Kathy Bonk

“As my generation starts to retire, we want to make sure the next generation has all the tools they need to fight for women’s rights.”

Interviewed by Mary Jean Collins, VFA Historian, September 2019

KB:  My name is Kathy Bonk. I grew up in Brooklyn, Ohio and went to school at the University of Pittsburgh, which is how I got heavily involved in the women’s movement.

MJC:  How did you get to Pittsburgh?

KB:  My sister taught in the English department and we were very, very close and she was a strong feminist; my older sister, Noreen Garman. So partly for that, partly because I wanted to be out of Ohio. I had gotten into schools in New York and Boston and for whatever reason I chose Pittsburgh.

MJC:  So what year were you born and what year are you going to college?

KB:  I was born in 1953, which makes me just a baby boomer still. And I started college in 1970 but graduated in ‘73.

MJC:  Anything you want to say about your ethnic background or other family issues that led you to the movement?

KB:  I have three sisters, there’s four of us, and my oldest sister very early on recognized the problems of discrimination. She was a high school teacher at my high school in Ohio and made less than the men. She was basically told, “Look you don’t have a family to raise, you’re working for pin money.” This is 1958 “…and therefore you can make less than the male teachers.”

To this day she says, “The problem was I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, it was just accepted. Why? Why didn’t I think about that? Why didn’t it seem unfair to me?” Fast forward to why Betty’s book was so important: because she was able to do the “click I never thought of it before” and really was able to capture it in her writings and her books.

MJC:  Did your “click” start to happen in college?

KB:  It actually was in high school. I was between my junior and senior years in high school and I was working at the local pool. We were a whole group of lefties in a very conservative little town. The cat was named Che for Che Guevara and a couple of people went to Woodstock. I was a junior in high school and I happened to be at home when the Morning Exchange Program was on and there was Betty. She was talking about The Feminine Mystique. And of course, I raced out to the local bookstore, all I could find was a used copy of it, a little paperback, blue and I just read.

I plowed through it. It was not easy for a junior in high school to read and really understand but enough of it caught. When I did go to Pitt, I saw that there were in the English department classes about women. They didn’t call it women’s studies. They called it feminist writing or something. I thought, I’m going to sign up for that class. And it was great. There’s Betty’s book, there was maybe Sisterhood is Powerful. There was Kate Millet’s book and that was it. Everything else was handed out on pieces of paper.

Little did I know, KNOW press was right down the street from me. I still wasn’t quite connected. We would hitchhike back and forth. I didn’t live on campus, I lived with the family a little bit off campus. It was the days when you could hitchhike back and forth. It was only maybe a mile or so. And this woman picks me up named Joanne Evans-Gardner and she’s running for office as a Republican. And she’s like, “Oh come work on my campaign.”

Well, OK. Her house was not very far from where I was living, and I wander into this huge house with a huge Xerox machine. Like 10 phone lines, there’s her campaign and then a printing press in the basement. And I’m like, this is very strange, I’ve never been in a house quite like this before. And you know Joanne was always recruiting, she always had recruiting brochures everywhere she went.

And then about a week before, Ellie Smeal was there with the League of Women Voters dropping off environmental brochures and she screams at Ellie and says “Why don’t you work for yourself for a change?” And Ellie was like, “Huh, what?” And so she ended up being a campaign manager and I ended up being the media director for this little campaign for Joanne as a Republican. She was running for city council and the head of the brochure was “Don’t call me a lady”.

I still remember she didn’t trust the bus company that they were going to get those bus posters up, so one night she and I went down to where they parked all the buses and we went bus by bus to make sure those bus posters were in for her campaign. Anyway, she didn’t win, but what she left behind were a lot of people that had been active in her campaign and wanted to get active in something else.

Wilma Scott Heide had just left Pittsburgh. She and Wilma were friends at the university and the Pittsburgh NOW chapter had just been formed. Ina Braden had just filed a lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh, and we were all at a point where we had just found out about NOW, the women’s caucus had just been formed, Joanne was our thread. And then things started to happen.

