Interviewee: Nancy Sablan
Interviewer: Charlotte Kinch
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Nancy Sablan was a delegate from Guam. Though she lived in Guam, Sablan attended Mount Mary College in Milwaukee for four years. Sablan did not believe she would identify as a feminist, but she did believe in women’s rights and economic equality. Interview includes discussion of: the local conference in Guam and their hopes of gaining full citizenship; Sablan’s observations about United States policy in Guam in regards to goods and the cost of living; and the types of women’s organizations in Guam like the AAUW and NOW. Issues important to Sablan included the Equal Rights Amendment and getting women on the island more involved in politics.
Charlotte Kinch: I’m talking with Nancy Sablan of the Guam delegation. Nancy, would you tell us how you feel about coming to this conference, and if you have ever been to the United States before?
Nancy Sablan: I’ve been to the United States before in fact I went to school four years at a Milwaukee university, Mount Mary College in Milwaukee. I was thrilled to come to the conference; it’s an historical occasion, of course. I am the type of person that enjoys putting my input into anything that’s happening.
CK: How many members are there in your delegation?
NS: We are twelve members of the delegation itself and two delegates at large. We have official observers of course with our group.
CK: What kind of hopes do you and the women of Guam have from this conference?
NS: A lot. We had of course our own local conference back in July from which we developed a lot of local reservations. But on the national level we intend to propose tomorrow, during the new business session, the resolution that we hope will benefit not only the women but the entire island. That, after all, is the objective of getting women into politics and women into leadership, is to do something for the good of all the people. In that particular area primarily and of course everybody else, but our resolution is of course aimed at getting full citizenship rights for our people, which means voting for president and vice president of the U.S. and representation in Congress, representation not just being there but voting, which we do not have right now.
CK: I imagine that most people who use these tapes won’t know how they feel about Guam. Would you tell me a little bit about your education and your government, just briefly background on your delegation?
NS: My education, of course I went to Guam public schools and those were American-type education. We were taught English and we learned our local language which had never really been officially written and formally taught in the schools, or formally catalogued anywhere to any extent where the school children can learn them. And we grew up bilingual.
My children, however, do not speak the language fluently and many of them are losing some of it. But our primary concern is that they master the English language because that is the language of our country right now overall. We do love our culture and we are now trying to take steps to make sure that the language is taught in the schools so that children can appreciate the culture.
The rest of my education was either in the United States proper for higher education or overseas in extension courses for the military (unintelligible at 3:33) overseas.
CK: Would you call yourself a feminist, Nancy?
NS: I wouldn’t say, but I am for women’s rights overall. I would not say that I’m going to any extreme because when you say feminists you tend to think of the radical groups. None of us I presume are radical in our delegation. I certainly am not because I fully enjoy the extra status of women, and yet I want to be treated equally when it comes to jobs and different things like what we’re fighting for here at this convention. I wouldn’t say I’m feminist.
CK: Many of us I think equate women’s rights with human rights.
NS: Correct, and let me say something also about feminists. If their cause is good we will certainly be their friend when it comes to that. We are not anti either.
CK: Are you satisfied with the convention so far? Are you happy with the way things have gone? Do you think that the hopes that we’ve had from it will be realized?
NS: With the convention so far, of course maybe this thrill of getting the ERA adopted last night. We’re still looking forward to getting our resolution passed tomorrow. That to us will be the climax really. So far as hope as expecting things to materialize as we put it here, I do not have very high optimism. Unless we push and push and push, if we do not continue it will tend to be shoved back in the corner where it was. You and I know if you research there have been so many little things that have been passed so-called favoring women and pushing women’s rights and yet they continue to be ignored. Most likely, those same things will happen, to a lot of these things because also some of the resolutions and motions that were made yesterday, some of them have generalities and they say urge and all that, so they do not have teeth. Unless some of the things we put in there have teeth in them and they are put in the form of legislation, we do not expect much to come from it. It will just be some more of this yes, yes, yes, we will look after you, but they don’t really do it. Not unless we continue to push hard.
