Hon. Anne Legendre Armstrong Interview Transcript


Side A

Q:        --in her lovely office at the Center for Strategic and International Services. So, Anne, tell me how long you've been board chairman of the center.

A;   I've been board chairman here since 1987.

Q:         You became active in politics in the late '60s. What was your impression during that era of the opportunities for women in government and in politics?

A;    Actually, I got busy in politics in the early '60s. I started on a local level, first in our county which only has about 400 people in it, so that was not an overwhelming job. One of the things that really helped make my political career comparatively swift was that Texas was decidedly a one-party Democrat state in those days, so the Republicans were just delighted to see any warm body. There weren't the barriers put up against women in Texas that there were in most other states that were longtime, established two-party states.

In fact, I had a Vassar friend, Sissy Farenthold who was later nominated for Vice President in the Democratic party. Sissy and I were on opposite sides of the political fence, but good buddies. And she used to kid me. She said, Anne, you really chose right. They don't have barnacles on your party or men trying to block your way. So that was one reason that a young person as I was then, in my 30s, was able to rise quickly to become state vice-chairman and then state national committeewoman.

Q:    Then you came to Washington in '71, I believe, as cochair of the Republican National Committee.

A:    There were some stirrings then. One of the first things I noticed was that heretofore the woman at the top of the National Republican Party had been called Vice Chairman. And the Vice­ Chairman was appointed by the male chairman. When I came in, it was decided to make the position elective rather than appointive to give me more clout and standing. I was the product of an election, not of some male whim. In addition my title was changed to Co-Chairman from Vice-Chairman. Those were welcome changes. So things were beginning to move for women, but we were way behind where we are now.

Q;      Did you have any chance in that position to observe how women in government were doing?

A;    Yes, I did. And many of our Republican volunteers, of course, were tremendously capable people, a few of whom rose in government jobs later on. Pat Hitt, of course, started out as a Republican volunteer. She's one. Patricia Hutar. I'll bet Barbara worked as a volunteer first.

There was beginning to be movement, but it was very slow.

When I got to the White House, under Nixon, I started the first White House program for women and made it a distinct entity there with Jill Ruckelshaus as the chairman. And of course Barbara helped tremendously by winning top appointments for women. So the early signs of the movement were there for women in government. In the Senate, we had Margaret Chase Smith. She was an icon to us all. But at the top level, women were very few and far between. None of the galaxy of women mayors that we have now, for instance, or women city council members. It's amazing to me that there were so few at the local level where it's easier for women with families to serve. It's harder for women to go to Washington.

Q:    What were your priorities at the RNC at that time?

A:    Well, number one was getting women activated in the party, to draw more in, to give them more responsible kinds of jobs, not just to have them sticking in the yard signs and licking the envelopes. There was definite movement there too. We had more women leading campaigns out in the states. And that, of course, has really burgeoned until there are many Senators and Congressmen now who entrust their most precious thing their reelection- to women campaign managers. I think that was the job that told me more than anything that men in government, in elective office, really felt that women could be their equals or better, when they turned their campaigns over to women. John Tower did that in choosing Nola Smith as his campaign chairman.

And I thought, ah-hah, the dam is breaking. Then he named Carolyn Bacon as head of his Senate office. Tower was a champion for able women.

Q:   You were involved in support for the Equal Rights Amendment. What support did you receive from others such as women in Congress, women's organizations?

A:   Betty Ford was terrific. Elly Peterson, past Cochairman of the Republican National Committee. There was a lot of support. But I must say I am not too disappointed now (I was terribly disappointed at the time) that it did not pass. As time has gone on and we've had other avenues to achieve what I think is pretty darn good parity now with some exceptions, some of the tax laws, et cetera. Maybe the opponents of the ERA, who were afraid that it would tie us up in lawsuits for ever and a day, had a point. Anyway, it was a healthy attempt to change. It didn't work per se. But it had many fine ripple effects.

Q:   You talked about some of the things that happened during that period. Could you sort of summarize the achievements that you see during the period you served as cochair of the committee?

