How the ERA branding/logo came to be:

We picked up on the red stop sign, for stop the ERA, stop abortion, etc. So, we all got together and said, “Well, what we’ll do is we’ll take green for ‘go’.” And by the way, it was my friend, Jane Guthrie, with whom I am still very much in touch…I’m going out to dinner with her tomorrow night. She is the one who has designed all of the ERA materials and the pro-choice materials. She’s an art director by profession, and I have no idea what we’d do without her, because she gave a visible identity. When we first were working on the ERA, you would see things on television, and you’d see women in purple T-shirts with ERA on them, and so forth. Then the next night they’d show somebody in Michigan and they would have on a rose colored T-shirt with the ERA on it. And then Jane, who is an art director, said, “We’ve got to get ourselves an identity, and we’re going to go for green for ‘Go for ERA’…I wish you could have seen the things we had. Huge rounds. We would hold up these rounds at rallies, and they were on both sides, and they would say, “ERA Yes”, or “Pro-choice Yes”, “Abortion Yes,” and that kind of thing. And Jane did all of that. She’s so talented. And then, besides, as I say, she was our beauty. If we had a march, we would say, “Jane, you go first (laughs). You lead the march.”

How Joannie met longtime friend and activist Jane Guthrie:

We met at a NOW meeting. I divorced my husband. As soon as I divorced my husband, I connected into a NOW meeting. The first person to stand up at the NOW meeting was Jane Guthrie, who knew what to do. She was business-like, brass tacks. She said, “My name is Jane Guthrie, and I am organizing an Equal Rights Amendment march that will take place on…” And then she said it out, brass tacks on it. “Oh, yes. Okay. She’s my friend. She knows how to do it.” And that’s true. Thirty-five years later, tomorrow night, I’m going out to dinner with her (laughs). So, she was the right person to run into. And then, the women who were active in NOW at that time, many of them simply became my friends forever, and still are my friends forever. It’s very nice. That continuity is very nice.

Her Name:

Parker is my married name. My maiden name, although I used to love to joke about it, because my middle name on the birth certificate, was my mother’s maiden name. God forbid we use this nice, elegant, WASP name (laughs). My middle name is Hodson, which is British, darling. Please. That’s my mother. And then I’m Joanne Hodson Johnson Parker. Have you ever heard a longer string of WASP names? Yes! That’s Grosse Pointe, honey! This is Grosse Pointe, Michigan!  

Marriage, Early Career & Not Being Taken Seriously:  

(I was married) Seventeen years. Slow to catch on (laughter). Slow to make a move (laughs). We were both teaching at Northwestern, but he was a full professor, and I was just a low woman on the totem pole. They gave us a name like adjunct or something, to try to make it look legitimate. So, we both were teaching at Northwestern at one point, because we met working on our PhDs in the English department. That’s how we met. Then he became the professor, and I became... This is very typical of that era.

There were two women in the PhD program at Northwestern at that time, and of course I’m still in touch with the other person. Talk about bonding. And we had absolute prejudice against us, I would say. The professor didn’t want to take us seriously. Nobody wanted to take us seriously.

They would act surprised if our research was solid. They would go, “Oh! Well, I see you did do this research.” Well, yes. That was the assignment. I did do this research (laughs). That kind of thing. And it was very typical that my husband was in that same program, I was in the program. And guess what? We got married and he went on up the academic ladder, and I started having babies. See? This is what we do in those days. And by the way, I was just representative. I was the representative of that pattern where I gave up my academic progress, and he went right on up the ladder.

Her Education

I never finished writing my dissertation. I am absolutely representative of this generation. My generation. Of course we’re all dying off, but I used to know quite a few, and we called ourselves ABD. Everybody did. And you even wrote it on your job applications, ABD. And that meant, “All But Dissertation.” That you finished your residency requirements, and then, when you finished that, you were supposed to take time off or write your dissertation while you were getting your teaching in your first job as the low person on the totem pole. And so, I did that.

