Notes from the National Women's Conference, Houston, TX, November 1977.

Title

Notes from the National Women's Conference, Houston, TX, November 1977.

Description

Handwritten notes by Rema about the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston, TX, November 14-21, 1977

Creator

Brown, Rema Lou
Educator and feminist activist. A graduate of Parsons College, Iowa, with graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rice University, and the University of Houston at Clear Lake, where she also served as Counselor/Coordinator of Women's Resource Services. She was elected to two terms of the Clear Creek Basin Authority (an agency to combat pollution), state president of the American Association of University Women, and belonged to many other organizations regarding women's rights. Brown was defeated in a 1996 election (District 7) and smear campaign for the State Board of Education.

Date

1977-10

Rights

Materials may not be used without permission. For further information, please contact us at (940) 898-3751 or womenshistory@twu.;

Format

8 pages. 8.5 x 14 yellow pad, handwritten in ink with pencil red ink notations

Language

en

Type

Diaries
Manuscripts

Identifier

MSS058_Box3_notes_197710

Is Part Of

MSS 058 Rema Lou Brown Papers, 1970s-1980s

Spatial Coverage

Vault A

Provenance

Gift;
Brown, Rema Lou

Rights Holder

Woman's Collection, Texas Woman's University, P.O. Box 425528, Denton, TX 76204.

Text

[in smaller script at the top] As coordinator for Greater Houston Area AAUW, (unintelligible), signed IWY proclamation at press conference. Old home week--very few women we haven’t known before.

Nov. 14, Mon. Met Mary Boyette’s (spelling of Boyette corrected in pencil in another hand) plane--she’s coming in early from AAUW’s Washington D.C> office to work with IWY press corps and to set up press contacts. How will I know her? We have never met? It’s easy -- a 4 ½ inch badge “AAUW for ERA” on her coat identifies this human dynamo.

Nov. 15, Tues. Met IWY press corps as Boyette’s chauffeur. Impressions: all are suffering exhaustion and future shock. No one really knows what to expect and they are supposed to be prepared to answer all press questions.

Nov. 16, Weds. Took IWY press corps to House of Coleman to pick up press credential badges and registration materials. Marion Coleman is on the phone being hassled by IWY commissioner’s staff person because the commissioner is displeased with a graphic in the program. The demand is to have the cover reprinted and replaced in 24 hours. It’s obvious we are not the only ones on edge, expecting heaven only knows what. Pick up $226 of materials for AAUW repro work.

Nov. 17, Thurs. Move into AAUW suite at the Whitehall at 8:30 AM. Lee Haden, UH CLC grad. student who volunteers at Women’s Resource Services moves in and sets up suite office (and AAUW registration--written in in pencil in another hand). Here comes the [unreadable], the cases of paper, the phones, the Xerox 3100, and the typewriters. She puts it together [bracketed in red] while I go to the Hyatt to register staff and commissioners. The Hyatt’s a madhouse. The American Petroleum Institute refuses to vacate their rooms; the air conditioning is off. WE SHALL OVERCOME-- It’s our conference and no one is going to force us to angry reaction. [end red brackets] Mad, yes, but more determined than ever. AAUW staff and delegates from East Coast arrive at 4 AM. Janie Koles picks up those who have early appointments -- she too identifies her charges by their “AAUW for ERA” badges. The office is humming and the exhibit is going up with the help of our over 50 volunteers from Irving to Bridgeport, and from Beaumont to Abilene. W, D.C. staff and local members meet each other -- it’s tentative at first, then total commitment.

[notes in margin] Linda Sebok and Haden(?) have called all AAUW volunteers and reconfirmed their work schedules.