A:    I'd have to think about that to give precise achievements.

We started, of course, Executive Women in Government. We started meeting as a group of women who were in Washington, whether in volunteer jobs as I was or the few that were already in government jobs. So we started realizing that as a group we had more effect than we would as single voices in the wilderness. And, of course, the Equal Rights Amendment did a lot to coalesce us, to bring us together. We pushed for more top jobs for women in campaigns and in "non-traditional" roles such as finance chairmen. We gave support to women officeholders and women candidates.

The women in the military were a big help to us. They already had a good organization. DACOWITS had already been started then. It was one of the few government groups of educated effective women who knew how to get things done and how to bring more women into the public process.

I think it was helpful that I was a symbol, that I had more clout at the Republican National Committee. Bob Dole who obviously is a supporter of strong women - look at the one he married, Elizabeth Dole. Bob was Chairman of the National Committee then, and he was tremendously helpful to me as Co­ Chairman. He strongly supported women in the party. And without him there I might have had a much stickier row to hoe in bringing change.

Elly Peterson had been a real leader in the women's movement and remained so even after she was no longer head of the Republican Party. She was unusually well thought of. She was fearless and a great force for women's rights.

Q:    Did she go on to run for governor or Senator?

A:    She retired to Hawaii. I don't believe Elly ran for any office. But she did stay active for a few years after she retired.

Q:   You came about the same time Barbara Franklin came to the White House with the assignment to recruit women to top level positions in government. What was your involvement in that process?

A:   Well, I had been chosen to be the first woman to give the keynote speech at a Republican National Committee by Nixon. Nixon was an extremely wise politician. I think he saw the women's vote was becoming more and more important, that they had been neglected by the Republican Party. But whatever his motives, he set about to do some things, a lot of them symbolic like this keynote speech I made, and bringing a woman into the top levels of the White House which was Anne Armstrong.

Barbara turned symbols into reality by convincing the top males in the White House that women could fill the highest, most demanding jobs. She found terrific women and brought them into government. As I said, I asked Jill Ruckelshaus who had done a superb job with me at the Republican National Committee and had a deep commitment to women's rights and to ERA, to come to the White House to head our first Office of Women's Programs. She was very effective, and we worked closely with White House personnel.

Q:     Was your keynote speech at the convention the first such speech for women?

A:   I was the first woman to be a keynote speaker at a National Convention of the Republican Party. I spoke as a woman and I also about the mid-50s. So I sort of had a two-pronged approach to my speech. As a woman and as a former Democrat, I was convinced the Republican nominee for President was our better choice.

Q:    Now, you became counselor to the President right after that speech, I believe.

A:    I became Counselor in December.

Q:    Or shortly thereafter. What were your responsibilities as counselor?

A:    They grew. First, I was the contact for women except for the personnel office. I'm from southern Texas. I speak Spanish. I have many, many friends in South and Central America and in Texas who are Hispanic background. So I was the liaison to Hispanic Americans. I was a member of the Cost of Living Council.

I think Nixon wisely allowed me to do what I wanted which was, yes, I wanted to start the Office of Women's Programs. But I wanted to be seen as broader than that because obviously women have all sorts of interests. They're not just interested in women's issues.

President Nixon appointed me to the Murphy Commission, which was the top foreign policy commission of the day. In fact, David Abshire, who is the President here, was on that commission chaired by Senator Mansfield. Nelson Rockefeller was on it. It better organize ourselves to conduct wise foreign policy.

Foreign policy was a fascinating new window to me. Of course, later I ended up as an ambassador, but quite honestly I hadn't thought a whole lot about foreign policy until I had that marvelous experience. The commission also gave me great experience with the Hill because a number of Senators and Congressman were members.

Nixon also made me the first Chairman of the Federal Property Commission, which included The Legacy of Parks. The federal government at that point was divesting a number of federal properties that were held around the country, everything from naval bases to GAO installations. In most cases we wanted to give them back to the local communities, and the local communities, in most cases, were eager to have them.

