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Georgia Women's Movement Oral History Project: S

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

Schapiro, Beth

Interviewee: Beth Schapiro
Interviewer: Dana Von Tilborg
Date of Interview: October 11, 1995
Extent: 1 audio cassette; 1 compact disc; 20 page transcript

Beth Susan Schapiro, (born 1949), political consultant, feminist and social activist, obtained degrees from the University of Maryland (1971, B.S in education) and Emory University (M.A., Ph.D., 1977; 1979, in political science). From 1971-1979, she taught in both public and private schools and colleges. Schapiro was active and held offices with several Georgia and national organizations including the Feminist Action Alliance, Inc., ERA Georgia, Inc. (formerly Georgia Council for the ERA), the Women's Political Caucus, and Women Business Owners, Inc. She was a founding mother of the Atlanta Women's Foundation and a member of the Leadership Atlanta Board of Trustees. Schapiro was a strategist for numerous political candidates in Georgia and elsewhere, and her clients included many "firsts" - first woman, Black, Hispanic, Asian-American and/or openly gay candidate elected to a particular office. In addition to holding several appointed positions on both the local and state levels, Schapiro was Executive Director of Research Atlanta, 1981-1984, and began Beth Schapiro & Associates, a polling and strategic consulting firm in Atlanta, Georgia in 1984. She has run the firm, now The Schapiro Group, Inc., ever since. In addition to other awards and honors, Schapiro was inducted into the YWCA's Academy of Women Achievers in 1994 and was selected as Georgia Equality's "Queen of the Political Jungle" in 2003. In 2009, she was honored as "SHERO of the Year" by Georgia State University Women's Collection. 
Schapiro begins by recounting her childhood and youth in Richmond, Virginia. She believes that she inherited her activism from her parents who were very involved in various Jewish organizations. After the rape of a family member in 1973, Schapiro states that she became aware of the need for action to protect women's rights, and she joined the Georgia Women’s Political Caucus, and then the Feminist Action Alliance. Schapiro discusses the differences between the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Action Alliance, as well as various other groups, such as the League of Women Voters and Georgians for the ERA. She considers the changing face of women’s activism and how, as the early participants age, they take on more passive, but still extremely important roles as patrons of issues, through groups such as the Atlanta Women’s Fund. Schapiro considers a lack of “common interests and common backgrounds” as being one of the main problems for the Women’s Movement and cites conflicts of interests with civil rights groups and lesbians as examples. She feels that the Movement has resulted in great benefits for women, including their access to professions and sports that were previously closed to them.

Simpson, Polly Brooks

Interviewee: Polly Brooks Simpson
Interviewer: Dana Von Tilborg 
Date of Interview: October 21, 1996
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 1 compact disc; 26 page transcript

Polly Brooks Simpson, civic activist and businesswoman, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1939. After graduating from high school in Sparta, GA, she attended Agnes Scott College (1957-1958) and earned a psychology degree (B.A., 1962) from Georgia State University. She later received a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University (1978). Simpson has been involved in the Georgia Council on Child Abuse since 1979, serving as board president for two terms. In 1988, the Council named its Polly B. Simpson Distinguished Service Award after her, and she became its first recipient. She also organized and chaired Georgia Voices for Children (1989-1990), an advocacy group whose efforts resulted in the change of state child abuse laws. Other organizations that Simpson has been active with are the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (1989-1995), Georgians for Children (1991-), and the Fulton County Child Abuse Protocol Committee (1995-). In 1996, Simpson opened Vermillion, an Atlanta gallery. She married Charlie Simpson in 1960 and has two daughters. In 1980. Simpson and others developed A Woman's Place, a clearinghouse for women's resources as well as an organization for women. The organization began producing a newsletter, A Woman's Place, in 1981. In September 1983 the first issue of Femme was produced, which was issued as an insert to Atlanta's Creative Loafing newspaper. When A Woman's Place closed its offices on September 30, 1983, the Georgia Women's Consortium, a statewide alliance of 32 organizations, took over the clearinghouse concept of the older organization. Simpson continued to co-edit Femme, and when the name was changed to Atlanta Woman in December 1983, she remained as co-editor.
Simpson talks about her childhood around Georgia, and recounts that her grandmother, a “classic steel magnolia,” was a very important influence in her later work with the Women’s Movement. Simpson believes that her active involvement in the Women’s Movement began through her experiences at the Unitarian Church, which strongly emphasized the importance of human rights and “human potential.” She states that it was through one of her church’s women’s groups that plans for a “women’s fair” were developed, and that A Women’s Place was a natural progression from that fair. Simpson discusses the successes of A Women’s Place -- most notably in bringing women and women’s groups together, and in creating and editing the Creative Loafing insert, Femme (later Atlanta Woman). She also talks about the organization’s problems, including lack of financial support, and the personal burden of time and energy that was required to keep A Woman’s Place going. Simpson ends by discussing the Women’s Movement and how it has benefited younger generations -- particularly in the field of sports. She also discusses the problems of the Women’s Movement, citing its non-inclusiveness as a major fault, particularly in relation to lesbians and black women.

