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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Juanita Kreps, January 17, 1986. Interview C-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ideas before their time and national day care for working women

Kreps's ideas often arrived before her peers were willing to accept them. Two examples appear in this excerpt: her proposal to extend the age of eligibility for Social Security, which was attacked but eventually adopted, and her desire to institute national day care for working women. She predicts that day care will become a reality within five years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Juanita Kreps, January 17, 1986. Interview C-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LYNN HAESSLY:
From what I've read about your term in Commerce, I think that one thing that seemed very important to you was to try to bring social concern into that department with the social performance index that you proposed for businesses, the proposal you made that was critical of the HUD policies, and a few other things like that, and in some of those things you were stymied, and some not.
JUANITA KREPS:
Yes. I had the unhappy experience there, as I have elsewhere, of proposing things before people are ready to accept them. The classic case was my argument with HEW, under whom Social Security resides, that they ought to extend the age of eligibility for Social Security very, very slowly. Everybody hopped on that and I got hundreds of hate letters to show that a lot of people really don't want to work any longer than they have to. I knew that, of course, it just didn't seem to me that there was any way around it, and still maintain decent Social Security incomes. Anyway, I was proposing adding two months a year over a fifteen-year period, or something like that. So I took a lot of flack for that. Now, that is in fact what we are doing. So I was just five or six years early.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Why do you think you have been early in your proposals?
JUANITA KREPS:
Well, in the case of Social Security, I had been studying the economics of aging for a decade, and I'd given a lot of thought to the subject and I just made the mistake of thinking that, because I understood the problem and saw what was inevitably going to have to happen, that other people were with me. It was great misjudgment on my part. In other cases, in women's case, I was not alone, of course; lots of women were writing and thinking and talking. But I had been building a career for a long time, and I knew what some of the problems were. It's a matter of understanding because you are there, you see the changes and you exaggerate how fast they will take place. I've always thought change would come faster than it has come.
LYNN HAESSLY:
And has that frustrated you?
JUANITA KREPS:
Well, it's been an embarrassment because I've been left hanging out there. But it also is reassuring because if you are wrong people aren't going to follow your advice, you are saved. You could be proposing something pretty ridiculous and, if people won't buy it, there is a safety valve.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Some of the things you had talked about as being important issues-national day care for working women-is that the sort of thing that you see coming at all?
JUANITA KREPS:
Inevitably.
LYNN HAESSLY:
Any idea of how soon?
JUANITA KREPS:
No, it'll come in bits and pieces, though. But, you see, it wasn't very long ago that American firms didn't want to talk about it. Now a lot of them are sponsoring it, a lot of others are talking about it. They have discovered they need those bright young women, they want to keep them on the job, they are willing to put some thought and money into it. A lot of the women have discovered they don't want that kind of day care for their children, of course, and that's fine, too. But for low-income women to work, it is a necissity. Just as lots of other things that business early on didn't want any part of, are now espoused: helping to find jobs for two people instead of just one; understanding that work can take place at different hours of the day; that there is such a thing as the half-time person who nevertheless is working her way up the ladder, just as if she were a full-time person-all of these things are happening. So five years from now we will see a difference.