THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
“I Was Always an Activist in Search of a Movement.”
Interviewed by Judy Waxman, Oral Historian, November 2022
JW: Please introduce yourself. Give us your whole name and when and where you were born.
JG: My whole name is Janice, and my mother would have been most disturbed by your calling me Jan. She named me Janice, thinking nobody could ever shorten that name. At any rate, it’s Janice Goodman. I was born August 14, 1935, the same day that the Social Security Act was passed.
JW: Great. Two fabulous events.
JG: And I’ve been political ever since.
JW: That’s super. Well, tell us a little about your childhood and what led you in the direction that you ultimately went.
JG: It’s hard for me to be precise of what led me in the direction. I have to say, that I was a feminist from as long as I can remember having discussions. I always knew that women were not treated well and that the power of the purse meant that you had some say in things. I’m sure this came through my mother, but never by a sit-down conversation.
My parents divorced when I was very young, seven, maybe eight. My father was the charming one. My mother was charming, but she was the stronger one. She was clearly very frustrated in her own life by not having a career. She talked about her mother a lot. Her mother, who was an immigrant, had a bakery, or a restaurant, and was beloved in the community.
That’s all I ever heard about, a baker and beloved in the community. And this is the idol, only followed by Eleanor Roosevelt who we read “My Day” every day. So, all of these things just somehow or other, were imbued in me at a very early age, and I followed my heart to it.
I was ten years old, or eleven years old, or twelve years old. I knew. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I did know, that I did not want to be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. The movement I was looking for finally developed. Because I was an activist in search of a movement.
JW: What town were you from, by the way? Where were you living?
JG: Brooklyn. Brooklyn, New York.
JW: After you went to college, you went to Mississippi, is that right?
JG: No, Ten years after. I got out of college in ‘57. I should preface one other thing leading me to things I was thinking about. I read Simone de Beauvoir in my freshman year in college, so we’re talking about 1953. My whole idea of what do I do once I get out of college, stems from my feeling of asserting myself. I’m sort of, at one level, a boring story, because nobody had to convince me of anything.
I did not have some life changing event that brought me to feminism. It was something that was in me for a long time, as was the social activism. In the ’50s, there wasn’t much of anything because of the McCarthy period, but I did get involved in political stuff, and I wanted to be a union organizer. That was the only social movement that I saw, and then came the Black civil rights movement. So, I had done political things earlier, and then when I went to college, I belonged to ADA, Americans for Democratic Action.
When I got out of college, I was fit to do most nothing. I did not type. I stuck by that, and I still did not want to be a nurse or a teacher. So, I had a lot of trouble finding a job. My first job was after six months, as an assistant of some type in the personnel department, which is what they called it then. It was for the ILG Health Center. International Ladies Garment Workers. That was as close as I could get.
They had a health center on 7th Avenue in New York. I hated the job, and I was very bad at it. I think by mutual agreement, after a fairly short amount of time, I left. Probably six months. I don’t even think I made it a year. I mean, mainly you posted little notices on bulletin boards and tell people what time they should get to work, or when there’s going to be a birthday party. Things like that. It was not my idea of the union job I wanted.
I was offered one union job as an organizer later, but they told me they were going to send me to Utica, New York, with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. I said, “But the industry is leaving Utica. Everything’s going south, so shouldn’t I go south?” They said, “We don’t send women south.” So that was the end of that, and I succumbed. I went to night school and learned how to type and then I basically became an assistant, with secretarial skills. I learned how to take shorthand, and I became an assistant to various political organizations for candidates.
I worked with Hubert Humphrey in 1962. I was the New York office. He was running the primary against JFK, and it was a fundraising office. I worked for several people, local candidates, which was fun. But I got to the point of realizing that I was living at a high level in terms of the people I met. I met JFK, back when I didn’t like JFK. So, I was not very important. I was not doing anything very important. I worked for the reform movement up here in New York, but the last job I had was sort of most interesting.
