Interviewee: Jania Galvin
IWY SC 593
Interviewer: Constance Ashton Myers
Date: June 10-11, 1977
Jania Galvin, originally from New York City, lived in Columbia at the time of the South Carolina State IWY Conference. Before moving to Columbia, she lived in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan. Galvin attended the IWY Conference, in part, because of her interest in her own needs and the needs of her young daughter. Issues important to Galvin included childcare, supporting the women’s movement overall, and encouraging women to identify as feminists. Interview includes discussion of the feminist movement and its reception in Ann Arbor, Michigan; her impressions of the women’s movement and women’s rights in South Carolina; Galvin’s participation in the Carter campaign and interest in gubernatorial politics; and various meetings and women’s rights lectures she attended in Columbia.
Constance Ashton Myers: Alright, your name is?
Jania Galvin: Jania Galvin
CM: And where are you from, Jania?
JG: Originally, I’m from New York but I live in Columbia now.
CM: How long have you lived in Columbia?
JG: Since last August.
CM: Oh, not very long.
CM: But you’re registered here. There’s going to be a meeting in New York. I think it’s one of the last ones and Bella Abzug herself is going to chair that one.
JG: I haven’t been home in quite a while.
JG: We came here from Michigan, so.
CM: You did?
JG: Yes, I spent ten years there.
CM: They’re having a meeting this weekend in Michigan, in Lansing.
CM: Right now, this very moment, they’re meeting in Michigan. Why did you think this meeting was important enough to come to?
JG: Well, I came partly for myself and partly for my four-year-old daughter. I’d like her to be aware of such things and she’s at the daycare center that they provided, which was kind of, the beginning of the day with that was messed up. The directions were not correct and that’s kind of a mess. But I thought it was worth five dollars to see if I could learn something new about women that I didn’t already know and I don’t mean that to sound quite as arrogant as it does because I think…
CM: It doesn’t sound arrogant.
JG: Well, I think a lot of times when you come to sessions like this they kind of level out. So that there’s a lot of information that’s, in a sense, already available and there’s some that’s high level and some that’s low level.
CM: Based on how long you’ve been in the women’s movement…
CM: And where you are on these issues.
JG: Right, yeah. But I thought it was worthwhile and I thought it was a support issue too, that the more women that came the better it looks for the movement.
CM: Very good rationale.
CM: Do you think this meeting and the meetings that are being held in other states this weekend, and in other states on subsequent weekends, will have any consequences for you in your personal life?
JG: Yes, I think so because I think it strengthens my feelings as a feminist and makes me feel less uptight about telling people that I’m a feminist.
JG: And I think the more people that feel free to say that, that that has a good effect.
CM: Do you notice any difference between New York and here as far as the reaction to you saying you are a feminist? This concern?
JG: Well, I’d have to say Michigan because I lived in Michigan for the last ten years.
CM: What community?
JG: Ann Arbor and Detroit. I think that the feminist movement is enormously successful in Ann Arbor.
JG: But Ann Arbor isn’t like the real world I’m afraid, it’s like Berkeley or Cambridge. But in Detroit I think it’s had a good effect.
CM: You’ve got a union movement there.
JG: Yeah, which South Carolina really needs. I don’t know if it will happen.
CM: At one time, the union women were not supportive of the women’s rights issues in so far as the feminists generally were, but today they are. They’re in accord.
JG: Yeah, I think part of that was that there’s a lot of feelings – I know that I still have friends who have feelings that there is a lot of opposition to children and to traditional families in the women’s movement. And I think at one time…
CM: That’s a mistaken (unintelligible at 3:04).
JG: Well, I think it’s definitely mistaken but I think at one time it wasn’t absolutely clear that that was mistaken.
CM: Mmhm, I know. Now, a housewife or a homemaker is president of the National Organization for Women.
CM: That should make some difference. What about social consequences of the meetings and others like it? For instance, the slate of recommendations will be approved or amended or whatnot in Houston.
CM: After being reviewed in the states.
CM: And then relayed on to the administration. What will be the consequences?
JG: I guess I have enough experience working in bureaucracies that I don’t have a lot of faith in recommendations, I’m afraid. But I think even if, let’s be very pessimistic, even if two of them get up to Washington to an operational level that that’d be worth it.
