Q: This is Jean Rainey speaking on August 19. I am about to interview Vera Glaser, the reporter who asked the famous question of President Nixon at his press conference. But, first, Vera, I'd like to go back a bit to the sixties. You were active in Washington journalism during that period--
Q: --and what was your observation of the status of women in government at that point?
A: Well, at that point, Jean, it was pretty much a male establishment. Today, it is predominantly a male establishment, but women have made enormous progress due to their own efforts and to the sometimes belated cooperation of men. But I think that the idea of some equality for women, not just in journalism but really across the board, has at last taken hold. But you and I, when we go back to the beginning of this, are talking about the late 1960s, and that was quite different than it is today.
Men held the top jobs in journalism. There were virtually no women editors. Women were not given the best beats in journalism. Perhaps one or two women in the world covered foreign affairs. Women usually were relegated to covering home stuff, things that would interest the housewife according to a male view. And so we've made enormous progress. There's still a way to go, of course, but at that point it was very much a man's world, not just in journal sm, but everywhere.
Q: Were you in a position to see the problems of women in government in being promoted or appointed?
A: As an observer, of course, because I was covering government. I covered the House and the Senate and also the White House. Incidentally, there should be a correction made on my affiliation. I only remembered it last night as I looked through some of these papers.
I had twelve wonderful years with Knight-Ridder, and during most of the period we discussed, I was affiliated with Knight- Ridder. But my files show -- and I now recall -- it was shortly before I joined Knight-Ridder that all this began to happen. At the time I queried President Nixon, I was the Washington Bureau Chief for North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). NANA was a syndicate serving about 90 papers around the world. Most of the papers carrying our stories were in the United States. It was only in the latter part of 1969 that I joined Knight-Ridder. I stayed there quite a long time, for 12 years. Anything we carry on the question to President Nixon should indicate the affiliation that I had then with NANA.
Q: We'll be sure to clarify that. Now, it was about that time that you and Catherine East went to see Arthur Burns, or was that later?
A: That was a little bit later. The question to President Nixon came at his second news conference. You see, he was elected in that great political comeback in 1968. Then, in the early days of his occupancy of the White House, early 1969, I was still with NANA. The visit Catherine East and I made to Arthur Burns came, I would say, almost a year later.
Q: Ah, it followed rather than preceded the--
A: It followed the question to President Nixon which triggered a lot of excitement and publicity. All that was in the early months of '69. I don't remember the exact date of it, but I do have the UPI dispatch which Helen Thomas wrote and we can get the date off of that. After that presidential news conference, my phone began ringing off the hook. At one time, reporters had been identified by name and affiliation at these televised news conferences, but that had changed. At the time of the Nixon news conference, names and affiliations were not shown, so all the viewer saw was a reporter standing up to question the President. And that's what made the many calls I received so unusual. The question has been rehashed so many times that I can almost remember it verbatim.
Q: Please tell me.
A: First, I should say that because it was only Nixon's second news conference as President, some reporters were going a little easy on him. He had inspired a great deal of astonishment and respect by making this political comeback in 1968. But I've noticed that sometimes reporters, when a President is new, may not put forward as tough questions to him. I thought they were giving easy questions to President Nixon. I had about seven questions in mind that he could be asked. One was the question about women. When he recognized me, I had to decide quickly what I was going to ask him. It was the one about women which went pretty much like this: (We can check the record.)
"Mr. President, since you've been inaugurated, you have made approximately 200 presidential appointments, and only three of them have gone to women. Can we expect some more equitable recognition of women's abilities, or are we going to remain the lost sex?''
Well, you know, there were some chuckles because it was quote/unquote a women's question. At that time, when the famous journalist May Craig would question the President, some of the men would laugh at her. And so there were a few giggles at mine.
Well, the President kind of smiled and leaned back. He said, "Would you care to come into the Administration?" Frankly, I thought that was a little snide. But he must have realized, "I'm on television with 50 million people watching," and he turned quite serious. "Well, you know," he said, "I really wasn't aware of that. We will do something as soon as possible.'' I took that as the kind of empty promise a politician might make. But indeed he did get going. He was the first President to give a lot of attention to it.