That was a wonderful job. Everybody liked you in that job, The program reflected well on Nixon. It was an early conservation and preservation policy of his, too. So those were some of the positions I had. I was also the liaison to the Bicentennial and persuaded John Warner or certainly helped persuade him (others worked at it too) to cease being Secretary of the Navy and become head of the Bicentennial Commission. And he did a fine job on that.

Q:   I wanted to ask you about your contacts with Virginia Allan. She was Chairman of the Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities. What other contact did you have with her? Or did you?

A:   She was one of my early mentors. I remember her very, very well. We saw each other a lot, and she was a fountain of wise advice to me. She knew Washington far better than I did. I was from Texas, had never spent time in this city. Virginia was a very close friend and counselor to me.

Q:   Did the position as counselor to the President give you any special vantage point to view progress of women in government?

A:   Oh, yes. I could see the President when I needed to. There were a wonderful group of counselors in there. Counselors were advisors to Nixon. There were generally three or four other counselors, and some were very supportive of my efforts. For instance, Counselor Bryce Harlow was a confidant of most of the best Senators and Congressmen, and the Cabinet members. He was one of the most respected and well liked people in Washington, and he took me under his wing. Having an office in the west wing of the White House itself rather than the Old Executive Office Building, brought me proximity to the President and great clout.

At first I didn't even realize what a tremendous advantage it was to be in the West Wing. I think I was able to do some good with the press. So many members of the press, particularly  the females, were in favor of increased roles for women and they were very helpful. I'd been a reporter myself for two summers on the old New Orleans Times­ Picayune, and I just naturally liked the press.

Q:    Were there some Supreme Court vacancies during that period when there were some discussions about _______ early time of the possibility of a woman being appointed?

A:    I can't remember. We could look it up. Of course, that would have been '73 and '74, but I honestly don't remember. But as I remember back, I think I'm right, there was certainly more hope and push for a woman on the Supreme Court than there was, say, for a woman president.  It seemed a more fair and logical thing to do and one that the country would stand behind. I don't think there was the obstructionism to a woman on the Supreme Court that there was to, say, do you really think we can have a woman as President.

I think Margaret Thatcher did a lot for women. I think she proved that a woman can be just as effective and tough in the right way as any man can be. I think she removed whatever lingering doubts people might have had, even after Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi and other leaders, leaders of countries we couldn't relate to as closely as we could to England. And after all, she had had to beat out the male Ted Heath in her own party to get the nomination of her conservative party.

So I think there was a sea change. When I was in the White House, I don't think the American people were thinking seriously about a woman President, perhaps a Vice President. But they were already feeling that it was only right that we should have a woman on the Supreme Court.

Q:    How would you describe your management style?

A:    You know I got asked that the other day by the students at A&M. I don't know. I don't know whether I've always wanted to delegate or whether I had to, because I'd been in so many jobs where really I'd had little experience. I didn't plan my career, like so many women of my generation. I was fairly well off. I wanted to work after I graduated from Vassar with just a B.A.

I had a job as assistant to the literary editor of Harper's Bazaar, the old Harper's Bazaar, which had a good literary component in those days. And then I was swept off my feet by the Texan Tobin Armstrong, forgot all about the job, got married instead, and thought that was it.

I had no career path planned, which I don't advocate. I think the way most young women today do it is the right way. I didn't plan on a long career. I had five children quickly. I was very lucky because my husband was one who was supportive. He didn't resent it when I decided to enter politics. He helped me.

I had help on the ranch. I don't know how young women do it having families and careers without the kind of help I had at home. I had a nurse for the five little kids. They thought they had two mothers. They called me Mama Anne, and Mama Cuckoo was their nurse. They spoke Spanish before they did English where we lived. So a lot of lucky breaks. I've lost track of your original question now.

Q:    Management style.

A:    Management style. Okay. I delegate a lot. Luckily, I concentrate very well, because very rarely in my life have I had a full time job say as Ambassador or Counselor to the President, and Co-Chairman of the RNC. But those were only about five years out of my life.

