Interviewee: Sherrie Moran
IWY TX 335
Interviewer: Johnye Mathews
Date: November 20, 1977
Sherrie Moran, of Chesapeake, Ohio, attended the conference as an official observer. Moran, 32, helped form a chapter of NOW in West Virginia in the early 1970s and later became a state coordinator of NOW. She was active in Federally Employed women, an advocacy group. She served as a public information specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers. Interview includes discussion of sexism and discrimination within the Army Corps of Engineers, her career as a journalist before working for the federal government, the media coverage of the conference, and her high hopes for the ratifications of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Johnye Mathews: I am Johnye Mathews from Little Rock, Arkansas. This is Sunday, November 20th, 1977 in Houston, Texas at the International Women’s Year Conference, and what is your name, please?
Sherrie Moran: Sherrie Moran.
JM: Could you give your complete address and telephone number?
SM: It’s Route 3, Harbor Drive #10, Chesapeake, Ohio, 45619; telephone is 614-867-4179.
JM: Why are you here?
SM: To be a part of history. I think that the conference is probably the most important thing that’s happened for women in this country, and I just wanted to be here to participate in it and see what happens.
JM: In what way are you participating?
SM: Well, I’m an official observer, and mostly I’m observing and seeing what’s going on.
JM: Is the conference measuring up to your expectation for it?
SM: Very well, I think it’s been going really well. It’s been excellent.
JM: Have you seen any signs of conflict among the delegates or among members?
SM: Among the delegates actually attending the women’s conference? Of course there are some conflicts and differences of opinion. I don’t think they’re anything really major.
JM: You’ve seen no signs of violence?
SM: No, no.
JM: Have you been attending the plenary sessions?
SM: Yes, completely.
JM: Do you feel that they are satisfactory?
SM: I think they’re going quite well, better than I expected. The majority of the delegates seem to support the national plan of action. There’s a minority group of course which does not and disagrees on some of the very major issues, and I think they’ve used a lot of tactics to get some attention but it hasn’t been nearly what I expected. It’s gone much smoother than I thought it would.
JM: Did you have a consciousness-raising session in your own life, or event?
SM: Consciousness raising event, no, I don’t think a specific event that I can point to. I think it’s been a gradual process that just, once it starts, keeps building.
JM: What is your age?
JM: How did you become involved with the women’s movement in general?
SM: Well, when the women’s movement first began, or the new women’s movement first began primarily with the National Organization for Women, of course I read about it and heard about and agreed with a lot that was being said, but I think I reacted like a lot of women do in not wanting to really identify with it. They spoke to me, but I really didn’t want to be labeled, and so I went through that phase.
And then back in 1973 I believe it was, ’72 or ’73, where I was working the women there had kind of gotten together and shared some mutual problems and we felt that we needed some type of organization and I organized a chapter of NOW, and went on from there and became a state coordinator of NOW. I later changed jobs and working with federal government so I’ve been very involved in the federal women’s program Federally Employed Women. I think once it becomes a part of your life it becomes your whole life.
JM: What branch of the federal government are you with?
SM: The Corps of Engineers.
JM: What is your capacity with them?
SM: Public information specialist.
JM: Do you have any problems because you’re a woman?
SM: Oh, God, when you’re working in a place that is so totally male oriented as the Army Corps of Engineers, you better believe you have problems because you’re a woman, terribly much so.
JM: Do they say you have to take them seriously?
SM: Yes, yes, the hostility that exists in our agency towards women is the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. I had worked for eight years with newspapers as a journalist before I went there, and never in my entire professional experience had I encountered anything like it. It was really horrible.
JM: Do you date men?
SM: I’m not dating anybody now, but yeah.
JM: You’re not opposed to it.
SM: No, I’m not opposed to dating men, no; I am not. (Laughs).
JM: It could give you a problem in your job. Do the men see you as a non sex object perhaps?
SM: Yes, I think that’s absolutely true, particularly in my situation because when I started there, it’s a small town, Huntington, West Virginia, and I had been very active in the local women’s movement and NOW and I was perceived as, and was fairly well known in the town, as being a feminist, and I was perceived as the office women’s libber, and I think men immediately get threatened by that if they’re opposed to it at all.
