Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women's Movement Archives
Mary Jo Duncanson was born in Spring Grove, MN in 1947. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan in 1969 and soon began working for the Federal Education Projects (1969-1974). From 1974 to 1992, Duncanson managed her husband's private practice and beginning in 1992, she went to work for Emory University. Duncanson served as treasurer for the Atlanta chapter of NOW (1973-1975) and as the network chair for the ERA Georgia, Inc. (1981). At Emory, she served as Chair for the College Staff Consortium, Emory College, 1998-1999, and received the Emory College Employee of the Year award in 2000.
Abstract of the full interview
Duncanson begins by discussing her childhood in postwar Michigan and how, at a young age, she became interested in politics. She discusses her early political activities with the Democratic Party in Michigan, and what led her to Atlanta in 1971. She explains that by 1975 she had turned her attention to the Equal Rights Amendment, attending the meetings of the Atlanta chapter of NOW, and going on to serve as chapter treasurer for two years. Duncanson describes the Atlanta chapter of NOW as a somewhat transient organization -- one in which women were looking for an avenue to connect with other women with similar interests. She believes that the Atlanta chapter never achieved its potential as a significant political actor. As the treasurer of Atlanta NOW, Duncanson also served as a liaison to ERA Georgia and eventually was appointed as one of the co-chairs of the ERA Georgia network. The ERA Georgia network included women from NOW, the League of Women Voters, and business/professional women. From this point, Duncanson, along with other women, were able to attract women from around the state and in the final stages of the fight for the ERA in the Georgia legislature, Duncanson recalls they had approximately 70 county-wide leaders. She considers the state-wide organizing effort as one of the most personally rewarding moments of her work with the ERA. Duncanson discusses leadership issues and some of the problems that created tension among the different women’s organizations. The particular issues that attracted Duncanson to the Women’s Movement included reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, women’s property rights and marriage rights.
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