Sue C. Pungen Carberry

Interviewees: Sue C. Pungen Carberry
IWY TX 093
Interviewer:   Adade Wheeler
Date: November 18-21, 1977

Sue C. Carberry (nee Pungen), of San Diego, California, was the media task force chair of the National Organization for Women in San Diego. She was part of the IWY press staff. At the time of the interview, Carberry was completing a doctorate in Human Behavior with a concentration in Communications.  Interview includes discussion of Carberry’s childhood, her experience as a young student, and the impact of her family on her views of gender roles. She also discussed the role the IWY played in raising the public’s awareness of women’s issues.

Sound Recording


Adade Wheeler: The first question to get on tape is your name and where you come from.

Sue C. Pungen Carberry: I’m Sue C. Pungen. My marriage name is Carberry.

AW: And you’re from San Diego, California?

SC: Yes, I am.

AW: Could you tell me something as to why you came to International Women’s Year? What was your purpose in coming?

SC: I’m the media task force chair for the National Organization for Women in San Diego. And we did just publish a report entitled “The Silent Majority.” It’s status of women in the San Diego broadcast media. And I’m one of the editors of the report. And, at that time, I did a lot of study of the media, and how it affects women. And I wanted to come to the IWY conference in order to learn more about the media, in order to present my views on the media to the rest of the women. And I’m here working with the IWY press staff as a result of the work that I had done on the media report. At that time, I made contacts with some of the women in Washington, and they liked what we had done. So, when I came here, they put me on the staff as a volunteer aide.

AW: And what are you finding? Are you finding the results you’d hoped for?

SC: I’m finding the conference very exciting. And I find that there are many women who are here in a very unified manner, trying to put across their views to the public. I’ll tell you, the one main thought that came to my mind yesterday, after sitting through all of the resolutions, how ironic that we should be here debating items that would be thought of as automatic if there were men here debating them. And last night when I went home, I was thinking about, “Well, I suppose this is what Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were debating, as they wrote the Constitution.” And I remember that the Bill of Rights had a hard time getting through the original congress that was convened to set it up. In fact, the reason why they needed the Bill of Rights was because they did not want to put into the Constitution these certain rights. They thought it would be too restrictive or too open. And other people thought that, no, we had to put them in or we would never have them. And we’re debating those same rights here for women, that they had debated years ago for men, and put into the Constitution. And it’s just incredible. (Laughs)

AW: Are you a history student?

SC: I do have a major in history.

AW: A major in history.

SC: And I have a master’s in Spanish Language and Literature, and I’m currently completing a PhD in Human Behavior, a major in Communications.

AW: What do you see as maybe coming out of this conference?

SC: I’m sure that these resolutions will come out of the conference. And a lot of paperwork will come out of the conference. I want to see what happens tomorrow as they talk about how to implement this plan of action. I know that the consciousness of the public and of the country is being raised. That will come out of it. However, I also know that the media finds it’s very necessary to cover the, quote, “other side”: the group that is meeting in the Astroarena. Phyllis Schlafly and her forces. And yet, when the Civil Rights movement of 1954 took place, the Civil Rights Act was passed at that time, the media did not feel the same necessity to interview the Ku Klux Klan whenever they interviewed the black civil rights leaders. They did not interview the John Birch Society to the extent that they interviewed liberals at that time working for civil rights. But when women’s issues are involved, the rules suddenly change. There’s sides, now that it’s women’s rights that are being debated.

AW: Have you seen any of the activities of the opposite side here?

SC: I haven’t seen them. I’ve been working with the press staff. Some of the reporters have come back and told me their impressions. And some people who’ve been on the other side have told me theirs, but I can’t speak for it, because I wasn’t there. However, I know that the media today in Houston, I was just at a media workshop, and they’re talking about, not so much tongue-in-cheek as, in reality, how you can tell one side from the other. And then they’re talking about things like how we wear our glasses, or what kind of clothing we wear. And they’re totally missing the point as to what the issues are being debated here. And so the media coverage does have an awful lot to do with what’s going to come out of this conference, the way it’s going to be perceived by the general public.

