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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 >>

Divisions in the women's movement and what feminists have yet to accomplish

Post reflects on how class issues divided the women's movement and ultimately prevented it from being as effective as it could have been. She especially decries the ways middle-class women allowed themselves to be placated before poorer women made the gains they needed.

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

SARAH THUESEN:
Besides those sort of economic justice issues, were there other big disappointments with regard to the women's movement, issues that say in the early 70s, you really thought were going to take off and then never did?
SUZANNE POST:
What I guess I remember most about what I thought and felt back then was I thought that we settled cheap, that we settled too soon and we settled too cheap, that we had not really done what we needed to do to fulfill our commitment to justice for women and that we sort of quit too soon as an organized entity. I think partially that is because a disproportionate number of the women in the women's movement were comfortable middle-class women. I'm not sure that there was ever any really serious attempt by us to reach out and pull in those women in greatest need, other than displaced homemakers and abuse victims; I think that in that regard, we did. We wrote grants and got resources captured for displaced homemakers so that there was a program. We got a spouse abuse center set up. But we didn't do anything about the economic justice issue for working-class women. I don't know why.
SARAH THUESEN:
Was there much of a welfare rights impulse here?
SUZANNE POST:
There was a little one. There was a little one. And I worked with them for a year or two. There was a welfare rights and a tenants' rights group simultaneously. The tenants' rights group was far more effective than the welfare rights group and I think that's partially because the tenants' rights group had a single focus. They wanted a landlord-tenant act and we got it.
SARAH THUESEN:
This was the Louisville Tenants Association you're referring to?
SUZANNE POST:
Right. It was originally called the Louisville Tenants Union, but we changed the name a few years ago, because there was some concern that we wouldn't be able to get the money we needed if we continued to call it a union. Stupid.
SARAH THUESEN:
But the welfare rights organization was short-lived?
SUZANNE POST:
It was, it was a couple years and it was short-lived because the affected class had terrible problems with life. They couldn't go to a meeting unless they had somebody to take them. They had to get somebody to watch their kids. And then you had the clash between, if we were supportive, we spoke different languages. It's really been hard, it's hard. I think economic chasms are hard to bridge. I always felt that the Metropolitan Housing Coalition suffered by not having low-income people on its board, because it's us talking about them and doing things for them. But the reality is it's just harder than hell to get low-income people, who are very often working two jobs and still barely getting by, to have any energy left to participate in something like this. I sort of think that anything that's going to come is going to have to be indigenous to the group, that the group's going to have to give birth to it. There's a welfare rights group that you may be familiar with in Philadelphia that's been very successful.
SARAH THUESEN:
Is this part of ACORN?
SUZANNE POST:
Yeah, well, I think they joined ACORN, but they stood alone for awhile. They started themselves. There might have been a couple social workers who were there as advisors. I can't remember the name of it. But I just don't think middle-class people can really speak for or organize people at another level. In a way, it's pretty arrogant to think that we can do that. On the other hand, it really makes me uncomfortable that nobody's doing that. There's something wrong with the equation.