She said to Jerry, her husband, you look under “Help Wanted Women” with your PhD and see if there’s any jobs there for you. And look under “Help Wanted Men”. And he did that and realized that this was a discriminatory act. So he brought the original Pittsburgh Press case and took it up to the Supreme Court. About that time the ERA was being re-invigorated. And so a lot of us were going to DC for the trips to protest at the White House gates.

MJC: Back up a minute, who got the Pittsburgh NOW chapter going?

KB: Joanne, but she was always turning things over to other people. And so there was another woman, Phyllis Weatherby, who was there and I think Joanne was president when I was there. She was looking for new people, and NOW was at the point where they decided rather than one big chapter they would start other chapters, so L.A. formed South Hills NOW. And then Phyllis went off and did Greater Pittsburgh NOW. But I kind of stayed out of all of that, because I was still getting a degree in communications and needed a project for my class and the licenses were up for renewal in Pittsburgh. And so I learned we should do a license challenge.

MJC: You want to tell our audience about that phenomena?

KB:  At that time, every three years, TV licenses came up for renewal and that was where the public could come in, examine their public files, look at all sorts of information. They had to file EEO-1 forms, which it turns out the New York chapter of NOW and the D.C. chapter of NOW started that task force. A woman named Whitney Adams was chair. Joanne called Whitney and said we’ve got this young woman here that wants to do something around license renewals.

Whitney and I got on the phone together and she was the chair of the FCC committee for NOW. I don’t know if she was on the NOW national board at the time or not, but she was very close to Wilma. Wilma had really mentored Whitney and they were very close, she and David Copus. Copus had worked at the EEOC and had brought the big case against AT&T for the government. Whitney was working at the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. They were just completing a study called “window dressing on the set” that looked at discrimination in the media against both race and sex. She was one of the writers of that.

And then there was a woman here named Nancy Stanley who was at the FCC and she had just done a piece for the Hastings Lost Journal at Berkeley on what the strategy should be for FCC and media and the law. So you had Whitney who was in law school, you had Nancy Stanley who was a lawyer at the FCC, you had Copus who had been at the EEOC, so you had all these people that were in D.C. ready to do media work. They had by this time brought EEOC lawsuits against New York stations. They were bringing a lawsuit against WRC here in Washington, but they’d never really done anything outside the big cities.

MJC: What year is this?

KB: This would’ve been 1971 and our licenses were up for renewal. Whitney came to Pittsburgh and she coached us through, and they had just set up a nonprofit law firm called “Citizens Communication Center”. They sent out a lawyer to be in these negotiations with us. They would say, “How many members of NOW do you have?” We would say, “We speak to the potential of all women” – and we never responded.

The license had been taken away in Jackson, Mississippi on race and there was a lot of nervousness in the industry. The stations in Pittsburgh felt that they had too much to risk if we filed a petition and so they all settled, and they all gave us agreements. When you look back at them today they’re things like” five minutes of news a week about women”. And they agreed not to use kickers and mother-in-law-jokes at the end of the shows and I mean they were small teeny tiny [agreements].

They agreed to do a special about women’s rights once a year – I mean it was just real basic stuff. It was both content and hires, because at that time women were really only in the clerical workers. We wanted them to get up to producer, a few [were] on air, but not many. And it was interesting, because we teamed up with women inside who would call us at night.

There was a woman named Estelle Gould who was at Hearst and she would say, “Here’s the kind of question you should ask, this is how you should be asking it, and this is what you should be doing.” She was the anonymous woman that helped us through it all. She was at the station representing them during the negotiations and then she was convincing the managers that they should really sign this agreement. We got the very first agreements ever done.

Then I started to help people around the country. I was a student, KNOW was going to all these conferences and they needed somebody to do a booth. They would pay for my travel to do booth set ups at the NOW conferences to sell KNOW stuff and then I would do the media workshop. So that’s how I got to know people all over the country, because here I was a 17-year old kid running workshops with all the FCC language and we must have done about 20 cities over those years.