But what amazed me was my telephone. Although we were not identified on the air, my telephone was ringing off the hook with calls from all over the country. I don't know how people found out who or where I was. Some calls were from women, some were from journalists. Most were approving. The general tenor was, well, it's about time.
My editor was then in New York, at the headquarters of the North American Newspaper Alliance. He called. He had been watching, and he said, "We have got to write a series on women."
At the time Catherine East kept up with women's progress and had monitored it for years. Her files at the Citizens Advisory Council on the Status of Women were packed with valuable information and statistics. At that time, I didn't know Catherine East. She called soon after the news conference, saying that my question indicated I probably could use some statistics on the status of women. "Indeed, I can," I replied. I knew Catherine would be a wonderful person to work with to get data for my series on women. And, indeed, she did have a lot of information.
In the following months I wrote a 5-part series, which was picked up by, I think, about 40 newspapers, including the Washington Star. These were all papers that took the NANA news service. The series began to generate a great deal of interest.
In one of the last installments in the series, I listed the then existing women's organizations --groups such as the General Federation Of Women's Clubs, the National Association of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, etc. --with their addresses. I did that because it seemed to be good general information. But they all began to get lots of new members. The series had apparently sparked some indignation and some thoughts about we must do better. So these groups reported an increase in membership. It was quite a bit after that that Catherine and I went to see Arthur Burns.
The meeting with Arthur Burns came about in this way. I had been part of a women's group originally organized by Sarah McClendon who set up interviews with various high officials of the government. Whether they took us seriously or not, I don't know, but I usually wrote a story about it because they were very important people and they were making news. And one of those that Sarah arranged an interview with was Arthur Burns. Shortly before that, he had been made Counselor to the President. Nixon had taken Burns from his earlier position. I think that was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board or Secretary of the Treasury.
The McClendon group consisted of about a dozen women reporters. As we interviewed Arthur Burns, he made a statement about how equitable and fair Nixon's policies were. I took some issue with him on that. He just said that the Nixon policies had been eminently fair. I did not mention that in my story, but later, while reading my notes, I thought, "We really shouldn't let Arthur Burns get away with saying that because the policies have not been fair."
So I wrote him a letter. And somewhere in my files that must exist. I'll try to find it. Maybe that's out at the University of Wyoming with my other files. I'm not sure, but I will see.
Basically I said, "Dr. Burns, I am sure you must know your statement was not true because there are so few women in the Administration. Women are being kept out of graduate schools for law and medicine, etc. Meanwhile, the Nixon Administration pursues these policies." After putting some of this in a letter to Dr. Burns, I proceeded to forget all about it.
Three or four days later, my telephone rang and the masculine voice on the other end of the line said, ''Vera, this is Arthur Burns." And I thought, wow, here is the Counselor to the President calling me directly, what does this mean? He said, ''You've leveled some very serious charges against us.'' He said, "I just don't think that they are accurate." And he said, "Why don't you come in and see me and see if we can't come to a better understanding." Those were not his exact words, but that was the intent. And I said, "I would like very much to do that, Dr. Burns, and if I may, I would like to bring Catherine East with me, who probably knows more about this subject than anybody around right now. She is in the government, a civil service employee." He said, ''Of course, bring anybody you want."
Well, I called Catherine and said, "Would you want to do this?" And she said, ''Oh, yes.'' And I said, "If we get half an hour with Dr. Burns, we're going to be lucky. So let's have one or two pieces of paper with the main facts on them that we can leave with him. You know, Dr. Burns was chief Economics Advisor to President Eisenhower, and Eisenhower wanted everything on one piece of paper, so we'd better go in to Burns with just one piece or two pieces."
Actually, we worked things out where we went in to Dr. Burns with three pieces of paper, and I have got to dig into my files again to see if I can find them. They may also be out with my records at the University of Wyoming.
One of the pieces was about the inequities in positions. The second was about the political advantage that a President who did things for women could enjoy. (That was not really demonstrated until this last election when Clinton pulled 25 percent of his votes from women, or of his margin was from women.) That has taken a number of years to crystallize, but even way back then, one could see the potential for a powerful female voting force.
I can't remember now quite what was on that third piece of paper.
