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I really think it isn't too much different being a woman member of Congress than a male member of Congress. The voice you just heard was that of United States representative Charlotte tea Reid Republican of Illinois. And our guest this week on the NPR Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a discussion on the role of women in government. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you American University Radio in Washington D.C. I many our public affairs director Bill Greenwood representative Charlotte Reed is among the handful of women he like to do membership in the 90th Congress. Our first session of Congress was the 88 she was subsequently re-elected and is now serving in her fifth year on Capitol Hill. The representative was a widow and the mother of four children. She has a long history of involvement in the political activities of her hometown a roarer Illinois a suburb of Chicago. This is
right as our first question just which title is correct in referring to you as a Congress man or a congresswoman. Well if you are we're going to be very technical. I would be called a congressman. But most people do refer to me as Congresswoman. There are a few women members of Congress I think who feel very strongly about this and want to be called Congressman. But frankly I'm not sensitive about it at all. Well is there an established protocol on the title. Well I suppose if you would say that it would be Congressman yes. And which do you prefer. It makes no difference to me I'd like to be called Charlotte frankly. Well very good. How many female colleagues do you have Mrs. RAY. Well there are 11 of us in the house and one in the Senate 12 in the entire Congress which of course isn't a very large percentage out of the 535 members in the entire got growth in talking to your female colleagues do you feel their attitude toward membership
in this predominantly Myo Congress are about the same as yours. Perhaps we differ somewhat in our views frankly. I feel and I feel I couldn't speak for the other woman. Women in the Congress. But I feel that I am here to represent the constituents of my district all of the members people in my district and trying to represent not only the women of course but the men as well. And I feel that I'm here as an elected member of Congress not as a woman although one must say that a woman does bring perhaps certain attributes to a job that a man doesn't. Well you would I suppose have to admit it's a unique idea for a woman to serve in Congress what prompted you to seek election to the post.
Well frankly I had never had political aspirations for myself. I certainly had from my husband. And it happened that we were redistricted in Illinois so that the incumbent in our district retired. So there was a. Quite a battle for the seat. There were eight men who ran this was in at that time our primary was in April you know and I've since been changed to June but in April of 62 My husband Frank Reid won the nomination. There were eight men who ran as I said. Then I was very active with him and his campaign went with him every day. We started in the morning to this to the factory gates went to the Hall of coffees and traveled throughout the district walked up and down the street shook
hands with people. And then of course the political meetings that night at so that I felt very much a part of the campaign. However when he died in August and I was asked to run in his place my answer was No. It just seemed incredible to me and impossible. And then. I talked with my four children. And I started thinking. That this would be an opportunity for me to carry on the ideals in the hopes of my husband and I we agreed in our philosophy. And then I thought perhaps if I didn't accept this challenge I would be sorry later. But of course I had to decide about a week after he died which was very difficult. But after discussing his with my family I decided to to go ahead and run so I
did run in the November election. Did you initially know of any problems which your family faced as a result of your decision to run. Had I had very small children I think my decision would have been different but my children are fairly grown at that time my youngest daughter was 15 and the other children lives were I had pretty much of a pattern they were in school one in the Marines one married. So this I think was part of the decision to the fact that my children were taken care of fairly well as far as they their their lives were concerned and had their own lives to live. What was the preelection attitude of the voters to this decision. While I'm sure I know that there were people who felt that. I was not the one to
run. And yet since it's been most gratifying to me I have had so many people come to me and say Well I I felt this wasn't the thing to do and I'm going to be frank and say that. I didn't vote for you but my feelings have changed and I feel you're doing a good job and this is the one of the nicest things that can happen I think I can well imagine. What do you find to be the biggest stumbling block to a woman serving in this predominantly male branch of the government. You know if there is one that frankly I haven't really found stumbling blocks because of being a woman I think it's an advantage to be a woman in the house quote. I think that the men do the men in the House do go out of their way. To be courteous to
give us every opportunity to express our thoughts to express our ideas and in fact I think even more so than a man would have. And as far as a woman is feeling downtrodden because I'm a woman I certainly don't. What do you feel then perhaps maybe some of these congressmen referring to my own Congress. Are perhaps bending over backwards not that seems to be the implication you get. I feel this way yes. I think not only in. Committee but on the floor. Although we we certainly ask for no special privileges. I'm sure the other women feel this way just as I do we're here to serve just as the men are but and we expect to be treated equally expect no special consideration but I do think we
receive it because the other gentleman well as you say it's nice to have a woman in the house. This is quite different from something I read in April an article in Parade magazine by Jack Anderson associate of Drew Pearson the headline of the article and your photograph is right there on the cover. Congress women say the men of the House are on fire. Would you comment on that title for his article. Yes. When I saw the article I was really I felt completely sure grinned because it was absolutely opposite to my feeling and the feelings I had stated in talking with the man who I didn't talk with Jack Anderson and not with another man. But in fact I was so. Hell I say annoyed that I wrote that letter and sent it
to every member of the house explaining my feelings saying that this was not the way I felt that I would and as I said before I felt that it was an advantage to be a woman that I felt I had been treated fairly and even more so. And I must say that I received some prize answers. I have a stack of letters from members answering my own letter which are really very understanding and some quite humorous too. Were you in contact with Mr. Anderson following publication of this article. No I wasn't. So you don't really know what his motivations were. No I I assume perhaps in talking with the. Other three he may have gathered this picture but
I talked with them myself and they didn't feel this way I don't feel that any you know one of the women who was in that picture ever actually said that she was treated unfairly. The article I implied is that many members of the Congress may be more interested in the clothes you're wearing on a given day rather than what you have to say about it. A key if you have mastered much you're quite attractive. Do you think that this well a natural sex difference focuses attention of your male colleagues on the wrong things. Well I think not. Basically no but I will say that there is a banter of sorts between the men and the women which is it's a good humor and friendly but I think when it comes down to the actual work in the house I think we're given every consideration and.