Kim Gandy was a person in Louisiana who did everything. We went after the San Diego stations and they agreed to hire a woman in a technical job. Each agreement got a little better. They hired Kathleen Kennedy and she worked the cameras for a year or two and then she saw the movie Jaws [and] decided to work with Steven Spielberg. She goes up and bombs her way into Spielberg’s place and he looks at her and he said “Oh you’re the one with all that technical experience. OK I’ll hire you.”

There’s a direct correlation. Go back and you see all the women who got their first jobs because NOW was there fighting for them. Then Whitney [Adams] calls me one day and she said we want you to move to Washington and take over the committee. I’m like, “Oh OK, what do I have to do?” I was headed to graduate school. And she said, “Well take this test and then you’ll be on the Federal Register and [David] Copus can hire you.”

I took the test, I got on the Federal Register and I took the test in Ohio; and at that time there were regional requirements which helped, and then Copus couldn’t hire anybody. So I got a job offer at the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division in the voting section. Little did I know that would help me today, and we were enforcing the Voting Rights Act. But that was my day job.

I would come home at night and Whitney and Copus and I would just [spend] the whole time doing NOW stuff. Helping to get this committee out, getting newsletters out. Whitney had been going to GW law school so we were like a little team that met three or four times a week that would do NOW work. Whitney ran for the board, Copus was on the board, and then she turned the committee over to me and I started to do all the stuff she taught me how to do.

So I moved to Washington, I got this job at the Justice Department and it was when we were doing all sorts of actions on the street. There were two separate press clubs: one for women, one for men. Finally, I think it was ’75 when they merged, and women could only go in the balconies. There was a D.C. NOW chapter, Kathy Erwin was president at the time and then eventually a woman named Sandra Porter took over.

But I remember we always did these events on August 26th. One of the events that Whitney, Kathy and I did was where we had these big posters called the “FBI: Feminists Bureau of Investigation” and the 10 most wanted men for crimes against women. We had two or three thousand printed and 30 of us went all over the city and put them up everywhere. As we know it’s probably illegal, you weren’t supposed to use the word FBI together, [there were all kinds] of problems with it, but it made its point and it was fun. We did these ZAP actions all the time.

When Sandra Porter was president we went back and we read what the suffragists did for voting and the marches and there had not been a march in Washington. The ERA was bubbling up, this would have been ‘73-’74. So, we did the very first march.

MJC:  The ERA came out of Congress in March of ’72. Were you involved in any of that?

KB:  Not really, because I was still back in Pittsburgh. But when I moved to Washington, Joanne said, “There’s a really important woman, let’s see if you can stay with her while you’re there.” She got me connected with Catherine East. I stayed at Catherine’s house and [she] became my new surrogate mentor. We were very close throughout that whole time.  She was still at the Department of Labor – she had just been detailed over to the State Department and she was on the delegation that went to the Mexico City conference in 1975.

But we did things like invite [Judy Collins] to conduct the National Symphony for women’s equality day, which they agreed to. Then, after Mexico City, Gloria Steinem was dating Stan Pottinger. Catherine was trying to figure out who she could get detailed over to the State Department so there would be a staff working on International Women’s Year. So two of us got detailed over to the State Department to work on the International Women’s Year Commission.

[Whitney and] I wrote the recommendations that are now in the book called To Form a More Perfect Union. Recommendations like implementing blind judging for orchestras. There’s a sheet that’s hung up and you don’t know if it’s a male or a female and they get chosen to be on the orchestra just by the quality of their music not their sex. Catherine was a policy person. Shelah Leader and I were involved with Catherine, and Bella got money for it and that’s when the 50-state conference happened. 

I ended up running the press operation for that at age twenty-three. The women that I was supposed to work with – one quit, the other one got very sick and so I ended up doing it kind of by default. And that’s where I began to meet all the reporters and all of the early women that brought the AP lawsuits.

From there, Joan and I went to Cuba with the Press Club.  Fidel’s sister in law was friends with Joan Gooden. It was an amazing trip. It was when Jimmy Carter was President.  We got to see all the women’s programs in Cuba. Joan went over to run this thing called the National Commission on Working Women and she asked me to come over and be the media person for it, which I did for a couple of years. 

