Skip to main content

tv   Oral Histories Women in Congress - Helen Delich Bentley Interview  CSPAN  September 1, 2018 2:20pm-3:41pm EDT

2:20 pm
associated press and the next morning and is in the newspapers all over the country. >> historian charles calhoun, sunday night at 8:00 a.m. eastern on these been's q&a -- c-span's q&a. former american congresswoman helen bentley served in congress tom 19 85 to 18 -- 1985 1995. next, miss bentley talks about her career as a reporter for the baltimore sun, and her appointment as chairwoman of the federal maritime commission, which made her the highest-ranking woman in the nixon administration. she also discusses her run for congress. much of her career is focused on before she won her election to the house. congresswoman died in august 2016, months after this was recorded.
2:21 pm
this interview is about one hour and 20 minutes. name is kathleen johnson. i am here with the house historian. the date is march 21, 2016. we are in the house recording studio in the rayburn house office building, and we are here with helen bentley, former representative from maryland. we are delighted to have you join us today. >> and i am delighted to be with you, kathy. >> thank you for coming. this interview is part of an oral history series we are doing with former women representatives to celebrate and to recognize the centennial, the election of the first woman in congress, jeannette rankin. her election was in 1916, and her swearing-in was 1979. -- 1919. good. did you have any female role
2:22 pm
models? >> no, i did not. i grew up in a mining town in nevada. it was 2000 feet above sea level, and a good instance from the nearest city. there was nobody around there. i was growing up, my mother was college, andgo to was -- she was a widow. rders to feedep boa us and everything. in that small town, i worked for a lady who owned a dress shop and i got to know my teachers very well. and i know i wanted -- i really wanted to be a lawyer, but i
2:23 pm
knew we could not afford it. so i settled on journalism. followed my nose that way. the university of nevada one year, where i worked as a secretary, i worked to the university of missouri the next semester, because they had the best journalism school in town. there was i did that, a man who came into the -- i forgot to mention that i also worked during the week and weekends in a weekly newspaper in ely, nevada. and that man was a politician. he was also state senator, charles russell, who later became governor. and that was the path that i chose.
2:24 pm
i went to the university of missouri for the first semester of my second year, and again, i keep forgetting about the summer i spent in my first political experience. jim, who had been a member of the house here, was running for the u.s. senate. it was an open seat. and jim came into our newspaper office down in ely, and asked charlie, the publisher, i need somebody to run my campaign in white burton county. can you recommend anybody? now, jim was a democrat, but in those days, everybody worked together.
2:25 pm
charlie looked at him and said, get her. i had never been around politics before. so he came over and talked to me a little bit with his colonel friend, who was accompanying him. and i said i will try it, i do not know anything about it, but i will try it. so that was my first venture into politics. i went door to door talking about jim. and then, about midway, they eureka county to white burton county. eureka was really -- white pines was bad enough. copper mines, gold miners,
2:26 pm
immigrants who knew not much about voting. my parents were immigrants. and we won. both of my counties won for the candidate. so after he got in the next january, he offered me a position in his washington office. and i grabbed it. i said yes, i will come. now, let me say this. the way i campaigned back in 1942, door to door, talking to people -- you know what? campaigning hasn't changed much in those years. people want to feel a handshake, and they want to hear from the
2:27 pm
candidate or somebody close to the candidate. kathleen: did you enjoy the experience? do you think that really sparked the interest for you? helen: i did. and because i enjoyed it, is why accepted the senator's offer to come to washington. now, at that time, he was located in the russell building. and there were only five members, five employees on his staff then. in those days, they went from january to june 30, because there was no air conditioning in the building. you get everything in those six months, then you went back to
2:28 pm
your home or wherever. now, it didn't take me long to decide i didn't want to be in politics. because i was upset at the questions and the demands of the constituents. things i felt did not belong in a u.s. senator's office. so, after the semester and a half here, i said, i am going back. i was going to gw that night, and we would also play around staff people together on weekends and nights. that was crazy.
