Interviewee: Jean Marshall Crawford Clarke
Interviewer: Sister Marie Heyda
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Jean Marshall Crawford Clarke, from Barbersville, Virginia and was an attorney, the state coordinator of the National Organization for Women in Virginia and an elected delegate from Virginia to the IWY convention. Issues important to Clarke included the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive rights, and sexual preference protections. Interview includes discussion of: Clarke’s belief that the biggest barriers to the equality of women are economic; the fight for the ERA in Virginia; and women in gendered professions working under men in the administration, for example, in teaching.
Marie Hedya: Your name and profession and where you’re from?
Jean Marshall Crawford Clarke: I’m Jean Marshall Clarke. I’m from Barbersville, Virginia. I’m an attorney. I’m a state coordinator of the National Organization for Women in Virginia. I was elected a delegate at the June meeting of the Virginia IWY Commission, and I’ve come with a delegation of thirty women all of whom support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, the right to women to have free choice and control of her body, the right of no discrimination on basis of their sexual preference, and a myriad of other feminist issues.
MH: Now, what barriers do you think that still exist to equality of women?
JMC: I think that the biggest barriers to equality of women are economic. Women in this country – well, in Virginia – make 59 percent of the salary that men make over their lifetime of employment. I think that this will not be alleviated until women’s roles are valued on the same basis as men’s roles are economically. I think that the Equal Rights Amendment will be a moral statement in this country that they have to accord equal value to the work of men and women.
MH: Do you think that women haven’t learned or were never taught to fight for their rights, or we just passively accept, that’s why men can pay us the lower wage than they’ll pay a man for the same work?
JMC: I think that might be a certain element. But I also think that women who are employed are employed out of economic necessity and they, like anybody else who are employed, are afraid of losing their jobs if they fight for equal pay. As an attorney, I see so many people who are being discriminated against on the basis of their sex in pay, or in benefits, and they won’t do a damn thing about it because they’re scared that they’ll lose their jobs. And that’s true, they may damn well lose their jobs.
As of November 1977, Virginia has not yet ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment. But in the off-year election in Virginia that we had this past year, two weeks ago, we knocked off the House Majority Leader, Jim Thomson, in Alexandria, Virginia. This is a man who served for twenty-two years and was a chief opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. He was defeated solely on the basis of his anti-ERA stand, the greatest victory we’ve ever had in Virginia on the ERA.
There’s actually no other way for women to get the ERA ratified. We have to be politically involved. There is no more education to be done. Ninety-eight percent of Virginians have an opinion on the ERA. Sixty-three percent of those people support the Equal Rights Amendment. Only 2 percent of people in Virginia are undecided about the ERA. We can’t afford the time to educate them. We have to convince our legislators, and the only way that they’re going to be convinced is that we have political clout. The only way to have political clout is to get actively involved in politics. We’ve got to take the white gloves off.
Women in any profession are not treated with as much credibility as men are in the same profession. I think that there’s inherent discrimination in people’s attitudes because each profession in this country is male dominated. Even a profession like teaching, where 75 percent of the teachers in this country are female, the hierarchy of the profession is male. The attitudes pervade that institution as well as the legal field, the medical field, and everyplace else. The only thing that will change that is a generational change. That is not going to change. And I think the ERA speaks to a change in people’s attitudes generation by generation – a gradual thing.
End of Interview