Steinberg, Cathey

Interviewee: Cathey Steinberg
Interviewer: Janet Paulk 
Date of Interview: March 21 & 28, 1997
Extent: 3 audio cassettes; 3 compact discs; 61 page transcript

Cathey W. Steinberg, born in 1942, is recognized and admired as a leader for women's rights through her work in the Georgia House of Representatives (1977-1989 District 46 DeKalb County) where she was the primary sponsor of the 1981-1982 ERA legislation. She also served in the Georgia Senate (1991-1993 District 42). While in office, Steinberg introduced legislation which would minimize pressure on rape victims. Steinberg received a B.A. from Carnegie-Mellon Institute and a M.A. degree in guidance counseling from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a consultant in public and community relations and marketing, and a frequent guest speaker and lecturer. From 1993 until June 1999, she was the managing partner for Ahead of the Curve, a public policy consulting and advocacy training firm. In July 1999, Governor Roy Barnes appointed Cathey Steinberg Georgia's first Consumer Insurance Advocate. She left the post in March 2003.
Steinberg begins by describing her childhood in rural Pennsylvania and her relationship with her family. She goes on to describe her transition from Northern Jewish girl to a married woman living in the South. Steinberg explains how she became involved in Georgia politics, specifically how her campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1977 was very much a grass-roots effort, and because she was a woman in this predominantly male field, how she became inextricably linked with women’s issues, and was called “Cathey Steinem,” by some of the men in the Georgia Assembly. She says her foray into public office was not a deliberate pursuit but rather something that was suggested to her by a friend. In office, Steinberg was instrumental in helping to change language regarding rape victims. The Rape Bill of 1977 helped to put Steinberg and women’s issues on the map in Georgia and also propelled her into working for the Equal Rights Amendment: She was the primary sponsor of the ERA in the Georgia legislature. She explains that because she was the popular face of women’s issues in Georgia, she became referred to as the “ERA lady.” Steinberg discusses some of the organizations that helped to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment including the Feminist Action Alliance, Georgia Women’s Political Caucus, NOW and People of Faith for the ERA. She also recounts some of the interpersonal conflicts amongst women in the different organizations both at the state and national level. Steinberg openly discusses both the accomplishments and the obstacles of the Women’s Movement and how even her own personal involvement and her public persona as the “ERA lady” became somewhat problematic when she was looking for a job outside of the legislature. She also stresses the importance of women continuing to influence, write and address public policy issues, particularly those concerning women.

Sutton, Sherry

Interviewee: Sherry [Shulman] Sutton
Interviewer: Janet Paulk 
Date of Interview: November 8, 1998; March 7, 1999
Extent: 3 audio cassettes; 3 compact discs; 85 page transcript

A native of Atlanta, Sherry Sutton was born in 1941 and received a B.A. in political science from Emory University in 1981. She has been active in Georgia politics since the 1970s when she became involved in the Equal Rights Amendment / Women's Rights movement. She served as legislative liaison for ERA Georgia, Inc. (1980-1981) and then served as the group's president (1981-1982). During this time she was also the chair of the DeKalb County Democratic Party (1980-1982) and served as the District 2 Commissioner of DeKalb County (1985-1992). While Commissioner, she helped lead the effort to block the construction of the Presidential Parkway. Currently Sutton works on staff at Georgia Shares, an organization that helps to raise funds for social aid organizations in Georgia primarily through workplace contributions.
Describing her childhood, Sutton says she acquired from her family a Depression-era mentality at an early age. In the mid-1960s, she became involved in political issues -- particularly the Vietnam War. She then became interested in women's issues -- in particular reproductive freedom, domestic violence, and equal pay, all of which, she describes as being interrelated. She talks about her fundraising work in the 1960s in an effort to assist women who had to go to New York to seek abortions. In the mid-1970s, Sutton became involved in the Democratic Party and in 1979, began her service as its chair. She was also selected as one of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention in New York City. Sutton describes her involvement in the Women's Movement, and states that one of her main objectives was to help get more women elected into office. To this end, she worked for a number of state senate campaigns. She recalls the reason for her political involvement: “The only way the difference was going to come about was through the political process.” Sutton’s interest in the Equal Rights Amendment campaign began when she saw that women were serious about building a state-wide coalition that could effectively lobby and ratify the amendment. She served as chair of ERA Georgia, Inc. and also worked on the national level with ERAmerica. Sutton recalls that ERAmerica did not consider Georgia as a key state when pushing the amendment: This caused a rift between Sutton and legislator, Cathey Steinberg, who sponsored the bill in Georgia. As Sutton explains, her plan was to connect ERA Georgia with ERAmerica, while Steinberg wanted to try and keep the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the legislative process in Georgia. Sutton goes on to discuss the rivalries between the different women’s groups such as NOW and the Women’s Political Caucus at both the state and national levels. She also provides detailed accounts of each group and their leading figures. Sutton contends that the defeat of the ERA came about because religious organizations convinced Georgia's legislators and the public that the ERA would be detrimental for women. In terms of the Women’s Movement, Sutton suggests that some of its accomplishments include increased opportunities that are now offered to women, and she cites her own daughters’ professional careers as evidence. She also discusses some of the obstacles that the women’s movement faced such as the ideology of patriarchy, the politics of opposition and the religious community.

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

Oral Histories at GSU

Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives

Lucy Hargrett Draper Collections on Women's Rights, Advocacy, and the Law

Archives for Research on Women 

Phone: (404) 413-2880

Mailing Address:
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Georgia State University Library
100 Decatur Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3202

In Person:
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