JG: And I think it’s worth it too because all these people vote or have the capacity to vote in regular elections.
CM: To what extent do you think the legislators will react to these recommendations, say, if two reach the administrative level or if not legislators, but directors of agencies who…
JG: I would suspect that they would appreciate how hard it is for something to live through the bureaucratic process that they might run with it.
CM: Have you been to other such meetings? Maybe not an IWY meeting, but other women’s meetings.
JG: Well, I went to the Emerging Woman thing at Carolina, the Emerging Woman Day they had about a month ago.
CM: (Unintelligible at 4:50) …they only had it.
JG: Yeah, I didn’t go to the whole day but at the end of the day they had a speaker here from Philadelphia, who’s some sort of national feminist activist. I can’t remember her name. Her name is Rose, but I can’t remember her last name.
JG: No, but other than that I’d trying to think. In Ann Arbor, it wasn’t important to me because it was sort of, well, set. There was certainly work to do there but compared to other issues that I felt were pressing, I figured I didn’t have to work as hard on women’s issues because so many other people were dealing with it. And I was working political campaigns.
CM: But you think you got to fit yourself in your work (unintelligible at 5:34)?
JG: Oh yeah, yeah I really do. Because, for one thing, I have some experience with the legislators here in South Carolina and…
CM: Why is that?
JG: Well, because when I came here I thought one way to get to know people was to work on a campaign. So I started working on the Carter campaign and I got to know about people through that and then when I went to work at the Department of Corrections, one of the things I’ve been doing is keeping up with legislation and going back and forth to the State House, not as much as I would like but some. And now it looks like I’m going to get involved in one of the gubernatorial campaigns and I have a really strong sense that most of the legislators, with very few exceptions, require things to be laid out for them on a very simple basis.
It’s not that they are stupid. It’s just that between their time constraints and their mental set, if it’s something the least bit unusual, they’re not going to look at it if it’s complicated. They’re just not going to take the time and their staffs won’t take the time. So one thing I would like to see come out of this would be possibly some kind of local pressure placed on the legislators in very simple, direct, kind of pleasant, sociable terms that’s not going to hit them…I don’t mean to be old-fashioned womanly that way, I just mean to get it across you got to be direct and it’s got to be simple.
CM: Mmhm, yeah.
JG: And it’s got to be non-threatening.
CM: (Unintelligible at 6:57)
JG: Because it isn’t threatening.
JG: I’m mean, it’s very rational. But it’s odd to them.
CM: That’s the way it’s perceived, yeah. What made you become aware of women’s issues at all? I mean, did you have an enlightenment experience in your life?
JG: I suppose I’ve had a number. I’m hard pressed to think of one. I guess, I figure I was tracked as an early child, as a child into…
CM: Growing up where?
JG: In New York City.
CM: In Manhattan?
JG: Yeah, in the Bronx, to be fairly traditional.
JG: And I guess somewhere along the line I got sensitive to the fact that it’s all so subtle and it upsets me that a lot of it is subtle. A lot of it is overt, but a lot of it’s subtle. And I suppose when I had a child, I saw that as a chance to do something.
CM: (Unintelligible at 7:51)
JG: When I had my baby, a woman helped me in childbirth because my husband was involved in some other things and I have never forgotten what she said to me, and I guess that…
CM: What did she say?
JG: She smiled at me and said, “You had a woman,” and I still get a chill when I think about that. I guess that in some ways that would be the best pivotal experience to say because it really hit me that I had a chance to do something, to make somebody have more options than I felt I had.
CM: Well, since you haven’t really been to other large women’s conferences, expect for this one and the Emerging Woman recently in this community, you don’t have a basis for comparison. But how do you think this has gone so far? Maybe you were here yesterday?
JG: No, I wasn’t here yesterday but I did go to Dr. Gaskin’s workshop this morning and I thought that was pretty good. I’m sorry the ERA is not on the agenda.
CM: Yeah, well, this is for the government. This is for recommendations to the federal government and the federal government has done what it can.
CM: I mean, it’s gone through the halls of Congress.
CM: It’s been signed by the president. Now, it’s up to the states.
CM: And this meeting is dedicated to federal action really.
JG: Yeah, yeah I know.
End of Interview