Wednesday, November 7, 1984
A personal look
at a feminist l
Second of two parts
Judy Goldsmith grew up in a small town in
Wisconsin, one offive children. At an early
age her father abandoned the family and
gave no financial assistance to her mother.
For several years her family couldn't even
afford to pay rent so they lived in a recon-
verted chicken coop without water or in-
door plumbing. Goldsmith didn't let her
poverty keep her from gaining a college
education though, and she went for a
degree in English at the University of
Wisconsin. She currently resides in
Washington, D. C. and heads the 250,000-
member National Organization for Women
(NO W). Goldsmith spoke with Daily
Opinion Page editor Jackie Young about
her personal aspirations, college feminism,
and the most important people in her life.
Daily: What sorts of hopes did your mother.
have for you? What did you aspire to be or do?
Goldsmith: Get married. The assumption
where and when I grew up was that a girl would
grow up, get married, and have children.
There weren't any other possibilities con-
sidered. That was it. Period. There certainly
were some women that went to college but the
assumption at that time was that they were
going to get their "MRS. Degree." The assum-
ption was never that a woman was going to
pursue a career or develop any other kind of a
function besides being a wife or homemaker.
So the expectations were no different for me
than for anyone else. I did, however, have a dif-
ferent sense of what I wanted to do and what I
wanted to be. I expected to grow up, get
married, and have children too but I wanted
something beyond that. I don't think I wanted
something instead of that, but beyond that. I
wanted to experiment with the world. I knew
there were things out there beyond Two Rivers,
Wisconsin that had to be interesting. I loved
teaching. I wanted to be a teacher. I also loved
music and planned to be a music teacher. That
ended at one point and I switched to English.
But I still wanted to be a teacher. My identity,
as I projected into the future, was much more
that of a teacher and a professional than that of
a wife and mother. Even though I expected to
get married and have children, that was not
what I was focused on, that was not what my
identity was invested in.
Daily: What were some of the values that you
developed in college and are they radically dif-
ferent from those you build on as the president
of the nation's largest feminist organization?
Goldsmith: My values today are very, very
similar (to those of my college days). Some of
my ideas have changed because I've learned a
lot more. I've learnedha lotmore about
the complexity of the human char-
acter. I was much more rigid in my
attitudes toward people. I mean people were
either good or bad. Period. I've learned that
there is much more to human character than
that. But my fundamental values are the same
as they were when I was a young girl growing
up. My values have become more informed
and grounded more on evidence than they were
at that time. It surprises me still when I am
identified as a feminist as a radical. It startles
me because my values are no different from
what they were at Two Rivers and we didn't
raise any radicals in Two Rivers. I was taught
in my home, I was taught in my school, I was
taught in my church that it was good to work
for justice and equality and freedom. That
those were sound and the most basic
democratic values there were. So I always
thought of that as positive. And that's what I'm
doing. My attitudes have not changed in that
regard at all. I am still startled when someone
perceives what I am doing as radical. We are
talking about equality for half the people of this
country. That's not radical. That's as American
as apple pie.
Daily: Were you a feminist in college? How
would you describe your outlook?
Goldsmith: I would not have specifically con-.
sidered myself a feminist in college. I cer-
tainly never thought of it in those terms. I was
much more of one in general terms. I had a
Goldsmith: Well, no it doesn't worry me
because I'm glad it's less blatant and that we
have dealt with some of the most gross and ob-
vious forms of discrimination. I am glad we
have done that. I am glad that we made that
much progress. I'm delighted, for example, that
my daughter takes a combination of home
economics and shop semester. Girls and boys
are both in the class and nobody even remarks
about it-of course they do that. Of course the
boys take home economics and the girls take
shop! But generally speaking, since you have
removed the most blatant forms, what is the
bulk of the iceberg is just beneath the surface,
and a lot of young people are not as aware of
the existence of sex discrimination and its ef-
fect on women's lives. And some of the forms
that sex discrimination takes they have not yet
personally experienced. They may not yet
have been in the workforce, the marketplace,
and encountered the discrimination that occurs
there. They may not have experienced the kin-
ds of problems that have decreased now
because of some of the gains we've made. But
it was not so long ago, it was only actually ten
years ago, in my home town in Wisconsin that
my local library tried to refuse me a card
because I refused to put it in my husband's
name. It was my library card and I wasn't
going to put it in his name.
So some of those things are changing but they
are changing slowly. And still some aspects of
that young women have not experienced. They
are not yet familiar with the kinds of problems
that women have should they become divorced
and try to survive economically after the
divorce, often with . children. The
discrimination against elderly women, of cour-
se, they have no personal experience with yet.
There is a whole range of things they have not
personally experienced. To that extent, it is not
surprising that they are not sensitive to it
because if you haven't had the experience, you
can't be expected to sympathize.
Daily: Who would you say was the most impor-
tant person in your life as a young college
woman at the University of Wisconsin in the
Goldsmith: 1957 was when I started college.
I left college at the beginning of the 1959 school
year-at the beginning of my junior year-for a
lot of reasons: culture shock, moving from
Two Rivers to Milwaukee and discovering the
big world; a dissatisfaction with my field of
Judy Goldsmith, president of the National
Organization for Women, says the most in-
fluential person in her life was a college
professor who was a classical guitarist.
predisposition toward social reform movemen-
ts. I had an absolute abhorance of, I don't know
how to put it, injustice sounds kind of corny.