Then I thought my heart is really in NOW and the Women’s movement. Maybe I could go to the NOW Legal Defense Fund and raise my own money through them and do the media committee. I went to them and we figured out a little budget. The PEER project was here at the time so I shared space with them, [it] was a project in equal education rights. A woman named Holly Knox started it and ran it and then Leslie Wolfe took it over. Leslie and I shared space in Washington during that period. We would go back and forth to New York. Stephanie Cloesi was our boss and Phyllis Siegel was the legal director.

I found it easy. And then Reagan gets elected and all of the work that I’d been doing at the FCC was reversed. We were starting on a women’s ownership project and we were about ready to get rules so that women could have the same benefits that the minority rules were available: tax credits and all kinds of stuff to really help women own TV – that got stopped. We ended up turning a lot of our efforts into the ERA. 1981 was when I really started to do the media and they paid my salary during that time, but they donated me to the ERA campaign.

MJC:  So you worked out in D.C.?

KB:   I ended up traveling. I was the person that did the ads and mostly traveled from place to place. We hired media coordinators in every state. We had people like Tina Tchen working there and then whenever there were big events I would come in and work with the media. That was sort of my role at that time. I was the “media coordinator” for the campaign.

MJC:   You mentioned Reagan. Did you see an immediate change in our potential when Reagan got elected? You mentioned the FCC stuff.

KB:  What happens is they come into Washington and they put their own people into these positions. We went from having the vote with the commissioners to not. I was one of the key architects on the board campaign. That was probably the one place we could see maybe turning the tide, finally, because it was just one loss after another. I mean it was just really hard.

MJC:  Who are you working for when you worked on the board campaign?

KB: I was still at the NOW Legal Defense Fund and several things were coming together at once. I had always worked very closely with Pat Schroeder’s office on everything. She was the go-to person and I would help Pat with press. That summer we carved out a strategy. This was in ’88. I took off that summer and there were three of us directing that campaign and raising money and then she decided not to run. But Bork was that same summer. I was hiking in Ireland, there was a meeting on Bork, I was still at the NOW legal defense fund and I came back and they said we volunteered you to be the head of the media committee for Bork.

I asked [Phil Sparks], who I worked with on family medical leave and childcare and I knew he had a lot of resources, to co-chair this with me. We had all become students of the Reagan spin operation. He brought in his deputy and then Emily Tynes had just left NARAL and I said, “I can’t work full time on this, because I’m traveling with Pat.” “Why don’t we hire you, because you’ve left NARAL?” That’s when the four of us teamed up together. We went to every meeting in the morning and we would do the media and we started to track who was covering it.

But the lawyers wrote these long message memos, single spaced ten pages and we asked if we could cut this down to three pages? They would talk about how Bork was conservative, and he had these conservative attitudes and I said “conservative” is not bad. We’ve got to paint him as an extremist and that finally stuck. Ethan Bronner wrote a book on Bork. The chapter on the outside groups is mostly about the media, which was a little embarrassing, because he felt what was different about Bork was unlike other work progressives had done. They finally understood how to turn the media around.

So we took that and at that time there were challenges within the NOW legal defense. There were a lot of board vs. staff issues. Here I was on the staff and I didn’t like what either side was doing. And so that’s the point at which Schroeder decided not to run for president. We had gotten to know the producer of Family Ties, Gary David Goldberg. We had been at a women in media conference together that April. I got invited because of my NOW work and I couldn’t get Ed Markey to show up [head of committee].

I said, “Pat would you come down with us and be the congressional speaker?” And she said, “Sure why not.”  Pat and Andrea and I go down to Richmond Virginia and we meet all these Hollywood people. I mean it was like top level Hollywood people including this show Family Ties that had done a couple of shows on the ERA, they had done placards.

They went up to Pat and said, “We’ve never been to Washington could you could you tell us where to go?” She said, “Oh come to my office.” And she took them to the floor and then she got them tickets to tour the White House and they were there for two or three days and they went off.

