Janice P. Cate

Interviewee: Janice P. Cate
IWY TX 103
Interviewer: Amelia Fry
Date: November 18-21, 1977

Janice Cate, of Bellevue, Washington, attended the IWY conference as an official observer. She was active in the women’s movement and the peace movement, domestically and abroad. She was a member of many organizations including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the United Nations Association, and Church Women United, an ecumenical group. Cate participated in the Washington State IWY conference as the leader of the International Interdependence workshop and as an outreach chairperson for her part of state. Interview includes discussion of the International Women’s Year effort and how Cate observed the splintering of the IWY in the United States into pro- and anti-ERA factions at the state level. She also discussed the international peace movement and the impact the ERA issue has had on other concerns of women activists.

Sound Recording

Transcript 

Amelia Fry:   What we need first is just your name and your address and your telephone number, in case anybody wants to follow up on this later.

Janice Cate:   Janice Cate, 12642 NE 5th, Bellevue, Washington, 98005. 455-4048.

AF:     What’s your area code?

JC:      206.

AF:     Let me get your status here.  You’re listed here as an observer.

JC:      Yes.

AF:     Okay. What is your main interest and orientation in coming here? In other words…

JC:      Well, I’m in the women’s movement. I’m a feminist in Washington Peace.

AF:     What?

JC:      I’m in the women’s movement.  I’m a feminist and I’m interested in survival and peace.

AF:     Are you in a peace movement in Washington?

JC:      Yes, I’m in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  I’m on the board of the United Nations Association.

AF:     That’s a state board?

JC:      That’s a local Seattle metropolitan area board. That’s a local I am the co-chair person of the Seattle Religious Peace Action Coalition, which is a task force of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and I’m on the state board of Church Women United, citizen action chairperson; an ecumenical group, Catholic and Protestant.  I’m also in the Affirmative Action Committee of the Bellevue Public School System.  I’m a Methodist.

AF:     What do you do to keep busy? (Laughs)

JC:      (Laughs) I work in the peace movement.  I’m devoted to peace.

AF:     Are you a part of the peace workshops here?

JC:      I’m not a part of the peace workshop as conducting the peace workshop, but I came here as part of the Women Strike for Peace and putting on their booth.  I am a guest of Joel Pritchard, the representative congressman from Washington, who wants to know what happens.

AF:     So you report back to him in return for…he’s paying your way.

JC:      No, he did not pay my way.  He gave me a guest pass, as a group, although I’m really down here for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, although it was Mr. Pritchard that gave me my pass, Congressman Pritchard.  And we also raised money for six low income women, senior citizens, to Senior Citizens Peace, young women devoted to peace, three blacks, minorities, and a Roman Catholic nun.  We paid their way.  The church collected money and we paid their way.

AF:     We is the Methodist Church?

JC:      Church Women United.

AF:     Were you in on the state meeting in Washington?

JC:      Yes, I was, I was responsible for the International Interdependence workshop, and I was outreach chairperson for the most populated area in the State of Washington from the border down to the City of Tacoma.

AF:     How did that meeting go in Washington?  Did you have any difference of opinion in it?

JC:      Yes.  We had 2,000 women attended – well, yeah, 2-3,000 and probably 3,500, and they looked like they were divided between the pro-ERA and the anti-ERA forces, and they presented two slates, pro-ERA slates of women, and an anti-ERA slate of women, and the women who were pro-ERA won out but there were many women, because of this unfortunate situation, there were many fine women who were left out of the slate, minorities for one and peace women who were left out of the slate, because it was a disaster.

AF:     I just wouldn’t have expected that to happen in Washington.

JC:      I don’t think the coordinating committee expected it either, because they would have been prepared.

AF:     How do you explain it now?

JC:      Well, I really came from the peace movement.  I could explain that very well.  I think the International Women’s Year and the grant that was given was set up in such a way to put us in this particular bind that we find ourselves in, opposing forces, one pro-ERA, one anti-ERA, and did not consider that International Women’s Decade is a women’s movement open to all women all over the world, and it has narrowed down now in the United States, two factions probably, an extreme of both views, one extreme of the pro-ERA and extreme views of the anti-ERA, and those uninformed or more moderate views are more or less caught in between these two pre-planned agendas, you see.

