Five College Forum; Commencement Addresses by Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan
While on May 24th 1981 Mount Holyoke College and Smith College conducted their annual commencement exercises. In the next hour this program will present the addresses delivered by the guest speakers at both colleges, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm at Mount Holyoke College and feminist writer Betty Friedan at Smith College. [applause] [applause] Shirley Chisholm, distinguished exemplar for active women everywhere. In a long career of public service, you have repeatedly broken new ground for participation in the political process. A cum laude a graduate of Brooklyn College with an advanced degree from Columbia University, you began as a nursery school teacher and as an educational consultant to the Bureau of Child Welfare in New York, and slowly and steadily laid a foundation of trust in the black community in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. That trust led to the neighborhood's insistence
that you run for the New York State Assembly. The confidence of your constituents has never wavered. For they chose you not only as the first black woman from Brooklyn in the state assembly, but the first black woman in the Congress and they have returned you to Congress in six successive elections. As a freshman member of that body, your resistance to your appointment by the leadership to the Committee on Agriculture, by stating unequivocally and publicly that the only reason they put me on that committee is they know A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. [laughter] Was not only daring, but prescient of the increased democratization of the party progress process in Congress that you have helped to establish in the years that followed. That most unusual challenge to the immutable folkways of Congress, could have crippled your effectiveness. That it did not, is evident in your current service on the Education and Labor Committee, your original choice, and the Critical Rules Committee.
In your career, you have always enjoyed the loyalty and strong support of women, because you exemplified the lesson you have told us your grandmother in Barbados preached to you from morning to night, the virtues of pride, courage and faith. Mount Holyoke commend these virtues and welcomes you with a full heart here today. And therefore by the authority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts vested in the trustees of Mount Holyoke college, I confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Law and all it's [applause] with it's customary rights [applause] [applause] My letter to the graduates of Mount Holyoke College,
June, May, 1981. Dear graduates, as you prepare to leave here today, you are undoubtedly filled with emotion. It is a time of great happiness, for each of you has completed the task that you came here for. It is a day of anticipation as you embark upon a future guided by your own hopes and dreams, but marked with uncertainty. It is also a time of sadness because you are leaving the many friends you have made here, and the institution which has served as your home for the past four years. But most importantly it is a new beginning, in that each of you can now proceed to bring to fruition your own personal career and occupational objectives. You now have the capacity to
take the knowledge you have attained from your books and your professors and mold that education into a tool with which you can begin to carve out your place in our society. And while each of you have different pursuits and different aspirations, I hope that all of you share a common concern for your fellow human beings, and that you will use your education to help to really build a better world. H G Wells warned us some 60 years ago, that human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. And I caution you, that unless you have in your hearts a willingness to apply what skills you have refined, to careers and objectives which are borne out of social responsibility, then on our society's investment in each of you has been wasted and we will move closer
to that final catastrophe. There is an old but nevertheless meaningful adage which states, 'to those to whom much is given, much is expected'. And so while each of you can rightfully take pride in the accomplishments all of us are celebrating here today, you must of course be ever mindful that you have now entered a special group in this country, that is particularly vital to our future. And that most Americans your age, do not have your education and your opportunities. We face an ever present crisis of energy resources. We are confronted with an escalating arms race in which this nation and other world powers are stockpiling armaments and atomic weaponry under the insane rationale that doubling and redoubling our ability to make war will somehow enhance the prospects for peace. And
meanwhile we have yet to be able to accommodate the problems of the unemployed, the poor, and the minorities, who have been victimized by circumstances they have no control over and do not really often understand. The road to full economic recovery has yet to be traveled by our new administration. And I have a fear that we will be dealing with the economic consequences and recessionary trends of the past six years in this nation for a long time to come. And yet, for the multiplicity of problems that we as a nation are now facing, there is also an impoverishment of spirit, which has taken hold and has caused many beautiful young people to reject political involvement and the goals of progressive social change. By contrast, we can take a look at American youth during the 60s
and they believe James Baldwin when he said 'not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed, until it is faced'. And that activist period in our history taught all of us, that the young people of this country, then organized, then inspired can become a politically powerful force to be reckoned with. It was after all the involvement of the young people on many college campuses during that decade which eventually resulted in an end to this country's tragic involvement in the war in South East Asia. It was black and white young people, working together, and marching together, which helped to bring the cause of civil rights into a national focus.
