ERA Fight in Illinois Interviews
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ERA Fight in Illinois Interviews
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Mary Painter Bohlen earned her master’s degree in public affairs reporting from Sangamon State University in 1977. She was then hired by United Press International and spent the next five years reporting on activities in the Illinois statehouse. Her tenure included the epic 1982 fight in the legislature over the Equal Rights Amendment. ERA was not passed in Illinois, and it went down to defeat at the national level when it failed to achieve the goal of 38 states adopting it. Mary later spent thirty years teaching journalism classes at Sangamon State University (later renamed the University of Illinois Springfield).
Delinda Chapman was active with the American Association of University Women, including a tour as President of AAUW-Illinois, Inc. for many years. The AAUW was a major backer of the efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois, and Delinda was very much a part of those efforts. She was also the Great Lakes Regional Director and a national board member of AAUW. For ten years, beginning in 2001, Delinda produced and hosted the Springfield Access 4 cable television programs, “Equity for Women’ and “The Learning Curve.”
Barbara Flynn Currie, a liberal Democrat from the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, represented that district in the Illinois House from January 1979 to her retirement at the end of the 2018 legislative year. Beginning in 1997 she served as the IL House Majority Leader, during an era when Mike Madigan served as Speaker of the House. These interviews cover Currie's early life and her long and distinguished career in the Illinois House from 1979 through 2019. She served during the administrations of Governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich, Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner. She headed up the Blagojevich impeachment in 2009 and supervised legislative redistricting following both the 2000 and 2010 census.
Carol Frederick spent her life working for women's equality. She was very active in the fight for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1972 while she was an intern with the Illinois Education Association. This was the first year that ERA was debated in the Illinois legislature, but it failed to pass. She then served as the Coordinator of Legislative Affairs for the National Business and Professional Women's Clubs, working as a lobbyist. In 1977 she was appointed by Governor Jim Thompson as the Chairperson of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission, later renamed the Illinois Human Rights Commission. From 1980-1982 she served as the Director of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, and from 1982-2010 she owned her own business.
Jeri Frederick was a young college student at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois when she began working for the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Over the next two years, NOW fought an extended battle, trying to convince the Illinois State Legislature to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Springfield became the epicenter of the ERA fight in the United States. Frederick attended a rally in Detroit (protesting at the Republican National Convention in 1980), and pro-ERA rallies in Chicago and Springfield, and talks about her disappointment when ERA was finally defeated in early 1982
Pauline Kayes grew up as the proud daughter of a working class family. She excelled as a student, and graduated in 1973 as valedictorian from the Calumet campus of St. Joseph's College. Her major was English, and her passion was the work of radical feminist writers. She has spent her life teaching at Parkland Community College in Champaign, where she met others in the feminist movement. In 1982, during the last year of the fight to pass ERA in the Illinois legislature, Kayes was one of a group of women who chained themselves to the railing outside the IL Senate chamber in protest to that body's lack of action on ERA.
Kristin Lems was a graduate student in 1974 when she led a group of women to create the National Women’s Music Festival, the first ever women’s music festival. In 1978 she released her first album of folksongs and was in constant demand at ERA rallies, women’s conferences and meetings thereafter. She criss-crossed the state of Illinois prior to the crucial ERA vote in 1982. Kristin continues to perform with many luminaries across the U.S. Her music focuses on the themes of women’s equality, racial justice, peace and the environment.
Dawn Clark Netsch began her political career as an assistant to Governor Otto Kerner from 1961-1965, served as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1969-1970, and in 1972 was elected as an Illinois State Senator. For the next 18 years, she was one of Illinois's most influential Senators, and championed many progressive causes. In 1990 she was elected as the Illinois state Comptroller, and in 1994 was the Democrat's candidate for governor. She lost to incumbent Jim Edgar after a spirited campaign.
Dr. Sally Pancrazio was involved in the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Illinois from 1972 until the Amendment's defeat in the Illinois legislature in 1982. Sally discusses tactics used by both the pro and anti-ERA lobbyists, and knew many of the key political and organizational players. She continued to push for ERA's passage after that. As a member of the Women’s Political Caucus, she provided data and research for the effort. In 2018, the year that the Amendment was finally passed by the Illinois Legislature, Sally was part of a broad coalition in McLean County supporting its passage. She took leadership in pressing for a positive vote.
Paula Johnson Purdue began her professional career as a teacher, but in 1976 she was hired to work as a lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and served in that position until 2004. Since the IEA was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, she lobbied for its passage in the Illinois legislature until its defeat in 1982. She knew the key players in that extended battle, both pro and anti-ERA. She continued to push for its passage even after the time frame for its passage expired in 1982. After leaving the IEA in 2004, she worked as a lobbyist for various clients through 2012.
Hedy Ratner, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, came of age during the height of the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement. By the early 1970s she had turned her considerable energies to women's issues, especially in her leadership role at the Chicago YWCA, as well as being involved at the Illinois Women's Political Caucus, Women in Film, and the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women. In 1985 she founded the Women's Business Development Center, a not-for profit organization dedicated to assisting women and minorities to start and develop successful businesses.
Mary Lee Sargent has spent a lifetime as a teacher and activist for civil rights, LGBT rights and women’s equality. In the early 1980s, while teaching at Parkland Community College in Champaign, Illinois, she also was co-founder of A Grassroots Group of Second Class Citizens, an organization of women willing to take more dramatic action in the fight to convince the Illinois legislature to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Their efforts were in vain at the time, but Mary Lee continued to fight for ERA's eventual passage, as well as advocate for other civil rights issues for which she felt passionate.
Phyllis Schlafly was one of the most influential conservative voices of the late 20th Century. She ran for U.S. Congress in 1952 because of her interest in the communist threat and other conservative causes. She gained a reputation in Republican circles in 1964 when she self-published the treatise "A Choice, Not an Echo," which helped Barry Goldwater obtain the Republican nomination. She became interested in the Equal Rights Amendment in December 1971 and began a crusade for its defeat that was eventually successful. Schlafly continued to write, publish, and broadcast until her death in 2016.
Kathleen O'Connor grew up on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies, but emigrated to the United States after working as an au pair for relatives in New York, and meeting her future husband. They moved to Chicago, Illinois, and Kathleen became very active in social issues through the Catholic Church. She was Phyllis Schlafly's chief lieutenant in Illinois during the decade long struggle to pass the ERA in the state legislature. After Schlafly's Stop-ERA movement successfully blocked its passage, Sullivan worked on abstinence issues in Illinois, especially Project Reality. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1990 and 1992.
Joyce Webb grew up in Seattle, Washington, and following WWII married Howard Webb, who spent his career as an American Literature professor at Southern Illinois University. Joyce was an early supporter and helped found the Carbondale Women's Center, one of the very first such institutions in the nation. She was also active in the efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois legislature, which ultimately went down to defeat in 1982.