And this was set up I think, in my personal opinion, that when they chose the delegates on a national basis and a statewide basis, they chose women by and large who had been working in the women’s movement, or at least were rather prominent in women’s organizations.  So consequently, those women then chose women on state levels in some way that were their friends and women who were very successful in the women’s movement.  Almost all of our women were employed and their time was limited because they were employed, and they in turn did not open the organization to volunteer organizations such as American Association of University Women, to Church Women United, to volunteer members of ZONTA or Delta Kappa Gamma or religious groups, so consequently in the State of Washington where we really had a division between pro and con the so-called smaller feminist representation took on a very small religious organization in the eyes of most all Protestant organization, the Mormon Church.  And it became a conflict between those two groups, with the other women looking on wondering what happened.

It wouldn’t have happened had this government grant and organization stipulated that all women were a part of the organization and planning of the total program at all the meetings, because then the Mormon and the other women would only have been one of a group; one of the group.  But as it was, now those of us who are pro-ERA are caught in a defensive position, and those who are anti-ERA are asking the hard questions.  What is happening to the family?  What is going to happen when the federal government takes over all responsibility for the choices that you’ve made?  Whether it’s a choice to have a baby as a single parent, whether it’s a choice to have an abortion, these have all been personal matters.  Now the federal government, as I see it here, is being asked to fund these responsibilities that have been the local community responsibility.

We used to help each other get out of trouble.  Now, I’m not saying we go back to that, but I think we have to give it a hard look, because that’s destroying our value structure, what we know, what even feminists know.  Are they going to be able to maintain a stable community, a stable society in a world that is in rapid change if they have not articulated the vision of that world, which brings me to the peace movement?

AF:     (Laughs) Take a breath.

JC:      I went in Mexico City to the International Women’s Year Conference.  I also attended a conference in East Berlin for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom that same year, more or less sponsored by Russia and France to the tune of about $33 million, and then I was invited by the American Association of University Women to attend the Pacific Rim conference last year where we discussed women’s issues and peace.

AF:     As a delegate?

JC:      To that one, yes.  No, was I a delegate to Mexico City?

AF:     No, Pacific Rim.

JC:      Yes, I was, from the AAUW state board.  So consequently, I’ve had a little experience in trying to understand women and what they want and what women are asking for in the world.  I have some very good worldwide friends, such as Judge Annie Jiagge from Ghana who was one of the planners of the original women’s conference, United Nations Conference in Mexico City.  She’s now the World Council of Churches president, one of six.  And I think that these women on that level have been taking a very serious look at equality, economic development, and peace, which is a theme of International Women’s Decade.

And then we get down to our local units and we forget peace and slide over economic development, and we cannot understand our own problems without having a world view.  In a nation that uses up so much of the world’s resources, women are going to have to ask themselves the question, how long can they be in this position without causing WWIII?

What I wanted to say was that the International Interdependence just passed with a good – International Affairs, it’s called, Women in Foreign Policy resolution has just passed and it’s a very good, modest resolution, not too threatening, nothing that we didn’t already know in the peace movement for several years.  But in the wings were women who have been dedicated to the peace movement for many, many years and they had some amendments.  One particular amendment was that this conference go on record against the neutron bomb.  That’s what’s historical.

AF:     Did that pass?

JC:      It didn’t get off the ground.  The amendments were not taken up.  Someone moved to accept the resolution in total; that passed.  Consequently, no one will hear at this conference about the resolution to, or the amendment to ban the neutron bomb, which every woman and man in this world is petrified of.  And at any moment we could destroy ourselves within a half an hour.  The neutron bomb, as you well know, destroys people and leaves the buildings standing.  And although it is not a new type of bomb, it certainly is a diabolical type of situation.  It means that all the human rights and the equal rights that we’ve talked about here really mean nothing.

