Document 14: Rachael Nason to Florence L. C. Kitchelt, 2 January 1945, Florence Ledyard Cross Kitchelt Papers, 1885-1961, A-61, Box 6, Folder 168, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


   Nason's letter to Kitchelt advocated the LWV's negative position on the ERA, but introduced a new set of international issues into the debate. She believed that the future feminist agenda should focus on post-war peace.

   Rachael Conrad Nason, peace activist and friend of Florence Kitchelt, served as the Secretary of the National League of Women Voters in 1945. In that capacity she promoted women's involvement in the Dumbarton Oaks Conference that led to the founding conference for the United Nations in San Francisco in April 1945.

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January 2, 1945

Mrs. Florence L.C. Kitchelt, Chairman
Connecticut Committee for the Equal Rights Amendment
38 Mansfield Street
New Haven, Connecticut

Dear Florence:

    I was indeed sorry that we could not see each other when I was in Connecticut in December. I still hope that we can think together even if it must be on paper. We all look back to our visits in your pretty house. Did you spend Christmas there, and was it a happy one? The children and I were in Conshohocken with my Mother.

    There is no possibility that the League will change its view on equal rights at this time. I did not write you with that in view, and I do not believe that reversing its position will be the most constructive thing to work for. My point is that we both want to obtain peace and freedom and that we should be able to use our past experience of cooperation to cut through the present argument.

    Here are two proposals. You understand, of course, that these are entirely mine, but they seem to me valid and I would very much appreciate your personal opinion of them.

    1) Right now we are facing the greatest opportunity to free women we have had since 1920, and perhaps since the beginning of the world. There is no bondage so heavy as war. It penalizes women more tragically than men. To mothers the loss of husbands and sons frustrates their instinctive drive for family welfare; the potential mother is as brutally denied her normal future. We both know this story too well to emotionalize about it. The point I want to make is that we have a chance now to build away from war into a more intelligent and a more constructive world organization.

    But that fight will be terrific. We can expect all kinds of trouble from groups in our own country who fear the restrictions an international organization will place on private adventure and national imperialisms, and from those who doubt the efficacy of it. Other countries will have exactly the same kind of problem to face. Winning through this time will be just as hard a task as it was the last. It may be harder. You and I have both cared for this objective more deeply than any other in our lives. Are we now in a position to see to it that the women's groups with which we are in touch make a united contribution to victory for a United Nations? I do not mean that we can expect all women to agree with each other--that would not be healthy. But might we seek a moratorium on this equal rights amendment fight, which in this phraseology is a national issue, to concentrate on the United Nations drive until that is won? We all hope it can be won soon. Veteran leaders in both fields can probably carry both these issues effectively at once, but the electorate needs to be freed from confusion. Confusion is even more dangerous in the Senate where interest

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can easily be alienated from international problems by division among groups in general dedicated to world cooperation.

    2) Have we more to learn through research? Are we more likely to get effective legislation to assure women equal opportunity, if we chart out some new fields for consideration?

    I rather think we are. We might use a moratorium to develop this information. Thank you for the quotation from the USSR Constitution, which I had not seen in just that translation. As I told you earlier, I believe we have much to learn from Russia on supporting legislation for the protection of mothers and children. I was tremendously impressed with their integration of work opportunity and education, and with the way the working hour schedule fits into the family schedule. They also used day care centers for children as health care centers for the whole family. The family support legislation and maternity benefits are based on concepts different from ours--perhaps not as good, but suggestive. I am not sure the Russian experience could be adapted here, but a careful study should be made.

    In fact what worries me is that the proposed Equal Rights Amendment tends to exchange a known for an unknown, and an unnecessarily unknown. We need a code of legislation which meets women's problems, and without this it seems to me unwise to cancel present procedures. If a sample code can be developed, it can be tried out in some states and thus furnish a known by which we can value the need for a Federal Amendment. Certainly I would be deeply influenced by the results of such study, and I believe you would be, too. With your ingenuity in asking questions you will probably see still more territory to cover.

    How could this be done? Our first task would be to define what we want to know. Once defined, the project might attract the attention of certain universities and foundations, or it might be financed by the Woman's Party. Even the opposition might help. Organizations usually face many more demands on their resources than they can possibly meet, but there is much that can be done by integrated effort. And there are law journals, magazines and professional organs that might be sufficiently interested to devote some of their editorial and news gathering money to it. In other words, let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

    Enough for this letter. I am not a lawyer and neither are you. The opinion of lawyers on the Amendment differs and also needs study. It seems to me, however, that the issue is not just the Amendment. It is rather the establishment of concepts of how women can be more effective in their new world life. The first job is to free them from this cycle of international violence. The second is to plan security for the child and its parents to use to the full the opportunities that lie beyond war.

    So please write me how you really feel, too.

[signed] Rachael Nason

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