One of the papers emphasized that women were kept to a very low quota in law and medical schools. Dr. Burns said, "That's nonsense. You know I was Chancellor of Columbia University. We never did that.'' We just said to him, ''Check the records.'' And he must have done that. When we left there, I said to Catherine, "We didn't make a dent in Dr. Arthur Burns." She said, "I think you're wrong because he's an economist. He understands numbers, and if he checks any of those numbers we gave him, he's going to find out that they're correct."
Several months later, after joining the Knight-Ridder bureau, I was in Miami at the invitation of the Miami Herald. The Herald was one of our major papers, kind of the chain's flag ship paper, and I had been asked to come down to make a speech at their annual gathering of women. Well, I was not about to get in front of all those women and not try to educate them a little bit about how unbalanced some of our power structure was.
So I gave them the speech. They seemed to like it. The Knight-Ridder executives who were sitting at the head table seemed to be very much in favor of all this. They smiled and so forth. I did a couple of radio and television interviews while there.
Well, just as I was finishing and everybody was leaving, someone ran up to me and said, "The White House has been calling you on the telephone." And I couldn't imagine what it was. I didn't think of Dr. Burns because it had been some months earlier that Catherine and I had visited him. But I returned the call.
The call was from Dr. Charles Clapp, who was the top aide to Dr. Arthur Burns. I really think that what happened subsequently served to educate Charlie on what the situation really was with women. He knew a great deal. He had worked on the Hill, and he was very politically oriented. But all these statistics on women were quite new to him and many others.
Anyway, Charlie Clapp said, ''President Nixon is preparing his State of the Union message. He and Dr. Burns are setting up a lot of task forces on different subjects to get new ideas for the speech. They're setting up a task force on women [Ed. The Presidential Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities) and would like to know if you are willing to serve on it." And I said, ''Yes, I would like to, but I have to clear it with my new employers." It was really very touchy for me, but they permitted me to serve on it.
We met, and Virginia Allen, as you know, chaired our task force. Catherine became Staff Director. We met over a period of about three months before we wrote our report. Catherine set up a series of interviews with women from all over the country, and all professions.
We did a lot of research and then wrote our report. We made about a dozen recommendations for changes in the structure of the government bureaucracy that would give a better break to women. Some were changes that required legislation. I can't even remember what all of them were at this point, so we'll have to get the Task Force report.
A: And I have requested that from the University of Wyoming where my records are. I think I probably told you that. I haven't heard from them yet, but this is my reminder to get on the phone and call them and see what's happening.
Q: I'd like to spend just a few more moments on the Task Force and the process. How many times did you meet? How long were your meetings? Where was the leadership in developing the recommendations? Can you give me some insights into that?
A: I think Catherine was pivotal there. Of course, Virginia Allen, as the chair, had a great deal to do with it. One Task Force member was a Vice President of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company. Ninety percent of their employees were women, but he was virtually new to anything about existing inequities.
Virtually all the women at C&P held the lower ranking jobs. We had the President of Vassar on the Task Force. We had one of the top women officials of the United Automobile Workers of America. We really had a very broad spectrum on the Task Force, and we came out with this report.
Q: So Catherine was really a key facilitator in the whole process with Virginia providing the leadership?
A: Oh, Catherine was the key. None of us knew as much as Catherine did about this, and the choice of those witnesses, the broad spectrum, the choice of the members of the Task Force. That broad spectrum of America really was terribly important.
Dee Boersma, a Task Force member, was then a graduate student at Ohio State. She spoke of the inequities in the organization of higher education. She had had first-hand experience with it.
I can't remember how often we met. I believe it was once or twice a week, and it was usually for an hour or two to take the testimony if my memory serves me right. But that is very difficult to remember.
When we got into writing the report, there was Catherine, myself, and a couple of others. It went back and forth. I felt that since President Nixon was a strong political creature, the introduction should make clear that if these recommended changes passed and affected the lives of women all over the United States, the potential existed for a magnificent political victory for him the next time he ran.
There was some execution of the recommendations we made, but you couldn't really see this until much later.
Q: Vera, tell us more about the recommendations of the Task Force.
A: One of them had to do with the Department of Labor, and I'm trying to recall now the name--it was a black woman--who was the key person. I think she was Assistant Secretary of Labor.