I think the men do listen. What specific problems have you faced if any with relation to this difference Have there been any types other than attitudes. Well I have to call out and I will. This is this is the humorous side and this was either brought out in the article you were mentioning but we have a gym in the Rayburn building you know and there's a pool and the women are given hours in the morning which are a little difficult to use because hair problems and so forth. So. And also of course we're not we don't use the gym. Well there was a flyer which was sent around to all of the members saying. Members may report to the gym at
such and such a time and I was around four o'clock in the afternoon for calisthenics. So this was just my sense of humor I couldn't resist it I thought you know how funny this would be to get a couple of the other women we go knocking on the door and say Well here we are we're ready for calisthenics. So this is what we did and we this was purely as a joke. And Mr. Botts in the gym did come to the door and he was in his gym clothes and ready to conduct the class and calisthenics and he was completely non-plussed of course and we you know we were very straight faced at that. We were ready and he he was very pleasant and said well I can certainly understand your feeling and now can come in let's talk about this and I'm trying to be very nice to us and then finally he pushed the button and the intercom went into the gym. The men were all assembled and he said I have three.
Ladies here who are members of Congress who are here to report for calisthenics course there was this roar and I would bring them in bring them in. Well we finally told him that it was a joke. But the my point is that apparently in a position of this kind being a member of Congress you you can't really have a little humor without it backfiring in some way. And there were articles to the effect that I pounded on the door and said I'm a member you let me and I have rights just as you men do which was not. True and that we also went in and I saw that some of the congressman in various states of undress which was untrue. So I decided perhaps I'd better. Sort of think about it before I let my sense of humor get away with me kid.
I understand that several years ago there were even more common problems for women in the Capitol building. Of course it had been geared to my own membership and there were no restroom facilities at the chamber. Yes I have talked with some of the women who told me of this. Of course now we do have a very beautiful room. Have you ever seen it. No not yet. It's discrimination in the right. Well of course there are just 11 of us who use these rooms and there are not too many people there usually so occasionally when I have friends with me who have and have male members I look in if there's no one there I can take them in because it is a beautiful room. It's a room to where we are which is close to the floor it's right off a statuary hall and it has a history also there's a bust of John Quincy Adams in the room.
And as you know the house used to meet in Statuary Hall when we were smaller of course and before that the other wing was added and apparently John Quincy Adams had done so. Kind of seizure and was taken into that room and the couch on which he died is still in the room and I don't know why I've told this at the various meetings when I've been telling people about the capitol and somehow this seems to be humorous to people the fact that John Quincy Adams died in the ladies room and everyone always laughs and I'm not telling it as a joke but we do have adequate facilities now I think we can't complain. Congressman Reid and I'll call your congressman for protocol purposes. Do you foresee a major change in the role of the government with respect to female involvement. And do you feel that that the initial involvement of you few women might
be the vanguard of a larger change in this area. Yes I think so and I do hope so I think that there is great a great field for women in public service in government. And the fact that I see it all the time that women are becoming more informed and more interested. And of course women do play quite a role in the political. Affairs because the women do outnumber men as you know and I think man or B are realizing this more and more that the women's vote is extremely important and I think that women will become more involved however this is something that is a puzzle I think particularly to people who come to our country from other countries and they know of the well they hear of the wealth of the women over here the
influence women are supposed to have and yet so few women are actually taking an active role in our government. And I thought of this many times and tried to figure out the reasons and I think one reason is that it isn't an all consuming job. I'm thinking as a member of Congress No. This isn't a part time job anymore and you have to be able to devote not only the time during the working hours of the day but after hours also and I think perhaps this is one thing that a woman particularly woman with a family couldn't be involved in something like this where she might have a job what would have definite hours. And I think a man of course can do this more than a woman because
of course basically a woman's place they say is in the home. But I think that also that perhaps the idea of such a. Confrontation with man all of the time that you're competing is frightening to some women and you get back. Maybe this is a little off the track but I did say something about Woman's Place being in the home and I don't want you to feel that this is my statement because I think woman's place is in the home in the church in the school in the office in the factory. I think woman's place is really any place where she is most helpful most needed and most challenge her. Well of course you're referring to the general emancipation of women and yes that's right. Do you have any advice for females who might be listening and
are interested in politics what would you suggest to them. Well I think really to start working at the local level is the is the most important thing. I think they can become. Interested become involved and become more informed. And there is a great opportunity then to do more of the field to open up to them. Of course many set their sights perhaps set their sights higher than that and in my particular case of course I did work with my husband locally but I would say I didn't work locally thinking of myself and circumstances do often alter cases. But I think in most instances a woman should keep herself informed of national
issues and she can do this on the local level and be very helpful life. I feel probably everyone should keep themselves or I or. Some state somewhere right now I'm sure there are some I am shrugging his shoulders and saying I'm not right. What would you say to this person. You mean it's not right for a woman to feel this way. Well I would say that frankly I think there are too many men who feel this way. No. I have a a district which is a rather cross section I think of the average American. It's a combination of industry and agriculture and I think perhaps a person living in a rural area might be more
inclined to think that perhaps a woman's place was in the home more than in a you know spot of government work such as I am forgetting the house yes. And yet these are many of the men who have come to me and have said that that they're pleased that I did assume this responsibility and I think that when a man such as this. Actually. Takes it upon himself to speak to you and feel sincerely in this way. I think it's the general attitude of men these days. Once they're shown that a woman can assume responsibility and be dedicated and capable and sincere in her job I think they're willing to support them.