When it came time for the DNC, they kept pushing Pat about the finance director and I said, “Pat, let’s blow them away. They don’t take you seriously – let’s figure it out.” I said, “Let’s ask [Gary Goldberg]. And Barbra Streisand called you. Let’s ask Barbra to be co-chairs of your committee.” And they both agreed. Then she decided not to run.

Gary and his wife Diana came and said they lived on welfare for a big part of their lives, were just now feeling the residuals from Family Ties and would like to really make a difference for families. Pat wanted to do this thing called the “Great American Family Tour”.

We had this big quilt and we went around and he said who do I donate the money to? Lisa Goldberg, who I got to know through the board campaign, she and a guy named Dick Boone said, “We have to set up a media operation to attack the right and to work on social issues.” So that was how we formed the consortium and then we got our first grant from Gary Goldberg, from the field Foundation, and from Robson.

MJC:  What year is this?

KB:  1988. That’s when we started. It was on the great American Family Tour. We went to all the early primary states. Pat went, I called Betsy (last name?) and said we’re going to do this thing called the Family Tour can we come to Arkansas? So that’s when we all met the Clintons, who hosted it. And then we did one in Florida, one in New Hampshire, one in – I forget the other state. That was how we launched.

What I learned from Catherine was you can get a lot more done in this town behind the scenes than you can being up front. The four of us that founded the consortium were, they call them, good servant leaders, but we were always people that didn’t want to be in the spotlight – we wanted to be behind the scenes helping others. We started with a value system and mission. We cared about the issues.

We started with family medical leave and that got passed. We did child-care, I was a foster mom at the time, so I got heavily involved in foster care reform and I am now one of the leading experts in communications for our child welfare systems around the country. They don’t know anything about my feminism, but now they’re sort of connecting when you look at sex trafficking and where they’re recruiting young girls from is foster care.

I started to work globally thanks to a woman and Lael Steagall and she joined us. She had given us grant money over the years and we said, “C’mon join us.” She came on board and she was really the reason why we were getting introduced to a lot of the foundations that ultimately funded us and who we became good friends with over the years. We closed it down and for all the right reasons. We had a big party, we had a little bit of money left over that we gave out to people and groups.

I started to do a lot of work at the international level and she (Lael) had gotten us involved in 1993 with the Human Rights Conference in Vienna. That’s where a woman named Charlotte Bunch first came up with the term “women’s rights are human rights.” She took that from a group in the Philippines who came up with that term. I knew Charlotte from her earlier years of writing and she’s a very strong feminist lesbian activist. She did a lot of the tours of college campuses and Joanne knew her pretty well.

I knew of her, but I had never met Charlotte. We started to work together, which was great and the next year we got significant money from the Ford Foundation and PEW to work on the population conference. So that’s how I got involved with reproductive health issues at a global level. We ended up running the press operation for the non-government organizations, but we worked with Tim Worth and he was the head of the delegation.

Gerry Ferraro was the head of the human rights meeting right after Clinton got in. She was named the ambassador to that conference, so we worked with her very closely. Then came the big conference in China and Beijing – we were still working very closely with the State Department. Emily did the NGOs, I did the conference itself, the press around that. From there, the work I was doing was with the UN Population Fund and a lot of population issues and reproductive health.

The policy side of it was moving from population control and demographers, to women have to be at the center, to a broader conversation of sexual and reproductive health and rights. We got the State Department to use that term: sexual and reproductive health and rights the September before Trump was elected in 2016. That led me to working on ending child marriage and that’s what I’ve been doing with a lot of groups right now where girls 5 and 6 years old go through FGM and then are forced into marriage. That’s my passion now globally.

MJC:  The consortium has done amazing work. Do you see anyone else in that space?

KB:  When we started, there were two groups that were doing nonprofit communications and Phil and Emily really coined the term “strategic communications” and then we wrote a book about it. There are now hundreds if not thousands of groups that do strategic communications for nonprofits. There we “lit a lot of torches”, as Gloria says. But where I think we’ve got a mixed bag is in the feminist movement.

I fear that what’s happened – you have a certain number of groups that are very well-funded, they are branded, they’re in the women’s rights space, but they’re not really a movement. It’s really about what our brand is, how we raise money, how we manage your organization, what we do, and how we do it. Then there’s groups that are still true to the movement.

