[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Clark: Good morning.
Shanahan: Good morning.
Clark: Okay. We're going to talk about the lawsuit today.
Shanahan: Good. I was not a key person in any way in the origination of the lawsuit. You've got other sources for where and how it all started. I think I heard about it fairly early. The federal law at that time—and I guess maybe still—required that if there was a state agency that dealt with discrimination suits, you had to first go to them and see if the complaints could be conciliated and so on. And as a preparation for that, they—somebody from New York, Joan Cook, Betsy Wade, Grace Glueck, I don't remember—called me or wrote me and asked me if I could collect the written forms from people in the Washington bureau. I think it was an actual questionnaire but sort of open-ended.
In any event, whoever asked me to do it, I obviously said, "Sure." And in fact, went around the bureau asking various people, telling them what was up. Somebody had obviously explained all this to me. I believe I initially gave them only to the women in professional positions in the bureau and was enormously surprised when a wonderful woman named Laura Walz, who was Arthur Krock's secretary—Krock had been Reston's predecessor as bureau chief. He was quite an old man by then but he was writing a two-or-three-times-a-week column. Really a fascinating guy. He'd been in Washington since before World War I.
Anyway, Laura Walz was his secretary and research assistant, a woman who was very professional, always very tidily dressed and attractively so, but not much of a talker. I didn't know her very well. And I really thought she was just a secretary and only learned later—I shouldn't say "just a secretary," but I thought that her duties were exclusively secretarial and only learned later that she really was a research assistant and so on, one of these people who's always perfectly polite and correct, not in any offensive way ever but just perfectly polite and correct.
She came to me and asked me whether she couldn't fill out one of these forms, which astounded me. I said, "Sure." Maybe I called somebody and asked and then subsequently passed them out to all the other nonprofessionals in the bureau. And it turned out she was in an icy rage about her salary and how she was treated, especially as to salary when she was doing so much more than being a secretary and she had one hell of a complaint.
There was something weird about those forms, though, because as my deposition notes, I'd bundled them all up and I'm not sure whether all the professional women in the bureau signed one or not. I don't know whether Marjorie Hunter signed one at that time or Nona Brown who was the deputy Sunday editor, I guess, at that time. I'm just really not sure. Anyway, there were a bunch in our office.
For whatever reason, they were never received in New York and I didn't know that until much later. It's contained in my deposition but I have no explanation nor does anyone else.
Clark: How did you transmit them?
Shanahan: By mail. Just put them in the mail.
Shanahan: I don't remember. Probably Betsy, Joan or Grace would be a good guess but I don't actually remember which one it was. My prime guess is Joan but I'm not sure of that.
Clark: Well, I'm trying to sort of date this in my mind. Would this have been in seventy—
Shanahan: Two, probably.
Shanahan: Yes, because we went through that process—or maybe '73—we went through that process of working with the state agency and filing whatever it was. And then, of course, the actual formal legal thing began in '74 with the EEOC.
Clark: But you had already been to a meeting in New York, right?
Shanahan: I'm not sure.
Clark: In Nan's book—
Shanahan: Oh, yes?
Clark: —she said that you'd come to the meeting in—I think it was July of '72, with the publisher.
Shanahan: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. No, that was—was that the right date?
Clark: July of '72.
Shanahan: Is it? Okay. Well, all right. Yes, then I guess that's—yes, the very first involvement then may have been that meeting. And the decision that negotiation was hopeless and therefore we had to file. So that what I'm talking about, about asking me to collect the complaints in Washington—complaints, of course, in the formal legal sense of the work—would have been later. Yes, that's right.
The description of that meeting in Nan's book is, I think, just about perfect.
Clark: Yes. We don't need to go through that.
Shanahan: We don't need to go into that. I had always been favorably impressed with Betsy Wade but that was the day I started being dazzled and have never stopped.
Then at some time probably between the initiation of the "Hey, these are decent folks, we can work this out" phase and the actual filing of the suit, I went to a couple of meetings in New York. And it may have been I was just coincidentally in New York. I remember there was one at Rita Reif's apartment where I met a lot of people I hadn't known. I don't know whether I made any special trips to New York in that period before the actual legal stuff began.
Grace in particular seemed to be in charge of keeping me informed during the "Hey, folks, we can work things out, these are decent people" phase.
Clark: Was that really the attitude?