It was the searching, questioning, young people in groups like Common Cause and environmental action, who demanded, that our government become more accountable and more honest to its citizens. But now at a time, when a renewed spirit, and a revitalization of our people is most needed, the National spirit still seems to be demoralized. The enthusiasm once evidence among young people has turned to disgust or apathy. People from all ages, and from all points of the political spectrum, have minimized their civic and political involvement because they truly believe that it is almost impossible to make any meaningful changes in our system. They do not heed the timeless warning of Edmund Burke. Then he said, 'that the only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good
men to do nothing'. I stated earlier that I truly believe, that the primary responsibility of the educated individual in our society, is that he or she must translate the knowledge gained by the educational process into a commitment to share the opportunities which abound in this country. In other words, my graduating friends, your education has a context, not just a political one, but also a social one, and a moral one. And when I look out into an audience like this one, and I attempt to anticipate your hopes and your dreams, I am struck by the potential which exists. And I believe that the key to maintaining social involvement, and remaining idealistic throughout one's life, is in maintaining a youthful vitality. The late Robert Kennedy himself an example of young
vitality once defined youth in words which I feel are even more true today. He said, that youth is not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, and the appetite for adventure, over the love of ease. These qualities are what I really believe we will need to help propelled this ship of state as we embark upon our third century as a nation. I am certain that our country will face great crises and trials, during the next four years, and I know that all of us have a monumental task ahead. But I also believe that we must begin to travel the road to a rebirth and rejuvenation in this country. The United States of nineteen eighty one is at its crossroads of confidence. It will be up to
you, not those of my generation, to assure that the goals of our government, of our nation are the purest the most moral, and the most democratic. Do not assume that you are powerless. That you cannot make an impact. Be as bold as the first men or woman to eat an oyster. [laughter] Many of the great endeavors throughout history have resulted from the actions and commitment of one individual i.e. Rosa Parks. Social progress and social justice are functions of society which can be brought about by those who make the decision, to apply their knowledge, their energy, and their talents, to our national goals. I am convinced that America will stand, or fall, succeed or fail,
progress, or falter, on the merits of the efforts each of you individually will put forth. I hope, that all of you will recognize that the opportunities which is presented to each of you, as you leave academia, is the desire to contribute positively to making a better nation and a better world, not just for yourselves, but for those who have not enjoyed your experiences. As you leave Mount Holyoke today, I ask that you ponder just how you will wear the mantle of responsibility, which accompanies the achievements we are celebrating here today. You will do your best when you set the highest standards and goals and, then make every effort to do what the Greek philosophers admonished us to do centuries ago. That is to tame the savageness of all men and to make gentle the life of the world. Use the knowledge and the God given intelligence you have
to learn as much as you can about what is going on, not just in this country, but throughout the world. Ask questions, demand answers, do not just tend your garden, and collect your paycheck, and bolt the door and deplore what you see on television. Too many Americans are doing that already. [applause] Instead, you must live in the mainstream of your time and your generation. You must use the education that you got from reading the fine print, and the experience you got from not reading it. [laughter] You must call upon the knowledge and the self-discipline that you have acquired to together forge a new path and to seek new solutions, after the tired ones of the past have failed. But, I sincerely believe
that there will be those of you in this audience, this afternoon, who will seek new solutions, who will give of yourselves you know to make this country and this world a better place. I hope that you can be counted in that group and that you will not lose courage, or heart, when you attempt to change our society for the better. In conclusion, just let me leave these final words with you. Let all of us together right now, ignite our inner fires of commitment, idealism, and determination, because depending on the brilliance of those flames, future generations behind you will either look back with gratitude at your strength, or they will suffer the consequences of your weakness in these final years of the 20th century. God bless you and the best of luck to you and whatever endeavor you will
pursue. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm speaking at the 1981 commencement ceremonies at Mount Holyoke College. On the same day, in Northampton Massachusetts, feminist writer Betty Friedan addressed the graduating class at Smith College. I now call on Betty Friedan, Smith class of 1942 Doctor of Laws ,1975, author
