Episode 20 of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast features Zoe Nicholson, activist, lecturer, teacher, fighter for the Equal Rights Amendment, LGBTQ Rights, Alice Paul Scholar and tour de force in the world of non-violent protest. Zoe is a living legacy with a wealth of knowledge.
In honor of Alice Paul, Equal Rights Amendment writer and champion, 134th birthday, Zoe and Heather caught up virtually from Long Beach, CA and Marina Del Rey, CA.
Listen in as Heather Newman talks with Zoe about:
The implications of the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment, which needs one more state to ratify
Thoughts on the upcoming Women’s March activities around the world
Why Alice Paul and her suffrage tactics and methodologies are an important study for all today.
Her segment on PBS’ We’ll Meet Again with Ann Curry that aired on January 8, 2019.
Follow Zoe Nicholson at:
Heather Newman: Hello everyone, we're back again for another episode of Mavens Do It Better and I have on with me today someone who has been on our podcast before, a dear friend and colleague and a wonderful activist and soon to be television star coming up soon. We're, we're actually recording this and uh, this will air after that, fortuitous moment that we'll talk about a little bit. I give you everyone Zoe Nicholson, who you might be familiar with from our last podcast and were having her on again because I want to talk to her more and I think we need to hear a little bit more from her over time as we are moving into 2019. So. Hi Zoe.
Zoe Nicholson: Hi Heather. Thanks so much for inviting me again. Uh, obviously mavens listen better. Yay. I mean the responses I've gotten from being part of this podcast is fantastic. You attract a wonderful group of people and uh, I'm so happy you asked me again.
Heather Newman: Ah, well thank you. And Super Fun. So, so let's talk a little bit about, so I know that, so January eighth coming up, you are going to be on PBS on We'll Meet Again with Ann Curry and in conjunction with another episode, both having to do with Equal Rights Amendment, uh, women's history, women's issues. And um, I, you're, I'm seeing lots of buzz about it, so I'm sure you're getting very excited about this.
Zoe Nicholson: Well, you know through the back door and through, I certainly didn't go seeking it, but I had several women write to me recently telling me that they had written to Ann Curry about last season, season one was last year. Saying where are the women? And, you know, Ann Curry certainly is hip to what's going on in the Me Too movement because of her personal life. And also she's a very conscious and wonderful woman. So of course she would know. And, uh, so I'm gathering that this season they intentionally took on some issues having to do with women and two women who actually are feminists, myself and the other woman that is part of episode six. And I think the fact they made it the finale, episode six, uh, being, uh, the fight for women's rights is, is an elevation in itself to be the finale and it's not that far from Alice's birthday. Yay. Alice Paul's birthday is just a few days away and as you know, she's my obsession and of course the women's marches coming up after that. So, uh, yeah, there is a bit of buzz about all of this and I'm excited to be sharing the hour with the woman who went from stewardess to commercial pilot and I'm interested to see her show as well.
Heather Newman: Well, that's super cool. Yeah, I was with my folks, uh, this last weekend and my mother, I didn't send it to you yet, but she wrote on a big piece of paper, Zoe, Heather's friend January 8th, PBS and it's stuck up on the wall and she's told all of her friends, so hopefully they're going to have a viewing party up Gig Harbor, Washington, which would be pretty awesome. So,
Zoe Nicholson: That would be. and I'm working really, uh, uh, steadfastly to get people who either know nothing about the ERA or want to boost their ERA campaign, to hold viewing parties around the country and I also want to tell your mom and everybody else that it will be streaming on the Facebook page for 30 days and then after 30 days they take it down of course and then it all goes to retail. So, at that point you can purchase it through PBS or iTunes or whoever's carrying it. I'm not crystal clear on that, but I, you can watch it streaming on Facebook and it's also important for people who are not in USA. So, our friends in Canada and in Europe or people who are traveling, can actually watch it on the Facebook page for a We'll Meet Again.
Heather Newman: Got It. Okay. That's great. So yeah, so all of you listening in, um, it'll be after the original, but available 30 days after, so definitely check it out and you can find that on Zoe's page and my pages and all of those places where, you know, you might look for us. So that's awesome. Um, so Alice Paul's birthday, the 11th of January coming up. So, um, I know we've talked before, you're obviously an Alice Paul scholar. We met over Alice Paul over her over, you know, the, a banner that was carried, um, and you know, you posted an article that I read as well about the Women's March and, and that coming up and marching and something that I thought was interesting about Alice that you were talking about with her and the march and I was wondering maybe if you'd talk a little bit about that and elaborate on sort of, um, things, things one does in, you know, um, in protest and marches and making change. I think I find that very interesting from you. So,
Zoe Nicholson: well I, radicals who might be called the militants. Militant doesn't necessarily mean violent and that's a common and correct differentiation. Some people have it confused, they think militant means military and that is not what is necessarily meant. But in any social movement there are the militants and there are the moderates and the moderates collate, they collect, they see one another, they come out of their homes, they march, they do things that indicate that society is beginning to accept what the militants have been saying for a while. The militants, it's always a smaller group. It's a more radical group and Alice's group was in fact the militants, uh, here in the US eventually became the National Women's Party.