2:29 pm
i decided i was going back to missouri. now, the first time i was in missouri, i had a job earning $.10 per hour in a drugstore -- which paid my expenses. this time, i was going back and working during world war ii. so i was going back and working a dining hall at the university at $.30 an hour. big jump. one hour would get you breakfast or lunch or dinner, and anything over your three meals, you could use that money for anything else. i was graduated from
2:30 pm
missouri in 1944, september. and it happened on the same day that my mother became a citizen. she was being sworn in out of nevada, so we could not be together. and -- the journalistic field. i got a job with united press in indiana. and i liked it. but i was not happy that united press did not feel they needed to pay me as much as they paid the men, and i fought that issue with them and i quit because i
2:31 pm
lost. it was five dollars a week difference, but i didn't feel that they were being fair. so i went out to lewiston, idaho as a night editor. and after a very short while there, i decided, this ain't for me. this ain't for me. i wrote to every big newspaper in the east coast and told them how good i was. and the louisville courier offered me a job, but not as a reporter. i wanted to be a reporter.
2:32 pm
so i accepted it because i had no other offer at that moment. i was all caps, ready to go to louisville, when the baltimore sun came through. and not only did they offer me a reporter job, but it was five dollars more a week than anybody else was going to pay me. and, they would pay my train fare from the west to baltimore. so i immediately canceled louisville and got on board for baltimore. and when i got to baltimore, my
2:33 pm
first day of work was on flag day of 1945. and the day city editor said, i want you to go cover the flag day ceremony of the elks. and when you come back, right half a column. so i went, and i came back and i wrote my first paragraph. i sent it up to the city desk, and then i heard this voice from the other end of the room -- "you stupid son of a bitch! don't you know you are supposed to check in with the city desk when you come back?" was was philip potter, who
2:34 pm
very famous on the "sun." been leavingn't within a week to go overseas on assignment, i would have quit right there, but he didn't. so i stayed, and the end of the war, ships were coming back and i became fascinated by the waterfront. city asked the new editors, not philip potter, bill -- oh, and young -- and ed young.
2:35 pm
they put me on-- labor, covering labor, which was a great assignment, because there were a lot of strikes then. and there was a strike, a 20 week strike at the bethlehem shipyard. we had a lot of shipyards in baltimore then. they produced 609 oceangoing ships in a four-year period during world war ii. and this 20 week strike, i felt bethlehem was very unfair to the workers, so i asked ed and bill, i said, i don't want to cover
2:36 pm
labor anymore. give me something else. so they said, why don't you go down to the waterfront and cover the port? we haven't had anybody since before the war. and they sent me, and i'm still there. i'm still there. kathleen: what was it like for you working in such a male-dominated field? helen: well, let me get into that. the men were coming back from the war and the city room was crowded with women, and they began laying them off. and ann hutchison, a woman who had come down from connecticut,
2:37 pm
she was kind of an elitist. --i do not know her last name, i will think of it. ge, who had been an absolutely magnificent reporter. older woman. she came from the hearst family. she was not a member of the family, she was in that arena. and myself, we were the three who were left. and i was amazed that i was left. well, then, the undercurrents begun. with the men against us. and i love the waterfront, and i did a great job there.
2:38 pm
i did personality, people stories, i did daily stories, there were a lot of strikes then, etc. i ended up being the labor and the maritime editor, which was ok. and i began talking a lot to all of the proprietors and entrepreneurs around the waterfront. it was about the time of the birth of television. 1950. 1949, i would say. and a couple of the men who were in charge of the propeller club of baltimore, and the traffic
2:39 pm
club of baltimore said, helen, we need to do a television show. i said, i don't know anything about television. hell, i hardly know anything about reporting. so i ended up structuring a television show. portt was called "the that built a city." and it ran for 15 years, every sunday, and i did it. i raised the money for it, i laid out the stories, i went out with a cameraman, we shot it, i helped edit, i wrote the script and then i was on with a moderator also.