(Pause in the recording at 04:55)

AW: Can you tell me something in your background as to why you became so interested in this subject? And how you happened to join now and get so active? In the women’s movement.

SC: I suppose some of it had to do to the fact that I was raised in a double-bind situation. My mother went to work when I was just a couple of months old, because my father came down with Multiple Sclerosis, and could no longer support the family. And I was an only child, and I was raised in a large, extended family. But one of the situations that I remember very clearly was that I should study and get good grades, because I liked that and wanted to. But, on the other hand, I was a girl.

So when uncle somebody would come over, I should be seen washing the dishes and helping Mommy set the table. And then when they left I could go back to my studies. And this made a very subtle impression that it took years for me to figure out why I was so mixed up. And, to this day, I have a great mental block against mathematics. And this is due to the fact that, as I grew older, I perceived that girls are not good in mathematics, that boys are. And, although I got very good grades in it, it was just by blanking out the block, and gritting my teeth and memorizing the night before. And to this day, I look at a percent problem, and I could just feel this veil descend upon me. And I know that socialization… (Laughs)

AW: The socialization process did it.

SC: It did, it did me.

AW: The socialization process does a lot of things.

SC: Yes, and the . . .

AW: You’re lucky it’s just math anxiety, that it did to you.

 SC: Oh, no, there was a lot more, and it was all this combined that led to eventually getting involved in the women’s rights movement. I am married, and I have a husband who’s very supportive of my work in the movement. He’s very understanding of it, and I think he understands that I have to find my own place in the world.

AW: Do you have children?

SC: No, I don’t. I do intend to. I feel that I haven’t had time yet. And I do think that when I do have children, I will be a better parent. And I hope that I do not do the same things to my children that I feel society did to me, in raising me.

AW: And with your consciousness raised like this, you should be able to avoid some of those hazards. Then, these are the things that really pushed you into coming in addition to this business of your Media Task Force chair?

SC: Oh, yes, very definitely.

AW: Are you getting other things? Are you seeing other things besides the media, while you’re here? What’s your impression of what’s going on in the floor? Or how do you feel about the way it’s being run?

SC: I think it’s a great, unifying force going on here. And I think that’s very important. I would have liked to have seen several hours debate on the ERA, for instance. It wouldn’t have hurt it. I think a lot of people think they are not getting their say, because they, due to the rules of parliamentary procedure, they feel that they are being cut off. I don’t think they’re being cut off. I think that we as women don’t have enough familiarity with the procedure, parliamentary procedure. And I think we don’t realize its power, and we don’t know how to use it. Our convention, as women, we also don’t know how to put on a convention. And this has show up in our work back there trying to organize the press. And on the other hand, when the girl scouts came marching in yesterday, when the trumpets were blowing, and when the torch came in, and we were in tears, this was something you just don’t see at an ordinary convention. Women make up for it by sheer dedication, and loss of motion. And somehow, it comes off in the end. We don’t know the rules, we’re not as good at the logistics, but we have the dedication.

AW: And, out of this, then, you’re going to take back to San Diego with you what? What are you going to go back and report on?

SC: That’s a good question. I’m going to tell them that it was a very good experience, that I think it was very worthwhile for the women who were there. I think that all women, all across the nation, will be more informed, and more aware of what happened. Because women will be going back one-to-one to their hometowns, and talking about the other women that they met, and the other things that happened here. And even women who were on the other side, did not totally disagree with us. There are certain things that they will always agree with: equal pay for work, equal credit, and so forth. And they realize that we do have many, many areas of agreement: more areas of agreement than of disagreement. I will certainly go back on an upbeat note.

AW: Is there anything else you’d like to say for the record, for the archives about it?

SC: It’s a shame that it took some hundred and thirty years before we had this second women’s convention.

End of Interview