For instance, we are working for equal rights, but I’d like to say that we may find out equality in death because we are not making, within the women’s movement, responsible statements to the world in the United States.  They are looking to see what we are going to do about our disastrous military buildup that we’ve had going since WWII and it has been leading us to total destruction.  And I refer anybody if they doubt my word to interview Dr. Caldicott.

AF:     Who?

JC:      Helen Caldicott, pediatrician, Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, Boston, Massachusetts, and Australian woman that can give you all the horrors of what nuclear warfare, nuclear proliferation does to children, to old people, to millions of people.  If you’ve ever seen anybody dying of cancer, I don’t see how anybody could vote in our Congress for any more nuclear warfare, even if we had to put ourselves on the line at risk.

Because we sell arms to the world, we are the first distributor and seller of arms in the world, and Russia is next but we outsell Russia two to one.  Those statistics come from Ruth Leger Sevard, a former government employee who had done an in depth research for the past few years on where we put our money in the world.  Over $300 million goes to military expenditures, and we have 500 million people starving to death, most of those women and children, and this conference has not done anything about it.

AF:     What was the name of the woman who did the study that you just gave me?

JC:      Ruth Leger Sevard.  There’s another excellent book called The Pork Barrel out by Marianne Anderson, another former government employee in the State of Washington and she will tell you where the money goes.  And I would like to see the women’s movement in the United States begin to deal with serious issues.  I’m for equality, but if I’m going to lose all my grandchildren, all my children, what does it mean to me?

AF:     How did this lose in there on the floor just now?  Did it not come up for a vote at all?

JC:      I think the parliamentary procedure here is a mystery to me.  I don’t understand it.  I am a Methodist.  I’ve seen conferences go through click-click-click-click.  I don’t know how these women – I know women who could move a conference faster.  I know women in the State of Washington who could move a conference faster.  I don’t know why we get embroiled into this.  There were four amendments up, someone got the microphone, moved to accept this in toto, so the amendments never came up.  They were never even placed on the floor.

AF:     If you wave a yellow standard, don’t you get –?

JC:      I don’t care what color you wave.

AF:     Don’t you get recognized by the chair?

JC:      They didn’t.

AF:     Were there yellow standards, or whatever the color was.

JC:      Whatever the color was, but apparently it didn’t come up in the round of going through eight.  These women, well, they went through the eight rows of people who wanted to speak to the issue, and the issue of the amendments never came up before the woman who said let’s vote on the issue.  She said let’s vote on the issue, so they voted to bring it to the floor and it passed, then they voted on the issue and the issue passed.  The amendments never were known, which I think is very historical.  Should we blow up ourselves in some future date or injure our country, we will know that we never here at this historic meeting took a stand against the neutron bomb.

AF:     Well, this must have been a terrible disappointment to you.  What do you think this will mean when you get back and start working again in Washington where you live?

JC:      Well, it’s not a disappointment to me, because it was the women’s conference and the way it’s been organized has been a disappointment to me where peace women and religious women with strong convictions have been left off.  We are the ones with the value structure.  They’re very strong value structures.  Whether we’re pro or con, religious women have very strong value structures and we don’t want them destroyed.  And this conference, from Washington, D.C. on down, has left people out.

I know Claire Randall personally.  In fact, I know several women on that coordinating committee and they really came in after the fact.  This is, they’re President Carter’s appointees, and the die was cast under President Nixon, because he appointed the first coordinators, you see.  That kind of set the tone.

AF:     Set the tone and the criteria for future appointments?

JC:      Yes, and I honestly believe that the Conservatives are right.  It was set up to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and they were of course interested in the other things or they wouldn’t be on it, but basically peace was nothing to them.

AF:     Let me ask you one more question.  Up until just recently the Equal Rights movement was headed by Alice Paul who wrote it and put it in 1922 and so forth, and one of her major thoughts and strategies was that they could not let the Equal Rights Amendment movement be touched by issues like war and peace, economic development, abortion, anything like that, because you have to accomplish these things in two phases.  First, you establish equality of women as a Constitutional amendment which will then give women a base of assurance and power then in which they can work for what their value structure calls for, which then will be the second phase.  Now, we’re not doing it that way, but what do you think about that, now that we do seem to have ERA as the prime objective of this conference?