The rest of my life is more typically the way it is now. Chairman of the Trustees here at CSIS, Regent of the A&M university system, corporate director of four major corporations, active in some foreign policy and civic organizations. Grandma...

I have to have good people whatever I'm doing to really do the day-to-day and the followup. It's something I haven't analyzed. If you have time, ask somebody else. I don't know what my management style is. I have a little book that is like a file-o-fax, but it's my version of all the different things I do. When those tabs get too numerous, I know I'm doing too much and I better quit something. But I love doing a lot of things. I love being busy. Our kids have--

Q:   You obviously have a high energy level.

A:   I guess so. I don't need much sleep. I don't mind travel. I like it. I can totally concentrate on a plane. I'm almost sorry the cell phone came in. Now, I feel guilty.

Q:   We're looking particularly at progress. This project is looking particularly at the period of '69 to '74 and what happened to women in government and their progress during that period. How would you characterize that as compared with the earlier periods?

A:   To me, and again I admit that I was pretty cloistered down there in a small county in Texas. But to me, it was the first time I was very much aware of the feminist movement. At that time "feminism" polarized people. It still does. Gloria Steinem can raise male hackles whether they're 16 years old or 89. There are two ways of looking at it. I think some people might have resented that I wasn't more in the forefront of the feminist movement. That's not been my style. I'm grateful to those who were and are in the forefront because I think they accomplish things in a way I never could.

On the other hand, your best bet is to be honest and to be yourself, and I was raised in New Orleans with a Southern tradition of womanhood. I think that got me, and subsequently paved the way for others, into a lot of places where, if I'd scared the men or annoyed them, it would not have worked. But I looked and talked and walked like a traditional woman. I had a husband and kids. I obviously had a very happy marriage.

My way of doing things was more by nuance and subtlety, a little less obvious. But I hope it was effective. But I was astounded at the strength of the feminist movement. I hadn't been aware in a conservative state like Texas, despite some friends like Sissy Farenthold who worked hard at it. And that was to me an eye opener in that era. And to me that's still a conundrum in my mind. I think it takes both.

For instance, back to Margaret Thatcher. In England, I was surprised how little talk there was in the '70s in England about women's rights. Margaret Thatcher hardly ever talks about them. In fact, I've never heard her on the subject, but she lives it.

So there are different approaches to advancing women. I just keep being myself and I keep thanking the ones who make strides ahead for us in other ways.

Q:   Some people I've talked with have described that period as sort of a watershed for women in government perhaps, the progress in federal government and with some momentum for progress at the local and state level. What would your characterization be?

A:   Yes, I think there were, I think it was a coalescing. I can't say that at the federal level that we were the only beacon.

I think it was happening also at the local level. For instance, in my home state now, every major city either has or has had by now a woman mayor. There were none when I was up here. But I'm not sure that's because of federal leadership. I think the time had come. Women were educated, number one. I mean, how rare it was 50 years ago to have a woman college graduate much less a woman Ph.D. All the labor saving devices, the new attitude towards marriage and women's careers. There were social forces at work and then there were the political forces that abetted them. But certainly as a symbol to other women, something they could graphically see, the advancement of women in positions in government was probably the most inspiring thing for women. The whole nation could see it. There were women mayors and council members but you didn't hear about them. When it happened in high government positions, all women could see it and take heart.

Q:   What about the barriers? Did you encounter major barriers and, of course, your efforts to--

A:   Oh, yes. But, you know, now it is supposedly a problem of the government. When I was young and middle aged, for instance, women had to handle harassment themselves. Maybe we've gone too far overboard. Certainly the sexual harassment legal confusion now would lead one to think that governmental and legal protection need refining.

Again, because I was not seen as threatening to most men I faced fewer barriers. Also I was lucky. You see, I wasn't desperate for a job. So many women, the huge majority of them, really need those jobs. I could take it or leave it and not many women can do that. If I didn't like a situation, I'd say bye-bye. But think of the women who can't do that, who need the job for themselves and their kids and their families. So I'm not too sure that I'm a very good arbiter of that. The way I could handle it was the most fortunate way. Whereas I did not feel the repression by men, I have known many other women who were hurt by men and who had barriers thrown up to them all the time.

