equal respect as persons. You know it can’t be—like you can’t legislate morality, we have to do it cause—what has to be done is people, and you know, well interests in —interest in other human beings and—and a lack of —, selfishness. I have, as I said, I have twelve children—, and I have five that are married. One has children, the others have none, but one has one, and, there’s so much self-centeredness in people’s lives, you know what I mean? There—, in their skiing and in their creature comforts and themselves and its more—, really a maturetism when you think about it, a lot of the, of the trend of the day. You understand what I’m saying?
GK: There’s selfishness; and the selfishness and the concern for other people are not really compatible, you know? I don’t know.
LK: What would you like to see come out of this—these meetings? Why did you come?
GK: I think to be part of the protest this afternoon from 1-4.
LK: Have you been active in organizing the protest?
GK: Yes, didn’t do too well, but I’ve been active.
LK: Yeah, I went to the press meeting for it yesterday.
LK: What would you like to see happen here?
GK: Well, it’s mostly that I think the ERA is bad legislation. I think, as I say, that it is too encompassing, it’s too uncertain, and we do have laws granted for opportunity and the ERA people have—already accomplished that. You know, a lot of their objectives have been accomplished as far as equal—equal pay and those sorts of things. And I just feel like, the, as they say, it makes more federal jurisdiction in our lives, and I don’t think we need that. You—you look at OSHA, you look at, you know, all of these.
LK: You don’t like OSHA, Occupational safety?
GK: Well it isn’t—it isn’t, they’ve changed it, they didn’t like it themselves.
LK: How would you like to see that changed?
GK: Well, as they say, if you have—if you have people who do as what they should do, you don’t need these laws.
LK: Do you think more—?
GK: My husband has a business and he’s had no problems with OSHA and anybody else, because he does things, as I say, as they should be done. He has a clean shop and, you know, he tries to avoid occupational hazards. And as I say, it boils down to people, not laws. Now, I talked enough.
LK: Thank you very much, I much appreciate it.
GK: It’s just a different view.
End of Interview