Shanahan: I think so. And I remember—and I think Nan has this in her book—after that famous meeting in the board room, I came out of it just bubbling over, "Oh, they're going to fix it, they're going to fix it, everything's going to be wonderful." And I really felt that way. I'll never forget—nobody who was there, I think, will ever forget the look on Punch's face when Betsy presented the figure about the average fifty-eight dollar a week salary differential when you held constant for education, length of seniority at the Times, length of experience in the business and so on. And some of the figures, actually—that's the one that got quoted. But me being a number freak, I looked at a lot of the other things in that Princeton study.
But the dollar figures—to say fifty-eight dollars a week today, after the enormous inflations—it sounds almost like peanuts now. But there was a huge inflation in '73-'75, because of the impact of the oil price increase, OPEC. Then there was another one in the late seventies and stretching into the early eighties. So that fifty-eight dollars a week doesn't sound like nearly as big as what it really was. Actually, what that study found was that the women, holding constant for all those things, were paid 15.7 percent less than the men.
Clark: By this time the study was—what category of women workers? It spanned every category of women workers—because you began with the distinction between professional and nonprofessional which reflects the beginning of the lawsuit in which the newswomen were the primary—
Clark: And it later broadened.
Shanahan: Yes, to include the women in every department except those covered by the printing trades unions. But also, to get back to the numbers, there were other figures, especially with inflation having blurred all our minds as to how much money fifty-eight dollars a week was. It sounds not so consequential now. And it was very consequential.
There were other details that never got the publicity that fifty-eight-dollar figure did. There was a study—this was all part of the same study by the two Princeton economists—that for those that were paid over the minimum, the contractual Guild minimums for all the variety of categories that there were, it was twenty-one percent more for men. You know, those are stunning figures, just stunning figures. When I saw that stuff, I really thought it was an open-and-shut case. Just intellectually it would have been interesting to see if it had gone to trial, just how they would have dealt with those statistics.
And there was another figure that—well, okay, maybe back in the Dark Ages it was terrible and we're still reaping the—what's the antonym of benefits—harm? But there was another figure in that study that showed the discrimination was still going on. Of those hired since 1965, men were paid twenty percent more, holding constant for category of employment, education, age, seniority in the business, seniority at the Times. Those were just knock-out figures, should have been a death blow. And maybe they knew that. I don't know.
Clark: By "they," you mean?
Shanahan: The Times. I don't know why—I'm getting ahead of the story.
Anyway, I was kept somewhat informed, by Joan and Grace and Betsy about what was going on. And did go—I think maybe only because I happened to be in New York—to a couple of the women's caucus meetings. I do remember particularly the one—I mentioned at Rita Reif's. I don't remember what happened. I remember mostly just meeting some people I was delighted to meet.
My being added as the seventh named plaintiff is an interesting matter. They had started with the six, whom the people that were working on it picked for diversity of kind of work they did: Louise Carini from the commercial departments and also Nancy Davis from classified advertising. And of course, Andrea Skinner was black and a dual plaintiff in the black lawsuit that was coming along in parallel. By the way, if it's not on the record anywhere, the world should know that we shared those economists. The blacks and the women jointly paid for that study. The race stuff the blacks made good use of, too.
I got into the suit as a named plaintiff after Harriet Rabb saw—I don't know whether it was the official payroll or the somewhat erroneous summary of the payroll that was gotten from some Guild sources which was posted on the bulletin board in the Times Washington bureau, dealing with just Washington people. I think it may have been after she got the official payroll.
In any event, Harriet Rabb was talking to her husband about the suit. Her husband—Bruce I think is his first name, Rabb—was a lawyer in New York, I think maybe a Wall Street lawyer. And of course, one of the things I had done over the years was cover the Securities and Exchange Commission. And so my work was very well known to anybody who was in Wall Street. And as Harriet told the story to me, when her husband saw what I was getting paid, compared to what other people were getting—the men were getting paid—he said something like, "Well, everybody in the whole world knows Eileen Shanahan. She's terrific. She's wonderful." And that was the genesis of her thinking. And I think maybe she told me that he had said, you know, "You ought to get her in the suit. It would really strengthen the suit for everybody."
In any event, after some kind of consultation with whomever, Betsy probably and that group, it was decided to ask me to be an additional named plaintiff.
Clark: Now, this was kind of late in the process.
Shanahan: I forget, '75 or '76. I'm not sure of the date. Someone called me—this I'm pretty sure was Joan—and asked me if I would be willing to do that. And I think I may have said yes right off the bat. I'm not sure. Something I do remember is the conversation I had with my husband, John Waits, about it, who was a newspaper executive, by that time, at the Washington Post, though he had spent the bulk of his career at the Washington Daily News which died in 1972. It might have been maybe the very day that I was originally asked that I went home and told him that I'd been asked to become a named plaintiff—he'd, of course, known about the preliminaries, to the degree I was involved in them.
