The Only Woman

The Only Woman

In response to a question from a student about how she handled being a woman in the male-dominated civil rights movement, Diane Nash said,

“I didn’t have any trouble in the Nashville movement because I was chosen to lead it because I was efficient. However, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed I was the only woman on the original committee. I had a great deal of trouble there because a number of the young men wanted to get as close to the Kennedy administration as possible because that’s how they saw power. I, on the other hand, was struggling desperately to keep the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee independent because the Kennedys were the executive branch and it was their job to enforce the law, and if they didn’t do it then we should maintain our independence from them. These men made deals with the Kennedy administration like if they would go into voter registration they wouldn’t be drafted into the Vietnam War, which made me hit the ceiling because I didn’t want SNCC to be beholden to the Kennedy Administration.

A lot of the good old boys activity was against me as a woman and I’d say, ‘I’m going to withdraw from this organization because I can’t deal with this,’ and as one of them said, I’d be more trouble outside of the organization than in it, and they’d backpedal and make enough concessions for me to continue. But when I was with the Baptist ministers at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference there was the gender problem there.”

from the interview Nash gave at Notre Dame University on MLK Day of 2020




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Marian Pierce