Heather Newman: In the early 1900s, right?
Zoe Nicholson: Yes, I do, in the first wave when they were working on the 19th amendment and the parallels are really dazzling that they were protesting the inauguration and the administration of a misogynist, racist president. I don't think that Wilson was as crazy as our current president is, but he was certainly a hawk and unreasonable and a southern gentleman. I use that term pejoratively, um, that he was a racist. And so there were groups of women and the moderates interestingly, when the war broke out, the first world war wrote Mr. Wilson and said, you know, we will stop the protests, we will stop working for the vote while you waged the war. We can certainly make that differentiation of what's important. The men's wars far more important than the ladies movement, but Alice, that is not what Alice did. Alice thought double down. He's in his weakest position now. He's trying to manage the war. This is time to go for it. So the militants actually sped up their action. Now to the issue of the march. I really wanted to explain a little bit of that in advance of telling you what Alice had to say. In 1913 they marched to protest Mr. Wilson's inauguration. They marched the day before he was inaugurated and they did that on purpose because all the benches were up all the bleachers were up, all the buntings of flags all ready for Mr. Wilson's inauguration in March of 1913. So everything was in place and Ms. Paul being as smart as she was thought well all the big, everything's up, let's just use that. But at the end of the day when the march was over, Ms. Paul famously said, well, now we've marched, we have to do something new. Well, they had only marched once and they were in fact the first march that marched at all to the White House for political reasons, but Ms. Paul was a purist when it came to militancy. She believed that to actually break convention you had to do something unconventional and marches after it was done, in her mind, marches were then conventional. And so, you know, I'm reading today as many listeners are that, uh, there are concerns regarding the leadership of the current American Women's March and I, all, my reaction is, well that's right on time. That isn't odd because there were all these leaders and they were all coalescing and the one after another saying intersectional and you know, we have to do this and that and this and that. And then by the time all the chiefs sat down, or should I say the head cook sat down at the table and they all had their own individual agenda. It has moved as far away from unconventional as one could get. Now they are trying to coalesce and find a reasonable center position. And Ms. Paul didn't care much for center moderate positions. So, you know, I myself think that to go to the march, this coming January, January 19th I think, we merely need to understand our purpose. I'm not going as a militant. I will go as a moderate, I will go because we see one another and we celebrate our numbers. When we celebrate it means that women's equality and equity and intersectional awareness is seeping now into the collective mind. So that's what the militants did for us and well done. Brava. And now we're going to march with the moderates and be glad and I hope that those people at the table, the sous chef and the main chef and head chef and all the people who want to participate in leadership can somehow understand that they need to step back now. This march belongs to the culture. They need to celebrate that was the outcome they had at the start that it actually becomes something mother can go to and grandmother can go to and I can take my daughters to, that all of America can march without being militant, which opens the doors to thousands of people and hopefully more and more. And uh, you know, it's a great thing that our Congress has now reached 23 percent women.
Heather Newman: Yeah, I, yeah, I mean, I think reading that article and the things that you and I've talked about it obviously that, you know, they're, the needle was cast forth in a way with the march happening and what happened with our Congress and what's happening in local governments all across our country, you know, and the cropping up more and more, you know, diversity, inclusion, intersectionality conversations and programs and panels and all of those things that I get be involved in on a, you know, technology and otherwise basis. So I feel like, yeah, I, I love, I really love what you said there about that. But the, the, the dripping into another layer of the cake, you know,
Zoe Nicholson: I think it's also, I think it's become safer. I mean to be a militant, there's nothing safe about being a militant. You're always at risk. You're always sort of standing on a ledge seeing how far you can push it before you fall over and get arrested or something bad happens to you. But um, but now because the moderates are marching and now it's safer and that's, and that's good. That's really good. That it isn't a scary thing now to stand strong with your sign that says, are we doing this again? Do we still have to do this Mr. President, we're not with you. What's happening to our reproductive justice, what's happening to fair wages and standing with a sign for women's rights right now is not dangerous. Imagine. That's the step forward,
Heather Newman: right? I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night and we were talking, I'd sent him the article, uh, that you had posted. And we were talking about it, because we were, he was saying, well, where are you going to be? You know, are you going to DC, are you coming to New York? Are you going to go to LA or are you going to not, you know, will you be with your family somewhere or just working or whatever. And I was um, I was like, that's a good question. And I've been contacted by certain people, you know, for different cities, I guess, and things and trying to figure out where I want to be for that because I was happy to be in DC for the first one and back here in LA for last year. And um, he was saying he was like, you know, how, he's like, because I continue to write about male allies and um, the patriarchy. And I was curious your take on, you know, I think intersectionality has become a good thing to have be a part of this conversation. But I've had some women and men sort of argue with me about male allies and should men be included, and you know, what is this intersectionality thing and why are you diluting the women's movement by bringing in, you know, trans and LGBT and people of color and all this stuff. And um, and, you know, and, and I get that backlash a bit or at least people asking me questions about it. And I was curious. Your take on, that's all. I just unpacked a lot. I just used a millennial term. Sorry. But, um, you know, I don't know. So like male allies and that, what do you, what do you think about those things? Hm.