I decided I do not want to spend the rest of my money worrying about who my program officer is at x y or z foundation. I really want to go back to my movement roots. And so that’s what I’ve been doing now, as I’m on the board of a couple of groups. I was on the board of one group that operated on one hundred million dollars a year. It was awful. I hated it, because there’s a lot of infighting. They let go the executive director who is a woman of color for all the wrong reasons. It just drove me crazy and I just wanted to drop off of that one.

Then there’s groups that there’s just so much infighting and the values are all wrong. I found a few groups that I really care about and I’ve been working with those.

MJC:  So that professionalization had some cost for the activism?

KB:  The groups that have the big bucks, they’re not even investing in communications the way they should. The progressive community basically thinks if we do good work the media will find us. The media has changed. We used to say that if the right wing put out a report they would spend a dollar on the report and ten dollars promoting it. I would have been happy if our side did the opposite. If they spend 10 dollars on a report and they spend a dollar promoting it, but they don’t. It’s really challenging right now.

On the other hand, if you look at what the media is doing, if you look at the Washington Post‘s special section on women, it’s feminism. I mean maybe it’s feminism 101, but it’s all women’s rights. You look at what they’re doing on their root section on civil rights. Look at the stuff the New York Times is doing. Who would have ever thought Harvey Weinstein would have happened the way it did?

Is it with a full feminist lens? No. But boy the word feminism is popular again. I don’t think it was ever out. There’s this recent thing that just came out about Siri. They blew out of the water the fact that somebody told the Siris to stay away from feminism in the #metoo movement. In the last week. Everybody is up in arms – like I’m gonna turn off Siri because of it. There’s no question from when we started working together that we’ve gone through a culture change. Is it permanent? Can it be rolled back?

MJC:  Is there anything we’re missing about your involvement that we haven’t covered?

KB:  I was blessed being the youngest in most of the meetings I was at over the years in the women’s movement and I am getting a lot of satisfaction over helping young women who accept my help. What I find with some of the new millennials – it saddens me that they really are not interested in knowing that women broke barriers or what it was like then.

I’m in one group right now that is self-imploding, because the younger women in the group don’t want to hear about feminism. They don’t want to hear about breaking down barriers, they want to hear about what are you going to do to help me get ahead in my career. And they’re even angry at some of the women that we didn’t do enough. Why didn’t you go further?

That’s discouraging and hurtful and it hasn’t been directed to me personally as much as it’s been directed to other people. We’re not talking about putting statues up to these women, but we’re talking about at least recognizing Betsy Wade, who brought the first lawsuit against the New York Times. Some of the women who brought the AP suit. Some of the young women journalists just don’t want to hear about that, they just don’t want to hear about what came before them. All they care about is what we do to help them.

MJC:  Well I think it’s the whole problem of feminist history. That’s partly why it’s so important to get our stories of the second wave feminist movement and what they did contribute.

KB:  I always felt I was privileged to be at the right place at the right time. I was really lucky that my life turned out that way and I feel that I do need to give back, but cautiously. I get very worried about some of the younger women that call themselves feminists. It’s a different attitude toward their rights and that scares me.

When Betty moved to Washington we remained close friends. When she was moving into more of an assisted living place, they had to sell off a lot of her stuff and I felt like I was on a rescue mission. The family wanted to just sell everything, so her assistant called me and said, “They’re getting ready to take the books over to a used bookstore.” So she said, “Bring some boxes.”

I think I did 15 boxes of her books and she had some wonderful original pins from the suffrage movement that were just in the jewelry bin. And so I went through the best I could and I paid the family for whatever and I still have this big carving of a woman that was made by some woman way back and it ended up with Betty. And everybody wants it and I’m like, “Well I’m going to keep it until I know the right place to put it.”

I’ve got great Betty stories. Betty was out at USC and she gets a letter that invited her to Iceland for the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage, which was before us. Why was it before us? Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the others had been to England on an abolitionist meeting and they came back and they’re both stalled in Iceland. They organized the Icelandic women and they got suffrage right away.