Finally, I was going to become an organizer, so I was going to become a professional, but it was for the Girl Scouts. I was never a Girl Scout, and I always sort of laughed at that. My admiration for the Girl Scouts has changed immensely. They had a program in New York, this is about 1962, ’63. They had a program in Newark, New Jersey, where they were trying to develop Girl Scout troops in the Black community, in the projects.
So, it was organizing in those communities. I was working with two Black women, both from New York City. What I learned is, what we were really doing was training women, the mothers, to organize. That’s what we were really doing. Because to get the kids in, you had to get the leadership in. I forget how we got names or how we went to see people, but we were going and meeting the mothers.
Organizing with the mothers, and training the mothers. Leadership skills, which I don’t know at 25 how many I had, but that’s what we were doing. It was a very terrific program. I was embarrassed by being a Girl Scout, and every once in a while, we had to wear those dumb uniforms and my friends laughed at me to no end. It was a good program. Then the Civil Rights movement came, and that’s when I went to Mississippi.
JW: What did you do there?
JG: Well, let me say before that, and this is important I think, in terms of the development of the movement; at that point Susan Brownmiller and I were friends. We worked together politically, and I have to say, it was Susan’s idea, we wrote to Betty Friedan. When we began reading about NOW, we wrote a letter saying, “Here we are, we’re young women, and we very much want to be a part of this movement.”
And we were once again, promptly rejected. We got a, I think it was from her directly, as I say, Susan was the one who wrote the letter but both of us signed it, but I think it was from Betty herself, basically saying, “Oh, we’re so glad to have you. But, we’re just at the beginning, and we’re a professional organization.” I’m interpreting the words, “To protect legitimacy, we need professional women.” And God knows we would have liked to be.
That was the spring of ’64, when we started to read about SNCC. We participated in a variety of Civil Rights stuff, and I got arrested. I went down to, I guess it was Maryland Clarion Oaks Amusement Park, that type of thing. You get on a bus, you go down to Maryland, you get off the bus. Some Black person puts their hand in your hand. You try to walk into the amusement park. They say, “No, you’re not allowed. That’s illegal.” You’re arrested.
I did that a couple of times, which was a problem when I tried to get admission to the bar. It wasn’t a problem, just finding the records was a problem. Went down to the March on Washington, of course. I mean, there was a period where you did nothing but demonstrated. You got a phone call, now, I guess you’d get an email or it’s on your social media, but you got a phone call, and you had to appear at Whitehall Street the next day, and you did, or you marched someplace else. So, I was very active in most of the social movements that were going on then.
And then there was all this publicity about Mississippi and the Summer Project. Susan’s cousin was dating Elizabeth Sutherland, who you may or may not know. She headed the New York SNCC office, and we volunteered. We said we want to go to Mississippi for the summer. We were unusual because we were thirty years old at this point, but we were accepted as volunteers. Both of us took leaves of our job.
We were treated with great suspicion because we were these older women. We weren’t teaching. We wanted to do political work for the Freedom Democratic Party and the only older people there were people who were teaching in the Freedom Schools. It was a terrific experience. It was just amazing. We both took leaves from our job, came back, and at that point, it just struck me. I wanted to do something more meaningful, so we went back to Mississippi in November to become “volunteers” for $10 a week.
We came to Waveland, and that was the breakup of when SNCC was falling apart. There was a group of women in SNCC raising protests about, raising questions I should say, protests might be too strong a word, about Casey Hayden and Mary something or other, about women’s status within SNCC. That was not an opportune time to go, so we were sent back to Jackson. We started to work on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Susan got a job in Philadelphia, and she left. She was only there maybe two weeks. I stayed and I worked. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Challenge basically led to the passage of the voting rights act. I get very upset that they don’t talk about it. Coming out of the summer of ’64 we gathered signatures on the petition to get a seat for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to get seated at the Democratic Party convention.
They brought four candidates. Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Grade, Annie Devine, and the two men I can’t remember their names…Bill and Aaron Henry. They went to the convention, as you know, and they were denied seats. The argument was that the delegation that claimed to be the Mississippi delegation was not open to everybody and we couldn’t vote in this one. Everybody could sign our petition, everybody could come to our convention and vote in ours, so seat us.