I remember the conversation almost as if it were yesterday. Nan Robertson has since told me that she was aware that Betsy's and Joan's husbands*—they were the only married members of the original plaintiffs, that may be the case—were both very supportive and they were both very liberal politically. John was for the bulk of his life a corporate executive and he certainly wasn't a reactionary or a conservative in terms of what governmental public policy should be. But in a lot of respects he had a corporate point of view.
In any event, I obviously went home and discussed this with him. Basically, he said, "Well, of course, it's your decision to make. But you've got to think about what you're getting into and the consequences because going public with complaints against your employer is something that they will be furious at, any employer will be. You will be exposing yourself to resentment that is reserved for people who criticize the boss or the company in public. And that means retaliation. And they may retaliate by denying you promotions or raises or not letting you make some trip you'd really like to make, some reporting trip. And the unfortunate way that mental process works, they're not going to think they're doing anything wrong when they deny you those things. They're going to regard it as something you brought on yourself. And the result will be that—
* James Boylan and Gerald Cook.
maybe it will be minor in your specific case—but in the long run it would damage you, and I'm not just talking about the New York Times."
John knew that I already had some discontent with the Times at that time. I was just kind of vaguely thinking, wondering, because I wanted to be an editor and it was clear I was never going to be an editor at the New York Times. And so I had done a little thinking, not a lot, about whether maybe I could leave the great mother ship. And he warned me, he said, "If you really want to go elsewhere, you're liable to kill your chances if you join the suit because the whole industry will know what you've done because it's the New York Times. And your chances of getting another job, the kind of job you want, an editing job, will be enormously diminished."
Well, that's about what he said. And I remember what I replied, which was that I didn't think I could ever look my daughters in the eye again if I ran away from this just because I was afraid of the consequences to myself. And he said, "If that's the way you feel, I have nothing further to say. You have to do it." [Tape interruption.]
Clark: What was your reaction when you first saw Robert Smith's published salary list?
Shanahan: I was furious. We all quickly found out that there were lots of inaccuracies in it although the salary figures that were disclosed as part of the questioning in my deposition showed that they weren't grossly off. There was a lot of conversation in the bureau. I remember that was the first time Marjorie Hunter turned into a feminist. And oh, she was grossly underpaid.
Clark: Can you give me sort of approximations of where you were in the salary range?
Shanahan: Oh, yes. I remember that exactly. There were six women in professional jobs in the bureau. I was the only one who got paid more than any man. There were a couple of guys, ten and more years younger than I—one was John Crewdson who was probably twenty years younger than I and another one who didn't stand very high in terms of the quality of his work and was ten years younger than I—who were paid less. I was above them and nobody else. The other five women were one, two, three, four, five from the bottom. And guess where the only black woman was, Nancy Hicks—number last.
Clark: Was she a clerk?
Shanahan: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. She was a reporter. She was covering the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, now HHS. She was a medical writer in New York, first for either the New York Post or the New York Daily News, I forget which, and then for the Times, and had come to Washington when she was going to marry the noted black journalist, Robert Maynard, which she did, and the Times did let her move to Washington. She covered medical—not medical science, Harry Schmeck was the medicine as science writer in the bureau and subsequently in New York. But she covered medicine as public policy and the rest of HEW as well.
So when I say, as I did in various things that I wrote and in the deposition, that I was below the midpoint of the bureau, that is true, but it really makes it sound like I'm higher than I am because most of those people below me were women, or a lot of them were also women. So if you take the women out, I was third to last.
I think maybe the payroll figures that came up during the depositions—I never saw the whole payroll but I was asked certain questions and certain people's salaries as of March or July of '76 were disclosed in the course of the questioning in my deposition. And that Bob Smith list was really pretty close to right. I was interested. I wrote a letter, which is in the file, after I gave myself a couple of days to cool off from the
discovery of where I roughly fit in the sequence of salaries in the bureau when, it should be noted, there were only about four people in the bureau who were senior to me in experience in the news business—Reston, a couple of the older guys like Bill Blair, and I was maybe fifth out of twenty odd, or thirty odd, I guess, in professional seniority in the news business, though I was sort of in the middle in seniority—well, a little above the middle but not a lot above the middle—at the Times.
