It was November 1977 in Houston, Texas at the huge somewhat chaotic American celebration of International Women’s Year: The first National Women’s Conference. I was a delegate from Virginia. Things hadn’t gone well when I arrived to a lobby full of women looking for rooms only to be told that people hadn’t checked out and we had to spend one night at another hotel. For a young woman traveling on a limited budget and knowing no one in Houston except other members of my delegation who were to be my roomies (who I couldn’t find), it was pretty traumatic. If the same thing happened today, I would have demanded taxi and meal vouchers at the very least. But the next day things improved immensely. I found my room, my roommates and the Virginia caucus. I spotted famous women all over. It was hard not to be star struck. But we all had work to do. It was the first time there was an Asian women’s caucus and we ended up at a Chinese restaurant trying to hammer out a statement that accounted for the so called model Asian as well as the brand new immigrants working service jobs. It was all exhilarating. Women were on the rise. But the picture I carry with me to this day is this one.
A line up of prominent women. From L to R are: Bella Abzug, First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Linda Johnson Robb, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, and Judy Carter. (From Jo Freeman)
I was reminded of this moment when I saw the pictures of the First Ladies at Betty Ford’s funeral in California.
(Carter, Obama, Clinton and Reagan)
And here where you can see Charles and Linda Johnson Robb and three of the first ladies. Linda is in white in front of her husband and I think that may be Maria Shriver next to Chuck.
The news today is that the Westboro Church is going to protest at Ford’s service in Michigan. I think Mrs. Ford would be proud.