JC:      I think that, number one you have to have women with a strong value structure, and our society us undergoing a change in values.  It’s going through quite a severe change of values, so there’s not too many people – I never hear the visions of the women’s movement articulated.  I didn’t hear it here.  Barbara Jordan came a little close but not quite.  I never hear the women’s movement in the United States articulated as to what those women really want.  I’ve heard economic power; I’ve heard they wanted equal rights.  That particular statement that we get equality for women, or the Equal Rights Amendment, is a statement made just like we’re going to get the vote for women.  And we got the vote, but we didn’t let black women vote, and we didn’t go out and march for black men, so I don’t think her theory is correct in any way.

I think you work on what your vision is, what your value structure is, and if you see, if you are for human rights, the right to live, the right to become a human being, whether you’re a man or a woman, if you are for all the values we say that are great, love, peace, justice, equality, truthfulness, these types of things, then you have no trouble figuring out where you’re going to put your fight.  And people who are working, that’s our problem with the dialogue with the Conservatives.  We’re not dialoguing on things that mean a great deal to either one of us.  We’re dialoguing on something – they’re saying family, we’re saying family, they’re saying well we’re all for equal rights and fair play, we’re saying we’re all for equal rights and fair play, but those aren’t the big issues.

The big issues are justice.  That’s the big issue, justice for everybody.  Peace is a big issue.  Survival is a big issue, but the right to be able to live as a human being on this earth is a human right.  We have a human right to life, that every time we take it from somebody that’s just one more nail into a conflict.  That’s the point of it, and we have to begin to develop women with vision.  Now, there are women with vision.  I’m not saying there aren’t.  Margaret Mead is one of them.  There are lots of women with vision.  Elise Volding is one of them, Dr. Elise Volding at the University of Colorado.  There are many of them.  Annie Jiagge is one on the world basis.  They have this vision.  But it’s a religious vision.  It may not be a Methodist vision or a Roman Catholic vision; it’s a humanist vision.  And those are the women that we’ve got to begin to listen to very carefully.  These are women that have narrowed down, I think, to an issue, where we should be kind of dragging ourselves out of the issue-oriented now and looking at the vision, but I’m not awfully sure the feminists can do that.

AF:     Well, they’ve got to ratify those other three stakes.

JC:      Historically, whether they ratify them now or whether they ratify them in twenty-five years will not make too much difference.  I don’t feel so, because as I say, they’ve never told me what they wanted.  I’ve heard economic power.  We have a woman governor of our state and she believes in nuclear proliferation, so I don’t know.  I’m just working in the grass roots community.  I haven’t heard anybody articulate the vision, not Betty Ford, not anybody here at this conference, not anybody at the Washington conference, but I heard it Mexico City.

AF:     Tell me what’s the difference?

JC:      Well, they were talking on world problems.

AF:     Oh, you’re talking about the economic development.

JC:      I’m talking about living and recognizing all people as brothers and sisters.  That’s a vision.  I have a statement here, it’s ideal, and it’s not exactly – let me get this out.

AF:     Let me turn this off.

(Break in recording at 25:10)

JC:      …Equal rights, I’m a feminist.  But here, I’d like to read just a little bit of this statement that we worked on in 1975 for the International Women’s Year, and we sent it down there.  But this is written by a Quaker, a woman who’s a playwright, and I’ll just read a little bit of it.  (Reads from the document.)  “We are the daughters of one mother, the Earth.  Our family is the human family, and every member of this family has emerged from the body and care of a woman.  As the prime nurturers of life, we assert that everyone born has the right to be treated with the proper respect for human dignity and the precious gift of life.  No individual or group of individuals has the privilege of abridging this right.  Injustice is a violation of this basic human right, and by this violation injustice provokes violent reaction.