2:40 pm
15 years. but it gave me a big boost in being able to think about elections. because i was a person at that werewho candidates who running for office would come to me about the and i would tell them about all of the pluses and all the minuses. matt: we wanted to get into how you were appointed. helen: i am coming to that. matt: ok. helen: because i was so fond, as i said earlier, of the maritime activities, and i must say that
2:41 pm
my managing editor at that time, buck dorsey, was great. after a couple of years he said, helen, you're on your own. you can do what you think you need to, you can go where you want, you just have to make sure that we keep the port of baltimore up here. one of the complaints always heard about our port of baltimore was that the railroad s controlled the piers, and the railroads did not want trucks on the piers. now, this was a new era. toto the state -- so i went the governor mccallister at that time, and is said, we have to do something about getting a public
2:42 pm
agency running the port. the governor agreed and he appointed a committee to work on that. and the first year, 1955, at the state legislature, we lost that effort. that was the first time i have -- i have been -- had been in annapolis, you could say, politicizing. so right after that session ended, those of us who were very startede to the need our committee back up for 1956. and in 1956, we won, we got a maryland port authority.
2:43 pm
then it was changed later. and here we are. 1956, july 1, we got a new agency. well, more than local politicians would come around to me and say, now what do we need to do? and we would work on things. and during that time, the st. lawrence seaway was being enlarged, and i was going back and forth up there, writing stories that indicated baltimore might lose business.
2:44 pm
well, as it happened, baltimore didn't lose business with the st. lawrence seaway. well, a little bit, not much. but we went on -- and again, there were strikes and strikes by seamen, longshoremen, etc. i got to know all of the labor union leaders very well during those days, and i broke many stories that i was ahead of the new york times, the new york herald tribune, and i had a good friend on the chamber of commerce at that time, and he and i would coordinate stuff. but by 1965, when the vietnam
2:45 pm
war broke out, my columns and stories were read all over the maritime world. i had established that presence. i was always very careful on accuracy, and i made a couple of mistakes. i buried the wrong guy one day i had -- one day and i had to apologize to his family. and a couple of other things like that. a guy by the name of richard nixon was running for the presidency and he had a guy working for him by the name of pat.
2:46 pm
matt: buchanan? helen: what? matt: buchanan? helen: oh, yes. pat buchanan. pat buchanan called me and said, we would like to talk to you about working with us on our maritime stuff. i said, pat, i am just leaving for vietnam, and when i get back, i will talk to you. i went to vietnam in january of 1967. and the reason my publisher sent me, there were 88 american flag eight zero,e 80,
2:47 pm
american flag cargo ships stuck in saigon harbor because they couldn't be unloaded, because nobody knew how over there. so i worked with then teddy gleason, he was the ila president about, the ila being the international longshoremen 's association, and teddy got a crew together and was taking them over. i went about the same time, in january. we had a much bigger merchant marine at the time that we do today, but still, 80 ships being tied up, and the length of time, nobody would know how long.
2:48 pm
undersecretary baldwin, who was undersecretary of the navy, came over. i knew him from having done stories with him at the pentagon. and he came over and we took a helicopter ride around. and i said to him, you are never going to get the ships unloaded as they are. from here on, you have to use container ships, and you have to have container facilities here. and with that, they built the port of cameron bay to enable containers to be brought in, dispersed and returned. it was a whole hell of a mess
2:49 pm
and it got worse, as you know. nixon -- i came home late in '67 1967 and called pat buchanan up. and said, i am here. he said, meet me in new york on a saturday morning. which i did. he was in his pajamas when i knocked on his door. i was going to get my hair done. so we talked. and pat said, if you will help us, it will be great because you know more about this than anybody. i offered to help. i told him that if the humphrey people asked me, i would have to help them as well because i was in the media business.