first president of the National Organization for Women, a pioneer in the womens movement to deliver the commencement address. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] Women, persons, family, of Smith, I'm glad to be able to speak to you today, that you've invited, me to speak to you today. This is a very crucial time, I thought to myself, in the middle of the night, thinking, you know, you have to give a cheerful speech at Commencement. How can I possibly give you a cheerful, hopeful, optimistic, speech today. And you know, you're in a very curious place, in a curious time. There are those who think you take it all for granted, all the rights, all the marvelous choices, all the options that you enjoy. That you think that they are your
due, the world is your oyster. That your own exceptional ability has won you those things, that nothing further has to be done, and you don't even realize that they come to you not from your own ability alone, not as great as that may be, but because of the many years of battle, that long centuries, long line of women's movement, preceded you. I don't think that's true. There are those that say you will be super women. You will be a new breed of women and you're going to go on, you know, and be corporation presidents, and before the Century's out we're going to have a woman as president, and no problems. And then there are those who think that the women's movement is over that, that, the nation has turned in reaction, and of though we can't quite figure out how it happened, in another few years, you'll be home again, and it will all be a dream. None of these things is true. Your situation is much more complex. I believe that we indeed, have come to the end of
the beginning. That you must move, into the second stage. That the first day of the sex role revolution, that has changed the lives and the possibilities of life of women, culminated in the modern women's movement. For me, it's,.. the seeds of it, were probably planted here, nearly 40 years ago. In my fifteenth reunion, in 1957, appalled, at what I later came to call the 'feminine mystique' that was working against the very seriousness and truth of education that the women were receiving here. What, in the end, did for me, and the women's movement began. We have had, we have had now 20 years of women's movement.
But we cannot continue in the next few years..... you cannot continue to live, in the terms that we fought, in the first stage of modern feminism, the modern women's movement. I don't have to tell you that you are facing a period of reaction. Without, you know, indeed, that the Equal Rights Amendment in little more than a year will be over for this century and not just a symbol, but as the constitutional underpinning of the very opportunities that you have enjoyed and expect to enjoy in the future. And you know, that the very laws that already embody some parts of the principles of equal opportunity, are themselves already under threat, as hearings are held in the Senate for instance to abolish affirmative action. And while, indeed, you do have many more choices, it seems, some of those choices are not real, and some are more complex than anyone realizes, and the very multiplicity of choices is the problem. And, your very choice, to have a child is not real, and the
safe, legal medical access to birth control and abortion has just been threatened in a, in an active reaction, that is terrible in its over tones of punishment of women, of violence against women, and of the life, the human life, that is woman. [applause] But I do not think that we can fight this reaction from a bra. This reaction, at large in the country, and those who are, if you will, misusing the issues of women's equality, misusing the very choices that we have begun to won, misusing sexual issues and sexual politics, if you will. And the diversion from the real problems threatening the securities of American families today, we cannot fight this reaction unless we transcend the first stage, the premises, the terms, the
rubrics, and transcend the remnant of feminist reaction and false feminist polarization, that still afflicts our consciousness. There is, we must, in our thinking, because this is a place of thought, and it's very important that we begin to ask some new questions, even if we don't have the answers, even if those answers seem inconceivable. In our thinking, we have to distinguish, between a false polarization. We have to transcend certain polarizations that happened in the first stage but that are, are, going to lead us indeed to dead ends. Further, the degree of equality of opportunity we've won, and that you expect to enjoy, will not be able to be preserved and you will not be able to live it, unless we get on to these new questions. Above all, and I say this flat out, and I do not want it
misunderstood, so it's very important you understand what I mean. We must transcend this seeming and false polarization between feminism and the family. We must understand that women's rights, equality of opportunity for women in education, employment, finance, and the rest, and the Equal Rights Amendment the absolutely essential constitutional underpinning of these rights, is essential today for the survival of families. [applause] Now I don't want anyone leaving here to say Betty Friedan is saying we must go back to the family. We must retreat to the family. I am not saying that at all. I must say, we must move on. We must move on to come to new terms with a dynamic, evolving family that our own equality makes possible. And we must do that in order to live,
enjoy, and defend and preserve this equality. I am not saying that we can, or would ever dream of returning to the family of The Feminine Mystique. To the, to uh the sort of, the role of the passive dependent housewife which was a denigration and an insult to the intelligent women for instance, that were, even while they were writing 'housewife' on the census language, which I did in my time, you know, and who knows if you will not in some years of your time. The reality of intelligent Smith women that were housewives was very different from that denigrating image. But there is no way, that women today for reasons of economic survival of families, if nothing else, can return to even play acting, a dependent, subservient, passive, role of housewife which where woman is quote unquote 'just a housewife' where she is defined in terms solely as man's wife, children's mother, server of physical needs of husband,