Clark: What difference did that make at the Times for the men, for example, in terms of their pay scales? I mean, how much did they weigh having tenure at the Times in terms of salary increases versus—
Shanahan: I have no idea. I really have no idea. But there were people who came in, like Leslie Gelb, who had zero experience in the newspaper business. He came in from a very high job in the Pentagon and a stint at— then the preeminent public policy think tank, Brookings. (It's still very eminent but there are rivals.) And obviously they valued the hell out of that. And he was very highly paid. The deposition disclosed that he was making—I forget, eighty bucks a week or something like that, more than I was. I was interested in—
Clark: I think he was making $741 and you were making $645.
Shanahan: Okay. I wrote a letter, after I gave myself a few days to cool off—it's in the file—to Clifton Daniel saying—it says it more eloquently than I do. I'm a better writer than talker, or more precise, anyway—that I was shocked and I couldn't believe that this salary represented anybody's assessment of my value to the New York Times and I asked for a raise of forty dollars a week, which again you've got to remember that this is pre-most-of-the-worst inflations of the seventies and eighties.
When I then heard some of the other salaries in the course of the deposition, I realized I was probably about right in what I asked for because there were a lot of people who were in the zone of about forty bucks a week higher pay than mine. I would say that would have brought me even with a lot of people that I think I was better than and a lot of them that the New York Times plainly thought I was better than. There's a lot of stuff in my deposition I don't want to repeat about the way the Times showed that I was one of their most trusted employees, in the bureau or anywhere else, like letting me be the person who planned out the entire coverage—planned and executed as an editor—of the president's budget, which used to be a much more important document than it is now, in the days when we didn't have such divided government, when what was in the president's budget was—except for a few little changes around the edges, that's what happened.
So it was the blueprint for the government for the next eighteen months. And we used to devote four, five, six entire pages of the paper to it. And I was the person that they gave the job of not just coordinating but figuring out what stories we needed, getting them assigned, figuring out—there was a main story always on page one but what was the principal sidebar. For many years it was military. Later on in the Johnson years it was the poverty stuff, and the other story or stories that ought to start on page one and then the whole narrative inside.
I actually devised the system for covering the budget that every major newspaper in the country that devotes space to it has copied, which was instead of a jumble of a bunch of little stories, a kind of a continuous narrative with inside headlines saying, "Military," "Social Programs," "Financial," whatever, and I worked with the artists on the graphics. All of this is stuff rank-and-file reporters don't get to do. It kind of enhances my argument that I would have been a wonderful editor and had repeatedly asked for editing jobs and couldn't get them and we'll get to that later.
But that's one of—one of the two main reasons why I left the New York Times. The other was knowing what retaliation was going to come from the suit.
Clark: So what was Clifton Daniel's response?
Shanahan: Yes. So I wrote this letter that's in the file, saying, "I don't believe that my ranking accurately reflects the Times' own view of my value to the Times. If it does, I will have to seek employment elsewhere. But I'm asking for a raise of forty dollars and I understand there's a Guild negotiation pending and a lot of things—you might not be able to do it right this minute." But I set some kind of a date, maybe the end of the year, I forget, that I thought I should have the raise by.
And Clifton called me in—or I gave him the letter and he called me in and basically said, "No, not at this time," or maybe, I don't know what he said. But the answer was no. I told him—or asked his permission because I would be going over his head—to write the same letter to Abe Rosenthal. And he didn't forbid me to do it but he pleaded with me not to. He said, "It would be a very bad move on your part. It will infuriate Abe Rosenthal," only he didn't say Abe Rosenthal. It was like the Jews never said "God." They had a word that they used—
Clark: Elohim, no. Yahweh.
Shanahan: Yahweh, yes, Jehovah.
Shanahan: Right. Well, he never said "Abe" or "Mr. Rosenthal," he always said "the executive editor." [Laughter.] And he said it would infuriate the executive editor and don't do it. But it was clear it wasn't an order. He was trying to dissuade me.
So I sent it. The same letter is in the file. I have a copy of the letter I sent to Clifton but the identical letter went to Abe. And not so much later, a week or so later—it was funny. It's a look I've learned to look for. I was sitting at my desk which faced the front of the room. And Clifton sometimes came out and sat at the news desk. And I saw him just kind of looking at me and looking at me, off and on all day. And I was just aware of it without any sense of why. And then toward the end of the day he called me in and he said that he had talked to the executive editor, who had received my letter, and that—he paused. He said, "I don't know how to tell you this except to tell you. The executive editor said that after the Guild raise"—which had been negotiated but not implemented, I would be getting—the figure was thirty-three thousand and something—"and that's enough for her." He was plainly uncomfortable.