2:50 pm
i knew the humphrey people, i had never known the nixon people, but the humphrey people never called me. the nixon -- pat did. i worked with dick allen, and alan, who became our big financial guy -- what was his name? matt: greenspan? helen: who? matt: greenspan? helen: yeah, greenspan, doing that. so -- now, this is the important part for women. after nixon was elected, i was called by ed luchenbach, who
2:51 pm
owned a steamship line, and was overting these ships all the world, but he was on the transition team for nixon. and i had known ed before. now, this date he called me, was february the 4th of 1969. "helen, how would you like to be maritime administrator?" i said, that is what i want. he said, you will have to get the labor unions with you. i said, that's not a problem. now, i said that because just the night before, i had had a dinner in new york with all of the labor union leaders.
2:52 pm
all of the steamship, -- steamship presidents, and all of the shipyard people saying , you guys have got to work together or this will go to hell. so i worked. and jesse calhoun of the marine engineers said he would support me. joe curran, head of the national maritime union, said he would support me. lungrin from the west coast said he would support me. and then i got to paul, the head of the seafarers union. paul was one of those guys i met
2:53 pm
with the day before, before my big dinner and sat with them for 10 hours in his office. paul said well, i don't know, i have got to check it out. i said, what the hell do you mean, check it out? i talked with you for 10 hours yesterday and had this dinner. "well, helen, you know how i am. if i move a broom in my kitchen from that corner to this corner, i make sure that every detail is covered." i said, ok. paul never ended up supporting me, so i lost the administrator job. they gave it to a man. i will come back to paul.
2:54 pm
the next offer i had in the nixon administration was assistant secretary for communications in the department of transportation. now, i knew every detail about the dot because i covered it when it was being formed. i had written about it. warned me, istary insistent warned me that his assistant knew me, because -- warned me, because he knew me, that the assistant secretary said a woman cannot handle that job.
2:55 pm
and he hired a man. and you know what? within three months, he has to fire that man. and i sat back and chuckled. anybody with that -- who is that despicable towards women, i do not want to work for him anyhow. came the federal maritime commission. two openings -- a commissioner seat and a chairman's chair. i was offered the commission seat right off. and right off i said no. chairmanship.
2:56 pm
why? that guy doese not know a damn thing about the waterfront. he is a political appointee and you want me to make him look good. and i am not going to make him look good. so i am rejecting it. day -- this was like 1969 -- thef very next day, four republican en -- republican congresswomen were meeting with president about female appointees. i know him, but i cannot think. katie heckler became their spokesman.
2:57 pm
wegy called me up and said, we wanted you to take that seat. i said, congresswoman, i'm not taking that seat because the chairmanship is open. they're giving it to a man from warren, ohio. he is a lawyer who has never been on a ship, who knows nothing about a ship, or cargo, or trade. and i'm not going to make him look good. i'm not taking it. she called me up again. and i said well, let's see. the civil aeronautics board is open, chair.
2:58 pm
i will take that. she passed that on to peter flanigan, and peter went off -- a woman cannot handle the job. women can't do nothing. so i said to peggy, once she now youe, i said peggy, know the discrimination that is going on. i said i have been writing about the cab and all the transportation now for several years. i know just as much about them, more so than peter flanagan. the answer is no. to hell with him. then a reporter -- i will have to get the name. bob k.