Q:   You mentioned earlier that you liked the women in the press corps, and I told you about Vera Glaser's fond memory of a party you gave for the women in the media before you left Washington, I believe. Were they helpful in the whole process?

A:   Very, very. Again, being a novice has some advantages. You see things with fresh eyes. But it has lots of disadvantage. And most of the women I knew in the press were pros. Most of them had been through many battles for equality. Are they in the Grid Iron Club yet? I don't know.

Q:   Oh, yes. Helen Thomas was President.

A:   Well, good, good. But they had hurdles that they had to try to jump over every single day. I had come from a background where I was treated with love and respect by my family and the neighbors. So the reporters could point out to me the mines and the problems and show me where to take advantages. Little things. I remember the press corps gave me an idea: there was a dictum then that women couldn't wear pants in the West Wing. And it was the era of the pantsuit. It made us boil that they should tell us what to wear. We weren't about to tell them what to wear. So they said go for that one. Also the gym. These were barriers they could tell me about and I could help knock down.

We got the women admitted to the White House gym. We got the pantsuits okayed. And then, of course, there were the big things like the top jobs, support for ERA, support for other legislation. The press were very helpful. I might not agree with my press source that that was something that ought to be done or not done, but they were my scouts in many instances.

Q:   You served as Ambassador to Great Britain during 1976-77 and you've made a number of references to the later role of Margaret Thatcher. But could you make any assessment of the comparison of the status of women in the U.K. versus the U.S. at the time you served as ambassador?

A:   It was curious because, of course, they'd been leaders in the right of women to vote. Their suffragettes had been perhaps more ferocious than ours up until around World War I. But when I was in England in '76, '77, I saw hardly any indications of push for women's rights. If I had to live in any country other than the United States, for various reasons, including the respect shown women, I would want to live in the U.K. But there's no country that touches us, I don't think, for women's rights. I don't care what they way about Sweden or the Scandinavian countries. I would much rather be a woman here.

England had a lot of women magistrates. That struck me, and that's a very responsible job. But the women seemed to be pretty content. The Labor Party was in power then. Since that Party was supposed to be more sympathetic to women's rights, you would have thought there would be more push. There were a few women members of Parliament. There was one, Shirley--what was her last name who was quite a wonderful, highly intelligent woman who cared a lot about women's rights. But other than Shirley, I really didn't know well any women in the U.K. who were pushing women's rights as their main thrust.

I must say I was tremendously busy, had had no experience in the State Department, and I had a jillion things to work on. Had I stayed in England longer or had different priorities, maybe I would have learned more. On the surface, there was not the discontent and the ferment and the movement for women's rights that there was in this country.

Q:    You've been active in international affairs during the intervening years. Have you had any, arrived at any sense of whether or not progress for women in the United States is important to progress for women in other countries?

A:    Oh, yes. There's hardly a thing we do that isn't important to the world and certainly the movement for women's rights in this country I think has had a profound impact on other countries. As an example, this center, Center for Strategic and International Studies, sponsored a meeting of women leaders last year in Stockholm. I think we had seven female heads of state and government and many other women leaders from around the world.

The group just had a reunion down in South Africa and are making ripples over the world. We had the participants choose young women comers from their countries, their home countries. We had them here for two weeks and gave them a cram course in CSIS and the Washington scene and the Hill and the Administration. They go back to their home countries and they are inspired, I believe, and much more knowledgeable. Two young women scholars from this center are just back from South Africa. They're just back. They gave seminars there to congregations of women leaders, black and white, to tell them how to advance the rights of women.

I think we are the world leader. There's no doubt about it far ahead even of such advanced countries as Japan. I would not relish being a career woman in Japan. I honestly would not even relish being a career woman in the U.K. or Germany. This is the place for the best chance for women, and we have a responsibility to show the rest of the world what can be done if they want it. Some cultures or religions aren't going to want it. That's fine for them. But I wouldn't want to change places with their women.