Clark: Would Clifton Daniel have had the power to give you a raise without checking with Abe Rosenthal, a raise that you asked for?
Shanahan: I don't know the answer to that question. I really don't. I don't know how much autonomy he had in that field, no idea, nor any of his predecessors. The usual case, of course, in any organization is that a division head is given an overall budget which he can sort of whack up any way he pleases. That's standard, I think, in most companies. It's certainly been standard in the managerial jobs I've held, though you might talk to your bosses about "I think Joe deserves a raise and Jim doesn't," or Sally does and Betty doesn't—or even Jim doesn't and Sally does. But in general I think that's the way it's done. Now, whether that's the way it was done at the New York Times, I don't know. And it may not have been because there had been so much attempt at the New York Times to "get a hold of the Washington bureau," because Arthur Krock and James Reston really operated independent principalities and thumbed their noses at everybody in New York and just ran it the way they wanted to run it—hiring and probably raises, too. My guess would be within the framework of some
* Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God which is never spoken aloud because it is considered too holy. Jehovah is the accepted transliteration of Yahweh, which can be spoken. Elohim is the Hebrew name for Lord, as in the plural "our Lord." MMC.
overall budget ceiling. And it may well be that once they got a guy in there who would take orders, which was obviously why they put Daniel in the job, they gave him orders. Don't know.
After that conversation with my husband—probably the next day, I don't know—I called somebody in New York and said, "Yes, I'll do it." And in due course, Harriet wanted to see me. And Harriet—I went up to New York and saw her. Spent about two hours with her as she explained to me what would happen if I joined as an additional named plaintiff—that the Times would probably fight permitting my late entry. She thought she could win that fight. And in fact, they did fight it and she won.
Clark: Because you had not filed a complaint.
Shanahan: Originally signed on or whatever. I don't remember the details. I'm not sure I ever knew them. But she talked to me as if it were certain that I would in fact be added as a seventh named plaintiff. And she said very carefully, "Don't think this is going to be fun. They will retaliate against you in every way just short of anything I can prove in court is illegal retaliation," because there were laws about that, very similar to the laws that go back into the thirties on labor unions: that you could not punish somebody for organizing a union or being active in a union. Very similar language was picked up in the anti-discrimination laws. And that's what she meant by "just short of anything I can prove was retaliation."
And she said, "It's not going to be fun and they're going to say terrible things about you," and really went to great lengths to tell me, you know, "This is going to be no picnic." Over and over again—maybe not over and over again, but what registered in my head, anyway, was "Don't expect this to be fun." And she also— maybe this was later. I guess it was later before the deposition when she talked about what the deposition would be like. But I guess that was later.
In any event, after all this warning—and that's when she told me that her husband was the one who had suggested to her that I be added. And she said to me, on her own, not just quoting Bruce, she said—finally after two hours of telling me in detail how unpleasant it would be, trying to scare me off almost—but she obviously felt it was her responsibility to be straight up about no picnic here. She said, "But I do think it will strengthen the suit for everybody if you join." And I said to her, "Harriet, you have just wasted two hours of your time and my time because, if that's what you think, of course, I have to do it."
There's another little thing that fits somewhere into this time period and I'm not quite sure where, that I just wanted to mention. I think this was probably after they had gotten the order from the judge, the disclosure order that the Times had to give them access to the payroll and all the personnel files. And that, of course, is where such things as the notations about women's chests and whatever came from. Somebody told me, I never saw it with my own eyes—it was never entered, I don't think, into the official record—what was said about me by this creepy guy, Dick Burritt, who was the editorial personnel manager—who asked a lot of the guys but not the women, as far as I know, about their sex lives.
Clark: Was he in New York?
Shanahan: Yes, he was in New York. All these people were in New York. I had some kind of an interview with him when I went up for my final hiring interviews with Clifton Daniel and Turner Catledge. It turned out that—I was told this, as I say. I never saw it with my own eyes—that my file said, "Great legs. Face only fair." [Laughter.] But there was much worse than that about some of the women in terms of describing physical attributes.
Clark: Such as?
Shanahan: Some of this was in one of the magazine pieces about the suit: The gorgeous chest and not above dressing it to advantage, and stuff like that, and various things, not just physical stuff but things like "I think her real ambition is to get married," and all that sexist stuff.
