Interviewee: Jaqueline D. (Jackie) Frost
IWY TX 184
Interviewer: Constance Ashton Myers
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Jackie Frost, 30, was the director of purchasing and import for Carolina Color & Chemical Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. She became involved in International Women’s Year activities in Charlotte, specifically the torch relay. Frost also served as a delegate of North Carolina for IWY’s national conference. Interview includes discussion of her involvement with the National Organization for Women. In 1972, NOW director Judy Lightfoot asked Frost to convene a chapter in Charlotte. Following this, she was promoted to Southern Regional Director of NOW, a position she held for three years. Frost aided organizational efforts throughout the southern U.S. for the ratification of the ERA.
Constance Ashton Myers: I have with me Jackie Frost who is from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’d like for Jackie to give her name–but I’ve given her name (laughter) —her address and zip code, and if she will, her phone number, and then to tell us what the conference means to her and any other information she would like —to tell when she became aware or if she’s having a good time here in her occupation, her official status here —whatever she would like.
Jackie Frost: My name is Jackie Frost. My address if 5017 Malibu Drive in Charlotte, North Carolina. My zip code is 28215. My home phone number is 704-area code-535-0290. My office number is 704-333-5101. I’m thirty years of age, and I’m director of purchasing and import for Carolina Color & Chemical Company in Charlotte.
When I first became aware of the national conference for International Women’s Year, I was impressed by the fact that Congress had allocated five million dollars, and had officially recognized their need to have a plan for the next decade for women so that their legislation can effectively manage and control and direct the services and the lives of women in the United States.
The first thing I did in International Women’s Year was to prepare for the state meeting and run– as a delegate, to which I was elected–and to me one of the symbolic things early was the run from Seneca Falls to Houston. When the torch relay passed through Charlotte, I aided two young women–young wonderful women – track runners at UNCC, Karen Pop, who headed it, and her roommate, and offered to help them get information out, to get telephones, to get people, and we had the largest crowd…Catherine East told us–who was the IWY observer there–of any torch relay run rally in the country. I ran two and a half miles, and I’ve been running ever since. I try to run three times a week, and my doctor approves, and each time I’m remembering the run from Seneca Falls to Houston.
We had a marathon runner, a young man named Frank Parker, who was leading our bus to go run a twenty-eight mile marathon. We had men, women, a four year old child, all races, from about six in the morning to one o’clock at the rally at UNCC. It was an exciting event, and in keeping, when I got down here I was asked to carry the flag. When the torch relay was brought in from Overlook Park on Friday at one p.m. to open the conference, and in the delegation front was Bella Abzug, the Commission Chair, Billy Jean King, whose heel bruised my instep at one point (laughter), and Susan B. Anthony, the grand-niece of Susan B. Anthony, who linked the past to the present. The speakers ranged from every age and every race at the rally while the rain was pouring on us, and the Time magazine photographer, Raul Solomon, told me this was the most moving event that she had seen so far at the conference. It truly was moving in a lot of ways.
I’m a delegate from North Carolina.
CM: I need to ask you perhaps your organizational activity, and how perhaps you became aware of women’s issues and moved to the organizational–?
JF: In 1972, I met then Southern Regional l director of the National Organization for Women, Judy Lightfoot, who asked me to convene the chapter in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a young chapter in Winston Salem, when NOW was just beginning to get organized in the South. I convened the chapter in Charlotte, and a year and a half later was asked to run for Southern Regional Director which I did, and I served in that capacity for three and half years.
My major role in the women’s movement has been in organizing the southern states. I had fourteen southern states, the District of Columbia, and when I took over we had roughly six thousand members; and at the end of the term, we had about fourteen thousand throughout the fourteen southern states and the District of Columbia. The ERA ratification was just beginning. The backlash from Phyllis Schlafly and Stop ERA just begun in early ’73, and I helped both in the ratification council in Washington and trips throughout the South urging people to organize around the issue of ERA.
We took in each state an assessment of areas where there was very little activity around the ERA —no grassroots support, very few letters being written, and we organize N.O.W chapters in those areas. Florida was notably one of the most successful in turning around several votes and in defeating this anti-ERA legislature. That method continued through the years 1974 elections to 1976 elections, and one-by-one we narrowed the vote margin in each legislative session. In North Carolina, we lost in the Senate in 1973 by two vote changes. Again in 1975, the House had a very bitter defeat. But in 1977, with winning the House and Senate again, we had two vote switches, which stopped ERA again in North Carolina.
I am committed more than any other issue to ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States. To that effect, Laura Wilson who was a Senator in Florida sponsored the legislation, whom I know well, discussed with me, before the torch relay and afterwards, a gathering of the un-ratified states. We’ll meet Sunday night for a strategy session among ourselves on the ratification attempt in the next fifteen months. We have asked three members from each state to come; and at that meeting, we will develop common problems, common solutions. We will evaluate what we did wrong, what to avoid again, what political pressures to use, how to organize effective grassroots support in a magnificent exchange. We will not be lead by the national organizations, which have given us invaluable money, but we’re going to talk about, as Barbara Jordan said, how to get the foot soldiers out to get the job done—
CM: This is tonight?