Q:  I'm coming back to the U.S. now and our project. One of the observations that's been made about--as you know, it has been named "A Few Good Women" — is the sort of remarkable level of cooperation between and among women to achieve objectives for women generally.

A:   Of that era?

Q:   Of that era.

A:   Well, I think it's because we felt we were pioneers. We needed each other for support. You'd get lambasted in some testimony or made fun of, or even your family might be embarrassed about your pushing. We were a close band. I think it was a very high level of women, number one. We honestly liked each other. I can't remember any inter-sorority fights going on to tell you the truth. We were pioneers together and we leaned on each other and supported each other. Of course, now you'd have to break into smaller groups. There are armies and legions of us here now, which is the way we wanted it.

Q:   Among the women you met during that period, who are the individuals who stand out in your memory and why? I'm not asking you to pick favorites.

A:    Yes. Well, the ones that were leaders, well, that's hard to say. I'll give you a partial list. I hadn't thought of this. It's a good question, but I hadn't really given it much thought. Let's say that the women that had the top jobs, I would say that had influence on me was Elly Peterson and she made me much more knowledgeable about women's issues and far more caring about them. Jill Ruckelshaus, too, had a big effect on me. Then within government, Virginia Knauer was the head of consumer affairs.

That was one of the top jobs for women. And I think as I remember Elizabeth Dole worked for her. And I was struck by Elizabeth, by her capability. She was another Southern woman up here. And Virginia Allan, as I've already said, was very, very helpful to me. The military women impressed me. I can't remember. But Jeanne Holm was there, I think. I can't remember all their names. Barbara, of course, I worked with a lot. She was key to so much of what went on. Let me think of some of the other top women, the jobs, Catherine Bedell was great. Margaret Chase Smith unfortunately I didn't get to know very well.

Q:    She was delightful.

A:    I bet she was. Not knowing her well was a regret I had. I would admire her and see her at gatherings, but I didn't become a personal friend. Lindy Boggs, I knew and respected. She was a fellow New Orleanian. There were so many more Democrats from the South in those days. I had a lot of Democratic friends and I think that helped that I wasn't seen as bitterly partisan. Much of the work was being done within the Democratic Party for women, despite "the barnacles."

Let me think of any other avenues in the White House. And the women press people. You mentioned Vera, Helen Thomas, Margita. I knew Margita slightly and admired her. Oh, and Helen Bentley. She was marvelous. She was feisty. She could go toe-to-toe with any guy. Anytime they'd think we were weak, we'd send Helen out to do battle. And I probably left out ten or 20 that played big roles.

Q:   Can you think of any one or two characteristics that sort of define them as a group? Or are they all so individual that they defy that sort of--

A:   I would say self confidence had to be one. Because you could not be a shrinking violet. You had to be pretty adventurous. You had to have self confidence. I think you had to have a sense of fairness. As far as their lifestyle, it was all over the map from people like me with five little kids and a husband at home and a very close family to women who never wanted to get married. You certainly couldn't find any characteristics there. But I would say an inner strength. Some of them were tolerant. Some of them were highly intolerant. And both kinds did good work.

Q:   How difficult was it to overcome that stereotype of a woman's place is in the home?

A:    Well, you see, I had a big leg up there for me because I did both. And anybody that met my husband would see this tall, handsome, very masculine, self-assured man who was obviously no milquetoast to Anne Armstrong. And if they could see my kids or see pictures of them. So it wasn't hard for me. As I say, I was very lucky then that I could straddle both schools of the traditional woman and the working woman. It helped me working with the volunteers when you were trying to get the women who perhaps didn't have a nurse and had a new baby. Then you'd get a woman lawyer. I could talk to both of them because I was doing both. Not to the extent that they were in either case because I had full-time help at home and because I didn't have a profession. I was not a scholar or a professional. But it enabled me to relate to both, to understand them, and I hope for them to understand me. I think that's really why I've encountered minimal obstruction and hurdles. I personally haven't had a hard time, but I think the majority of women have had a hard time.