children, and home. That image, that defined and confined our image, our possibilities, our potential energies, nearly 20 years ago when I gave it the term The Feminine Mystique. But we have to beware of being locked in a reactionary feminist mystique. Feminism, the gut reality of mainstream feminism, has opened life and the possibility of life for women, men, and children. But the reality of feminism, in no way is opposed to the family. In the first stage, because we were the very ability of women to work outside the home, and get a decent wage of, and get access to professions, whether women were housewives, whether women were working outside the home, was held back by that image of woman, the feminine mystique, that defined women solely in terms of the passive subservient housewife role in the family, are thrust in the first stage of feminism
had to be on the personhood of woman, and on breaking through the barriers, the simple barriers, if you will of sex discrimination in the society, as well as those barriers, as we interjected them in our own consciousness, that kept us from moving as people in our own right, and fully demanding the equality of opportunity that was our human birthright, our American birthright, that Feminine Mystique. We had to get rid of it. We had to break through it. That we had to break through the limitations, to affirm our position and that of women. And the thrust was on the things that we did, as individuals. As individuals in, in, in professions and in all that field outside the home that had been called and defined man's world and where women moved only as exceptions and freaks did the menial housework. We had to make ourselves visible of that world. We had to break through the barriers. We had to uncover all the buried history, the double standards, that existed when women were invisible as people
in that world. But, there was a danger. There was a slight danger, and the media exaggerated it. But some of our own ideological mistakes, and our own rhetoric carried the danger too. Of a reaction so strong against the feminine mystique that if you will there was a tendency to throw out some of the the baby off with the bathwater. To throw it out, a little bit. That from to being defined soley in terms of obsolete narrow definition of woman's role that wasn't really possible to live in the new 80 year lifespan, and in the new economic demands of society. We, even if we were still living in terms of families, of facing choices, and decisions about children, uh, and in, in existing marriages are facing questions about marriages, our consciousness, the part of it that we termed as feminism, focused on these
other questions. And then there came to be the image that somehow feminism against the family as, if you know, a narrow definition of feminism, family didn't belong. And then this played into reaction. Where reaction took some ideological mistake are ideological oversimplifications that seemed right for a while. They sounded revolutionary. They expressed our anger. Women had a right to feel angry if they were put down. They were put down as they were in the office, in the classroom, even in some subtle ways in this very university, although this college was less guilty than most. Nevertheless, it couldn't it couldn't be completely immune from what was in the culture. There was paternalism here. There was even some instances of probably of sex discrimination unconscious, even though the basic, basic, the basic thrust of Smith always was to take women seriously as people when nobody else did. When it wasn't fashionable. When even feminism had been buried in
consciousness. But. The anger, that women like all dependent people had been taking out on their own bodies and in self hatred, self-denigration, and malaises that the doctors got rich not curing, and then take it out covertly on husbands and children, now this anger was out in the open. And in the political idiom of the sixties, it was easy to make a kind of a sexual politics out of the basic movement for the personhood and the equality of women, until it began to seem a war of woman as a class of press down with man as a class of oppressers, down with the family, down with motherhood, down with marriage, down with everything women had ever done to attract man, or down with everything that man the Patriarchs the male chauvinist pigs had ever done. And you know the excesses of this, they were probably before your time. But they, they gave what I consider a bit of a false image to, well women's lib, a term that I don't use, because I think it's imbued with that
image. The thrust of the women's movement was the personhood of women and was the equality of opportunity that was essential. Today, I am concerned with our ability, with your ability to live that equality and to preserve it. We have to realize, that if we place a Feminine Mystique, which denied, ignored, did not allow us to think in terms of the aspirations and the potentials of women, which are not defined by her role as wife and mother. If we replaced that by a feminist mystique, there denies the aspects and attributes of the personhood of women that through the ages have been expressed in nurture. Our own needs to love and be loved. The realities of family which are the human nutrient for us all. We short change ourselves, our potential, our personhood, as
women. The task for you is to put it all together. Am I saying then that I expect you all to be superwoman. I expect you to get out of that trap of being superwoman. You see, what we've had today, we are not yet transcending that awful either or split, that pendulum swing from feminism to Feminine Mystique, back and forth, back and forth, which in effect brought the first century long struggle for women's rights to a halt after the vote was won in 1920, because those first feminists, the suffragettes, our foremothers, did not confront the realities of the family. There is no way, that you can live and preserve the equality, that you want, you deserve, that we have fought for, and that degree of which we have