Q: Was that Elizabeth Koontz, by any chance?
A: I think it was. I think it was. I've got a copy of the Task Force here. Maybe this will refresh my memory a little bit.
Sure it was because Arthur Burns had had this 30 minute meeting with Catherine and me that he became later on when he chaired the Federal Reserve Board, he insisted on having a woman on the Federal Reserve Board. Arthur Burns did that, and he became very proud of his contribution to women's advancement and very sympathetic to the idea.
Q: One of things we're trying to do here, Vera, is to get a picture of what sorts of tangible or intangible things helped people move forward in helping women, what motivated them. Now, are you saying to me that it was education that helped do that, or can you give us any feeling of why Arthur Burns became committed to the cause of women after that?
A: Well, I think, of course, there was a general climate that was encouraging it, and Arthur Burns was open and fair minded. As you remember, when I told you about the first visit Catherine and I made to him, he denied that the law schools and medical schools had been limiting the number of women, but he must have discovered later on that that was one hundred percent true. That probably opened his eyes somewhat and he began to think more actively about moving women forward.
The fact that women were not winning advancement in the business world, advancement career-wise, was the fact that it simply hadn't been done before. There were some closed minds, of course, but there were also some minds that simply didn't think about moving forward because this is the way it had always been.
Arthur Burns, a highly intelligent man, realized that something could be done about it, and perhaps one of the main reasons--and this is often so--was a political reason. The President was getting a little heat on this. The Nixon Administration was getting a little heat on this. More stories were beginning to appear in the press. The 5-part series that I wrote was put in the Congressional Record, and there was a lot of talk about it. And talk very often inspires action. And while what the Nixon Administration did was small compared to what has happened since, you have to start somewhere. We succeeded in opening some minds. I don't think they could ever visualize women as, well, they did appoint these two women, Dixie Lee Ray and --
Q: Helen Bentley?
A: -- Helen Bentley to head agencies. And I think they did so perhaps under a little duress, but that helped get it started.
Q: What about the women's organizations of that era? Which organizations were influential? Do you remember what they did? Was this an important factor in the heat on the President?
A: Well, they were very sensitive to this. They talked about it at their national conventions. How much the women members came along with it, it's hard to tell. But the leadership was very aware in these organizations.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) was wonderful. They got with it right away. The Business & Professional Women came along pretty well. And then there was one other group --
Q: General Federation of Women's Clubs?
A: --General Federation of Women's Clubs was not as much as front and center as the others were, but some of them --
Q: What about the black women's groups? Were they involved?
A: Yes. As a matter of fact, Libby Koontz, who was Assistant Secretary of Labor, was first to announce, but I know she did it with White House permission, that one of the Task Force recommendations was going to be enacted. Soon the whole Task Force report became public. It was, I think, maybe six months from the time we wrote the report until it became available to the public. But Libby Koontz triggered it, because she had White House backing to acknowledge that her department would do certain things. I can't remember the precise recommendation of our Task Force report that she was fulfilling, but she was first.
Q: Now, the recommendations, some of them as you have said could be implemented by the Administration, some required congressional action.
Q: And it's my understanding that all of them ultimately were implemented, except the Equal Rights Amendment, which was adopted by Congress but not ratified by the states. Is that correct?
A: The only one that did not become law was the Equal Rights Amendment, and that was very sad. Recently some of us were visiting Justice Ginsburg in her chambers. It was the first time I had met her, and someone brought up the question of the Equal Rights Amendment. She predicted-- and I wrote a story about this -- that we would have the ERA in two years. As we know, that did not happen.
By then, I was with the Washingtonian magazine, and was also writing for Maturity News Service. I did a Maturity News Service piece on her prediction. This small group, mostly university women, were giving Justice Ginsburg an honor because she had been a great protagonist for women during most of her career. They let me come and I heard her make the prediction that the Equal Rights Amendment would be passed in two years. Of course, that hasn't happened. She also said that of all the nations of the world that have become independent in modern times, that the United States is the only one that doesn't have a constitutional provision requiring that women be equal before the law. That was the way she phrased it, and I was quoting her directly.
Q: I guess I'm interested now in looking a bit at the congressional reaction to the recommendations and what your observation is of that process and I am also interested in women members of Congress and to what degree they were able to help.