Zoe Nicholson: I live on planet earth.
Heather Newman: Thank goodness.
Zoe Nicholson: And live on the patriarchal grid. And I Use a Gatling gun, a sledge hammer, whatever I can to chip away at the patriarchal grid. But I had made the choice to live here and uh, I need male allies. Um, you know, the Trans Community, I believe are leaders amongst us whose souls are so loudly heard that they cannot be denied. I have a great space in my heart for our trans family. I don't see the reason to exclude anyone if they can get on board with the platform. And that platform is equity, equality, liberty, uh, and, and I, I, we need all the help we can get. Right now the majority of leadership in the United States is run by men. The US ranks number 95 out of 195 countries on planet earth, of women in leadership, number 95. That means there are 94 countries ahead of us that are doing better than us. So, uh, yeah, I don't want to exclude anybody and I understand that some militant actions need to be women only and uh, and, and I hope that the men are collecting bail for them, waiting at the door for them, sending them a cake with a file inside. But I do understand that some actions are women only, but as far as the moderate and this moderating, if you think of sound moderating through the crowd, I need men to hear this. one of the greatest people I ever met, um, was an abortion doctor, a man who understood. who understands this more than a male doctor working in an abortion clinic? Yeah, I'm not, I'm not dissing men at all. And because the aware ones understand every time a woman advances, we all gain. So I'm pretty excited about more male allies.
Heather Newman: I am too. I, I had, I knew you and I were on the same path with that, but it is something that is continuing to come up as I write more about these issues and um, you know, leading more panels and things. And, you know, and I know you do so much of that work, you know, as a lecturer and you know, looking into next year, you know, I'm hoping to see you, you know, doing Tea with Me and Alice, you know, your, one woman show and then you have so many really cool lectures where you took a little bit about those as well. So folks know about them.
Zoe Nicholson: Well Tea with Alice and Me is really my passion. It's a solo performance. It's 90 minutes on stage and it, I thought it was going to be about tea, starting with the Boston Tea Party and the use of tea in revolutions. And as I, you know, it's all spontaneous. So uh, I have come to realize that it's actually about women gathering around tea and what happens when women gather. And uh, the first gathering was a, the first boycott in before the man named Boycott boycotted. Of course women are pioneers and they boycotted buying tea for the family when the men were throwing it into the Boston harbor. So women understood the power of boycotting before we even named it. And the next one is Seneca Falls, that was planned by five ladies sitting around a table drinking Oolong tea. But it was the tea rooms of the world and in particular it was everyone in the British empire and America, which we barely got out from under the British Empire, that it was tea rooms the first place where they actually built public restrooms for ladies to relieve themselves.
Heather Newman: Right. You couldn't go outside and you couldn't go to the bathroom. You told me this. And I was like, what? And you were, say that again. So like women traversing out.