2:59 pm
he began hearing about the fights that were going on. women were not getting anywhere. and this penetrated to the white house. had beenantime also, i fighting with humble oil companies, predecessors to exxon or whatever, about making a trip as a reporter through the northwest passage. they had made an icebreaking tanker to go there. "we don't have room for a woman." and i was fighting these literally by myself. but there was some help in the background. on july 31
3:00 pm
on july 31, 1969, at 10:00 in the morning, i got a call, "we ,- got a call from humble oil "we have found a bedroom for you, a room for you and we want you to be ready to go on the trip." i said fine, thank you. i will be ready. at 3:00 in the afternoon, the same day, july 31, 1959, peter flanagan called me up and said, do you want to be chairman of the fmc? i said yes, i will take it, but not until after i have made my last trip for the sun paper and
3:01 pm
for the industry aboard the manhattan. and thank you, peter. and that was it. all of that fighting and aggravation. so i made the trip on the manhattan. in those days, you do not have cell phones and all of the satellite stuff, etc. if you get connected somehow to in the u.s., you were very lucky. well, it was a day we were writing stories. and then, all of a sudden, our phones were shut off.
3:02 pm
i got the blame. and i was the only woman reporter, remember. so i got the blame. on the alleged accusation that the fcc had heard my obscenity " rewritealtimore sun man at the desk. after 10 tries to get him to understand the word, something. -- something, i finally said, "aw, al, shit." and out comes the humble oil
3:03 pm
people, etc. well, i was no good, all the reporters got mad at me, because they said nobody can use the phone. i got to thinking about that and during the evening, and i the fcc does not work that way. the fcc will have a hearing. then they will decide whether and they will fine humble oil or somebody for this. so i confronted the humble oil master who was in charge and i said, who in the hell said that? i said, i want to know. and humble oil, after i had been attacked and criticized as the
3:04 pm
only female reporter, they admitted that they were using me, and blaming me. there was no problem they just , did not want us to use the phone. matt and i read a lot of articles about that. it was picked up in the press, definitely. helen: so we got home, and then i took my oath for chairman of the federal maritime commission. and since i knew everyone at the fmc, i knew all of those who were productive and all of those who were non-productive.
3:05 pm
and i was able to straighten things out, probably faster than the average person going into a government agency. i was very cognizant of what had happened to me as a woman trying to get in there. and, the past battles that women had. at the fmc, i had four male commissioners, and i can tell you they were snotty, and resentful that a woman was chair.
3:06 pm
i let them be. i would not let them, when they were nasty, i cut the, we had one automobile with a chauffeur i cut them off. , i decided that two could play game.s and then i went on to learn what i hadn't known, more about the ports and what needed to be done. and after i left the commission, which was because senator you want ad if feeling, i will give you one, wanted to nail me. i went back home and began looking at the port again.
3:07 pm
the port of baltimore needs a 50 foot or it will die up here , in the upper part of the bay. that became my challenge for a campaign. also, the sitting congressman then was not only elderly, but he showed it. and i decided to take him on. now, the republicans were not well organized at that time in the second district. but i was pleased with the support that came to help me.
3:08 pm
clarence wong was the sitting congressman and he had played mockery in that district for 10 or 11 terms. well, i ran the first time, and i was not pleased with the outcome, of course. i lost. and that was in 1980. in 1982, i ran again. and this was after redistricting had taken place, and i had a better potential as a republican.
3:09 pm
so i had all of my quarters in mind and we ran. i lost by two percentage points, and i decided i'm going once more. and this time, i pushed the issue of the 50 foot channel and the need for it. and i really acquired a much larger volunteer support and but, am i still on
3:10 pm
the second time around? matt: you are on a third time. 1984. helen: ok. ok. i had a nasty challenge in the primary from a guy named david schmick, who had been one of jack camp a's -- kemp's heroes. of course, his attacks on me were, i'm a two-time loser, get out. so, since he had been born there, though he has never lived there, he was as entitled to run in the district as i was. well, you know, who knows. this comes later.
3:11 pm
i had my little red buttons, and iran. i ran hard. host: in any of those campaigns, did you receive support from women's groups or organizations? helen: no. i did not. women's groups, at that time, were not active in maryland. i received help from the maritime people mostly. i had a limited amount from women's groups. women, not as groups. we did not have -- who are the ones today? host: like now? helen: yeah. host: the national organization for women? helen: no, now, there are others. there were none of those active.
