Interviewee: Joanne Thomas
Interviewer: Sister Marie Heyda
Date: November 1977
Joanne Thomas was from Salt Lake City, Utah and member of the Mormon Church. Thomas hosted her own radio program on station KN66. She attended the IWY Conference as a member of the Utah delegation, most of whom opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. Interview includes discussion of: the Utah state conference and the strategies used to encourage women to participate; Thomas’ disbelief that Utah is not in support of women’s rights, because the state granted women the right to vote relatively early; and Thomas’ concerns about increasing right-wing activism around the state.
Marie Heyda: Will you give me your name and where you’re from first?
Joanne Thomas: My name’s Joanne Thomas and I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I have a two-way talk-radio program on station KN66. I have six hours of live radio each weekend and I talk to the women in Utah, and know quite a bit about it. I’ve been a resident of Utah all my life. I was baptized a member of the Mormon Church, so I understand a lot of it and I’ve done a lot of research into the history of the Church. All fourteen delegates from Utah are of really one mind on most of the issues.
MH: Is that right?
JT: Right. Thirteen of them are Mormon women; one is a Catholic woman. All are opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment. They voted unanimously in Salt Lake City at our convention. By the way, we expected three thousand women; thirteen thousand women turned up to vote for these delegates. They voted against the IWY conference and against all of the national recommendations, all of them.
I think that the reason so many women turned out in Salt Lake is because the president of the Mormon Church, Spencer W. Kimball, and the presiding officers, the Presidency of the Church, have issued an official statement in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, specifically. Word was sent out from the women’s organization, the Relief Society, and through the Presidency of the Church to have ten women from each ward attend the conference, and they turned out, and I don’t believe we’re really well informed on the issues. The message seemed to be get out to vote no, that it was going to destroy the family and to vote no, which they certainly did.
I’m very dismayed by what is happening in Utah, because Mormon pioneer women were very supportive of the suffragettes and were very strong in their official publication of the time; they were very supportive. Frankly, I think it’s a giant step backward in Utah, and I’m very unhappy and very dismayed. I also think that there were right-wing political elements in the state who also have a communication network throughout the state, and when the two joined forces – absolutely unbeatable. I think it spread over into other states.
MH: Evidently the men of Utah are against all this?
JT: I’m not certain what the last poll indicated, but I would think that from my program and from my observations that maybe more men are in favor of it than women, which is difficult to understand. We have a long way to go in Utah. But we’re in there, doing our best.
End of Interview