Zoe Nicholson: We had tea parties in one another's homes because there were no public restrooms for ladies. and may I even press the point further to say that when women started becoming elected to Congress, they had to put more ladies rooms into the building because they only had one when, when Jeannette Rankin went to Congress from Montana. And we saw that in the movie Hidden Figures portrayed. The black women had been run for a mile to go to the ladies' room. Uh, our ability to relieve ourselves publicly was at issue, but Harry Selfridge was the first one to do it and he built, when he left Marshall Fields in Chicago and he went to England and built Selfridges and put in the Palm Court. He had the suffragists come there for tea. They had a ladies room. And so Mrs. Pankhurst and her daughters were able to go there and meet. And uh, I think it's sort of interesting that when the suffragists broke windows of Harrods and the different stores, they did not break Harry's windows, the only ones that survived out of gratitude for what he had done for the advancement of suffrage in Britain. Uh, you know, coming back full circle to the question, Tea with Alice and Me really is about what happens when women get the ability to leave their homes. And when they collect, not the least of which is, you know, one of the largest parades marches in history, the Women's March. But the other ones that I am offering new this year all came out of ERA. What it is? What's the history of the ERA? Who wrote it? And what would it do if it passed and what do we have to do if it passes? And Alice Paul wrote it in 1923 and who introduced it to Congress and, and what is the state of affairs right now? It's such a fabulously interesting story. And her birthday being January 11th, I want to tell you that in 1975, January 11th, Ms. Paul in her senior home, a retirement home, uh, the phone rang and it was Mrs. Ford and she called to tell Alice happy birthday. And, uh, Alice said, well thank you, but I'd rather you talk to your husband today about the Equal Rights Amendment. Alice was 90 years old. The reason I point that out is to say that we need more models of women who lived well into their nineties, just like we're all cheering right now for Justice Ginsburg. Uh, you know, we need to hold in our minds that women lived long lives in service to one another to women and to equality. So, um, you know, this, this coming birthday, uh, I think it's a hundred and fourth anniversary of her birth. I will be celebrating on January 11th. So one of the talks is about the ERA and another one is called "The Answer is Yes". Which hearkens back to the upcoming television show. Interestingly, when I finally, you know, when we spoke before, I wasn't allowed to say publicly who I was looking for or who I found or was she alive. And uh, I wanted to find Sonia and I wanted to tell her what I had done with the courage that she emboldened me with and she wanted to tell me that of all the people he had spoken with on her book tour and thousands of women showed up because she'd been ex-communicated from the church and she had written this book about it and shunned by the Mormon community. And you know, her life radically changed when she publicly stated she was in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. She didn't just lose her current status in the church. She actually, by belief lost eternity as a Mormon. And so she told me that of all the thousands of women she had asked to meet her in Illinois and to go forward and work on the amendment facing the deadline, which was June 30th, 1982. She said, Zoe, I want you to know that I asked thousands of women and only one of them said unconditional yes and that was you. And I want to tell you, Heather, and certainly your audience, that, that was a big shock to me. The rareness of saying yes hadn't really occurred to me until Sonya said that to me August 13th of this year. I mean, I know it was sort of rare. Kind of rare. Yeah. Okay. I know there aren't a lot of people who see eye to eye with me on how radical I see the world, radically I see the world. But uh, to be the only one that just said an unconditional yes. So I named this new talk called "The Answer is Yes". Because what I had to do and reconciling that awareness was to go back and sort of recapitulate my life. And look at how many times I said yes and how the payoff was. It wasn't always good, to be sure. Sometimes I said yes to terrible things.
Heather Newman: Sure. We all do. If it's not a hell yes, it's an f no, I dunno.
Zoe Nicholson: But I did, I said yes just to see what was, like why did Zoe cross the road to see what was on the other side. And uh, so I was always, as much as possible saying yes. So I have developed this new presentation called "The Answer is Yes". Recommending that yes is a really interesting journey. People say all the time, your life is so interesting Zoe. How'd that happen? And now I know it's because I just kept saying yes.
Heather Newman: Yeah, for sure. I love that about you. I'm excited to see these, some of these new talks for sure. Hm. Much to do, to say, to hear from you as we move along. And I'm really excited about seeing the show. We'll have seen it by the time this airs. And um, we'll be rounding the corner to Alice Paul's birthday and rounding the corner to the Women's March. So we'll see how all of those things sort of play out and where you and I may be for those things because I'm not sure yet, but
Zoe Nicholson: I'm not either all I know is they're having a, there's a, there's a screening party for me here locally where I live, and I've made a commitment that I'm not going watch the show before the party. We're watching it live, Pacific time and so I actually understand that I could watch it earlier on Eastern time, but I'm not going to. So I want your listeners to know I haven't seen it yet, so I'm going to be just as surprised as you.
Heather Newman: How amazing. So, well I'm going to wrap this up with you for this time, but we'll, we'll talk again. We'll meet again.
Zoe Nicholson: Holidays. Merry everything. Merry PBS and Alice Paul happy birthday. And can't wait to talk to you again.
Heather Newman: Yes. Thank you so much. And so everyone, Zoe Nicholson, just amazing always to hear from her and um, all the great things that are happening with her and her story and so @onlinewithzoe is where you can find her. You'll see in the show notes all the places you could find her and um, yeah, her debut on television will be on PBS, We'll Meet Again, which you will be able to live stream and watch, uh, for about 30 days after it airs on January eighth. So Zoe. Happy everything to you too. Thank you so much for being on.
Zoe Nicholson: Thank you.
Heather Newman: Welcome.