Human dignity demands that everyone be free.  Human dignity demands that everyone born be allowed to develop in accordance with individual mental, physical, and spiritual capacity.  Human dignity demands fair and respectful treatment of the poor and unemployed.  Our governments have only one right, to govern in the best interests of the governed.  War is never in the best interests of the governed.  By declaring war, those in government usurp the power of life and death over their fellow citizens.  War not only jeopardizes the basic right to live, it debases our very selves by substituting for human values and individual conscience the pernicious war mystique that denies humanity of the enemy.” And I won’t go on…

I will, “Without a fair distribution of the Earth’s resources, there can only be a smoldering resentment that is a constant threat to peace.  Unless we care more for the equality in life, the equality of death may well be forced upon us.”  So, I’ll just end with that.

AF:     I see what you mean about – and that you think is also a typical example of the position that came out of Mexico City?

JC:      No, I don’t think this came out of Mexico City…

AF:     I know it didn’t come out of there…

JC:      But they articulated the problem at Mexico City, at the tribune, because there were women there that had been treated with injustice by our country.  There were people in our own country that had been mistreated.  Our human rights in our country need to be cared for.  We as a government have forced people into virtual slavery in South Korea or in jails.  In South Korea, in Vietnam, we were killing people and using terrible means of experimenting with weapons, and that’s the type of thing, and I think women must recognize these things honestly.  I think the women’s movement must ask themselves honest questions.  What is important in our life?  Equality is a human right, so that naturally counts.  There’s no question about equality for women.  Worldwide there’s no question about equal rights for women.  That is it.

AF:     But there seems to be a question here about equality of women as voiced by those who oppose the Equal Rights Amendment.

JC:      This is so small in history.  Equality for women in the United States is already practically in, even if it’s next year, ten years, twenty years, you’re not going to change time.

AF:     You feel it’s inevitable.

JC:      It’s inevitable, and we should get on with the business of other things, because we don’t have a great deal of time. You see?  I’ve tried to point out that in the State of Washington we were all set, until this thing came along and now we’ve stepped backwards at least five years.  We’re pro, we have free choice, we had a women’s commission on the docket, we are a pro-ERA slate, and now the women’s commission is no longer they’ll go after the Equal Rights Amendment again and we’ll lose our free choice.

So what have we gained by this particular type of women’s structure here, this grant that was given to us, as women, it really wasn’t.  It was given to a few women to try to force their agenda on us, and that’s where I think the anti have us right over a barrel.  And I’m a feminist.

AF:     (Laughs) I think there is something there. And probably because I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

JC:      You and me both, we had a fire in the hotel.

AF:     We had a fire in the hotel, too. You and I must have been out on the…we were in our pajamas in the street together!

JC:      It’s a little raunchy, too. (Laughs)

AF:     Back up. You said that when you go back to Washington, the State of Washington, the struggle for the ERA now will somehow bring about a problem in losing your freedom of choice?  What do you mean?

JC:      Well, we have a well-oiled political machine of conservative women and men who now have the offensive in the State of Washington.  (Tape slips at 30:34) … and try to gain the offensive again, which is going to mean every women’s organization that is dedicated to the equal rights or human rights, and it will be much easier if we gain the offensive by saying that all women deserve human rights.  Because they don’t discuss those issues; they only discuss the issues about family and loyalty to the government and religion.  Those aren’t things that we discussed.

We’re talking about living, people’s right to live and develop and grow without their human rights being violated, whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Russia, whether it is Europe, England, whether it is South Africa, and Dr. Caldicott said women should be taking to the streets and protesting.  We don’t shed blood anymore.  We used to.  These women always have, and they shed blood here just like any other place.  But generally speaking, the women’s movement has forgotten what it was to really stand up and be counted.

AF:     Tell me, in your own personal background, which came first, your interest in peace or your interest in feminism?

JC:      Oh, what came first was my value structure, that you don’t take people’s lives, you don’t deprive them of their human rights, you don’t lie, cheat, steal; those things I was taught as a young person.  And I grew up like that and I have a church, and when I (unintelligible at 32:01) things I get punished for it.  That is the way I was reared.

AF:     Was this in regard to Methodism?

JC:      No, I come from an Episcopalian family.  Now, I’m an ecumenical woman.  I’m not particularly loyal to one denomination or the other.

AF:     But you did have a background growing up –

(Tape cuts off at 32:26)

End of Interview

(32:26)