A: Well, the women members of Congress were very helpful. Martha Griffiths of Michigan. Flo Dwyer of New Jersey. There were, of course, fewer women than there are now. Martha was a Democrat. Flo was a Republican.
Q: And Catherine May Bedell.
A: Catherine May Bedell was helpful. They did what they could. There was something else in your question that I wanted to respond to.
Q: Well, the general reaction of Congress, male or female.
A: Oh, I wanted to report to you something that reflects on the situation early on when the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced. I can't remember the year now, but I think it may have been early in the Nixon Administration. The date eludes me, but I was covering it and they had quite a series of people from various walks of life. There was one man on the committee that was hearing this. It was the House Judiciary Committee holding hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment.
One member was Judge Marlow Cooke of Kentucky. I can't remember whether he was a Democrat or a Republican, but he was on the committee when the opening hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment occurred, and I was covering them. One of the first witnesses was a very attractive young woman who had a law degree from Harvard and had graduated very, very high in her class. I don't recall her name.
She testified that her male colleagues got choice job offers after graduating from Harvard, and here she was--having ranked second or third in her class-- with no offers of a job as a lawyer. So Judge Marlow Cooke, who was one of the men on this panel, said, in his Southern accent, "Are you telling me that my four daughters, that the money, the thousands that I'm putting out on their education, isn't going to buy them the same break in the job market as it buys for a man?" She said, ''Yes, I'm telling you that.'' Well, that caused a hullabaloo. But his question was marvelous because it drew some chuckles, and at the same time was very, very pointed and valid. Anyway, Judge Marlow Cooke is no longer in Congress. I hope his four daughters are doing well, and they probably are these days. But covering that was quite an experience.
Q: Wasn't there a man who was also a judge, I believe, Judge Smith, was that his name, who--
A: Oh, Howard Smith from Virginia.
Q: --who kept not permitting the amendment to go forward? Didn't he bottle it up, am I not right in my memory that he would bottle it up in committee?
A: Yes, he was a block. Martha Griffiths got around him in some way. That was a marvelous story. I can't remember all of it. There was legislation having to do with equal pay pending on the Hill. It was in Judge Smith's Ways and Means Committee, on which Martha Griffiths served. She got to Judge Smith, jollied him up and she got him to agree that the equal pay for equal work provision would also apply to sex. It was the word "sex'' that she managed to get in there that became a great protection for women. Smith just laughed about it, but it became law.
End of Side A
A: --which is now quite large. I think there are now 49 women in Congress. There are a few who don't belong to the Women's Caucus, as I understand it, but the group over the years has not only grown because more women are getting elected to office, but they've become more outspoken and more active and more productive in helping other women. That's a very, very important part of what's going on there. They do not hesitate to make themselves heard on important issues. They demonstrate. They call on the President to get their views across. They're quite active.
Q: Looking at barriers for a moment, both in Congress and in the Administration, you've used various words to describe them. Would you think of them as more attitudinal or institutional?
A: Both. Both. I think it takes a little bit, or in the beginning, certainly it took a little bit of imagination and open mindedness on the part of men to accept what was beginning to happen 25 or 30 years ago. It isn't that these men were prejudiced. It's just that it had always been that way. Women were accustomed to this kind of division in the power structure.
But women increasingly pushed for a role in the nation's leadership. Women certainly have the ability and the knowledge and the education to do it.
Q: In your dual role as journalist and participant on the Task Force, can you evaluate the role of the media in this whole process? I know you've referred to some of your fellow women journalists, but what about the men?
A: Well, many of the men in the National Press Club said, "This is a man's organization. We've got to have something left that is for men only." That's understandable, perhaps because there are that the presence of women in the club has been an enormous help to the organization.
As the women's and men's press clubs were being merged, we had three women on the Task Force that worked with representatives of the Men's National Press Club to change the constitution in order to bring women in. The three women representing us were just marvelous. They worked out every single advantage that the women could have. The mezzanine floor of the Press Club has always been kind of a sacred place because that's where the club president's office is. It is where the pictures of the men who have been presidents of the National Press Club hang.
