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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anne Barnes, January 30, 1989. Interview C-0049. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges facing the women's rights movement in the late 1980s

Barnes describes the variety of issues she sees facing women and lists the successes of the women's movement thus far despite the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also discusses the rising influence of the conservative movement in the late 1980s, predicting that it is merely part of the pendulum swing common in cultures.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anne Barnes, January 30, 1989. Interview C-0049. 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 ERA movement made me able to articulate and clearly define, in my own mind, some of the very real discrimination that was occurring, and the injustices, inequality, that women in our society have experienced. I had experienced some of this in my personal life, but had not clearly understood what was happening. My involvement with the ERA movement and getting more and more familiar with the laws, pointed out to me many areas that could be corrected even without the ERA movement, even without ratification of ERA, by changing the laws. So I took on myself, along with other women and some men in the legislature, to set about and change some of these laws. So a lot of the time that I've spent in the General Assembly, particularly in the early several years, was addressing these problems of inequality and trying to change the laws. We've made some progress in that area, and I feel good to have been a part of that. We're not home free yet, but a lot of the laws are changing. Sometimes we find ourselves in a position of having to protect our gains. I think right now that's the position that we're in, protecting our gains and perhaps not in a mode to move forward. But at least maybe we can have a stand to keep the gains that we've made.
What would you say those gains are? And then your comment that we're not in a position to move forward, why do you think that is?
Well, the gains that we have made are that we've changed the law having to do with distribution of property at a divorce, with the passage of the Equitable Distribution Law. We changed the laws in regard to tenancy by the entirity-land ownership laws. We've changed the inheritance laws. We've changed some tax laws. Made little bitty gains in insurance, but not enough. Those kinds of things that were simply laws that were written to favor men and had been on the books for a long time. We've made some progress in those. We've also been able to establish and maintain a State Abortion Fund so that indigent women might exercise their right for a choice. At this point, I think the whole country, during the last eight years and perhaps in the foreseeable future, or at least the next four, has done a pendulum swing to the far right. I think probably through history, we will be able to track, though I'm no historian, I like to think that when the pendulum swings, it will eventually swing back. But right now I think the pendulum is still over on the right hand side. With this bent toward the conservative side, there's less opportunity to pass those kinds of laws and to hold on, to keep the pendulum steady so that it doesn't swing even sharper to the right.