Interviewee: Zenobia Ellis
IWY TX 157
Interviewer: Rachael E. Myers
Date: November 18-21, 1977
Zenobia Ellis, of Kansas City, Missouri, was a pro-woman delegate from Missouri representing federally employed women at the conference. At the time of the interview, Ellis was 50-years-old. She served as a supervisor for the Department of Agriculture and a finance branch of the Federal Co-op Insurance Corporation. Ellis’ experience as a single parent inspired her to become involved in women’s organizing. Interview includes discussion of her concerns as a federally employed women, her mother’s role as the sole provider during Ellis’ childhood, and her perspective on the Equal Rights Amendment. She also described her opinion of the conference and its meaning for women.
Rachael Myers: First of all, what is your name, your address and your phone number?
Zenobia Ellis: Okay, Zenobia Ellis, 7408 Lydia, Kansas City, Missouri, 361-7821
RM: And your occupation and age?
ZE: I’m a supervisor for the Department of Agriculture and a finance branch of federally employed, Federal Co-op Insurance Corporation, and I’m fifty years old.
RM: Okay, now, what brings you to the conference?
ZE: I’m particularly interested in the conference as a representative of federally employed women. The concerns of women under the federal breakdown will be voted upon at this conference, such as employment rights. It is also the concerns of women in government as far as economic, social and private conditions of their lives. We in the state of Missouri had a state meeting and which most of the delegates nominated were anti, and we feel like if we attended this national conference as non-delegates, we would be in a way supporting our delegates that are for the rights of women and these concerns.
RM: Okay, what was—what—what made you interested in the women’s movement; what was the first thing which made you even recognize that there was a need for a movement or a need for women to speak out about women’s issues.
ZE: Ah well, I had worked for the government for the past twenty-five years, and I was a single parent with the sole responsibility for two boys to support and educate. And I felt that just my past experience made me want to get involved in the women’s movement and help with these issues that I think are a vital concern to women in the coming years.
RM: Did—were—did you become involved through a friend, through what you heard on the media, an announced meeting or exactly what took you to the first meeting that you ever attended?
ZE: Well, the federal women’s program is a special emphasis put on the Affirmative Action program by the federal government, and I was appointed for a federal women coordinator for my agency. And I started to attend meetings of federally employed women and now organizations, just to get a consensus of feeling of women, and I found that basically their concerns were the same concerns I’ve had all my life.
RM: Did—were you brought up traditionally? Are you living your life as you were told you were supposed to live your life, or have you broken away from—from what you were brought up to do, to believe, any changes in attitudes?
ZE: Well basically, according to society, I’m living my life as to what I should have been told not to do, because I am a divorced woman, and I feel that this is my life to live as a single parent if I so choose. It all depend— I think my upbringing was a little different from a lot of women because my mother was the sole supporter of the family as my father was ill, and he has not able to work since I was eleven years old. So she more or less brought me up with a certain freedom and, given a certain choice, that I could do what I wanted to do as long as, of course, there were not, you know, things that were against our society. But as far as making my own decisions, I more or less made my own decisions in that as to what I wanted to do when I grow up.
RM: So you don’t believe that the women’s movement is against society?
ZE: No! No! (Laughter) No, it is not against society. In fact, the woman is a very important part of our society, and the relationship with men is an important part of a woman. But I think that there should be some understanding that a woman is a woman to herself, and she has to fulfill her own needs as well, —and she does not belong to a man.
RM: Here, what do you, I’m going to—.
ZE: No, I feel like that if a woman does not have a chance to grow mentally, she has very little to give to her family. Because of her outside involvement— If you just stay home each and every day, what are you learning? You know, the same things, you cook, you wash, you read the newspaper and you get bit of conversations of what is happening outside in the business world from your husband. What do you have to contribute? If you don’t ever become a whole person, a bit of yourself in social community activities, you know then you have nothing to give at home.
RM: Well, what do you expect the outcome of this conference to be socially, personally?
ZE: Well, turn it off for a few minutes and let me think about it. (Pause in recording at 6:03) The most important issue, that we put stress, we’ll move the Equal Rights Amendment. Then I think all the sort of little special concerns would be covered under that Equal Right Amendment. I think that we have let various groups with their special concerns become before the real major question. And I think if there’s going to be a lot of harassment I feel of sure, but then I have met some women that do not feel or do not agree with me on all issues, and we have been able to sit down and discuss it. Not that I have been able to change her mind, nor has she been able to change my mind, but it does give you a broader view point of the other person’s opinion. I don’t know, I really just can’t say what the outcome of the conference will be. I’m here to find out, though.
RM: Is the—is the discussion an important thing to you, the ability–or the ability here at this conference–to talk to other women, to find out what they believe, to let them know what you believe?
ZE: Yes, I think that is very important. The exchange of ideas is basically what our American way of life is built on.
End of Interview