But basically that's what it comes down to.
When I learned in some depth what had hap-
pened to the slaves and black people of this
country, and the Indians, it was one of the most
profound emotional experiences I've ever had.
It was very difficult for me to absorb that. So
there is a general kind of framework for my
values which later lead to my involvement in
the peace and civil rights movements, and then
ultimately to the women's rights movement.
And those values were all of a piece, all related
to those attitudes.
Daily: Does it worry you that young women
are maybe not as concerned about their rights
because sex discrimination in our society isn't
as blatant as it used to be?
The Michigan Daily
study at the time, which was music and which I found
too confining and too irrelevant to the world I
was discovering. So I left and took a couple of
years and I guess the common expression is
"finding yourself." So during that period of
time, I met and married Dick Goldsmith.
That was August 26, 1960. Women's Equality
Day. It wasn't called that yet.
I'm not sure there was one most important
person. There were a lot (of important people).
Probably the most important person was a
man who was a teacher. He taught in the
psychology department at the school part-time
because he was really a classical
guitarist-and very much a philosopher in
practical terms. He was a good friend. He
very much helped me through that period to
sort out all the whole range of perceptions I was
having about the world and a lot of confusion
about it. At one point, I asked him for advice
about what I should do and he said you should
do what you want to do. I said that's no kind of
advice. And he said it's the only kind of advice.
He said if I tell you what to do and it doesn't
work, then you'll blame me for it. If I tell you
what to do and it does work, then you won't feel
that it was your decision that made it work.
You'll feel obligated to me. So the only advice
that I can really give to you is to do what you
want to do. And you have to determine what
that is. He was probably, more than any other
person at that point, an influence on me-an ex-
tremely' nice person and an extremely kind
person with a wonderful sense of humor and a
great classical guitarist.
Daily: What is next on the horizon for Judy
Goldsmith when your term as NOW president
Goldsmith: There is a part of me that would
love to go back to teaching. I enjoy it very
much. And I like the pace. I like the academic
life. I like the students. But given all of the
time I spend encouraging women to run for
public office, I think I have to, in terms of my
own ethic, I think I have to make an attempt to
run for public office. I'm not certain at what
level or where. I really cannot conceive of
doing it anywhere except back in Wisconsin
because that is definitely my home, that is
what I have always identified with and I think
that I would probably do it from that base.
Dialogue is an occasional feature of the
suit of theiri - Steve Kaplan
ly hope such November 6
or is never Kaplan is vice president of
the Michigan Student Assem-
by Berke Breathed
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Vol. XCV, No. 54
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Here we go again
PRESIDENT REAGAN'S second
term is a reality and it arrived
in no uncertain terms. The huge
Reagan landslide is making
Republicans jump for joy and
Democrats hang their heads. While our
first instinct is to join the mourning, it
is also important to look on the bright
side. What is the bright side? Well, four
more years doesn't necessarily mean
disaster for America. Then again, with
that kind of optimism, who needs
Another win for the
serious, but not morbid,
for this nation.
politicize the Supreme Court by
making justices swear to a position on
one issue: abortion. It does mean that
he should appoint judges who have the
highest qualifications and the most
impressive record in defending the
" Reagan's reelection does not mean
that women must return to the home or
accept wages that are inferior to
men's. The president has said that he
supports equality of opportunity for all
members of American society. And,
while Reagan himself does not support
the Equal Rights Amendment, there is
much evidence in public opinion polls
and in the Republican Party that this
issue should not die with Reagan's
* A win for the president does not
mean all Americans are ready for
prayer in the schools or a destruction
of the wall between church and state.
The Congress and the courts will
assure that this does not hap pen.
Public opinion polls will probably show
Reagan the light.
Ronald Reagan's popularity may
sound a kind of death knell to the civil
rights policies of the past, especially
the concept of affirmative action.
Perhaps Americans are not satisfied
with these liberal policies. Perhaps
they iust want to believe that Reagan's
l r' °
\ ' '
" A tremendous Reagan victory does
not mean that Americans want a
president to oppose every nuclear ar-
ms treaty that is presented to him.
Recently Reagan has said that his top
priority in the next years would be
achieving a meaningful arms reduc-
tion plan with the Soviets. This should
mean annual meetings with the
Soviets, as Reagan has pledged.
" An overwhelming vote for Reagan
does not mean that he has the right to
slash government funding of programs
to such a degree that thousands more
will fall out of the "safety net" and into
a sea of poverty. It should mean that
the president will keep his promise to
Wn -a.. a ' :S 4. - - - nnarar - nf
LETTERS TO THE DAILY
Posters misrepresent MS
To the Daily:
Several hundred posters were
put up around campus on Elec-
tion Day advocating Proposal C
with the words "Michigan
Student Assembly" printed on
the bottom of the poster. We
would like to inform the campus
community that the Michigan
Student Assembly officially op-
poses Proposal C. Those posters
were put up by some unknown
kind of behavior is inexcusable.
Simply put, while we are the
victims of unscrupulous methods,
what should be most disturbing
for the entire University is that
someone found it necessary to
use deception in pur
own ends. We sincere
... _ r -" r S.,t l -- -----.. c _. 11