JF: Sunday night at 9 p.m. in the Florida Suite in Room 3030 — in this hotel —the Hyatt Regency.
CM: Just the delegates or for the public or —?
JF: We have asked each delegation chair to nominate three people to come to our meeting, and we have the master list here, and they’re all committed to come at 9 PM and are very excited about doing so. The only ones we had problems with were Utah, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Delegations are predominantly Stop ERA.
So what we did is our typical feminist connection. We passed around a sheet among the at-large delegates and said, “Pro-at large delegates sign-in.” We got lists of all the pro-at-large delegates and found out the names in Oklahoma, in Utah, and again, Alabama and Mississippi, of the key people who were either serving in the legislation, lobbying on the hill, organizing the grassroots board. It’ll be a dynamite meeting, and I hope that this can be reflected again on tape. I think that is my major purpose in getting this together, and came down here with that effort to do so, and Florida has the same burning need has because for several years coming so close. We feel in Florida and North Carolina, that South Carolina, Nevada —all the states, we have a lot of common problems.
In my opinion, one of the key things we must do to ratify the ERA is to not only get support from our elected officials, from the governors of the states, from the local mayors, from the official, elected and appointed political figures in the state, but we must take their word to every single community in every state. The plan that I think is necessary is that women who will only go out to a church meeting, a PTA meeting, or YWCA meeting, who don’t have any childcare in those communities, can come to a session to discuss the ERA ten months ahead of time.
A caravan is an excellent idea if it can be funded. A Winnebago was given to Virginia last year. To go through the state, Indiana used a caravan. Each caravan stopped locally controlled, and sometimes in a home, sometimes in a church basement, sometimes in the Y, and they brought women and men in to discuss many issues — their needs, whether with healthcare, with childcare, with home-extension service, with City Hall, whatever their concerns were, and they interjected how the ERA would make a difference in their lives. Then at the close of meeting each member was plugged into a political campaign at that year, which was 1976, for Pro-ERA representatives. Women representatives were elected by these women who had never worked in a political campaign before. The men knew what their work meant, and they did not forget them. There were farm women, rural women, professional women, homemakers, black, white, Chicano, Mexican-American, any ethnic group, and it was truly a grassroots movement for the ERA in Indiana and defeated in a state in which the John Birch Society was early-on one of the key political forces in the state. I think we can do it in North Carolina, in Nevada, even in Utah, with the professed Mormon opposition to women’s equality.
The second approach is the organizations which on paper support the ERA, but whose members do not get the word out, notably the teachers in North Carolina. We need fact sheets specifically for teachers; we need to get them out into the classrooms. They need to be presented to them in a fashion that is simple, and that is direct. At that point, taking their membership lists, an ERA organizational coalition, must work with them to organize the members to do one or two or three tasks. And as we say in NOW, you don’t have to write one letter. You can write several letters, a letter each week on a specific issue.
I do believe also one other item that with the kind of organization that we need and the money we need to do it and the foot soldiers to do the work. We also need to release some of our organizational turf. There is in some coalitions; and I think history will show it, some problems with organizations taking a certain area of the ratification effort and not wishing another organization to come in on that effort. And we must, as Barbara Jordan said, put aside rancor, put aside bitterness, put aside jealousies, and get it all together. We have a short period of time to do it, and I believe, like Betty Ford, that if we did that we could ratify it by March 22, 1979 and not have the extension.
This conference to me is the beginning of really a new horizon for women, a new awareness in women. And in my personal life, I think that I’ve impacted the decision of at least ten people. And if every woman here could take home the message to tell two friends, and those two friends could take it to ten more, and those ten more could pick an issue out. We could ratify the ERA. We could pass every one of our issues that we could have within the national action within eight months. As Barbara Jordan said, a difference should be made.
CM: So you have renewed energy and faith because of this and new determination? I can see it in your eyes. It won’t show on the tape, but I can see it in your eyes. Is that so?
JF: That’s very much so. Although there’s a political swing to the right in this country, if not a full-shift, that may be irreversible. The goals of the women’s movement are right, they are just, and every American knows it. And as for women who question our issue, and are unclear on what the ERA will do to their children and their families, such as the young woman who at the microphone said, “that I want you to know that we are unsure what this will do,” and her son said there’s a better way than the ERA. If someone could get to her —one on one — just in this manner—“ten for ten” I call it.
We need a plan called “ten for ten” when we come out of here, and it’s a good slogan. It would work, and she could be reached. The majority of the women who are come to the legislatures on Stop ERA could be reached, and they could understand that it will only enhance them. It will make life different for their daughters, and it will release all of the blocks that sit on the heads of young girls when they enter the classroom and feel they can only become a nurse, or only become a secretary, or what they see in their horizon. We will have role models, after role models, after role models, for young girls and young boys. Little boys can cry, little boys can become cooks, little boys can become artists, and they don’t have to play football. And little girls, bless their hearts, can become whatever they want. That is the revolution that is ongoing, and it will never stop.
CM: Thank you! From a very able young lady on the move!
(Recording cuts out at 15:22)
End of Interview