When that didn’t happen, a man by the name of Arthur Kinoy, who’s a lawyer and a professor of law, developed this absolutely brilliant theory based upon one of the civil rights statutes. It was to challenge the seating of the Mississippi delegation in Congress. That would be the seating in ’65. And there was support for it.
Congressman Bill Ryan from the Jerry Nadler district, a very little district here in New York, took it on as his project. There was a Bill Ryan of San Francisco who worked with him, and Don Edwards of California. Those are the three. The theory was to have this to challenge it and it did actually get to the floor. The first day, they did not come in and sit with everybody, and we had this brilliant demonstration. But this was a four- or five-month project.
They ultimately got seated, but temporarily, provisionally. I don’t know whether it was formally provisionally, but sent to committee was this whole challenge issue. Which could have been stuffed away there, who knows what would have happened? But it brought enough pressure to bear, that along with everything else that was going on, we got the Voting Rights Act of that year.
And what I did, was work in DC with a guy by the name of Mike Farewell who headed up that office on that project. But we also stayed on, and did lobbying on behalf of the folks that weren’t otherwise represented in DC. I did that for a couple of years. Mike ultimately left and I left shortly after that. I briefly was head of that office. That’s sort of titular, because the office was winding down out of lack of enthusiasm, et cetera, and I came back to New York.
JW: And around then you decide to go to law school?
JG: Not right away. I got a job working as a union organizer, in District 65 here in New York. It’s a job from which I got fired, as did ultimately, all the Young Turks. It’s nothing interesting. I mean, I found out being a union organizer in this circumstance was not quite what I thought. We became card getters. We went out and got people to sign cards.
But also, the union leadership wanted to take the union to a different level. A group of us were hired because they represented the social workers, welfare workers basically, in New York City. There was a new Young Turks organization and they were really becoming a challenge to District council 37. And so, they brought in us Young Turks, but already these established organizers, they really saw us as a challenge to them in terms of positions in the union. It was then, I went off and became Clean for Gene, and that’s when I decided to go to law school.
And why did I decide then? Not that I didn’t want to go to law school at an earlier stage, but quite truly, I’m just not smart enough. As a woman and a Jew, the women who got in were brilliant and had to be ten times better than the men. I was not up in that category. And then there’s also Jewish quotas, although that might have been changing by the late ’60s.
But what happened, and this is when I said, “Ok, I’m doing it,” is the year before I applied, it was announced that the following year, or it just coincided, that men would no longer be given a draft deferment for Vietnam if they went to law school. And whole bunch of men decided to be teachers. In fact, Dean Griswold of Harvard made a speech in Congress, it’s of record, saying to the effect, if you pass this law, we will be left with nothing but the infirm, something and women.
JW: I do want to interrupt you a second, there were very few women there still, right?
JG: Yes, there were. NYU was the highest, and they at that point had been around 10%. NYU had always been better than other schools. The class I went in with, was close to 30% women because the boys were not of quality. They were not applying, so I felt I had a chance to get into this group, which I did. I decided to put aside my snobbery, and I got early admission to NYU and to Rutgers.
I thought, well, if I can get into Columbia, why not? It’s Ivy League, it’s more prestigious. I need every hope I could get, so I went up for an interview there and said, “Look, I got this early admission, but if I got admitted to Columbia, I would prefer that,” or something to that effect. At which point the guy I was being interviewed by said, “Well, you understand that we are accepting more women now,” so that I can understand the position, but “We’re unlikely to take in people of your age.” I swear to G-d I was thirty years old at the time. Even in the liberal to radical groups, people were not ashamed to make blatant statements.
I applied for one job in New York City. This was going back to right after I got out of college, and they bluntly told us, “We have too many Jewish women here as it is.” When I came back to New York, there was finally a women’s movement for me to join. Two of the women who I knew from the Mississippi movement were involved with New York Radical Feminists. And Marianne Davidson was active in that and she invited me to one of their meetings. Rosalyn Baxandall, Anne Koedt, Shulamith Firestone, they were sort of the founders of this little group.
