Interviewee: Wilma Crumley
IWY TX 122
Interviewer: Johnye Mathews
Date: November 20, 1977
Wilma Crumley was a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She attended the National Women’s Conference as an official observer. Interview includes discussion of the Nebraska delegation’s anti-ERA stance, how Nebraska’s delegates-at-large did not agree with that stance, and Crumley’s displeasure with the lack of a woman production and film crew for the coverage of the conference. She believed that having an overwhelmingly male production crew was an “insensitive” decision. She was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. As of 2018, Crumley was a professor emerita at the University of Nebraska.
Wilma Crumley: I’m a professor at the University of Nebraska, School of Journalism at Lincoln.
Johnye Mathews: Did you have a consciousness-raising session somewhere in your past?
WC: I think when I really look back at my past it’s probably been as long as I remember. I really can’t determine a particular time, and I think it probably has to do with family. I think I was always probably encouraged to do the very best I could and was not confined or limited.
JM: By your parents?
WC: By my parents and the family. I really cannot go back, and as I try to trace back why I did certain things I think it was always a feeling that I could do anything and probably should.
JM: Have you ever been married?
WC: Yes. I’m a widow and I have two daughters. One daughter and her husband have my one-year old grandson. Both of them have graduated from the University of Nebraska, and Kathy taught a year and is now staying home being primarily a mother right now for Nathaniel. And my other daughter finished School of Journalism at Lincoln. She then went on to work a year on six weekly newspapers in Iowa, and this fall has gone into law school.
JM: Did you find any conflict in raising a family and having a career?
WC: Well, my background is probably a little different. I worked before I was married. I finished undergraduate work, and then married when that was completed. My husband finished part of his graduate work, and then I took on a weekly newspaper while he taught for the first couple of years. Then I stayed home with the two children and my husband then very suddenly when they were four and five, and at that time I went back to complete both a master’s and a PhD.
JM: And you’re a professor now.
JM: What brings you to Houston?
WC: I think it’s a historic event. I wouldn’t have missed it.
JM: Are you here as a delegate or observer?
WC: An official observer.
JM: What is your expectation for this conference?
WC: I think one of the most exciting parts of it is that very talented women are being brought together, their talents are different, their geographical backgrounds are different; their interests are quite different, and yet we are able to sit down and talk and I’m finding it very exciting. I’m also very much interested in the procedural parts of the meeting.
JM: How would you assess the meeting? Is it successful, or is it going to really measure up to your expectations?
WC: I think it’s successful. I would very much like to watch media coverage, and I wish I had a study launched right now on perceptions in Nebraska and I do not have that set up. I wish I did, to see how many people indeed did watch the proceedings, what their perceptions on it are. I think it probably would be too much to expect any change except perhaps in very minor ways, but I would be very much interested if there were studies and I hope that some others have indeed launched some. Do you know any?
JM: You are aware that Nebraska has sent a delegation which is anti-feminist, anti-ERA.
WC: We have seven delegates at large who are not, and there are a number of official observers who are not of the same persuasion as the sixteen delegates.
JM: Are the sixteen delegates participating in the plenary sessions to support the resolutions which were passed by the Nebraska state meeting?
WC: That’s not been my observation. It’s been quite different in that they have not.
JM: Why do you think they’re not supporting the resolution passed by the state meeting?
WC: I think there are a number of reasons why. I think one has to do with basic philosophy about the role of the federal government. I think also that there is a close connection between their voting and a one-issue kind of philosophy.
JM: What one issue is their philosophy do you think?
WC: I think it’s the abortion issue, and I think that anything that’s attached to it, and I think most everything has become attached to it.
JM: Because the ERA with the abortion issue?
WC: Oh, I think absolutely.
JM: Well, why did they allow these resolutions to be passed at the state meeting if they did not feel they could support them?
WC: It was I think, as I have heard about it and heard it analyzed, they came in to vote and then left early. They were bused in and it was a Sunday, and I think that once the delegation was elected they lost interest in the discussion of those issues and took the buses back home.
JM: And then other people who were there voted on the resolution?
JM: Have you heard women talking to each other, sort of laying around in the halls, while you’re here?
WC: Yes. I don’t know, however, that I would judge that there has been any lessening of the polarization. I think it’s been increased. I think that is the one unfortunate thing that’s happened, but it’s been happening. I guess that’s the reason I would be interested in studying an overall state or an overall central region, and I would also be very much interested in looking at that media coverage. What I fear is that we’ve increased polarization.
JM: Do you think the media coverage might have contributed to that increase?
WC: Oh, I think absolutely. There’s no way that media coverage of anything wouldn’t do that, and it could be superb media coverage because as you are aware all studies of media indicate that what you get is a reinforcement of your presently held position. I think it’s really those who have not made up their minds who would be the interesting persons to talk with back home.
JM: How do you feel about so many men here covering with the media?
WC: Oh, I think that too is a reflection of the present state. I certainly thought that it would have been appropriate to have found the capable young women who exist to man those cameras. We have them at the University of Nebraska who have fine professional jobs and are quite capable of running those cameras. I thought it was most insensitive.
I do think that it reinforces the past study that came out a few months ago which indicated that ETV, along with other broadcasters, had not pushed to get participation in that industry by women, and I intend to write concerning this to both, well, to ETV. I think it’s most unfortunate they did not get a women production crew. They could have done it. There are very capable young women that I know that are in that system who could have manned those cameras beautifully. So, I’m very unhappy about that.
JM: I’ve asked you a number of questions. Is there anything that you think future historians should be made aware of that you yourself know about that I have not thought to ask?
WC: I suspect that I’ll be talking about it for weeks, and I think the oral history part of this that you’re doing is a real contribution. And I think probably the best thing to do would be to conserve your tape and let you talk to a number of women who have different views.
JM: Well, I’m planning to do that anyway. What do you think will be the most important thing that women take home from this conference?
WC: Oh, I think solidarity, and again the reinforcement that comes from seeing women unite concerning the broad issue of ERA, and also who have had the superb outpouring of national support from the federal government.
JM: Well, thank you very much for helping us with our study.
End of Interview