Stepping into the Women's Movement

35 years ago. That’s when I connected up to the National Organization for Women. And that’s when life took on a new dimension. I certainly was interested in a debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Sure, I was. And sure, I understood who was the better of the two. But when I got connected, it was to the women’s movement and to what was happening in women’s lives. And I actually feel I came to it late compared to other people. I know people were there way before me. I think it’s totally empowering for anyone who gets in touch. And I think today, most young women are greatly impacted by the women’s movement, whether they choose to understand or acknowledge that is totally different. Both my daughters completely acknowledge it, and all the friends that I have and their children and grandchildren. But even people who are not willing to say, “Well, you know, the women’s movement freed women and gave them a thrust into professional worlds, it gave them options, it gave them education,” they’re still impacted by that. Everything has changed. It’s really hard to imagine. One day, I don’t remember what story I was telling, some kind of a story about what I was doing at XYZ date, and my daughter said, “You were doing what?” (Laughs.) And I said, “Yes. Women were not as liberated as you think in those days.” It’s been very exciting. This is all a shake of the dice, you see. It’s really the good luck of having been born when I was born and then watching things evolved. When the men went off to World War II, the women had to step into the factories, they had to become the Rosie the Riveters. I love that poster. And they had to take over these jobs. And when the men came back from the war, they were absolutely brainwashed that what they wanted was a dishwasher, a new dryer, a new ironing board, new recipes for the kitchen. They just got shoved right back into the kitchen. And that is what the next wave was all about. It was about, “No. I don’t have to go back into the kitchen. I’ve seen what I can do outside of this realm.” And of course, motherhood was made much of. “Oh, you just have to have a child.” I was talking to the daughter of a friend of mine, and she was saying, “I don’t think I want children.” And I said, “That’s okay (laughs).” She said, “Well, you’re the only one that has said that (laughs). Everybody else says, ‘Oh, sure you would!’” (Laughs.)

Taking a Stand

When I have something that I believe in, I take an active stand. And that is the thing that I am proud of. I knew people who would say, “Wow, I really believe in reproductive rights and women ought to have their reproductive rights.” And I would say, “Oh, we have a meeting next Tuesday. I’ll pick you up, and we’ll go to the meeting, and we can do X, Y and Z and A, B and C.” And they would say, “Ah… No. I don’t really want to go to a meeting.” But if you’re for reproductive rights, to make these things happen you have to take a stand that means something. You can’t just walk around your living room and say, “I’m really in favor of reproductive rights. Oh, yes. Reproductive rights. That’s cool.” Walking around your living room and saying that doesn’t do the job to get women reproductive rights. That’s what I feel most strongly about. When I see that most of the black students in my class at the University of North Carolina are very privileged and intelligent and the cream of the crop, and all the other black students are in the black college that is in Greensboro, I’m thinking, “Ah, uh-huh. I know something about this picture is not so good (laughs).” You had to start and take a stand.

On The Equal Rights Amendment

We had the whole text of the equal rights amendment on the back of the T-shirt, because nobody wants you to stare at the front. We put them on the back so that people could come up and say, “What is all this?” This is a little further down the road, but we had these green buttons that were plain, and they had nothing on them, they were just green buttons. And then we had these stickers that said, “69, 67, 65.” And 69 cents was what women made on the dollar that men made. We were going for pay equity, and when we moved it from 69 cents on a dollar, we would put on the lesser sticker, and then we just kept changing the sticker in terms of wanting to get to pay equity for women. And what wanted was 50/50. And I’m a member of an organization called 50/50 Leadership. But that’s not a 50/50 just for money and salary. Fifty/Fifty Leadership is really about getting women in the office. It’s about getting women in professional places. It honors mothers (laughs). Because we must not forget the job they do. That’s the next generation. Fifty/Fifty Leadership is a wonderful organization.


Becoming Political

Having been raised in Grosse Pointe — quaint Gross Republican Pointe — I never paid much attention to politics, politics didn’t interest me very much. But then, when Jack Kennedy challenged Richard Nixon, and it was the first time we had a televised debate between presidential candidates, I thought, “Wow. I better watch this. I think it would be interesting. I don’t know about these people.” So, I sat down and I listened to Richard Nixon, and I thought, “I don’t believe in anything he says. I don’t agree with him.” Then I listened to JFK and I thought, “Oh, yes! I agree with everything he says! He’s my guy! I’m going to go out and work for him.” So, that was the first place that I connected to politics. I went out to the headquarters, right there in Evanston, because, of course, it’s a university town, so naturally, they’re going to have a headquarters. I went out and I worked for JFK because I understood he’s better (laughs).

First Years in Social Justice

I went out and was teaching at the University of Carolina. Do I have to tell you why I chose that?  The civil protests were going on and I got a job offer from the University of Illinois, and from the University of Ohio, and the University of Michigan. And I looked at what was going on in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I thought, “I’m going to apply there too.” And so, I applied and they hired me for the English department at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and guess what I did. I organized my students, for the first time, and we went out on the lines. And that was the beginning of it all, when I realized that, “Yes, I’m down here, and I can talk in the classroom, pro-egalitarian issues, but they are picketing in front of the movie theatre.” And I had very few African American students in my class. Very few. But I just said, “Guess where we’re going to meet tomorrow night?” So, I organized my students for the first time. And I found that it was a very, very important step.

It was very upsetting to the university. I got the students to go and stand at the bottom of the hill, where the university itself was located. I got the students to picket in front of a very popular lunch place for the faculty. You’d think I had hundreds. About five or six came. Five or six turned out to picket and take a stand. All five or six of us we would be in front of the restaurant and the faculty, the university, would come down and they’d come in very deliberately, five or six people, and they would push right past us and go right into the restaurant. It was a real finger to us. And we just stood there.

