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A Simple Matter of Justice (1978)

Keller Barron

Sound | 1978

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  •  Actress Jean Stapleton reviews the latest episode of All in the Family with the cast and crew 
  •  Stapleton’s co-star, Carroll O’Connor 
  •  Actress Sally Struthers 
  •  The women’s movement begins with the fight for suffrage 
  •  Keller Bumgardner, a delegate from South Carolina 
  •  Carole Sheahan, parliamentarian of the Florida delegation 
  •  Roberta Johnson, a delegate from Illinois 
  •  Laura “Tibbie” Roberts, leader of the group representing the United Methodists Church and a delegate from North Carolina 
  •  Jill Ruckelshaus, a member of the 1976 IWY Commission, leads an opening pledge 
  •  Bella Abzug, a former congresswoman and the presiding officer of the 1977 IWY Commission 
  •  Exhibits on display in the neighboring Albert Thomas Convention Center. In addition to official proceedings, the conference also organized programming that was free and open to the public. Dubbed Seneca Falls South in honor of the first women’s conference, the program included 200 exhibits, 26 skills clinics and workshops, and the “Briefings from the Top” lecture series featuring prominent women in government. 
  •  The struggle for equal pay 
  •  The conversation turns to the Equal Rights Amendment 
  •  Congresswoman Barbara Jordan delivers the keynote address 
  •  Jordan shakes hands with First Lady Rosalynn Carter and former First Ladies Betty Ford and Lady Bird Johnson before receiving an embrace from Coretta Scott King 
  •  Rosalynn Carter expresses her support for the ERA at the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Assembly, a pre-conference organized by ERAmerica. To the left of Carter is Liz Carpenter, former press secretary to First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Carpenter was a charter member of the National Women’s Political Caucus and national co-chair of ERAmerica.  
  •  Betty Friedan 
  •  Opponents to the Equal Rights Amendment, including Phylllis Schlafly 
  •  Ruckelshaus underlines the simple guarantee of the ERA 
  •  Members of the conservative IWY Citizen’s Review Committee turned out en masse to state and territorial meetings, hoping to influence recommendations and win inclusion among delegations. After securing only 20 percent of the delegate seats, the opposition decided to host the Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally in Houston on the same weekend as the National Women’s Conference. Similar to the conference’s National Plan of Action, the rally prepared a Request to the President and Congress with resolutions against reproductive freedom, the ERA, and LGBTQ rights.  
  •  Delegates debate the ERA on the conference floor 
  •  Susan B. Anthony, grandniece of the suffragette, shares her support for the ERA resolution 
  •  Commissioner Mary Anne Krupsak, the lieutenant governor of New York, presides over the enthusiastic vote to adopt the resolution. Delegates adopted the resolution by a standing vote of approximately five to one, prompting singing and dancing to break out in the aisles. 
  •  Stapleton reflects on her experience with her roommate, Bernice Baer, a delegate-at-large from Washington, DC 
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A Simple Matter of Justice is a 1978 television special about the National Women’s Conference, held in Houston from November 18 to 21, 1977. Actress Jean Stapleton narrates the program. Stapleton was a member of the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year, or IWY Commission, which organized the conference. In reflecting on her experience, Stapleton provides a general review of the National Women’s Conference and its agenda. Prominent speakers include Jill Ruckelshaus, Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Rosalynn Carter, and Betty Friedan. Beyond revisiting the gains made by the conference, the film also seeks to highlight the next step for the women’s movement—primarily, the approval of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that guaranteed equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. By the time of the National Women’s Conference, the ERA was three states short of the 38 required for ratification. Stapleton talks with four delegates from states which had not yet ratified the resolution: Keller Bumgardner of South Carolina, Carole Sheahan of Florida, Roberta Johnson of Illinois, and Laura “Tibbie” Roberts of North Carolina. All four women talk about their involvement with the women’s movement and support of the ERA. Despite continued efforts, however, no additional states would approve the legislation and the ERA was ultimately defeated in 1982.