3:12 pm
doing money for women you had to , do it on your own. that is where i went. and fortunately, i had the support of labor, i had the support of workers, and even though i had the support of labor, not the union heads, but the members who lived in my district were very supportive and they voted for me. me ibecause they voted for , was elected. it may have had something to do ,ith the coattail of reagan too
3:13 pm
i don't know. but it helped. matt: was there any one key moment in that election in 1984, were you felt you had turned a corner? was there a moment? helen: not really. we just kept it up, day in and and we, on the issues, s that we an hour pas were not pushing. i should've mentioned -- no, that comes later. ok. host: i had a question. how important was gender in all of these campaigns you as a , woman candidate? helped to a gender degree. but i think the fact that i have had 15 years of television and
3:14 pm
29 years writing for "the sun" paper, and i knew my issues. i think that was my foundation, more than just being a woman. but i certainly never forgot the fact of how women were being discriminated against and still are. on todo you want to move the campaign optics? have women ine campaigns. we didn't cap women then. matt: you picked up on the story behind the campaign button. is there a story behind that campaign button or another piece of campaign memorabilia that you recall? helen: i have a lot of great
3:15 pm
brochures. i will send you some. i hope i have them. i have buttons. i was called the iron lady, what's her name was prominent at that time, margaret thatcher. and i knew i had to do well because i could not afford not to. and i just kept plugging and working hard. it is not a playpen, a campaign is tough work i admire anybody , and i admire anybody who goes into it. right now, we have a candidate on the republican side for the u.s. senate open seat.
3:16 pm
and i am in touch with her ilaga, almost every other day. the things i hear, etc. we got to help our candidates who are running. not just putting a woman in because she is a woman but a , capable woman. and that is what i keep stressing. i was got in, when elected, my two chiefs of staff, one ahead of the other, were both women. my legislative person was a man, an old friend from way back who was excellent with that. but i had several women on my
3:17 pm
women runningad my district offices, two women, etc. and we worked together as a team. host: do think your earlier career as a reporter, and, as you talked about, the chairman of the commission, because you were one of the few women, do you think that helped prepare you? helen: absolutely a did. absolutely it did. because when i went to the fmc, i really had never managed anything. i had been a key person on "the sun" paper staff at that time, but that was me.
3:18 pm
i had two assistants. but all of that prepared me to run a respectable and honorable office. and it is often quoted that my constituent service was second to none. because i knew what the constituents were calling in about, because i asked for every case at the end of every day i , followed up on that to make sure my staff was following. because in my opinion at the time, and i told my staff, the largest part of the constituency did not really care about my votes over here. but they did care if i responded constituent's request. and that is what we had to pay attention to.
3:19 pm
now i'm not saying it is that way today, because today we have cell phones, we have satellites, we have 24/7, constant looming on top of us. you are never a minute away from the television and the news. it is a different world today. and you have to be prepared for but you need a foundation. i'm amused, all of a sudden someone appears in a campaign i , am running for the senate. oh, what is your background? have you ever run before? "no."
3:20 pm
well what makes you think you , can handle the senate? "i just know i can." i said, do you have any idea what you are getting into? i said, why don't you start with the state legislature and move up? and i think that is very important. people have no idea, if the person is serious, how stressful a campaign can be. and my second campaign for reelection was against kathleen kennedy townsend.
3:21 pm
i will put the n before the meat in between. i was the first one to beat a kennedy. but i had the whole kennedy family against me. the night before that election, there was a certain corner, a street corner in my district in dundalk, this was merritt boulevard and wise avenue. and we are down there with our street sign the night before, and the whole kennedy clan shows up. just had to "out bentley" them, and we did. and we finally got them out of there, but that was one hell of a night, i can tell you. that is still my favorite street
3:22 pm
corner. [laughter] matt: when you came to the house in 1985, there were just 23 women in the house total. did you find that because there were so few women at that point that women tended to gravitate toward each other, across party lines even, in the house? helen: to a point. to a point. one of my best friends today is marcy, democrat from ohio. marcy and i have remained very close friends, because she thinks like i do. if we don't have jobs in america, there is going to be an economic push a drop-down.
