Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of divisive tension within the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus

McKay argues that in its early years, there were few divisive tensions within the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus. According to McKay, the Caucus determined that although the goal was to get women into public office, they would not endorse particular candidates, at least in the beginning. Doing so, they believed, would inhibit the bipartisan spirit of the Caucus. McKay believes it was this approach that assuaged the possibility for division over issues such as labor or desegregation early on.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076. 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

The next general question I have is in some ways trying to locate the Caucus in relation to other things that were going on at the time. And my question revolves around the idea of any tensions or splits or conflicts that might have come up for the Caucus around related issues but not central necessarily to electoral politics. For example the labor organizing drive at the time. Was there conflict within the Caucus as to how to respond to that? School desegregation throughout the state. And then around the issues of race, Shirley Chisholm's candidacy in '72. How did those things work out in the Caucus?
MARTHA MCKAY:
The issues you mentioned, first, in your list, no they didn't come into play. Actually we had a set of goals which was to get more women into public office and we thought that was a pretty large agenda to stir up the Caucus with and to start caucus groups in various locations around North Carolina. In terms of somebody like Shirley Chisholm, that was absolutely up to individuals. I mean the Caucus, when we started out, decided that they would not endorse. We thought, to my memory, we thought that would be divisive. And also we had Republicans and Democrats and we were kind of feeling our way. So we decided the Caucus would be stronger if it did not endorse. Later on, and perhaps appropriately, they decided to endorse. I mean, I can't remember how many years it was, but down the road. But when we started we did not endorse. And I think that probably precluded some of the disagreements and the differences that might have come had we endorsed. We always made it clear, among ourselves at any rate, and when asked we made it clear, that we were not prepared to work for a woman per se, that we were working for people who supported the agenda that we wanted to see put in, whether it was for a male or a female.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Right. So in that sense it was similar to the National Caucus's agenda. Did issues like labor organizing and school desegregation just not come into the picture?
MARTHA MCKAY:
No, not that I know of.