Q:    We've been looking a bit at the men who have been supportive of women's efforts to advance. It's been suggested that sometimes they are men who have been exposed to competent women earlier in their careers. Do you think that's a fact?

A:    I think that helps a lot. I think their mothers help a lot.

I think if you wanted to draw a rule, I've seen no studies on it, but I note that in many instances that I know personally if there's been a strong mother in the family that pushed a daughter if she had one, plus the son, that you're talking to or working with or trying to get a job with, that man who has been exposed to strong feminine influence is much more likely to accept it or welcome it in a colleague. Age, of course, matters a lot. The older guys, as you know, you just have to shrug and say, well, that's the way they are, so what? And the younger ones now we see, of course, the other side of the coin which is the professional thread or the business thread. Now, most young males accept that women are their equals in brains and abilities but they're nervous they may be better than they are at the job. They don't denigrate them now or make fun of them. Now they see them as - is she going to have my job tomorrow? It's a different kind of wariness.

Q:    Well that leads me to my next question. You've always been an achiever from high school days as valedictorian and on through your college career. And is there something about your family upbringing that may account for that?

A:    My parents helped a lot. I think parents do figure largely loom large in most women's lives that are supposed achievers. Mine pushed me, would talk me into trying for the best education possible and for scholarships to achieve it, which I did. We didn't think so much in those days of graduate school. If it had been ten years later I bet my parents would have pushed me to graduate school, and I would have been glad. As to jobs, I was never allowed to be lazy. My brother was ten years younger than I, and my sister, and I think that helped because my father would play sports with us. We played touch football with him. He would take us out on the golf links. We went to all the Tulane games with him and screamed and yelled. He treated us like his sons, too. So, yes, I really have super admiration for the women who come from deprived backgrounds, who don't have a two-parent home, who have to overcome terrible obstacles to get a good education. Because, particularly today even more than then, if you don't have that education, you've got a terrible handicap. If I were to give advice to parents, that's the first one I give. Push, push, push on education.

Q:   We're going to stop now and change the tape.


Side B

Q:   Do you have any other observations on the history of the advancement of women that you'd like to make or any other sort of comments on this whole business of women in government and women in general?

A:    I think we're at another watershed, and I don't know the answer. To me the biggest unsolved question is what will be the shape of the family 20 years hence? The family is undergoing enormous change. I don't think yet we have definitive knowledge of what it means to children to have a full-time working mom without a full-time stay-at-home father, without at least one of the partners raising the kids. If it's going to work, I think we have to make tremendous strides in the kind of child care we can give. I think it can be done. In other centuries and other civilizations, the children have been taken over at tender ages, and with the proper kind of care can do wonderfully well. But it's just emerging in this country what price we're paying for moms who are full-time out of the home.

There's a certain revulsion now against, for instance, in the case of the babysitter in New England and the death of the baby that she was in charge of. When the trial first started, people wanted to blame the mother because she was working. She wasn't home with her baby. She turned her baby over to an inexperienced young girl.

We're going through the process of sorting this out now and I think it's a watershed, because it seemed so easy for a while. Oh, we'll do both. Now, I'll have to tell you I don't know how I would have done both full time without one suffering. I've done bits and pieces. And my husband would put up with two years of my absence in Washington, with one daughter living with me part of the time. He loved England for just over a year. But I don't know how I would have had a nine-to-five job all these years and kept a happy home and good kids. I don't know the answer. To me that's the watershed question.

What is the shape of the family going to be? And what is a woman's role going to be in it? I still do not see nor, would I advocate, the men becoming the same kind of nurturers that women are, I think we finally are waking up to there are definite biological differences between the sexes. I don't want women in the front ranks of my army either doing battle. We have different instincts of how to get things done. Most men thrive on confrontation. Most women don't like physical confrontation. Some do. But your odds are that you're going to find a lot more men that are going to be good battlefield fighters than you are women. I think we must have acceptance of these differences and of our comparative strengths. The feminists made a mistake, the extreme feminists, in trying to deny them. That's foolish and counterproductive. They're there and we ought to shape our lives accordingly. Our relationships between the sexes ought to be based on realism and an honest assessment of where women are stronger at certain things and where men are stronger. There are always members of the two sexes that are going to be completely out of the box and out of the mold and ought to have the freedom to do what they want to do.