3:23 pm
and just today i had a call from a businessman who had read something about the lack of jobs helen,re, and he said, if they had listened to you 20 years ago, we wouldn't be having this problem. i said, i know, but they all thought i was crazy at that time. i wasn't. -- and -- and i wasn't. host: of that small number of women that matt just referenced, there were quite a few from maryland. helen: at that time, there were four of us. host: did a special bond emerge between you? helen: we are close. any of us can call each other up
3:24 pm
if there is a need or they want something, and we have. we still occasionally have lunch together. i am a republican. barbara mikulski is a democrat. beverly byron is a democrat. marjorie hope is a republican. and connie marilla is a republican. we are still all here. and, i think we are all sad that there hasn't been a woman outside of barbara in the house for some time now. host: when you first came to congress, was there anyone who served as a mentor or offered you valuable advice? helen: not really. not really. i had, during my newspaper days, my fmc days i had become very
3:25 pm
, close to the three democrat, male congressmen from the city of baltimore. and that was rare, the three chairmen of the committees were from the same area. george fallon, head of public works. eddie garnett, head of the merchant marine committee, and sam fredell, government operations. matt: government operations committee? helen: committee. and i learned a lot from them. i would take the train from baltimore to washington with them, sit on the train, listen to them, ask them questions.
3:26 pm
you asked me if i had a mentor. those were my three guys. they were very helpful in my early days. and as a reporter, they were very helpful. matt: how would you describe the atmosphere of the house when you arrived? was it very welcoming for women? helen: let me put it this way, they did not roll out the red carpet, but they also did not shut the door. that is the best way i can describe it. kathleen: were their particular areas that might have been more difficult for you to gain access to because you were a woman member?
3:27 pm
you know a lot of the deals that , take place in congress are behind the scenes, golf games, or at the gym. was that an obstacle for you? helen: i never tried any of those. my concern was my constituents. and, as soon as the house ended here, i was back in my district, which very few congresspeople can do that because they are not all in the washington neighborhood, but i was. and i went back. i did what i had to do here in washington, and then i went back there. on a weekend, i would probably do 21 events between saturday
3:28 pm
and sunday. frequently, in the evening you would go, and i think mr. riverberger is following some of this. i don't know if he does 21 in a weekend. i haven't followed him. but the constituents want to see their member, and that is important. kathleen: what are your memories of the congressional women's caucus? helen: i never was a member. kathleen: ok. helen: i'm not going to be much i hired them,s -- i still hire them, i pay them
3:29 pm
well, but i have never been on emily's list and i am not a part of them. kathleen: ok, that is fine. matt: how about your committee service? we are curious to know how received your committee guidance for the merchant marine and transportation, and how important were they to your district? helen: they were very important in my district at that time. the public works dealt with a port and the dredging. and i wanted to get my 50-foot in there early on, and i did in the first year. , it was the last bill of the 99th congress. matt: and important to show progress to constituents, too. what were your impressions of
3:30 pm
the longtime chairman of merchant marine walter jones? , helen: i was very fond of walter. he and i became good friends. i had known him before when i so a newspaper person, etc., i knew walter from way back and , i liked him. he was a good chairman and also for the merchant marine. matt: how about the ranking republican member robert davis? , helen: bob was ok. um, unfortunately, the republicans, and i am not saying everyone, but republicans as a
3:31 pm
whole did not feel that we needed a subsidy for the maritime industry. and they were always knocking it and cutting it down. and president reagan had reduced or eliminated the subsidy, and that didn't help that industry at all. i did not agree with what they did. kathleen: in your last term in congress, you served on the appropriations committee, which is a very influential committee. how are you able to get that assignment? helen: i guess you would say that i made sure the leadership
3:32 pm
