Originally from Georgia, Nellie D. Duke worked for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She has also been involved with the Council on Child Abuse; Family Connections; Women's Leadership Forum; the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters. She has served as president of the American Legion Auxiliary and United Methodist Women and was a state committee member of the Women's Vote Project. Duke helped found two women's groups -- the West Georgia Women's Forum and the Georgia Women's Alliance -- and serves on advisory committees for the Institute for Women's Policy Research and Georgia Coalition of Black Women as well as the boards of Today's Atlanta Woman magazine, Southwire Company and Possible Woman Enterprises. Chief executive officer of the Georgia Commission on Women and the Georgia Woman of the Year Committee, Inc., Duke joined the Commission at its founding in 1992, and served as chair until 2000. Duke recently was awarded the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award as well as awards from the American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters and the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, and was appointed to the advisory boards of Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University School of Medicine and the Task Force for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at the Georgia Department of Public Health. In 1999, Duke was chair of the Georgia Stakeholders Task Force of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Task Force on Violence and Abuse in Carroll County, and served on the Women's Advisory Council of the Board of Corrections. Duke also was a member of the State Committee of the Democratic Party and vice chair of the Carroll County Democratic Executive Committee, serving as a delegate to the state convention.
Abstract of the full interview
Duke describes her childhood in a small mill village outside of Rome, Georgia and recalls the time when she first started to notice that, "working women had a different set of problems and priorities…than other women." She discusses her interests and her personal life, and explains how she became involved in social activism. By 1970 Duke was working for her PTA and with Georgia state Senator Lamar Plunkett to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. She recounts her involvement with a number of organizations, such as the Council on Child Abuse, Family Connections, Women's Leadership Forum, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, and she discusses reaching out to professional and community organizations to raise awareness and support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Encouraged by her son, Duke recounts her experiences at the Capitol, when she met with Tom Murphy (the Speaker of the House) and Joe Frank Harris (head of the Appropriations Committee) to try to persuade them to support the ERA. Duke believes that the ERA was defeated because most of the Georgia legislators were men; because many women were afraid that they might lost the "safety and protection of their husbands;" and because the amendment, and its political consequences were misunderstood. After the ERA failed to pass, Duke continued to work on many women-related issues. She describes in detail her experiences as a founding member of Georgia's Commission on Women, as well as the work of the Commission, and she goes on to talk about her efforts, and the efforts of the Georgia Women's Alliance to get women appointed to state boards, commissions, authorities and agencies. Duke finishes by describing the issues that she considers to be most important today, highlighting childcare for working mothers, pay equality, and recognition of the achievements of women.
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