Our representatives made sure they would also put pictures up there of the women who had headed the Women's National Press Club. I happened to be in the club after they had done that and I went up to see the pictures. It was soon after the two clubs merged. I saw my own picture grinning out from the wall our buddies, Helen Thomas and Fran Lewine and all these women journalists who had headed our club.
Then, as I left the club, there were two old fellows who boarded the elevator with me. They didn't know me. I didn't know them. But they were clearly members of the club who also had just seen all those new pictures. And one looked at the other and said, ''If I had known this was going to happen, I never would have joined this damned club." I thought that was hilarious. I've told it to some male members of the club, who just laugh about it. But most of them say that the club has improved since the women were brought in.
Q: You were also reminiscing after women were permitted to sit in the main ballroom of the Press Club rather than observe from the balcony about the remark of Chalmers Roberts and your embarrassment about that situation.
A: Oh, that was not recorded before?
A: Well, that incident was interesting. That was actually long before the clubs merged. It was when the National Press Club agreed to let women sit on the main floor instead of in the balcony to hear the national and international figures who came to speak. The first day that it was open to women, I had lunch there with a group of other reporters. We had big round tables of eight people, and I think there was another woman at our table.
But Chalmers Roberts, whose work I always admired, came by our table and just snarled. ''Well, are you satisfied now?'' he said, glaring at me. Well, of course, those are words one can never forget.
But that doesn't speak for the National Press Club, because when the clubs merged, they could not have been more gracious. What they may have said in private, we don't know, but they have made it a very happy place for women reporters.
Q: I have also been asking you about the impact of the federal effort on the ability of women to run for office at the state and local level. Do you think there is a sort of trickle down effect there?
A: I don't know whether it's trickle down, but there certainly has been an effect, because more women are mayors of towns, more women are sitting on boards, more women are participating at various levels in state government, the state level governmental structure. So there is a growing acceptance of this.
Here in Washington, as you know, we've had a male mayor for many years. At one point we did elect a woman mayor, Sharon Pratt Kelly. She didn't do as well as people had hoped. After that, Marion Barry returned to power. More recently he was challenged by Carol Schwartz, who would make a splendid mayor. She did not win. Now our mayor has become essentially powerless because the new federal control board has replaced him.
Q: I'm going back to the Task Force for a moment, and asking you to think about whether there was an impact from its efforts on setting the stage for the celebration of International Women's Year, which was, I believe, in the mid-70s.
A: Yes, I think that there was an impact. The Task Force made more women interested in participating in such efforts, and it drew more public observation to those celebrations. I believe there have been three international women's meetings since you and I and Catherine East were more active. These gatherings in foreign countries were watched very closely.
Early on in the Clinton Administration, there was an International Women's Year gathering in China. Mrs. Clinton went and made a strong and forceful address. There was plenty of attention on that. So I believe women are drawing ever greater attention because of their accomplishments.
Q: And, again, back to the Task Force, how important was it do you think to have a woman in the White House specifically charged with recruiting women to top levels of the Administration and following through at the departmental level?
A: I think that was very important, although it was not as big a symbol as we would have hoped for. Barbara Franklin did a great job in a breakthrough situation. There was much that happened that I do not know about. And I suspect that the way the Nixon Administration was at that time that it may have been difficult for Barbara to get a hearing in all cases. But she was a pioneer, no question about it, and today can take enormous satisfaction in the progress she engendered. I think it was terribly important that that breakthrough was made and that Barbara was there. She probably did as much as any woman could have done in that spot.
Q: Did they ask Force play a role in the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women? Can you tell me anything about your memory of that?
A: The Commission on the Status of Women.
Q: It came about again in the mid-70s.
A: There was one that came about in Jack Kennedy's time.
Q: Well, there was one in the seventies that--
A: I think that preceded us. Jack Kennedy--during Jack Kennedy's Administration, there was a Commission on the Status of Women.
Q: This was one I believe--
A: Helen Hill Miller wrote a lot of the stuff.
Q: Well, this was earlier than that. I've got a file at home on that. Maybe if I can bring--
A: Really? Even before Kennedy?
A: Well, I think it was during the Kennedy Administration that they put out this big report that did draw a lot of attention.