It was upstairs in Roz Baxandall’s apartment. I found out later that we had an undercover person there, because when I asked, at some point when it was easier to get your FBI files, I got my FBI files, and the only major thing there, was my attendance at these meetings. So, I joined that. But then that was really not that much of my style, just sitting around and talking. I’m much more of an activist.
JW: More like consciousness raising kind of thing or not really?
JG: Interesting stories? Oh, yes. I mean, people are talking about mistreatment by their boyfriends or their husbands or a lot of that came up. Not too much about the job market, which is interesting, but much more in personal relationships. Pregnancy, rape, all the issues. But mainly, how we’re the second sex. Mainly how we’re dominated in every aspect. So, it was really in the emotion. A lot of domestic stuff, family, how you were prepared for marriage, those kinds of things.
I left that when I went to law school and immediately became active in establishing a women’s committee. The first day at law school, I’m in the bookstore, and there’s this woman in front of me who turns around and says to me, “Did you know that the Root-Tilden Scholarship is exclusive and women can’t get it?” I certainly did not know that, and I had no idea what the new Root-Tilden Scholarship was.
The person I was talking to was Sue Ross. She then explained to me about the Root-Tilden, which was a very prestigious scholarship. It was full tuition, but it was also special training, special events, and room and board, and I think they might have even gotten a stipend, I’m not sure about that. So, it was a very hefty thing. It was exclusively men of course, a lot of motivation as far as I’m concerned, but the establishment of that program was to nationalize the university because it had a Jewish, New York tinge.
At any rate, that established an immediate friendship and activity between Sue and myself, and we got together and talked about starting a Women’s Rights Committee. We spent weeks to work on this issue. We spent weeks determining whether we should call ourselves Women’s Rights, wasn’t that too harsh? I mean, those are the types of debates you were having. So, we never called it a women’s rights committee. Women in the Law, or Women’s Law Committee or something like that.
And we did get a group together. And most of them, not all, but most of them were older women. I was the oldest, but there were a lot of women who took advantage of what they saw as a new opening in law school admissions. And we did get the Root-Tilden changed for the admission enrollment. Now, wouldn’t you know it though, as soon as we get it changed, it is no longer as lucrative.
And now, it was your tuition but you did not get the room and board and all the other stuff that you got. We were told that you couldn’t break it. It was a sacred trust, and therefore, the school had no control. The former dean was in denial, was just lying about that, and he knew that it was not a sacred trust and he had gone out and he got some foundation to support it. It was just an ordinary scholarship set up by a foundation and donations were made through that. So that might have changed why they weren’t able to fund it as gloriously.
The next year we tried to have a National Women in the War conference at NYU, to which ten people came. It wasn’t at NYU; it was at Columbia. One woman came up from Duke, I remember that, and we had some from Colombia and then a couple of us from New York.
We got smarter and we involved a lot of other people. It was a weekend conference at NYU and we got something like 100 to 150 people. That was very impressive. We had the same woman from Duke and we had a number of people from Columbia. A batch from Yale came down with four women who had worked with Tom Emerson a on very good article. We got Carol Bellamy. She had been a graduate of NYU, so she came. We got a couple of our alum from NYU to come, and it continued on. There was a big one in Texas in Austin. So, it went on for a number of years, and then it just seemed to peter out.
I still remember Ruth Ginsburg coming to one in Columbia, South Carolina. Ruth was, I mean, we haven’t talked about the things that happened at the law schools during that period. But Mary, this is in most of the books that are written about Ruth and her earlier stuff. Mary Kelly and I went out, we took Marion Davidson’s program for teaching a course in Women and the Law, and talked to Ruth about introducing this at Rutgers. And she did. She was very supportive. In fact, she even came to one consciousness raising group that we had.
And we worked with her. She was trying to get the Law School Association to start working to get more women professors. I forget how it all emerged. I’m sure this was her project that she involved us in. The others were our project we involved her in. At that stage, she is still one of us, she’s not been elevated yet. It did not take long for her to move up, as soon as the women’s movement gets strong enough, to force the schools to start moving, like Columbia, she gets her big move into Columbia.
