Interviewee: Stanley Cassar
IWY TX 101
Interviewer: Constance Myers
Date: November 19, 1977
Stanley Cassar, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, worked as the deputy Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officer at a US Navy facility in Bethpage, New York. Cassar, an African-American man, attended the IWY conference as part of his work with the Naval Department and the EEOC. Interview includes discussion of his family life, his support for the women’s movement, and his views on connections between women’s rights cause and civil rights struggles. He also explained how the Federal Women’s Program sponsored workshops and seminars for federal employees on credit and other issues.
Constance Myers: This is Constance Myers continuing with the interviews at the International Women’s Year National Conference November the 19th, 1977. Can you please tell me your name sir?
Stanley Cassar: My name is Stanley Cassar.
CM: Would you spell that last name for me sir?
CM: And where are you from Mr. Cassar?
SC: I live in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
CM: You came all the way from Ridgefield, Connecticut?
SC: Yes, I did. (Laughs)
CM: For goodness sake.
SC: Where… Would you like to give your address in case anyone wants to contact you in consequence of this?
SC: All right. I’m at 105 Knott Hill Road in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
CM: Okay. Why did you think this conference was so important that you would come all the way down from Connecticut?
SC: Well, I work for the Navy Department. I’m the deputy EEO officer at my facility-
CM: The Equal Employment Opportunity-
SC: The deputy equal employment opportunity officer. And the captain sent the federal women’s program coordinator who was with me and myself down to the conference.
CM: Oh, is that so? Uh-huh.
SC: That’s Mrs. Tatter.
CM: Right. So you are actually-
SC: An observer
CM: -A representative…You are not official. But you are here as an observer. But you represent-
SC: The Naval plant representative officer at Bethpage
CM: You are aware of women’s issues. I’m certain of that. I can see some buttons.
CM: What do these buttons say? “A man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality.”
SC: I thought it was one of the better buttons I saw here.
CM: Why do you think so?
SC: Well, it represents the way I feel. Men very often you hear very often that men are threatened by women, but I think that if you know what you’re doing you’re on the ball. I mean really. Women don’t represent any threat to you whether they’re working alongside or with you, for you, or you’re working for them really.
CM: Just another colleague.
SC: That’s right. Just someone else.
CM: Just another colleague. Now you have a different button. It says-
SC: Now this was given to me this morning. “Peace is a woman’s issue.” I got it mainly for my wife because she said to bring home a button for her. So, I’d get her one.
CM: I see. Okay. When did you first become aware that there was a problem concerning women’s rights? When were you first aware?
SC: Well, a few years ago when I got involved with the equal opportunity program this was one of things that was brought out, that in addition to minorities that women also had a problem, it was brought out. I think there was more impetus put on the minority issue, the black issue first. Of course, the women’s issue came in later. And, of course, working where I do and being the deputy…One of the big programs the Navy pushes is, of course, the federal women’s program. I’m also responsible with the captain and with the women’s program coordinator for all these programs.
CM: I see. Right.
SC: I mean, I’ve run polls for the job, and you find out different things about women’s attitudes, the problems they have and what they think need be done.
CM: They must have chosen you for that job for some reason. Do you have any hunch of why you were chosen for that particular job?
SC: I don’t know really.
CM: You must have been… Were you in the civil rights movement or something?
SC: Not really no.
CM: Not really. You must have displayed equalitarian tendencies or something?
SC: Well, all I know is that one day I was called to the office and I was told that this was it.
CM: Have you liked it?
SC: Yeah. It’s been very challenging. I like working, or I like people, and I like work with people.
CM: Have you affected some change do you think?
SC: You like to feel that you have but it’s very difficult. I like to say that with the help of, let’s see, my federal women’s coordinator who is responsible for the women’s program more so than I am. We have… We are trying to make changes. I don’t think we have seen a lot of the changes we would like to see because it involves a lot of attitudes, attitudes among the women of course and attitudes among the women.
SC: This was surprising to me when I found out some of the attitudes that women had that we had to fight. You figure all you have to do is push them down the road. It’s not that. You‘ve got to educate them also. And, this was…
CM: There’s a problem of women against women there’s no question about it.
SC: This is true. There’s no question about it.
CM: But I do that the federal women’s program does put on some good local seminars and workshops.
SC: We had a great thing going this year. We had federal women’s week, which Agnes put on and it involved seminars. We had people come in from one of the banks and give lecture which men and the women learned something regarding credit for women and credit for men also. We had a session with the captain, like where the captain and the office, and the executive officers and the division department directors, like a “Meet the Press: bit. They were set up there. People were asking questions. A lot of things came out. We’re going to have I think a lot of improvements, a lot more communication than we had in the past, which I think is important.
CM: Right. Were you the chair? Or you and this lady?
SC: No. She was more in charge.
CM: Yeah but you gave… You must have had something to say.
SC: I had something to do with it but very little bit compared to what she had to do with it because I believe that if it’s a woman’s thing that it’s not right for a man to come in and run it for them. They should do their own thing.
CM: My husband thinks that too. What do you think will be the personal consequences of this conference in your own life of this conference if any?
SC: I think that it will affect all of us. I have a daughter.
CM: How old is your daughter?
SC: She’s eight. And I think though I may not see any of the benefits myself, I’m pretty sure that she will. She’s growing up in a world where women, the younger women today I think are more enlightened, more looking out for things that they should be getting out of life and out of the world and out of this country. Some of the older women they sit back, “Well I got my home, I got this, I got that.” The younger women are not like that. They’re going out there for some of the jobs that were traditionally men’s positions.
CM: The fact is that some of the older women are doing that too.
SC: Not to the extent that you find some of the younger women doing it.