now, though what is endangered. You cannot live this without coming to new terms about the family. The next stage of feminist. The next stage of the sex rule revolution of which the women's movement was only the first stage, cannot be seen in terms of women alone, and certainly not in terms of women against men. Nor can it be lived in superwoman terms [applause]. What are you going to do? Are you going to follow the example of Dress for Success? You know to get your Mark Cross briefcase, and all the rest of it, and your suit and a fedora hat, or whatever the thing to be worn this year, and strive for success as a law partner, doctor, senator, what have you, competing as you can now compete, in the world of business and professions, competing according standards of success, based on the life times of men who
had wives to take care of all the details of life. And a secretary to send out to buy their wives presents, right. [applause] Standards of success, said in terms of man whose whole identity was based on beating the competitive rat race and at the same time meet the standards of home and family set in terms of the lives of women who had defined their whole identity, their whole status, their whole power, in society in terms of the perfectly controlled home, the perfectly controlled family, and who had all the time in the world to do it because she wasn't expected to do anything else. And then are you going to try to do this more docilely, even then the man in the work world because you're good girls. You know you're achievers, your success. You got all A's in school, you know, and you're not very confident of your ability to do it, so you're going to try to do it better, more docilely, in a way than a man and being just as sort of passive. You could be, if you follow that superwoman image, just as
passive, in your service, and success as the old Feminine Mystique housewife image was supposed to be passive in her selfless service, of a children at home. You know, even the men are saying no, to that image, which is killing them, which is making them die, 10 years younger, than the women their age. Are you going to give up what I do believe are the feminine strengths, the strengths that we had from women, as women whether or not they're in our DNA and RNA, I don't know I'm not a biologist, but they are somewhere there in our socialization that has made us sensitive to the needs of a life, and to feelings, and to our own needs into certain aspects of human experience that the men were sheltered from and didn't conceptualize. Will we give up those strengths, our own evolutionary strengths, for their heart attacks and strokes? I hope not. But then we have to ask some new questions and set some new standards.
For instance. what about the choice to have children? Do you see, I know that some of you, and I've talked to some of you, you observe, the fatigue, shall we say, and the pressure, and the stress, of your superwoman older sisters, and you say, well, I don't know that I can have children. Because, I mean, how can I have children. I mean, I'm not going to have children and then hand them over to somebody else to raise. And you know, I mean, I think you have to be a perfect mother. And, uh, what kind of a life? And I really am interested in my work, or I don't want to even think about this, don't talk to me about equal rights, I mean, because if I think about equality too much, I'll have to think about some of these other questions, and I frankly don't see how I can put it all together. You know, or I don't want to be like my mother, but who do I want to be like? You know, I mean tall this, this, this, kind of question, the choice to have children. I am worried about women today who are coming up against the biological clock.
35, 38, 40, 42, and have not a really good choice to have children. I fought for the choice to have children. I was the one, that first said in the woman's movement, we must confront the person and woman requires that we have safe legal medical access to all forms of birth control, up to and including at this stage of technological development a safe legal medical access to abortion, and this must be confronted in terms of the personhood of women. [applause] But the choice to have children, it goes much further then safe legal access to all kinds of birth control. The choice to have children is a positive value. Do you have a choice to have children? When your paycheck is needed for the couple's survival, for the couple's good standard of living, and you are locked into a profession that you're maybe lucky to be in, by where in fact there is no good provision
for paternity and maternity leave. And where, there, you are not sure that the job, the opening, the Residency, the chance of partnership, will not be foregone if you take some leave or even if you can work out the leave thing where the hours of work seem so inflexible that they cannot be combined with childrearing. And then who is going to take care of the child and even if he is willing to do more than help, to really signed with blood and equal parenting partnership contract, you know. He's also locked into the same hours of work, and he can't, and he is just beginning to think that he might ask for paternity leave. Now, we are not going to get, we are not going to get, the flexible hours, the flexible benefits, the flexible leaves, and the childcare aids and options we need, in terms of women alone. It is not going to be won or achieved to, forget for a moment the political reaction, even without it, it could not be won or achieved in terms of women alone.