But what I started to say is, I still recall her coming down on the heels of the parental Social Security Act, where only women could get Social Security benefits. I think Reed was her big Supreme Court case, but this was her big significant, actual impact case, where she came down heavy on having just gotten the Supreme Court decision. I think she came down with Jeffries from the UAW. It was a very, very vibrant organization at that point.
We had a conference in North Carolina, there was one in Atlanta, and Texas. They called it Bridges Over, something bridges. The law school, women, sort of forgot about us. I remember meeting some and they had no idea of some of the struggles that went on. One woman, I was at a gym and she was talking about swimming at the Sauna at the NYU pool. And I said, “Hey, until five years ago you couldn’t use that. It was men only.” Matter of fact, I remember talking with the dean saying, “Well, you gotta make this go away.” And he said, “Well, I know you’re right, but that means I can’t go in the sauna naked.” But they did open it up, he was joking. He was very good.
So, there came that point where there were these law students who were totally unattached to what had gone on before them. And then there came a point where some group said, let’s “build a bridge” to my generation of law folks and the present. That was, I think, in the mid 80’s. I remember being invited to it and I think it was in Chicago, but it might have been New York. I lost track and I don’t know what they’ve done since.
JW: When do you start your firm?
JG: We all had to go out and earn some money first, and then in ’73 we start our firm. We talked about it while in law school. We called ourselves the first feminist law firm. We got a foundation grant so we started in ’73. We opened our doors and it was never a problem not having clients, really.
JW: People just flocked in.
JG: They did. That didn’t mean you could earn a living. We probably did not realize how much we did not know. We were very gutsy. I still remember, do you know Harriet Rabb?
JW: Oh, yes.
JG: We had the big NBC case. That was our first big employment discrimination case. We were on the brink of a summary judge margin, and Harriet came down with George, her colleague up at Columbia. They were running the clinic up there. He’s married to Judy Bloom. At any rate, they came running down offering all sorts of help, really, because they were petrified we didn’t have them fired.
We were really quite good. I can understand why. We were just gutsy and we got away with it. I was involved in one other big case before that too, when I was still with the center, and that was a NOW case where they challenged the local ABC affiliate on the ground.
JW: Tell me about some of the early cases.
JG: In terms of the cases that we as law firm got funding for, we had this one very good case against the Manufacturers Hanover, which was a married couple who could not get a mortgage because they refused to recognize the wife’s income as a source guaranteeing the loan. We ultimately settled it, and they changed their policy.
Hanover Manufacturers, at that point, might have been if not the largest, one of the largest banks in New York City. So, it made an impact. And then we took a matrimonial case. We were trying to get a more equitable distribution of assets and that was a total failure, but that failure was ours. The client we got, it was somebody from the movement and I’m not able to accept it.
I take a lot of personal responsibility because it was somebody who was brought to me personally. But it wound up she made more money than her husband and she was the more powerful person. So, the whole thing was just a disaster.
JW: From those beginnings though, how long did your law firm last?
JG: About six years. We had all the ordinary problems that little law firms have. Making money was a problem, personal disagreements were a problem.
JW: But you started your own practice?
JG: Exactly. I subsequently had a partner and then we broke up, and I went back into my own practice. But I’ve always been doing the same thing. I went into the law not because I had a fascination with the intellectual arguments as an activist. I saw the law as, and it was true in the 60’s and 70’s, the law was one tool to advance social issues of concern, and it was effective for a lot of years.
The downfall was Reagan. The downfall was Clarence Thomas. I mean, in terms of the law, that was the end of the class action. Clarence Thomas, I don’t know whether you recall, but when he went in, he had a strong position that discrimination on account of anything, was not a class thing, it was an individual thing. It was an individual issue. And he pulled the rug out from under the class action cases.
JW: But you didn’t have a lack of clients. I can tell by the list of cases you’d see, and it looks like it’s mostly employment.
JG: That was really what I did. There were two issues in terms of the law that I was involved in. Employment, and I did work in the early stages on abortion issues, but those are the two areas out of matrimonial family law that I did.