JM: Okay. What do you expect the be result of the conference to be in your personal life?
SM: In my personal life? I hope that it brings about greater changes, such as ratification of the ERA. I hope it reaffirms national emphasis on equal rights for women so that the job situations do become better.
JM: How did you get involved with group activities and group action?
SM: Through organizing the local chapter of NOW and being active in NOW.
JM: You just started at the top.
SM: Right, starting as president of a local chapter and went on to be state coordinator.
JM: How would you assess the conference so far from what you have seen?
SM: I think the business has moved along very smoothly. I think the whole plan of action, or certainly nearly all of it, will be adopted. It was thrilling to see the ERA proposal pass with such enthusiasm last night.
JM: Have you talked to very many women since you’ve been here?
JM: Do you have any sense of how they feel about being here?
SM: I think they’re all really very excited about being here. I think we all feel that it’s a terribly significant event in women’s rights in this country, in human rights, democracy.
JM: How do you feel about the more controversial issues? Should they be introduced or should they, for political reasons, be subdued at this time, for instance, lesbian rights?
SM: I remember when NOW struggled with that issue several years ago and it did kind of fraction the organization to a great extent, and it’s been able to regroup since then. Of course, probably because of my consciousness is maybe a little further along than some, my basic feeling is that you can’t be for your own rights without being for the rights of everybody, and we have to face that. And I don’t see any problem with being in the forefront in bringing those issues up and dealing with them.
JM: You don’t feel that it’s particularly bad to have it introduced at this conference?
SM: No, I really don’t.
JM: I’ve asked you a number of questions. Is there anything that you would particularly like to say that I haven’t thought about asking you, for scholars of the future, fifty years from now when people want to know what actually went on here?
SM: The only thing that really bothers me is I am concerned that it will not get the national attention that it deserves. Unfortunately it’s a women’s conference, therefore it’s not given the seriousness by the media and by the politicians that it should have. It’s so significant that this many women have come here, and so significant that at all the state meetings, the majority of women who attended the state meetings, and the majority of women who are here have never before attended a women’s conference. They have come together as so representative of women in this country, and so vocally supported all of these issues,
It was like Bella Abzug was saying yesterday. We’ve got the polls, we’ve got all the statistics on our side, but they fail to give it the significance they would if their statistics were that strong on any other issue, and that bothers me more than anything I think.
JM: Do you think the media coverage has been fair? As a former journalist, you can possibly assess this.
SM: Well, I haven’t seen that much of it. I understand we’re kind of being pushed out of the limelight by Sadat’s visit to Israel. He could have picked next weekend, you know. Why didn’t he wait? I think that may be one problem. We’re being pushed out of the limelight of the news because of that, and that’s upsetting.
JM: Have you talked to any of the journalists who are covering this as journalists?
SM: I’ve stopped and talked with a couple of them. We haven’t really discussed the kind of coverage it’s getting or anything like that. The ones I’ve talked to have been feminist journalists.
JM: There are a number of male journalists here. How do you feel about their being here to cover it?
SM: Oh, I can’t object to that. But I’m glad to see there are as many women journalists as there are here.
JM: Why did you give up your career as a journalist?
SM: Well, there were a couple of reasons and one of the reasons was my involvement with the women’s movement, because up until then I was very satisfied with the journalistic ethic of staying uninvolved and impartial, objective, and all those things, so you don’t join organizations. And when I became involved in the movement, it was something that I felt so deeply about and it was very difficult to separate. And also because I’ve been involved in this firsthand, I’ve also seen some of the bad things that media does, the fact that they do distort things. I used to be so defensive of the press and I used to say they didn’t do those things, and I have found out firsthand, they do do those things and it’s very disheartening.
That was part of it. I went through a personal conflict there. The other part was money. To get right down to it, I took a job that paid a lot more.
JM: Do you find more satisfaction in this job?
JM: You do not.
JM: If you had a choice of returning as a journalist and making the same amount of money you’re making now, would you consider it?
SM: I would probably consider it. I don’t plan to continue doing what I’m doing. I’m just not sure what the next step is, which direction it’s going to be.
JM: Well, I don’t have anymore questions to ask you, and I thank you very much for contributing to our study.
SM: Happy to do it.
End of Interview