The second stage, there has to be an equal partnership with men, there has to be a new sex role for men as a basic element of the thing. The choice to have children, I am not saying that every woman has to have a child to fulfill ourselves, we are going to find much more out in the second stage of ways that we can be generative through an 80 year lifespan, other than having children, and after having children, and before having children, but the choice to have children, is a positive value. A value that has relevance through the ages, that is the mystery, the awe, the reverence of motherhood is more than a mystique. It is more than a mystique. It is liberated to be a truly human joyous responsable chosen motherhood by the safe legal access to birth control and abortion, as a last resort. But we must transcend some of our own political mistakes in the abortion battle, to fight the hypocrisy and the demagogic
thing that we are getting from outside. [coughs] There is something questionable, as you know, I don't have to tell you, about groups that use the word life, and say they are for life, but seem only be, to be concerned with life be, in, in nine months. In the nine months before you know it moves on the earth. And you want to take away the protections of children against being, and women against our violence and abuse and men then to say women must even, be, pay a penalty and be punished after they've already been punished by rape and incest. There is a questionable nature and I refuse to let them, them and you must refuse to let them preempt that term for life. We are for life. We are for life. A women's life is a human life. A child's life is a human life. The ability to choose when and whether to have a child and to bring only a wanted child into the earth,
this is essential to life. Our reverence for life traditional for women is part of our strength of women, but if we do not say that this should be specialized to women any more, men will have this nurtured, in themselves as they share the childrearing. But I think that we should never let our selves be put in a position where we are for abortion against those who are for life. We are for the choice to have children. And that has to be a choice. And at this stage of the game, when the pill, when IUD can have such you know unforseen, bad consequence, sometimes on women's health and what's a myriad of other aspects of the current stage of technological development, that choice to have children requires safe legal medical access to abortion as a last result. And we know, realistically, as they know, that women will continue to have
abortions whether they make it illegal are not. But if they make it illegal, those women will endanger their lives. Poor women, especially their lives, and their future choice to have children by butcher coathanger abortions. But in fighting for the choice to have children we must also, with the new alliances, of men of labor, men of business, men of professions, men across a political spectrum, who put the interests of life first, we must also move for the restructuring of work, the restructuring of jobs for flex time and leave benefits that that do not now exist. These are not impossible to see at a time when inflation is making the value of even wage increases almost worthless as soon as they are won. It is going to be more and more feasible to get union cooperation, business cooperation, in getting some of the quality of life and the quality of work life, issues into union contract, into professional,
professional standards. But again, not in terms of women alone, only an excuse not to give women a job, only an excuse to add cost on the thing, and not certainly in terms of women against men, because the men of your generation can be just as interested in these things, of more control over their life, of more time for family and other values, as you are. The quiet movement of American men is the other half of what has has been happening in the last 20 years, [applause] you know. [applause] The, the uh, the, these the men, the men are now saying, in my new book which I just finished last week, the second stage, so you're getting a preview, you know.... that that, the man said, a man said to me, 'all I've heard for the last ten years is women, women, women, women, what does it mean to be a woman, how do I fulfill myself as a woman. They even make men talk about women. Well what about me?' He says, 'all I have is my job, and it isn't a very good job either'. They are ready to move, a lot of them. Sure some of them
are resistant. Some are hostile. So are some women, but all of the polls show, and the polls don't lie, that some of the basic life issues and changes here are shared by the real majority, the real moral majority. Do you know, in in America. Child care. Child care. How on earth are, you going to say, you're going to say to me, how on earth, can you have any hope that we can get anywhere on childcare, when in fact all the services, the social services, for the young and the old, and all growing living things are being cut out, in this Reagan budget you know. And I have to tell you frankly, that it doesn't seem conceivable in the near future, that we are going to get massive public federal funding of programs for child care. But we are going to have to innovate new terms of community control community oriented, parent controlled, parent
oriented, child care in order to live the, the, our dreams of equality in our economic necessities in the years ahead. A four, a report recently released by the Ford Foundation says that by 1990 only one out of four young mothers will be able to be, afford to stay home with children full time. I would like that to be a real choice for a woman or a man in the early years, in children's early years. I would like to see some form of child allowance, or tax rebate, or voucher system, which, which could be used to put the value on the work that is involved in child care on whoever takes primary responsibility to it if the family is going to uh uh, make a decision for those years, in those terms, and then if they decide that they're going to share the responsibility for childcare and of the bread winning, then let them use the voucher system to help pay, first for childcare, from a