knew that i wanted it badly. and at that time i was running for governor, which was a mistake, and i needed their help to get it. and i got it. kathleen: what was the reception like for you on that committee, because there weren't many women that served? helen: the reception was ok because i knew most of the other members, and i had known them. and there was no animosity at that time. kathleen: how important do you think it was to have women on committees like that, on
3:33 pm
appropriations? helen: i think it is important to have women on every committee. because they provide a good balance. and in the present era, women no longer feel intimidated if they speak up at such a committee or take positions. and that is a much better atmosphere than what we used to have. matt: i have to ask about barbara book on a bench -- anovich.voc
3:34 pm
you served together on appropriation. she is from nevada as well. helen: barbara and i were good friends. we both have come from nevada. and, if she needed votes for nevada, she always could count on me. and if i ever felt i needed her support, i could always count on her. she was quite a nice, quite a lady. matt: do you remember any piece of legislation you worked on together? helen: i am trying to think. barbara and i worked on the yucca mountain. as you recall, there were people in the country who wanted to pour all of the nuclear waste in the yucca mountain in nevada. it, andda didn't want
3:35 pm
andpeople didn't want it, barbara didn't want it, and so i didn't want it. i stood strong with her during and those debates. she came over on occasion to any fundraisers that i had in my district, to give me support. kathleen: i know we don't have much time left, but there was one particular women's piece of legislation i wanted to ask you about the equal rights , amendment, and your thoughts and importance about having the e.r.a.? helen: that was during the nixon administration, and president nixon was for it. it and i cannot tell you who else supported it, but we passed it, as i recall. didn't we? matt: it passed in the house and
3:36 pm
it went to the states. kathleen: but not enough states ratified it. helen: and the states didn't do it, yes. but we did do it, we passed it. what a bunch of bums. matt: where do you want to go to? kathleen: what were your feelings about the importance of women in leadership? when you are in congress, lynn martin on the republican side was one of the leaders. how important do you think that was? helen: i was very glad to see lynn there. again, it opened the door for other women, and i think that was important. she did a great job in her position, and she helped other women. kathleen: did you have any
3:37 pm
leadership aspirations? helen: no, i did not. kathleen: why is that? helen: too much work. i had enough work. kathleen: [laughter] matt: did you serve as a mentor to many women during your career, any of the younger members? helen: let me say this. no, not members here. i have been cited frequently by young ladies in my district who come up to me and say, you are my mentor, and i hear that frequently, still. they tell me that what i had done and accomplished, they were
3:38 pm
following me. let me tell you something, and this just happened the other day. "the baltimore sun" is kicking off a maryland hall of fame for business. there are 12 of us. i am one of the 12 people, and i can tell you, in the financial arena, i don't belong there. i don't belong there, but i'm happy to be there because it is a real privilege that "the sun" paper selected me for what i have done over the years, for the port and the industry. kathleen: congratulations. matt: that's great. helen: thank you.
3:39 pm
kathleen: you mentioned some of the women, the younger women in your district have come up to you. a lot of women we have talked to have mentioned they felt they were not just representing women in their district, but across the country and the world. is that something you felt too? helen: right. it is. the younger women, i mean, when i was coming through there was nobody that i could reach out to, because they were not there. they were not there. i had to bust my way myself. kathleen: has that been a big change you have seen over your life? helen: i have three young ladies, college students, working for me now. they had been there three or
3:40 pm
four years. they are all working their way through. i tell them, i say, you guys don't know how damn lucky you are, because you have no idea what it was like 40 or 50 years ago. that's it. >> you are watching american history tv, only on c-span3. americaneekend, history tv is featuring flagstaff, arizona, where the cities to work staff recently traveled to see historic sites. 80 miles south of the grand canyon, it rests within the world's largest continuous ponderosa pine forest. alert and more about flagstaff all weekend here on american history tv. >>


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on