And I've forgotten how that worked. I mean, that was definitely a product of the Kennedy Administration. The women all said subsequently that they never implemented the report, but they made some good recommendations. And then there were later surveys of the status of women, but I can't remember exactly what happened with them, in subsequent administrations.
Q: Many of the Task Force members I believe were Republican.
A: Yes. That is what you would expect.
Q: I think I'm asking about support from the Democratic side. Now, you've already said that several of the Democratic women members of Congress were very supportive of the Task Force recommendations.
A: I can't remember how supportive they were of the Task Force, but they were supportive of pushing women.
Q: But the recommendations of women.
A: Yes, and they did, they were helpful. And I think as time went on, you know, women became more and more involved on the Hill, the Congresswomen. And you have very outspoken leaders as some of them have been. Pat Schroeder who was on the Armed Services Committee and in Congress for 20 years was very outspoken. I am sure she was a thorn in the side of some of the old guys. But she made progress for women, and she was always aware of it. She was a leader also of the women in Congress who were organized in their own committee. I think she was chair of the Democratic side. Olympia Snowe may have been chair on the Republican side. Those gals worked to open up things for women.
Q: I'm trying to look back, and again I'm looking particularly at the Task Force and that era of time as far as women are concerned. Is there any one factor that you think was important in getting things moving in retrospect? I realize that's a difficult question to throw at you without--
Q: In getting things done within the government or by Congress.
A: Well, I do think that all of these steps that we have touched on were incremental. I mean, each one got a little stronger, and it became a little less difficult as time went on to make headway. But it's just that the world is really led by men. We are seeing more women prime ministers now and women who are in key spots, but it's still a small portion of the leadership.
Q: Is there anything we've not talked about that you'd like to talk about?
A: I'm trying to think.
Q: And we can pause while you think about it.
A: I have felt that my participation in the women's movement was a very pivotal point in my life. I am so happy that I did it. I had qualms in the beginning. I had qualms as a journalist about asking the President the kind of question that I did. And yet in simple justice, you had to ask it. If I hadn't, I am sure eventually someone else would have. But I sometimes felt that I was conflicted between journalism and trying very, very hard not to be a partisan for a cause. You have to be very even handed in our business. If you got both sides of the question in, that was a big thing that had not been experienced by women. Their side had never been considered before. So I'm happy that I was able to do what I did, and I wish that I had been able to do a great deal more.
Q: That's wonderful. Thank you, Vera Glaser.
We're resuming the interview because Vera has just remembered another experience that she's had that she wants to tell us about.
A: This was shortly after the Task Force made its report. I was invited by the Minnesota Newspaper Association to speak to their convention sometime in 1971, and I did that. The experience kind of showed how far along the news profession had not come at that point.
They wanted me to talk about women in the business. And I gave them a speech expressing how we felt about some of the inequities and some things we might aspire to. It was a conciliatory speech. At the reception later, I was treated like a leper. But a Minnesota member of Congress who was at the head table, Joseph Garth, asked me to send him a copy of the speech. I did. He then put it in the Congressional Record, but the audience of editors didn't like it at all. They were typical of the situation at the time, but they later changed and sent me a "Good Guy" award.
Q: And I guess in a nutshell that means that women of that era had to be able to retain a sense of humor and be a little tough skinned about the reaction to their comments even when they felt they had been extremely diplomatic in couching their words.
A: Oh, yes, very definitely. It just showed how deep this movement went. It took a while to communicate itself to members of the press who are supposed to be open minded.
Q: Do you have any idea why that would have been, because they had been educated by someone perhaps or--
A: Well, I think that they're paid to watch what's happening, and they could see that this movement was building steam quite noticeably. And so maybe they were just recognizing the fact of life that women were beginning to come into their own.
Q: Do you have a memory of any examples of the persons you're thinking of?
A: You mean members of the press who were--
Q: Yeah, male members of the press who were a little ahead of their peers in recognizing the importance of treating women equitably?
A: I think that at Knight-Ridder that they were quite accepting of me. They put me on some of the best stories, and they gave me a lot of freedom. When the bureau was smaller, I really covered everything. I wrote a column for them, and I also covered breaking news. They sent me to seven political conventions, had me covering some of the candidates, and offered me a lot of opportunity. They helped me grow -- and helped me help other women.