Certainly someone supporting you were you would have been re-elected twice. Do you feel perhaps that because of your role as a female member of Congress you might tend to work harder at the job. I think that may be true because I think in competition with men women do feel that they would they want to do perhaps just a little better. And I think you have to to work a little harder. I think this is true in most jobs not just in in government but I think a woman has this has this attitude. This is Speaking generally only on the involvement of women in government. There have been charges made throughout history that women have been discriminated against in employment in the federal government particularly supervisory positions of real responsibility. You hear of a girl especially here in Washington and you think of a clerk typist. How do you feel on this question of female
employment by the government in a civil service status do you feel there is still some discrimination there. Well I certainly think there's less and less and of course I just did do this last year to various laws which have been passed have certainly I think assured of women of equal opportunity and equal rights so to speak. I think that by and large. Most of the time that women if they do the job are not treated in this way. Now I'm sure this is gone on through the years I don't say that women haven't been discriminated against through the years because I think women have had to prove themselves because as I say they they were mostly in the home. They were wives and mothers that is the the basic role of a woman and
I'm I'm still not I don't want to take away from that I still feel that is a woman's basic role but it doesn't mean it has to be her only one. I think there are many women now who are quite content to stay in the nursery and in the kitchen and. The hand that used to just rock the cradle is out doing some powerful rocking in other areas. And I suppose also our modern society has provided the time saving devices to allow in this freedom. Certainly true and I think they're taking advantage of this. And I notice also statistical reports recently which show girls in college are more and more of them are majoring in political science which is a rather unusual twist and perhaps upon their graduation we can foresee more of this. I think this is true and I have many young women coming to see me who have majored in political science and are interested in.
Careers in this area. My own daughter received her master's in political science and although she's married and has two children I think in fact she says if her husband doesn't go into politics she's going to. She is extremely interested and I feel this. I find this with many young women nowadays they don't have to actually be in some position of. In government or have a career but they can be women who are housewives but who do have a definite interest in our playing I think a very important role and in. Our affairs in national affairs. One final question and this reverses back to the old question of how much
faith a man puts in the woman sitting there on Capitol Hill. Many say that you have taken a strong stance especially in the area of foreign policy. Do you feel that your words as a female member are being accepted and influencing the debates in Congress. Well I hope so. And I also feel that when I'm speaking in this way I'm not only uttering my own thoughts and convictions but I feel the I'm speaking for the actually majority of the people in my district also. And this is certainly what I try to do of course. You come down to the actual vote. When you say aye or no. The ultimate decision is your own. And I base this on. Certainly trying to study all facets of any legislation the pros in the guns and out weighing
one against the other. But along with this I I like to know the opinions of the people in my district and I send out a questionnaire every year. An opinion poll to the people in my district just for this purpose so that I can know they aid the trend of the thinking and the feeling in my district and I just received the results of this last one and its most gratifying it was a I felt I had a fine response and of course many people add thoughts and comments to the actual questions. And some say well I can't answer this with a just a yes or no and I try to tell them. I feel this way many times too I wish I could say yes. If such and such a thing we truly know about that I have to say and I write now. So in summary then we might say that there is a definite influence on the part of the women in
Congress and contrary to the columnist the men of the House are not so unfair. You would agree. I certainly would. Thank you so much Congresswoman. Congress man Charlotte Free. It's my pleasure. You've been listening to a discussion on the role of women in government featuring United States representative Charlotte Reed Republican of Illinois. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington D.C.. This is Bill Greenwood inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of the unity our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This is the national educational radio network.
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NER Washington forum
Role of women in government
Producing Organization
WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Guests are United States Representative Charlotte T. Reid, R-Illinois.
Series Description
Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
Public Affairs
Media type
Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Reid, Charlotte T. (Charlotte Thompson), 1913-2007
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-17 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:51
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