Interviewee: Christine Tibbetts
Interviewer: Mary Jo Duncanson
Date of Interview: June 4, 2004
Extent: 2 audio cassettes; 2 compact discs; 39 page transcript
Christine Tibbetts was born in 1948 in Somerville, New Jersey where she spent the majority of her childhood. After high school, she enrolled at the University of Missouri where she received a degree in journalism. It was only after she moved to Atlanta that she parlayed her work in journalism into political activism and implemented her investigative journalism skills to research and write on social, political and cultural issues. While living in Tifton, Georgia, Tibbetts was asked to help organize the ERA campaign in South Georgia. From 1972-1978, Tibbetts worked for the Georgia Association of Educators, producing many publications, including statewide news releases, pamphlets and manuals, and training educators throughout the state. In 1978, she founded her own business, Tibbetts Communications, a marketing and public relations firm with an emphasis on community development, the arts, tourism and travel, and non-profit organizational development. Throughout her years in Georgia, she has chaired numerous community organizations and also helped to support the arts in Tifton County. In 2003, Tibbetts received the First Place Award in the Domestic Newspaper Category by the North American Travel Journalists Association for her travel feature on the Lewis and Clark Trail.
Tibbets begins by discussing her family, her education, and the events that led her to Atlanta. She explains that her degree in journalism helped to guide her into a life of political activism. When Tibbets accepted a position in the communications department of the Georgia Association of Educators, part of her job entailed writing and educating Georgia’s teachers about legislators, lobbyists and political action. In 1978, Tibbets moved to Tifton, Georgia, and she recounts her experiences acclimatizing to the culture of the Bible Belt. She says that while she was trying to figure out what she was going to do in her new surroundings, she received a phone call asking her to help organize South Georgia for the Equal Rights Amendment, which she knew would be a “controversial course of action.” She started organizing by calling local teachers, planning speaking events at churches and other community outlets, and using the community of Tifton to organize support for the ERA. She explains how she was able to use the community as a public forum for interviewing political candidates and for providing access to the process, so that more women could get politically involved. Through the help of the Women’s Political Caucus and the AAUW, organizers in South Georgia were not only able to educate other women on political candidates and legislators, but also on how to use the political system to help elect supporters of women’s issues to local boards, such as the Board of Elections, the library board and others, in order to start making changes from the inside. Tibbets explains, “We founded a literacy program and set out goals there for people with a fourth grade or lower reading level…what we did was got ourselves on boards to make changes then wrote grants and built non-profits to make changes and, of course, brought in more people too.” She discusses how she was able to help diffuse some of the local resistance in the community against the ERA by aligning with Margaret Curtis and the People of Faith for the ERA organization. Tibbets provides an interesting depiction of the obstacles she faced in terms of organizing and bringing political awareness to the Women’s Movement and other controversial issues in the heart of the Bible Belt. Ultimately, she asserts that women in South Georgia were able to accomplish a great deal in the midst of active local resistance.