Q:   I've been told you were an early example of a commuting marriage. Is that an accurate description?

A:   That's true. In Texas when I was in politics, and I began in the early '60s as I said, but the Texas period was not a big schedules, and my husband often had business where I was going to be. When I came up here to Washington, that was a real tug. And I would not have wanted to do that for a longer period. It was too hard. My husband did not have business here, maybe calling on a Congressmen or two, going to the Agriculture Department every now and then. But there was no natural reason for Tobin to be up here, and I could not certainly be speaking in Texas every weekend. It was extremely hard on our marriage and on our children.

So the commuting marriage in my case if it had gone on longer, we would have had to figure out some other way to make it work. I know there are women that do and that it can be done.

Some couples don't need to see each other every week. They can have very happy partnerships without seeing each other all the time. To each his own.

Q:    But he was always supportive.

A:    Always supportive, every time. My ambassadorship in England was the hardest because he had to leave the ranch. He wasn't going to send me over there by myself without a mate to help me out. But the interesting thing is that he ended up loving it as much as I did. He adored it. And he had time to make the friends that we still have today. I was so busy doing what the job required. He was a big success. But there, again, it couldn't have been for much longer because he would have had to go back to his basic work.

Q:    That ends my questions. And I guess my final question always is what have we not talked about that you think is important to this project or to the whole issue?

A:    I think it's interesting and something I haven't figured out as an ex-politician and one who's still a buff: What is the basis of the "Gender Gap"? What is the Republican Party doing wrong now that Barbara and I thought we were doing right? There wasn't a "Gender Gap" back in the 1970s. The polls didn't show it then. What has the Democratic women been doing right to convince women it's the party that is the more sensitive and receptive to issues that women are interested in?

I'm thinking about that a lot but I'm still not sure. I think security is one thing. I think women who need to work and need security see the Democratic Party as more responsive. They're frightened when you talk about cutting down on Medicare benefits or Social Security or about other threats to the safety net. That's one reason.

The feminists definitely see the Democratic Party as their superior champion now. I'm running over in my mind what we could do consonant with our principles to do a better job of reassuring women. We might, for instance, privatize part of the Social Security benefits. As a Republican, I don't think we've done a very good job of educating women that giving them more personal responsibility  and the government less intrusion into their lives and futures and families and work means more security in the long run.

Q:    Although in the era that we're studying, the Republicans were far ahead of the Democrats.

A:    That's right. That's why--what have we done wrong since then? The Democratic women were active then. The reason we started Executive Women in Government, certainly part of the reason, besides wanting to get together and network and share our ideas and help each other, was that the Democratic women were getting such good press. They had their meetings and they'd have good speakers on good topics. They had excellent publicity. We said, We're asleep at the switch here as far as telling the press what Republican women are doing. For instance we had the only female Senator. We had Margaret Chase Smith. There was no Democratic Senator then. We've gone astray somewhere.

No, I can't think of anything else. You're a pro and you know your subject. I can't think of anything that you've left out.

Q:    All right. Well, thank you very much, Anne Armstrong.

A:    Well, thank you very much, very much, Jean.

Q:    We have you finished in time for your meeting.

A:    You do. In fact, you've given me ten minutes to get ready for the meeting. [break in tape] That was the Class of '45 and Serita, our daughter, was '76 I guess. One daughter has gone there.

Q:    Okay. So Ruth would have been later.

A:    Yes, later. But I liked it. It was a wonderful education when I was there.

Q:    Oh, it was great for her.

A:    That's one thing you could have asked me. I believe in same sex education. I don't think I would have learned the leadership qualities that I learned there. I know I wouldn't have because in New Orleans I always went to coed schools.