Betty calls Diana (last name?) and says “Do you want to go to this event?” She said, “Oh I’d love to.” And she had a five year old daughter at the time who is now in her 40s. And I had a Kellogg fellowship. And I said, “Well let me call and see if a few Kellogg fellows would want to come.” So Diana calls Olympia Dukakis, who had just come out with her green tomatoes movie and Olympia decides to go. So there were like seven or eight of us – we are now Betty’s delegation.

They had a woman president at the time. There’s a woman’s party that held the balance of power in the parliament. They had three votes, but those three votes determined who would be the majority. There was a woman head of their parliament and there was a woman who headed up the Supreme Court. So here we were with a celebrity and Betty and seven of us all fit in a van and it was an unbelievable trip.

Then Betty and I were together in Kenya for the second women’s conference and she said, “Kathy, you’re gonna be my media person over here.” So here’s my idea: all of the men used to gather together under the biggest tree. I found the biggest tree in Nairobi. And let’s go there every day at noon and we’ll tell all the media. The first day there were maybe 20 of us. And by the end, there were two or three hundred of us and there were cameras every day.

And I got to know a woman named Elaine Carlino at the New York Times who had then covered some of the marches and other stuff. But it was Betty in that tree that made all the difference in the world.

And then of course she was in Beijing for that conference. And when she moved to Washington, she was considered a little celebrity and it was when the Clintons were here and she got invited to every imaginable event. The Cosmos Club admitted her as a special member and the place she moved to is right across the street, so she could walk to Cosmos almost every day. That’s where we had her memorial service here in Washington.

Then you had a problem where Betty and others didn’t get along and this one and that one didn’t get along. And so I really tried to get along with everybody. But that was being the youngest of three sisters, where they didn’t always get along.

But I’ve got one more story. You asked me about my heritage. I should preface this by saying I’m married to a Jewish man. My mother was extremely anti-Semitic growing up. She’s a Roman Catholic, she was a follower of Father Coughlin, very right wing. But she was an environmentalist. I’m in school one day – after Joanne’s campaign we all got behind Shirley Chisholm and we ran as delegates. None of us got one, but she came to Pittsburgh and we were her rallying point.

We had these big posters and my mother says, “So what are you doing lately?” And I said, “I’m working for Shirley Chisholm for President. She says, “President of what?” I said, “As President of the United States.” And she said, “Oh. Do you have some literature?” I showed her this picture of Shirley Chisholm and she flipped out because she was a racist. She said, “How can you do this, why aren’t you working for somebody of your own kind?” I just innocently said, “But mother there are no Polish women running for president this year, so I’m working for Shirley Chisholm.”

Growing up in a segregated part of Cleveland – what Pittsburgh also was – was an opportunity to really work closely with the civil rights community in Pittsburgh. There was a woman named Alma Fox who was on the board of NOW. She was the president of the NAACP and she was the first African-American woman that I ever became close to. She grew up in Cleveland and she was told about the west side what I was told about the east side. Never go there at night. Never go there alone.

The city is so segregated and so awful. So for me, when I ended up at Pitt, it was a liberation at all levels. It gave me an opportunity to get heavily involved in the women’s movement, at the same time to better understand the civil rights movement. I mean I always felt like the people in the women’s movement either came from the peace movement or the civil rights movement and you could almost tell who came from which side when you were in NOW and you began to understand the dynamics of NOW.

You did have a group that really cared passionately about civil rights issues and that was kind of where I came from, thanks to Alma. I was again really lucky, especially in 2019 where issues are just exploding. I hope that we can maintain that. As you know, NOW was one of the first groups, if not the first, to take on sexual politics and it was a home for lesbian women. I think more recently for transsexual women and others, but especially [lesbians] and so when you were very active in NOW, you had a different attitude toward women loving women than anybody did.

Now today it’s changed. I mean who would’ve thought we’d see a TV show called The Fosters where one black woman and one white woman are fostering kids and they’re in bed together loving each other on network television? Who would have ever thought? So, all of that made a difference in my life and a lot of other people too. I’m grateful. I was really privileged to be involved.