CK: Thank you very much, Nancy.
(Recording interrupted 6:25- 6:28)
NS: (Unintelligible at 6:27) come earlier because of a recent restriction or rather a ruling by the Civil Aeronautics Board. The federal laws affect us but they affect us in an arbitrary and almost capricious manner. Sometimes they apply international regulations to us, other times domestic regulations.
For instance, the domestic regulation the United States has this law that the shipment of goods between US ports must be in US bottom containers, US-made ships. In that particular item they included Guam and said okay. And Guam is a US port. Therefore, no ships must be moved. But this instance and all that and the costs jacks up prices so high that our cost of living is about the highest than any other place in the nation right now. Goods cost almost 75 percent higher and sometimes two or three times higher than on the islands than from here by the time it gets to Guam.
Then they impose other regulations in, for instance, flying in the airlines. In domestic regulation, all the flights are so much cheaper but they stay okay. There’s no student fare or family plan in the continental United States. They had given us that on Guam for a while. But they were charging us also international fare between Guam and here. Now they have said okay. All other domestic flights in the United States do not allow family plan and student fare therefore that domestic regulation will now apply to Guam and no more family plan or student fare after the fourteenth of November. That’s why some of us had to hustle and come on over. Otherwise it would have cost us $400 or $500 more for those of us bringing our children with us. It was an economic decision to come early here.
CK: How many of you brought children?
NS: There are three of us who brought our children as official observers to the conference, and incidentally they were claimed as the youngest official observers. One other lady brought two grandchildren who are very small but they’re not official observers. One lady’s daughter came by from Alaska to join our group. So far as bringing children on the family plan, there are three in our group.
CK: So it worked out pretty well for you.
NS: Yes it has and it’s been a very good experience for the children. Incidentally, I guess I got off on a tangent about the political thing. We do elect our own governor and have elected our own governor since 1970. We have a unicameral legislature who are primarily comprised now of Democrats and Republicans who are affiliated with the national parties. We have twenty-one of those members of which only one is female; that’s the woman who is the delegation chief.
CK: How are women organized in Samoa [sic]? Do you have things like the American Association of University Women? Do you have N-O-W – what kind of women’s organizations do you have?
NS: We have Business and Professional Women; we have the NOW; we have the American University Women; we have the Asian Pacific Women’s Federation and international women’s clubs – we have all kinds of women’s organizations.
CK: And are most of these women’s organizations active and actively trying to encourage Samoan [sic] women to go into politics and to participate in the political process?
NS: Right. And this is the Guam women. They are indeed very active. I excluded one for which I have a very dear and close emotional attachment to them – that’s the Federally Employed Women which I have just applied for charter membership with twenty other federally employed women on the island. We of course are trying to get as many of our women involved in island life and the direction of island living at the political level, but we have not made much headway as you can see – I’m one person.
CK: Speaking to you, it almost seems as though you’re, well, I use the term feminist, I mean interested in women’s problems and being a woman practically from the cradle. You’ve come over to me as just sort of being a natural. Was your mother also interested in these things? What’s the part that women play in the culture of Guam?
NS: Well, the culture of Guam has been highly influenced by the Spanish culture and of course the Catholic Church. We have the Spanish restrictions where the women do not go out on dates; I remember I was not allowed to go out. And they had to have somebody guiding them, being with them, the chaperone.
My mother really was never educated enough, I guess because of the lack of facilities on the island, to be aware of what’s happening. But what she did do for me was that she had six boys. I’ve had to fight for survival among the six boys, and whatever they had I was sure – and I was the youngest, I had to make sure I got it too. And I’ve been doing that since I was growing up, so I guess that’s why it comes across that I was a natural fighter from little on. Either that or you don’t survive. (Laughter)
End of Interview