[the following section is bracketed in red]
Nov. 18, Fri. Registration of delegates and alternates begins [unreadable superscript]. Everyone is in a hurry. I’m supposed to work at a table but wind up marshalling the 1400 who have been lined up since 8am. It’s [unreadable word struck-out] exhilerating(sic) - it’s tiring. I may never walk again -- my voice is three octaves lower by day’s end. “Pink ladies”, and lesbians, right to lifers and pro choice people stand by side by side. Pro ERA buttons abound and Not a STOP ERA button in sight. The opposition is here but unless you know them there is no identification. Are they afraid? They’re very pleasant in the lines -- only real obstinate one are the [unreadable strike-through] ones who want “special treatment” as big frogs in little ponds. “Go to the back of the line.” Wilma Scott Heide stands quiet amongst the members of the Oklahoma delegation. She doesn’t argue for special treatment. The Sara Weddington banters cheerfully with Ohio delegates as she waits to be registered. Strike up conversation with delegates from Shawnee Mission, Kansas -- my old family home. She is anti ERA and pro Phyllis but we don’t talk about that. My hat is loaded w/ buttons and my “AAUW for ERA” is unmistakable. Maybe she’ll have a second thought about radical feminists someday. [end red brackets]

People waiting to register help organize the [unreadable strike-through] long line - we take bets on who is [superscript] of us is [end superscript] going to attack the camera people -- they block the aisle, set up interviews so no one can move and bitch when asked to move along. It’s going to be a long conference.

Juanita Cole, Tex AAUW president, takes my place on stand with [unreadable] Thomas to receive as the Seneca Falls torch is brought to Houston. Who just said it was raining? I have no idea of the outside world - my [unreadable strike-through] world has become the Hyatt balcony.

The line settles down and moves along smoothly (or as smoothly as possible). Next time we do this we’ll know more about how to what to expect and how to handle it.

Leave Hyatt at 6PM and back to Whitehall office meeting - Linda Sebok w/ Charlene [unreadable] Daniels, Sue Howard and Reg Kaplin. Volunteer workers [unreadable strike-through] schedules posted. Poster up in all hotels for caucus at 9PM. Hear Houston ERA rally successful. Most are on way to ERAMerica fundraiser. I send my money and stay in office. Feet are throbbing. Registering AAUW members here from across the nation. Caucus begins - one woman ejected (politely) as non-member, second given thorough once over until identified. Sebok, Kobes, and Kathleen Allen-Webber assigned to shadow certain staff and delegates -- their every need is a command. Strategies discussed -- general agreement on “stay cool, stay contained.” Bed - 1:30 AM -- careful not to step on anyone on way to bathroom.

[notes in margin in a different hand] Newsletter Pat, Mary, and I were relaxing enjoying a Bloody Mary and Pat asked how we were going to keep all our people informed - by newsletters - suggested--we were both up till two-am doing this first one [end margin notes]

[notes in margin in different hand] [unreadable] or [unreadable]. get all AAUW and pro plan people to last session. [end margin notes]

[notes in margin in different hand] pink ladies are en masse [end margin notes]

Nov. 19, Sat. It begins. PBS (KHOU-TV) is praised as we get TV in office. Whitehall does everything we ask -- an oasis of serenity in the desert of chaos. The office force watches with feet propped up. Answer phones - meet Pat Jenkins, new editor of AAUW Journal. We’re going to publish daily an AAUW News flyer, 1000 copies daily - rather mighty. [text in red brackets] Meet 72 year old black woman from Mississippi - retired professor abd AAUW helped her make sign as Mississippian for ERA. Hear some horror stories of being a black, educated woman from Deep South. Hear AAUW staff members discuss Anti-Everything Rally and Frank Briscoe’s and Louie Welch’s presence there. Hope Nikki Van Hightower more representative of Houston’s future than Briscoe and Welch.{end red brackets] [note in superscript] Run-off copies of welfare caucus/proposal for Washington pro-plan group [end superscript].

Counted sixteen people in suite parlor when I came in at 1am. Cheese, scotch, and vodka add to animated conversation of day’s events. [bracketed in red - KKK and hard shell fundamentalists are discussed. I claim if opposition to ERA had not mobilized the nation’s level of consciousness in re women’s issues who would have been non-existent and ERA would have gone way of the suffrage amendment. Have sudden feeling I may have grown two heads - end red brackets] Most feel Phyllis et all are going way of Most feel Phyllis et al have made going hard but we are gaining -- Virginians defeated anti-ERA legislative leaders at the polls.