I was very free to do whatever I wanted to do and take whatever stand. Not that that would change if I married. I’m still free to do what I want to do. But when you’re married, you always have to check in with a responsible person called your spouse. And then when you have children, you have other obligations, etc.

No. I did not have children at that point, you see. I was not married, and it left me very free to do what I wanted to do. But I had some really painful experiences there. One of the things that happened as I had my six loyal students — wonderful people — who came out on the line and we marched in front of the restaurant and we marched in front of the theatre with our signs, the men with their confederate flags flying out of the car windows, would come driving by, and they would hurl empty beer cans full of urine at us. And the one thing I told the kids, I said, “It’s going to get rough out there, but the one thing you do is you don’t move. You stand your ground.” They were fabulous. They did not move. We stood there and they threw empty beer cans of urine at us and we just stood there and we didn’t move. Then the police came and said, “You can’t stand here. You can’t stand in front of this restaurant. You can’t stand in front of the movie theatre.” And I said, “All right. Mmm-hmm.” So, I went down to the police department. I got a permit that as long as we kept moving.  

Entertainment on Television Today

I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I don’t care what he has to say. I know what he has to say. Says hateful things. I don’t want to hear what Donald Trump has to… Oh, yes, I like to hear it when Rachel Maddow tells us what Donald Trump has to say, because, of course, she mocks and she makes it hilarious, or she makes it so stupid that it’s just impossible. But I like to hear liberal people put their spin on things, because they’re right there in the newsroom and they know so much more than I do, and they’re in touch with so many facets of it that I’m not in touch with, that it just gives me great joy to watch people like Rachel Maddow do her thing. She’s been doing her thing on Donald Trump and it is just a riot. She is smart. Oh, she’s a smart woman. And she’s also lesbian, which is nice. Because then she can represent more than one issue by just sitting there as a smart, lesbian liberal (laughs). I love it.

Core Issues Facing Women Today

I think that you’d have to divide it into two schools. Because one school is the women who are perfectly aware of it and who are working to take these positions of power, professional positions, political positions. I am so thrilled with Hillary Clinton. She is not my favorite woman in the world, but other moments, she is my favorite woman in the world. You know that kind of feeling? And I think there is a whole group of women that are like my beloved sister, who just thinks it’s all a little scary and a little uppity and not the way it should be. She’s been a homemaker all her life, and that’s her world. And she golfs and she plays bridge at the country club, and she thinks that that is proper realm for women. And she’s really a lovely person. Very lovely.

Sources of Joy in Raising Daughters

Both of my daughters make huge contributions to the betterment of humankind. And Allison’s contribution is in the form… She works on, not only Gender, but race and gender. And she does an exquisite job. She does such a good job that the National Association of Black Women Historians, guess who the keynote speaker is? My white daughter, because they so love the work that she does that brings white and black together. Because very frequently, when historians would work on black women, they would write a book and these enlightened women too. But they would write a book and it would be all black women. Here’s your black women’s historians. And then they would write another book and it would be all white women. Here’s your white women’s Historians. And then, my daughter has been publishing books, and guess what? Black and white. And as a matter of fact, one of the books is called “Black and White.” (Laughs.) Because she wants to make you understand that there’s an interaction in these movements, between women of color and white women. It isn’t all separated off and out, and we need more of that. And now that we march also for Hispanic women’s rights, pay equity, all those things, we need more of the integration. But certainly, the integration is better. It’s wonderful. When I watch television sometimes to see the evening news, I cheer, as I am all alone in the room (laughs). Cheering away.

On Being a Grandmother

I expected it to be heaven, and it’s heaven (laughs). You have something way down the road to look forward… Or maybe. Maybe. I have to watch how I say that sometimes to my granddaughter who lives in my guesthouse. I will say things like, “Well, when you have your own children…” Then I would say, “Well, I mean if you decide to. That’s their business, not mine. I have to correct myself sometimes. And I also say, it’s just grandchildren, because my grandsons are so adorable, and they’re so sweet, and they’re so enlightened. The littlest one who’s now 10, I hurt my foot one time and I had to be laid up in bed a little bit. I was up visiting them, so I was in bed. It mended a little bit. He would come in every morning (laughs), this is a few years ago, but he would come in and absolutely the soul of concern. Just what you want in men. The soul of compassion. He’d come in and he’d say, “How are you gwanma?” And I’d say, “I’m coming. Thank you darling.” “Is there anything at all that I could do for you?” And I’d say, “Oh, no. I’m fine. Thank you.” And he’d say, “Could I get you a glass of water?” It was so dear. It was that ethic of care that we know women have, or women traditionally have had, being passed on to the next generation, to the male generation, so that they have that ethic of care also. And it is so touching to see my grandsons. They are just wonderful. Just wonderful. But then, so are my granddaughters