JW: Talk a little about the early cases on abortion and then we’ll talk about the employment stuff.
JG: Let me not talk about that, it’s too long a story. When I worked for the Center for Constitutional Rights, at that point, we handled a lot of those cases. The person to talk to on that, is Nancy Stern, since she was the leader on it. It’s just too much in this short interview. The stuff that we worked on at the center, which Nancy can tell you a lot more about in detail, is that the right to abortion, it wasn’t the privacy right, the right to abortion was the 14th amendment right.
Without controlling your body, you cannot have equality. It’s as simple as that. Plus, both Nancy and I, and Nancy continues to pursue it, in fact she’s speaking at Notre Dame Law School shortly on it, but that it’s a denial of a religious freedom. That a ban on abortion, stems from nothing but a religious belief about you, that a human being becomes a human being. And I think that’s really what it’s about, myself.
So, those were the two issues. I handled one case, a doctor whose patient died, not from anything that he did, and they tried to criminally prosecute him. Nancy sent me into federal court to get an injunction to prevent the state from prosecuting him, because it would be a violation of Roe. That’s in the most general of terms. So that was my first experience of doing something in the Supreme Court.
I go to the District Court and they denied the injunction, of course. I called Nancy and said, “I’m sorry, they denied the injunction.” She said, “Well, go to the Circuit.” As I say, we were very gutsy. I get on the train the next day and go down to Philadelphia, to the third Circuit. I find a US attorney that was willing to swear me in, pro hac vice, and I put my petition in and I had to argue before this three-judge court. They must have called some sort of emergency thing, and they of course deny it. I called Nancy and said, “I’m on my way back to New York, I’m sorry, they denied it. Nothing more that we can do.”
People were supplying this doctor with local counsel for the state case. We had nothing to do with that. And then she says, “No. Go down to Supreme Court.” She had me do exactly what the Trump people are doing now, trying to get this emergency injunction. I said, “I just can’t do that” and she said, “Well, you have to.” So, I foolishly get back on the train the next day and go down to the Supreme Court.
I write a handwritten brief on the train; I give it to the clerk there. It goes to Brennan, because Brennan was the judge for the Third Circuit. I don’t know whether he just passed, or denied it, but I called Nancy and said, “Sorry, it’s been denied.” She said, “Well, now you’re allowed to go and find two other people” and “See if you find some.” Of course, I go to Douglas and submit my handwritten brief to his clerk.
And she says to me, “He’s on Goose Creek. We will get it to him.” And it just sits there for weeks and weeks, and I think ultimately, he denied it. We were, I guess, using that shadow docket in the same way, not the way of doing it, but in the same way that Trump is. Absolutely using it to say, “Here, give us a temporary injunction while this terrible thing is going on.”
JW: I know that you had lots of wins over the years. Are you still in practice?
JG: No. I 99% retired a couple of years ago. I had an operation, that was in 2017.
JW: If you could give us a couple of highlights. How about the Wire Service Guild versus Associated Press?
JG: I’m glad you picked that one. That’s a terrific one. This was a claim by professional reporters, one of whom was a Pulitzer Prize winner. The claim was discrimination based on sex and race in assignments and heading of bureaus. That was the nature of it. We wound up having a final piece of evidence that sort of blew it out of the sky.
Candy Crowley, a fairly prominent TV news person, was not one of the main plaintiffs originally, but she was an on-air person. She was on AP radio and she had the afternoon drive time. There was another woman who did the morning drive time, and it seems they were getting kicked off. Both of them were being removed and given other assignments. They replaced them with men, but they were given new assignments.
And out of the blue, Candy Carolyn finds in her mailbox a memo. It was a memo somebody mysteriously, anonymously, put there. What it was, was a memo from one executive to, I think, the head of the AP saying, “We’re getting a lot of complaints. We’re going to have to get those women’s voices off the air.” So, they settled shortly after that. I mean, they got their jobs back, first of all.
