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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Suzanne Post, June 23, 2006. Interview U-0178. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

When Post realized she was a feminist

Post discovered her commitment to justice during a meeting when the men in the room all ignored her. She describes what happened, how it changed her, and how her husband responded to her growing feminist consciousness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Suzanne Post, June 23, 2006. Interview U-0178. 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

You said you were really ready to take on this challenge, because you had enormous rage on these issues. Where did that rage come from?
SUZANNE POST:
Well, I think all rage comes from a realization that something is unjust. One day many years ago, I don't know, ten years ago, eleven years ago, one of the really good writers for the newspaper here before it was sold to Gannett called and asked me if she could interview me, because she said that she'd really always been interested in my work. I said, "I would love for you to interview me. I would love anything that would encourage—exposure that would encourage other women to choose the path I've chosen." So she came out and she wrote a really long, long article, which you could probably get from the archives. I have a copy of it here, but it's probably yellowed. Ask me to look later. Her name is Diane Aprile. [Phone ringing] [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
SUZANNE POST:
So anyway, in the course of interviewing me for this very long interview, Diane and I, we were sitting downstairs and she said, "What makes you do the things you do?" I said immediately, "Hmm. Nobody's ever asked me that before." Then I said without skipping a beat, "Injustice. It just pisses me off." And that whole quote was in the paper and all my women friends thought, "Oh, yes." [Laughter] "We love it that you used that word." But it does. It really, really makes me—. Now where did that come from? I have no idea, but it just changes my whole body and changes what's happening. When I witness something that I think is unjust, it just makes me furious. All you have to do is get injustice embedded in a big system and pretty soon, fury turns to rage.
SARAH THUESEN:
Were there particular injustices that you had experienced as a woman that really had made an impact on you?
SUZANNE POST:
Absolutely.
SARAH THUESEN:
Can you give me an example of something?
SUZANNE POST:
When I was thirty years old, my husband received an award that was to be given in Florida and I'd never been to Florida and he told me he would take me. So we went to Florida for this conference. It was a Jewish conference. At that time, it was a conference of all the Jewish intellectuals and the Jewish community nationally has always had a disproportionate number of intellectuals who are spinning this and that and the other. The thing lasted three days and on the last night, they had a discussion. I'm so sorry, Sarah. [Phone ringing] [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
SUZANNE POST:
On the last day of the conference, which was a very big deal conference for the national Jewish community, they had a discussion on open housing. So this would have been 1963 when I was maybe thirty. [interruption]
SUZANNE POST:
I was thirty years old. They had this discussion on open housing and I'm sitting at a table with eight of us all from Louisville, three women, I think, and five men. After the discussion was over from the stage, we're sitting around the table having coffee and the men started talking about what they heard and what their thoughts were. What I'm about to tell you, Sarah, is a really important experience in my life. It really ended up being the formative experience in my life. So the men are talking about open housing and whether or not they thought the time was right to really proceed in Louisville and what the difficulties might be and blah blah blah. I think the men were all lawyers. I said, "Well, you know—." And there's psst. That was it. Nobody recognized me or heard me and they kept on talking. A few minutes later, I said, "Well I think," and they just talked over me. I did that three times. I tried to become part of the conversation three times. Three times I was ignored. When the group disbanded and everyone went back to their hotel room, I walked in and I threw myself across the bed and started sobbing in frustration and anger. And my husband, who was a nice man, but he wasn't where he really should have been at the time, said, "Suzy, honey, what's the matter?" I said, "What's the matter?" I said, "I tried to get into the discussion you were having at the table three times and three times I was ignored and I'm as smart as those men who were talking about what the strategy ought to be in Louisville. And nobody let me in." He said, "Oh Suzy, honey, darling." That was his way, very patronizing. "Oh Suzy, honey, darling, of course you're as smart as any of us." He said, "But you have to understand that they see you as a Jewish wife and mother. That's how they see you." I thought to myself that I was never going to be not heard again. So from 1930 [Post probably meant to say here from age thirty on] on, I started building a presence for myself outside of the home and I started first in a political campaign and I moved from that political campaign to the McCarth—. Started learning, I had to learn a lot. I got more involved in the ACLU than I had been. I mean, I just started doing whatever I could do to accumulate experience so that I could climb whatever stairs I had to climb to own my own voice and to make it heard. That was one of the most painful experiences I ever had in my life. And to this day, it brings tears to my eyes to think that, "Oh, honey dearest, you're just a wife and mother." I don't think without that, that I would have probably—I know without that experience, I wouldn't be who I ended up being, because I wouldn't have had to, I wouldn't have had to. It's really interesting, but I started learning more and more and I started doing more and more and I started developing more and more power and eventually became one of the most powerful women in the social justice movement in this part of the country. And it was very conscious. So when I say injustice pisses me off, that was probably the mother injustice of it all.