Bed - 3am after typing AAUW news (editor and press person aren’t born typists but neither am I but I hate to see grown women cry). Eleven people sleeping in suite.

Nov. 20, Sun. I’m thrown out of office to register at conference, see ex [unreadable] and plenary session. [bracketed in red - women embrace in tears at passage of minority women substitute resolution. An emotional high to be there. Pray for Ann Sounier to chair resolution on reproductive freedom. Expect major reaction. Saunier returns and passage is anti-climatic - end red brackets].

Have personal encounter w/ male concessionaire. He’s up to his eyeballs in uppity women and I’m the last straw. He tries to shortchange me and everyone within earshot knows he has failed. He won’t try that again for some while.

[bracketed in red - More interesting people per square foot than any place in the nation. Know or know of a great many - What a network we’re weaving! - end red brackets]

Off to the Hyatt to help Marge call registration volunteers about Gala. Call Whitehall to see how things are going. Give approval for Xerox of 600 copies of welfare proposal (what power - I know where the secret “off” switch is located). Arrange to meet crew in restaurant at Hyatt and set-out to eat. Food - a forgotten item in my agenda. HAFFCU, NOW, AAUW, BPW - what a mix. Hear horror tale of beating of ERA rally women by KKK while Caldwell’s HPD men watch.

Gala not as “gala” as announced but excellent. The generation gap has neared its cultural gap but I’m not too old to appreciate it. 1AM we head back to the hotels.

Nov. 21, Mon. Rain and flood warnings. Print and distribute AAUW news to area hotels and coliseum. Call every area AAUW to get members out for last session. No need to let TV show empty observer areas. Why do we have a plenary schedule for Monday? People have to vacate hotels, get home, and go to work! Get to Albert Thomas at 11:30 after walking miles in Civic Center parking area. It’s becoming a skeleton quickly, booths are dismantled -- the conference is ending. How -- we’ve only begun.

Hurry to coliseum - get out the badge and tickets, they’re checking closely. Lynn Mitchler is The session is as more chaotic than it appears on TV. It’s hard to concentrate -- everyone’s tired.the crises are past, everyone is concerned with getting away from town. [bracketed in red - How anti-climatic when you’ve climbed Everest and then must come down. What’s changed? I only know I have - I’ve heard mothers say they’re closer to their daughters, husbands who have watched proceedings call wives to exclaim that the opposition is irrational and to tell them the house is clean and they and the kids are excited about mom’s presence at the conference. - brackets end] -- watching for her on TV, [bracketed in red - saw Catholic nuns wearing ERA sweatshirts verbally attacked as anti-Christian “DIKES” and watched them bear it with a smile on their lips if not in their hearts. - end red brackets]

Left the conference at 1am to pick up Marge’s luggage, finish packing, and crating out office and suite. Thanked heavens for Whitehalls’ bellman as he loaded the truck twice and packed the rear end of my station wagon.

Where had the weekend gone? Where had October gone? Thanksgiving already? Yes, I was ready to give thanks -- for the people I had met, for the people who had worked so hard, for the conference and what it promises for the future but most of all for being able to be apart of the Nat’l Women’s Conference - I am not a survivor -- I thrived!

(Oh, for 24 hours sleep).

Files

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Citation

Brown, Rema Lou and Educator and feminist activist. A graduate of Parsons College, Iowa, with graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Rice University, and the University of Houston at Clear Lake, where she also served as Counselor/Coordinator of Women's Resource Services. She was elected to two terms of the Clear Creek Basin Authority (an agency to combat pollution), state president of the American Association of University Women, and belonged to many other organizations regarding women's rights. Brown was defeated in a 1996 election (District 7) and smear campaign for the State Board of Education. , “Notes from the National Women's Conference, Houston, TX, November 1977.,” TWU Digital Exhibits, accessed June 18, 2024, http://exhibits.twu.edu/ex/items/show/108.