It was one of the best settlements though. Why do I say that? It was the last settlement I can remember getting that had goals and timetables, because certainly once Clarence Thomas came in, that was no longer an option. I mean, it was very difficult.
I kept in touch with some other people, certainly a woman by the name of Peg Simpson. What happened was that there was a woman who was a head of HR at the AP who believed in it, and she really did, so they continued the process. It also helped that we were joined with the Wire Service Guild in bringing the case. I really handled the whole thing, but the Wire Service Guild handled more on the race discrimination part.
They were always around to continue monitoring. I was not involved in any of the monitoring, so they were a constant presence. I’m sure their relationship with this woman who was head of human resources had a lot to do with why the program continued.
One of the nice things why I said it was so nice that you brought that one up, is that I just recently saw the women. Shortly before the pandemic started, in October 2019, I think it was. They had a get together, reunion, and met in DC. And one of the members had already arranged to have a visit to the Supreme Court.
So, I sent an email to Ruth Ginsburg and said, “They’re coming down, blah, blah, blah. Do you think you would have a few moments to meet with them?” Five minutes later I get an email back. I mean, I sent it to her staff, it wasn’t to her directly, but I get a response, “Absolutely.” It was really a terrific experience for everybody, and I had not seen Ruth in many, many years. It was lovely. There’s a nice picture of the group. I didn’t know until somebody said, “Hey, I just saw this picture.”
JW: I’d like to ask you about the long view. So, you started obviously, as you said, you’ve always been a feminist. Maybe you didn’t have a label right away, but you had this view of how women were, in yourself, and you’ve been at it a long time and seen many changes.
JW: Do you think let’s say women have progressed? We know we have more to go. What are the biggest changes you would say you’ve seen from when you started out to now?
JG: Well, the biggest change is clearly women’s control over their body and their sexuality. I think that’s the biggest change I’ve seen. As disappointed as I am in what’s happening in the past, even ten years, not just with Trump, there’s been huge advance. You just cannot underestimate that.
JW: Over the years, you always thought you were a feminist and things have gone in many directions. What do you see, what’s your view, looking from the past to the present?
JG: Undoubtedly, we’ve come miles and miles and miles. That you cannot deny that women have much more substantial roles in society, that they’re more recognized today. That we recognize things like rape and sexual harassment. When I first started, you had to have two witnesses to be able to even bring a rape case in New York. And the employment situation, as slow as it’s been, has still certainly improved.
When I started out, women earned, I think it was about sixty-nine cents, and now it’s 82%. That’s relatively glacial. But part of that problem is the type of jobs. The jobs that women are going into, and that women still dominate are the low-income jobs. I think one of the major changes is certainly women’s sexuality and acknowledgement of their sexuality and control of their body. So, it’s not only the women’s movement, but birth control has made this huge difference. The two together, have made this huge difference.
On the other hand, we still do not have a woman president. And it strikes me something like the post-Civil War, we can have a Black man president before a woman. Who would have thought that, right? And my own sense, these are people I support, so I want to make that clear, not to demean anybody else. I would not be surprised if we have a gay male president before we have a woman president. And that bothers me. What I don’t think will happen is that we’ll have a Jewish president before a woman. That’s the one thing I don’t think will happen.
The major issue which you saw from the beginning of my work in concentrating on the employment, is the child bearing, mothering, parenthood issues, and that takes huge changes within the workplace, and huge recognition. It’s going in that direction, but it’s not enough. It also requires huge social changes of the relationship between men and women over the household.
So, I guess that’s just to say we’ve got a long way to go. Clearly, it’s depressing. The recent Supreme Court decision is so depressing because one of the things I said is, we use change because we can control our bodies. We don’t quite know what this impact is going to be because now there’s the pills and things like that, but it’s hard to say just what that’s going to be.
JW: Well, as I’ve said to friends, don’t be upset, be angry, because we have a lot to do to get this changed.
JG: I’ve spent my life being angry, I don’t have to be told.
JW: Right, no sadness allowed.
JG: I’m trying not to be angry.
JW: Is that right? Good luck with that. Maybe we ought to have coffee sometime and you can calm me down.