The National Women's Conference was held in Houston, Texas on November 18-21, 1977. Organized in response to a 1975 United Nations declaration that 1975 be the "International Year of the Woman" (later extended to "International Decade for Women"), President Gerald Ford established a National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year "to promote equality between men and women," US Representatives Bella Abzug and Patsy Mink sponsored a bill that approved $5 million dollars in federal funds to support both state and national women's conferences. The state conferences would be responsible for electing delegates to the national conferences and for consideration of issues that would be voted on at the national conference. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Bella Abzug as presiding officer of the aforementioned commission, which put the state conferences in motion and culminated with the national conference later that year. 
On November 18, 1977, 2,000 state delegates and some 20,000 observers kicked off the conference. Speakers included Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Coretta Scott King, Liz Carpenter, Jean Stapleton, and First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, and Lady Bird Johnson. Texas Governor Ann Richards, then a Travis County commissioner, was also present and spoke regarding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Houston native Barbara Jordan was chosen to deliver the keynote address. Her rousing keynote address brought the audience to its feet with these lines: 
"Human rights apply equally to Soviet dissidents, Chilean peasants, and American women! Women are human. We know our rights are limited. We know our rights are violated. We need a domestic human rights program. This conference should be the beginning of such an effort, an effort that would be enhanced if we would not allow ourselves to be brainwashed by people who predict chaos and failure for us. Tell them they lie -- and move on."
Delegates debated and collectively voted on 26 issues, including the ERA, child care, abortion rights, insurance, health, homemakers, sexual preference, rights of the disabled, elderly women's rights, and minority women’s rights. The resulting National Plan of Action was submitted to President Carter and Congress in March 1978, and a month later the National Advisory Committee for Women was established. 
Barbara Jordan was born in Houston's Fifth Ward in 1936, the daughter of a Baptist minister and domestic worker. Jordan attended Texas Southern University where she was a member of the debate team; she was the first woman to travel with the team, and along with debate partner Otis King, integrated tournaments in the South, consistently sweeping competitions. Jordan went on attend Boston University School of Law, finishing in 1959. After practicing private law in Houston, she entered the political arena. Jordan was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate since 1883 and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1976, Jordan was the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, a speech that is still lauded as one of the best in modern history. After retiring from politics in 1979, Jordan taught ethics at the University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Among many other honors, Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. In 1996, Barbara Jordan died of complications from pneumonia, a result of her battles with both multiple sclerosis and leukemia. She rests in the Texas State Cemetery, the first African-American woman to be buried there. 
Harris County
television broadcast
tv broadcast
television documentary
television special
National Women’s Conference
International Women’s Year
International Women’s Year Commission
IWY Commission
women’s issues
women’s rights
women’s movement
second-wave feminism
National Plan of Action
Sam Houston Coliseum
Jean Stapleton
Stapleton, Jean
All in the Family
television series
tv series
television show
tv show
tv program
television program
Carroll O’Connor
O’Connor, Carroll
Sally Struthers
Struthers, Sally
narrated by
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Los Angeles
Bella Abzug
Abzug, Bella
torch relay
women’s suffrage
women’s equality
Equal Rights Amendment
Keller Bumgardner
Bumgardner, Keller
Carole Sheahan
Sheahan, Carole
Roberta Johnson
Johnson, Roberta
Laura Roberts
Roberts, Laura
Tibbie Roberts
Roberts, Tibbie
Laura “Tibbie” Roberts
human rights
labor union
worker’s rights
Jill Ruckelshaus
Ruckelshaus, Jill
National Plan of Action
Albert Thomas Convention and Exhibit Center
Seneca Falls South
Daily Breakthrough
Janice Blue
Blue, Janice
equal pay
Barbara Jordan
Jordan, Barbara
Rosalynn Carter
Carter, Rosalynn
first lady
first lady of the United States
Betty Ford
Ford, Betty
Lady Bird Johnson
Johnson, Lady Bird
Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson
Johnson, Claudia Alta Taylor
Coretta Scott King
King, Coretta Scott
Betty Friedan
Friedan, Betty
Phyllis Schlafly
Schlafly, Phyllis
LGBTQ rights
gay rights
lesbian rights
civil rights
Susan B. Anthony
Anthony, Susan B.
Claire Randall
Randall, Claire
Mary Anne Krupsak
Krupsak, Mary Anne
Bernice Baer
Baer, Bernice