multiplicity, a pluralistic range of outside sources, you know, Church, College, company, union, the unused school buildings of the local school system. There is a lot of ways of doing it. There's a lot of ways of giving tax incentive for it. If we could have felt with some despair, a few weeks ago, that this government may have become completely unresponsive to the, we, needs and the will of the people at least the Senate vote recently 96 to 0, turning back, the cutting down, the drastic slashing, in old age, social security, should give us some hope. There is a way, that we can make our needs and desires felt, as women, or as the young parents, that you will be. There is a way. One of the ways will begin this month, that for the Equal Rights Amendment, we are going to start the kind of countdown they did with the hostages. On June 30th there will be 365 days to go, before the dream of
equal rights is over for our constitution for this century. And your energies will be, have to be spent. They will have to be spent on top of the problems of your families, of your work, which, which already takes superwoman energies, and makes some women wish they could forget the whole thing and go home again except, to where and who's going to pay for it all. On top of that, you're going to have to spend energies fighting, fighting, fighting, just to stay in place to, to, as you keep getting pushed backward and backward from where we've already won, of rights we've already won. So where is the hope then, that you can fight reaction? How are you going to do this? Am I, you know, how are you going to do it, to save the rights, to say win the Equal Rights Amendment, to bring about a political miracle in a political change in the face of the reaction today. Well, I'm going to call you to something that is very much a part
of the Smith tradition. This education that you and I have shared, that it is more important to the movement of woman in the largest case, did two things to us, to me and I think to you, because it took me seriously as a person, as a woman. Made me take myself seriously, and it made me believe that it was my responsibility, and my possibility, to affect my society. In the words of the Hebrew prophet, ancestor of my people,'If I am not for myself who will be for me. But if I am only for myself, what am I?' The tradition of social responsibility is the part of the uniqueness of Smith education. It probably is not an accident, that so many of those who have helped carry this wonderful life affirming movement the women's movement, have come out
of Smith. But what about the next stage. There is nothing guaranteed about it you know. It has gone so far before. And been turned back. It has gone so far before and been turned back. One of the reasons that perhaps there isn't enough energy being put to equal rights amendment today or to save the right of choice and childbirth is that women are so burdened. Are so burdened with the double burden of that workplace under obsolete standards and the home without changing the standards, without restructuring the job, without restructuring the home. Now I want to tell you something. I want to share a new part of the buried history with you. You know, that the first wave of the battle for women's rights was turned back after 1920 because of not confronting the concrete problems of family, of combining family and work, the rights on
paper didn't mean much. The legal right, the political right to vote didn't mean much when women didn't have economic rights. And what happened was that a few women had careers implicitly forgoing marriage or at least motherhood. And a good majority of American women continued to marry, have families, have children, and the implicit assumption was that they would not go into serious professional careers. And then we had the fertile soil for the feminine mystique. I discovered, in the course of my research for the second stage, that in the 1920s here at Smith. Right where we are now, just before, That, first wave came to a standstill, there was an institute for the restructuring of work and home. The very sort of thing that I discovered you know, inventing the wheel all over again that we must move on now for the second stage, a woman named Ethel Puffer Howes, who led, was one of the leaders of the battle to win the vote, and she had, she married in her late 30s, and had her children in her early 40s
and she knew, that the vote, that winning those rights on paper meant nothing for women unless they were going to be able to combine professions in the world, and home and family. And with the blessings of the Smith faculty and the board of trustees an Institute for, I don't think they called it restructure of work and home, but that's what it dealt with, work and family, was started at Smith and lasted for eight years here. It held, had pilot projects, it got, it used the best of social scientists, biological scientists, scientists to address their minds and the knowledge that was, what this place was, a repository to these problems. Child care, the Smith nursery school, the Smith, you know, school is an offshoot of that. The childcare pilot project. Pilot projects in new ways a food preparation, communal food preparation, that were easier to combine with work world. Whole research projects on the restructuring of work to
