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Georgia Women's Movement Oral History Project: P

A guide to the Georgia Women's Movement Oral History Project collection.

Parker, Eva

Interviewee: Eva Parker
Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: April 27, 2000
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs; 46 page transcript

Eva Mae Parker was born in 1919 in Pearson, Georgia. When she was twenty-four years old, Parker moved with her husband to Connecticut where she worked in an airplane factory making nuts and bolts during the Second World War. Beginning in 1972, Parker worked as a sales representative with AAA in Atlanta and as such, was able to travel around the world. Parker became involved in the ERA campaign through workshops at local churches. Prior to her involvement in the Women's Movement, Parker was also active in the Civil Rights Movement, fighting for voters' rights. She became involved with the People of Faith for ERA and later worked as a liaison between the State Department and the United Methodist Women Organization. After the defeat of the ERA, Parker remained interested in women's issues.
Parker begins by recounting her childhood in rural South Georgia. She describes life in a poor black family, without consistent access to education. Parker states that the Methodist Church was a very powerful influence in her life, and that it was in fact the Methodist Church which led her to her work in the ERA: Supportive of the Equal Rights Amendment, the church sent her to a number of ERA-related workshops. Parker speaks about her interests in the Civil Rights Movement and Gay Rights, and she recalls an incident during the early 1960s when she successfully demanded that black voters be allowed to vote in the same place as white voters, rather than behind the courthouse, as had been the tradition. The first woman to be elected onto her church’s Council on Ministries, she discusses the work she undertook for the United Methodist Women, including serving as liaison between that group and the State Department, and attending the SALT II talks. Finally, Parker talks about issues that are currently important to women, and she cites family abuse as an area that needs to be dealt with.

Parsons, Sara M.

Interviewee: Sara Mitchell Parsons
Interviewer: Janet Paulk
Date of Interview: May 5, 1999
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs; 38 page transcript

Sara Mitchell Parsons was born in Canton, Georgia in 1912, and graduated from Atlanta Girl's High in 1930. After high school, Parsons completed a total of two years of public affairs coursework at Georgia Evening School (now Georgia State University), Emory University, Humboldt State University, College of the Redwoods, and Mills College. After college, Parsons began a lengthy career in public affairs as a member of the Atlanta Board of Education (1961-1968). After moving to California, she served as an elected member from the 3rd District to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, the first woman elected in the 120-year history of the county. From 1977 until 1980, Parsons served as board representative for several different organizations, including the County Mental Health Advisory Board, the Juvenile Delinquency Commission, the CETA Advisory Board (Chairman), the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, the Courthouse Beautification Committee (Chairman), the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, and the Convention and Tourist Bureau. She also served as the chair of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors in 1980. From 1978 until 1980, Parsons was the governor's appointee to the California Solar/Cal Committee as well as vice-chair of the Employment Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties (1979-1980). Parsons was also elected by the Democratic Party of Northern California as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in New York City in 1980. In addition to a career in politics, Parsons also participated in various community service projects. She served as president of the North Fulton High School PTA (1956-1958), as a member of the Official Board of the St. James Methodist Church (1958-1963), and as president of the Atlanta League of Women Voters from 1958 until 1960. She also acted as a visiting lecturer at Emory University and was invited by President Lyndon Johnson to the White House Conference on Education in 1965. In the same year, Parsons was awarded the Atlanta "Good Neighbor of the Year" award. Recently, Parsons completed the book From Southern Wrongs to Civil Rights that chronicles her transformation into a civil rights activist and her friendship with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
Parsons describes her childhood as being happy, even after her parents divorced when she was eleven years old. She says that her mother was a very strong and active woman, belonging to DAR, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Women’s Temperance Union. Parsons was married at 21, and quickly had children. She says that it was through her work with her church, and with the PTA, that she became involved with the League of Women Voters, and that that subsequently led to her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. She describes how, in 1961, she ran for a position on the Board of Education and won. Her position on the Board introduced her Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she remained in contact for a number of years. Her main focus during this time was the integration of schools and she describes visiting black and white schools, and seeing very clearly that “separate but equal” was not working. She goes on to discuss the contentious integration of the Atlanta League of Women Voters. Parson’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and in the Women’s Movement took a toll on her personal life: she and her husband divorced after more than 30 years of marriage. She says “I felt sorry for my husband because he had married a sweet southern girl. And I turned out to be this civil rights activist, flaming feminist.” Parsons joined NOW and was introduced to Betty Freidan: She says that during a visit to Atlanta, Freidan was interested in writing about black women in the Civil Rights Movement, and wanted to meet some. Parsons goes on to describe their less-than-successful experiences. Parsons believes that the Christian right was the greatest obstacle to the Women’s Movement, and that during the period of the Civil Rights Movement, some churches were “a big disappointment…because of their hesitancy to speak out and do…the right thing.” She ends by discussing her book, From Southern Wrongs to Civil Rights.

