Monday, March 29, 2010

RIP Liz Carpenter, Feminist, ERA Activist, LBJ Aide

Liz Carpenter's friends included Molly Ivins and Ann Richards. Roe v. Wade attorney Sarah Weddington spoke at her memorial service along with progressive hero Bill Moyers. She co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and was first Vice President Johnson's and later Lady Bird Johnson's press secretary. She was a journalist when women were largely confined to newspaper's fashion pages.

She was an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) activist who said she did not want to die while women were excluded from the U.S. Constitution. Liz Carpenter died on March 20th, in Austin, Texas:

In 1971, out of the White House, Ms. Carpenter turned her energy to women’s causes, including the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment. Her efforts to establish the National Women’s Political Caucus grew out of a commitment to seeing more women elected to state and federal posts.

Earlier, Ms. Carpenter was a prime mover in the battle to permit women to join the National Press Club, which had been an important institution in Washington for reporters as well as politicians since its founding in 1908. Before being accepted as members, women with press credentials fought to be admitted at least to the club luncheons at which visiting heads of state customarily appeared.

“We made a great breakthrough in 1956,” Helen Thomas, a reporter who has covered Washington since World War II, once recalled. “Liz Carpenter got them to agree to let us sit in the balcony of the ballroom, in purdah, and listen to the luncheon speaker as we looked down on our press colleagues and the public relations men and the lobbyists as they ate.”

It was not until 1971 that women were admitted as members.

“I personally am going to go to that Great Precinct Meeting in the Sky kicking and screaming if I'm not in the Constitution of the country that I worked for, paid taxes to, tried to be a total thinking citizen in.”