Title: Oral History Interview with Martha C. McKay, June 13, 1989. Interview C-0076.
Interviewer: Nasstrom, Kathryn
Interviewee: McKay, Martha C.
Subjects: Democratic Party (N.C.) Women's rights--North Carolina Women economists--North Carolina Women in politics--North Carolina North Carolina Women's Political Caucus North Carolina--Biography
Abstract: Martha McKay was born in Winchester, Massachusetts, in 1920. Shortly thereafter, her family relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was raised. During the late 1930s, McKay transferred from a junior college there to the University of North Carolina, where she graduated with a degree in economics in 1941. McKay then settled in North Carolina, working as a women's right activist. McKay describes her involvement in UNC campus politics during her time there as a student, and discusses her initial support and friendship with Terry Sanford, future North Carolina state senator, governor, United States senator, and president of Duke University. During these years, McKay was the first woman to serve on the University Party steering committee, and she also wrote a column for the Daily Tar Heel. In 1941, McKay was married. She and her husband worked for the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, during World War II. At the end of the war, they settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where McKay became increasingly involved in political activities. In 1960, McKay campaigned for Terry Sanford in his gubernatorial race. Subsequently, Sanford appointed her to the Democratic National Committee. With Sanford's support, McKay helped to organize the North Carolina Commission on the Status of Women. During the early 1960s, McKay formed connections with other women's rights activists, including Grace Jemison Rohrer and Anne Firor Scott. In 1972, she became a founding member of the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus (NCWPC) and served as its first chair. McKay describes her involvement in this organization and asserts her opposition to the formation of separatist women's groups within the Democratic Party. In addition, she describes the initial organizational meeting of the NCWPC at Duke University in 1971, the goals and policies of the group, and the role of leadership. McKay argues that tensions within the group and the failure to establish more effective leadership early on compromised its effectiveness. She describes how the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) became the central focus of the NCWPC shortly after its formation. McKay concludes by offering comments regarding the changing role of women in North Carolina politics, the status of women within the Democratic Party, the need for women to be trained in political skills, and the impact of women's exclusion from decision making processes.