CM: Possibly not. Possibly not.
SC: I think it’s… They’re meeting the challenge. They recognize it. They’re going out there and living it.
CM: And you’re interested really on a personal level because you have this daughter.
SC: Well, I like… I think it’s important. I think a man can be more of a man if he’s not able to suppress someone. I don’t get any personal satisfaction out of knowing that someone is beneath me. I think being black also helps, too. The fact that you realize, it took quite a ways, a bit of struggle to get where you are and by golly you got to recognize it, that other people have problems and you got to recognize their problems too. Don’t say “Well, I’ve got it so they have to struggle too.” I think it’s our duty to help them.
CM: You’re a person with empathy.
SC: I think we have all to have it really.
CM: Yeah. What do you think will be the consequences in the larger social context of this meeting if any?
SC: I feel that hopefully the broad coverage that I hope this get will possibly bring more women into the realization of what they are and who they are and what they should be doing for themselves, really. I find that in my contact with a lot of women there not to, on the job especially, “Well, that’s someone else’s problem.” It’s not someone else’s problem, I believe. It’s all of their problem. It’s every woman’s problem. It’s every man’s problem if he loves a woman. His mother was a woman and his wife and what have you.
CM: What was the relationship like when you were a little boy? I guess your mother was a traditional…
SC: Traditional housewife (unintelligible at 7:37). My mother still today, I spoke to her a while ago, she’s still in her bag. She’s not…
CM: Is she? What about your sisters and brothers?
SC: I didn’t have any sisters. I had brothers. Well, I can say that one of them, his wife is a pretty liberated woman. She’s out there doing her thing. The other one is a little traditional role. She’s brought up… I think a lot of it has to do with the home. Upbringing. How they’re brought up.
SC: They’re brought up in a traditional one that here you got to cook, clean, and do this. In my house for example, my daughter washes dishes but my son washes dishes too, you know. He cleans.
CM: You have a son too?
SC: I have a son too, yes.
CM: That’s interesting. How old is he?
SC: He’s twelve.
CM: That’s a nice family. Well, how does your wife view these things? These matters?
SC: She… I would like to say that she’s becoming more and more liberated. She’s a school teacher.
CM: Is she? Well then she goes out every day. She brings a paycheck.
SC: She goes out every day. She brings in a paycheck. But, the past year she took the past year off which I think was very enlightening to her because not only did she stay home, she took care of the books and paid the bills and did all of that type of thing, which brought her more into what it’s all about because we’re in this thing equally. “You ought to learn some of things that I do.” And back and forth. So, we’re more partners than husband and wife and that’s the way I think it should be.
CM: You’re a liberated man I can see that.
SC: Well… (Laughs)
CM: Is this conference meeting your expectations?
SC: I think what happens, the outcome of this session here, will tell me more than anything else.
CM: Tell me about this session you that you referred to. What’s happening? Since I’m not even going to the sessions. I’m strictly interviewing.
SC: We have all these… I think the committee has brought up a lot of, I don’t know what to call them, proposals. And they’re being presented to the group and they’re being voted on and being discussed I suppose and based on that, I suppose, the recommendation will be made to the president, and we should see what happens.
CM: Do you know what recommendation is under consideration this afternoon?
SC: Arts and humanities, they’re working on. You’re probably wondering if that’s going on then why am I here. Some of the things… Being an observer, I think it’s important to observe some of the other things, not just that, because that’s going to be a matter of record.
CM: That’s right, it’s a matter of record.
SC: That’s going to be in the newspaper tomorrow and on television.
CM: You can even purchase the tapes. They’re already being sold.
SC: I know. I thought it was more important to get around and see a few other things.
CM: Sure. Then this conference is doing what you expected it to do.
CM: It’s meeting your hopes and expectation.
SC: It should. I think the most important thing was the attitude that I saw of the women. I think that I saw a lot of women from varied backgrounds and varied ages or races, what have you.
CM: That’s right.
SC: And they were all seemed to be together for the same thing. This ERA now pitch. I thought that was pretty good. The unison that I seem to see here.
CM: But another person I interviewed just a minute ago talked about the hostilities they that she viewed. I personally have not seen hostilities.
SC: I think there was some problems brought up with the Mississippi delegation. There was some… this was brought up on the floor. It was ruled that based on regulation and rules it was ruled, that they were out of order on bringing up the fact that there were no blacks or other minorities in there and there were no… I think that there were five males that they questioned. There’s this type of thing. Other than that, I think there are people who are against some of things. But this is the American way.
CM: Sure it is. It’s the democratic way.
SC: The majority is supposed to win. It’d be no fun coming to a gathering… We shouldn’t bother having a gathering if everyone thinks the same way.
CM: No. That’s true.
SC: This is what I think makes America great. The fact that people of diverse opinion would have you, are able can get together and without fighting and beating each other in the heads come out with a solution to some of these problems, or, the majority answer. What they feel is the best for the majority.
CM: I think that women who seek careers with the Navy in Ridgefield, Connecticut have probably good hands with you.
SC: Well, I live in Ridgefield but I work in Long Island for the Navy at Bethpage. It’s quite a ways away.
CM: I think Ridgefield is where Alice Paul lived.
SC: That’s correct. She died recently.
CM: Very recently.
SC: She was in the paper recently. I know about it. We have some famous people in those little towns.
CM: Who are some more?
SC: Who wrote the book? Oh gosh. Who was the writer?
CM: We’ve been zapped with so much information haven’t we? Today and yesterday. And we have more to come. Who could summon it all up. Thank you very much Mr. Cassar.
SC: It’s been my pleasure.
CM: Thank you very much.
End of Interview