a part time careers, for instance. At that point I don't think that she could see in terms of part time or flex time for women and men, and women and men, sharing the housework as we see today, for they are on the sex role revolution. But at least they began to address these problems. And then do you know what happened? A real wave of reaction took place. And reactionary economic forces in this country, the same kind of groups that are financing the moral majority now, in the false name of the family, brought to a halt, the research that was being done on the possibilities of the evolving dynamic family that equality could have brought about. In acquiescence to this reaction, the Smith faculty and the Board of Trustees closed the institute, in the name of the family, whereas this was what was going to make possible a family that really used, you know, and could use, the education that Smith could provide. At the same time,
while Marxism or Communism had a more blind spot about women than capitalism, the Russian Revolution and the end of World War One, made a kind of general political reaction where it was discovered, a brilliant economic discovery, that by keeping all those women at home, buying appliances, and by saddling the worker with a mortgage for a lot of individual houses, you could, you know, keep a lot, keep a kind of a conservatism that you could keep it at, an easy to see product for goods and uh supposedly the red wave, the red scare of all the women's organizations were on a list like red channels, you know. Even if organizations, as League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, and women's temperance they were all, uh, red baited along with the feminist organizations the Smith Institute was closed by the time I was in Smith in the forties. Nobody had even
heard of it. I didn't know it existed until I happened to read some archives, this year. We could all be wiped out. On the other hand, we are not in the same place, that we were in 1920. There is the possibility for a dynamic large new political alliance in the service of life that you can be part of. I am not calling you to a single issue kind of feminist politics, that seem to be on mode in the first stage. That was really not our mode. We were much more than single issue, but in the next stage it cannot be a single issue. It cannot be single issue. I am calling you to a new passionate voluntourism. The kind of passionate political activism in this service of life that got a bad name as voluntourism. As a part of feminist reaction to the exploitation of women in volunteer
activity, and the denigration of women in volunteer activity, as they had been denigrated in domestic work and in the family. Not to old kind of, a kind of a do good voluntourism where the women, the women that were housewives, could, could do sometimes even busy work and, or, or work in the service of life that nobody else would do, but the serious committed voluntourism that in fact Smith graduates have always done. And the kind of real communal political activism that the mainstream political parties have not elicited, in your generation or mine, in recent years, because they have not dealt with the needs of the interests of life. I am saying that we cannot rely on federal government agencies. We cannot rely on Congress or the courts in the foreseeable future, to deliver the services we need in life. We are not going to get them by women doing them, like rolling bandages again either,
because women now have the double burden of family and of work. But women and men must come to a new passion of political activism. A humanist political activism of passion of volunteerism that we have not seen in recent years for our selves, for our families and [applause] as the hope. The hope for a new politics in America that can transcend this current moment of reaction.That can transcend it. And restore this country to the services of life which are our concern, your concern. You have the strength to do this. You must do this. You must ask these new questions, even though you neither you nor I can see the answers. [applause] [applause]
[applause] [applause] [applause] Betty Friedan, speaking at the Smith's college commencement ceremony on May 24th 1981. Assistants in the production of this program, was provided by Mount Holyoke College and Smith College. The producer for this program was Rick Greenberg. [music] A production of WFCR in Amherst.
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- Commencement addresses delivered by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm at Mt. Holyoke College and feminist writer Betty Friedan at Smith College. Chisholm encourages graduates to fulfill their responsibility to positively change society. Friedan talks about the second stage of the women's movement and the relationship between feminism and the family.
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- Five College Forum is a show featuring speeches and in-depth conversations between faculty from the Five Colleges about social issues.
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Producer: Greenberg, Rick
Producing Organization: New England Public Radio
Speaker: Friedan, Betty
Speaker: Chisholm, Shirley, 1924-2005
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Identifier: 209.06 (SCUA)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Five College Forum; Commencement Addresses by Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan,” 1981-05-24, New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-305-82x3fpr6.
- MLA: “Five College Forum; Commencement Addresses by Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan.” 1981-05-24. New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-305-82x3fpr6>.
- APA: Five College Forum; Commencement Addresses by Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan. Boston, MA: New England Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-305-82x3fpr6