Paulk, Janet

Interviewee: Janet Paulk
Interviewer: Joyce Durand 
Date of Interview: April 10, 2002
Extent: 1 audio cassette; 1 compact disc; 25 page transcript

Interviewer: Joyce Durand 
Date of Interview: February 19, 2003
Extent: 1 audio cassette; 1 compact disc; 22 page transcript

A grassroots activist at heart, Janet Paulk is passionate about a variety of social, political and gender issues. Born in Grafton, West Virginia in 1932, Paulk was the daughter and granddaughter of Presbyterian ministers. Educated in music theory and piano at Maryville College in Tennessee, and business at Georgia State University, DeKalb Technical School and Emory University’s School of Business Administration, Paulk began working for the Emory University Library Administration in 1975. She continued to serve the libraries at Emory for 23 years, most recently as human resources manager. During her tenure there, she became an outspoken advocate for the preservation of women's history. She was also active in national and local library associations. She retired from Emory in 1994. Throughout her career, Paulk served on many women-centered political and social organizations. She was treasurer and executive committee member of ERA Georgia, Inc. (1980-1982); board member of the Georgia Women's Political Caucus (1982-1984); and a member of the Women's Studies Committee at the University Center of Georgia (1984-1988). Other affiliations include the Southeastern and National Women's Studies Associations. Paulk has received many honors and awards, including special recognition from the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, for her involvement there in the Civil Rights Movement in 1968. She also received numerous appointments by the President of Emory University, specifically a charter membership on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1976-1979) and two appointments to the University Affirmative Action Appeal Committee (1984; 1990). Today Paulk is active in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta and resides in Decatur.
A minister’s daughter, Paulk describes her childhood in Grafton, West Virginia as very happy. She states that she was able to pursue all of her interests, including chemistry, education and music. Paulk describes her early unsuccessful marriage to the son of the Chilean Secretary of Transportation, which resulted in her living and traveling to South America. She states that it was during this period in her life that she developed a growing awareness that she was not willing to accept the traditional roles ascribed to women. By the late 1960s, married for the second time, Paulk became increasingly interested in civil rights, community organizing and the need to emancipate women. She says she belonged to a number of discussion groups, comprised of “ardent feminists,” and began to learn from them. Paulk describes working at Emory University, and becoming aware of blatant discrimination in the workplace, in terms of salary inequity and retirement benefits. She says she became involved in a number of local women’s groups such as the Democratic Women of DeKalb, the Feminist Action Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation, and ERA Georgia, Inc., and discusses the difficulty in trying to get these different groups to work together. Paulk ends her oral history by reciting a poem she wrote about feminist Maria Getzinger Jones.

Pratt, Jeanette

Interviewee: Jeaneete Pratt
Interviewer: Joyce Durand 
Date of Interview: April 16, 1997
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs; 47 page transcript

Janette B. Pratt was born in Bury, Lancashire, England in 1947. While attending London University, she received a LLB and LLM degree as well as becoming a certified mediator. During the 1960s, Pratt was involved in a number of protests and demonstrations. She moved to Atlanta in 1974 and soon after both Pratt and her husband joined Atlanta NOW. Pratt served as newsletter editor and secretary of the Atlanta NOW chapter. Today, Pratt serves as Administrative Professor for field placement at Emory Law School.
Pratt talks about her working class childhood and youth in Lancashire, England. An only child, born late in her parents’ marriage, she remembers post-WWII rationing and bomb damage. She attended the London School of Economics which she says was considered “England’s Berkeley,” because of its radical reputation. She chose to study law because “nobody had -- in my little world -- had ever heard of a woman doing that…It was an act of rebellion, really.” After graduation, Pratt recounts that she came to the United States to attend graduate school, and then went on to teach, first in Chicago (where she married one of her students) and then in Boston. She came to Atlanta when her husband was offered a job. Encouraged by her feminist mother in law, Pratt joined the Atlanta chapter of NOW, and volunteered to edit the organization’s newsletter. She describes her trips to national NOW conferences, and the issues that were important to her, such as exclusion of women from all-male clubs. After the defeat of the ERA, Pratt considers that the main problem for the Women’s Movement was the faction of fiercely radical feminists, who would not allow for the possibility that women would choose to stay at home and raise families, and who encouraged the negative connotations of the word “feminist.” She believes that the movement should have taken a more mainstream role. Pratt ends by discussing issues that are important for women today: she believes that women’s approach to the issue of sexual harassment is one that needs careful consideration.

Special Collections and Archives

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Oral Histories at GSU

Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives

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