Interviewee: Linda Ragsdale
IWY TX 419
Interviewer: Mollie Camp Davis
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Linda Ragsdale was from Chicago and worked as a school social worker in the suburbs outside of the city. Ragsdale was also affiliated with an adolescent health care program at a community hospital in the area. Ragsdale attended the IWY conference because she believed it was a historic event and she was in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Interview includes discussion of the atmosphere of the conference, how Ragsdale intended to apply the lessons of the conference in Illinois, and how working on behalf of adolescent young women brought her to the women’s movement.
Mollie Camp Davis: This is Mollie Davis, first tape as official IWY oral recorder. I have with me, and I will hand the mike over to . . .
Linda Ragsdale: My name is Linda Ragsdale. My address is 10957 South California Avenue in Chicago. My phone number is 312-881-1715. My occupation is that I’m a school social worker in one of the southwest suburban high school districts outside of Chicago. I am also associated with an adolescent health care program in a local community hospital.
MD: One of the most important questions that we feel should be recorded for posterity is why you came to the conference here.
LR: I came to the conference because I think that it is the only place that a woman who is alive in 1977 should happen to be on the weekend of November 18-21st in the United States of America. There cannot be one other event in the history of this country that could be as important as what is taking place here in Houston this particular weekend. I came because of that historical perspective. I know that this kind of gathering will never take place again in my lifetime. I’m not sure that it will ever take place again. Hopefully it won’t ever need to be redone. But that’s why I’m here.
MD: What do you think, Linda, the results of the conference will mean in terms of your personal life, and if you wish to go even further, in terms of the larger social context?
LR: I think that part of what is happening, for me personally, is that when I go back to Illinois, I am again going to work as hard as I have been in the last several months for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Illinois is one of the states that has not yet ratified it. Personally, I can do things with friends, relatives. I’m involved with several women’s organizations, I’m involved in some professional organizations. I think it’s also going to encourage me to probably seek political office sometime in the next several years. I’m getting much more interested in the political aspect, and I’m really getting excited about doing that. I feel that the only way women can get anywhere is to seize the power and then take it and go with it.
MD: In a sense, you’re saying that it not only would motivate you to do further, and perhaps even enter further things, but to work harder, and continue your good work for the things in which you believe, but that it also would be a great morale booster. Do you see that in the larger social context? That it could act as the same for most people here as perhaps for you? Do you see a good feeling here?
LR: Ok, I think that there’s no doubt that the feeling that is coming from this convention is one of women are on the move, which is the whole theme of the conference. The anti-ERA women are in such a minority here this weekend. The Coliseum is just alive and vibrant with women who are really, really wanting action and action now. And I think that women are just really tired of sitting back. And I really feel that the eyes of the nation have to be on us this weekend. And we have to start being taken more seriously.
MD: More important question, I think, and Caroline Bird and others do, is to ask interviewees what event in their life really made them aware and perhaps being a woman and then was there an experience, or was there a motivation separate from this experience — it’s hard to even ask the question that led you to say collective action or to group organizational work on behalf of women? You understand my weirdly . . . ? All right.
LR: I guess part of what has gotten me going on the women’s issues is working with adolescent young women. And I see them not taking hold of their lives, not being responsible. And I’m not sure that there was any one particular event that got me involved in working towards women’s issues. But for, I would say, the last four or five years, I have been speaking in classes at my high school. And, whenever I have the opportunity to speak to young women about furthering their education, furthering their chances to be someone, many of the high school young ladies that I’m involved with, I hear the phrase come out of their mouth, “well, I’m just going be a secretary, ‘cause I’m just going get married and have kids anyway.” Well, I think that that’s fine, if that’s what they want to do. But I want to encourage them to perhaps delay marriage at an early age, and really establish themselves in a career, in a profession, in something they can hold on to. I would say that the thing that got me to really start working towards the Equal Rights Amendment was the state conference, the IWY conference that was held in Normal, Illinois. I came away from that conference really fired up, got back to Chicago, and I got myself involved now in a rather small group at this point, but I do happen to be the chairwoman of that group. And we call ourselves SWORN. Stands for the Southwest Organization for Ratification Now. And we’re doing everything that we can in this very conservative, catholic, south part of Chicago.
MD: You really are future-oriented, in a sense. You’re not past-oriented, although you are a historian and social scientist. In a sense, this, to me, indicates maybe a look of great optimism in the future. And I think that’s a good note, perhaps, to end the interview, or to summarize it, if you have any additional thoughts, you feel free to do so.
LR: I guess I’m seeing, around the conference, a lot of buttons that say, “ERA will not go away.” And I think that’s really where I’m coming from right now. I am a very optimistic woman, I do not think that our position will ever go back. We can only go forward. And the prestigious women that were on that stage today, and that are in that audience, cannot but help exhibit that.
MD: Thank you.
(07:33 break in tape)
MD: The interview with Linda Ragsdale occurred eleven nineteen seventy-seven at twelve-thirty p.m. The next interview, with Paula Seddon, is at twelve forty-five p.m. Eleven nineteen, seventy-seven. Paula?
End of Interview