Anyway, at some point—I don't know what period of time it was, probably after we'd gotten the discovery order and some of the stuff was coming out, I'm not sure—a man in the Washington bureau whose name I will take to the grave with me because I have no desire to hurt him in any way. Not one of the ones who was a particular buddy of mine at all, just one of the guys in the bureau, as far as I was concerned, but one of the outstanding ones—came to me one Thursday night when we were the only two there late writing Sunday pieces and asked me if the people doing the women's lawsuit knew about the publisher's payroll.
Publisher's payroll? What's that? And he told me that he was on it. This is somebody who was regarded as one of the stars and who just on his basic salary, it turns out, was making more than I was. The publisher's payroll was a special payroll, they got paid by the month out of some different pocket, got paid more, he assumed, than other people, but they also were permitted stock options and they got bonuses, too, which other people did not, so far as I know, aside from one general public offering of stock options. But they had bigger and more frequent stock options, my informant told me.
Clark: Now, was he a Guild? Was it possible to be both a Guild member and on the publisher's payroll?
Shanahan: I don't know. A lot of people in the bureau were not members of the Guild and I really can't tell you whether he was in the Guild or not. I have no idea. Probably at least half of the bureau or more were not in the Guild.
Clark: You said something about his regular salary. Was the publisher's payroll then supplementing that or was he entirely—
Shanahan: They were entirely paid out of the publisher's payroll, as he described it to me. It's just that I don't know whether the figures for some of the people that were on the publisher's payroll, like Charlie Mohr, which were disclosed to me in the course of my being questioned in the deposition—I don't know whether the publisher's payroll was some kind of thing they put in the main printout and the real figure was more, I don't know.
What I do know is that when I hopped to the telephone the next day and called Harriet and said, "Do you know about the publisher's payroll?" she didn't.
Clark: And this was well after Judge Werker had ordered the payroll figures to be accessible.
Shanahan: Yes. So that I don't know whether we ever would have found out about it but for this man who I had never even supposed was particularly a feminist or a particular friend of mine—not an enemy, just, you know, not a close friend, in the bureau—if he hadn't told me. Even though—I imagine, I don't know, that the wording of the discovery order was comprehensive and probably covered it. As Harriet said to me later, "We have discovered the New York Times can lie."
In any event, she wasted no time demanding the publisher's payroll and got it. I don't know whether that figured elsewhere because all I really know is my own deposition because, as you know, the great New York Times, the great staunch defender of the First Amendment, insisted that most of these records be sealed. I understand various people—Nan Robertson in some fashion unknown to me got some stuff that had been sealed and used some of it in her book. In any event, the great New York Times successfully opposed the public's right to know about its own business.
Clark: What was your communication at this time with the other members of the women's caucus and the other plaintiffs like?
Shanahan: Well, increasingly I came up for meetings, and everybody was very concerned about my expenditures for this. I had to pay my own airfare but they made sure I never had to pay a hotel bill. I spent the night with Nan and with Grace Glueck and Grace Lichtenstein, and somebody else, I think, put me up overnight so that I wouldn't have to pay a hotel bill. And they felt kind of bad. In fact, at one point I think Betsy said, "We ought to pay part of your airfare." And I said, "Oh, forget it, you know. Despite the discrimination, I am one of the best-paid women and I'll bear that cost." The New York shuttle was, I forget, thirty-five bucks or something like that at that time, which even allowing for inflation is a heck of a lot less than it is now, by a factor of four or five. So I did that.
Harriet I remember, too, was very careful to explain to me—this must have been a little bit before the deposition was taken—exactly what would happen at the deposition and including things like what this elegant law office would look like and how big and intimidating the conference room was and so on. Well, I kind of laughed at her. I said, "Hey, Harriet, I've covered those hot-shot lawyers in Washington for years and I've been in Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering's conference room, which is one of the most prestigious law firms in D.C., where they had these genuine antique maps of the era of Columbus on the walls and so forth," I said. "So that isn't going to scare me. I've been in places like that before."
But she was very careful about that because there were other people that didn't have that background and especially people like Louise Carini and Nancy Davis and non-editorial people—not to knock them, they were wonderful, intelligent, accomplished women, whatever the Times thought of them. But Harriet really took all that seriously, as to preparing us so that we could be at our best and we wouldn't be intimidated.
And I, of course, remember the deposition very well. There were a lot of things about it to remember. That's the first time I ever met Kathy Darrow who, of course, is on the Times now. And Harriet felt that she was—not just because she was a woman but because of who she was, just what she was, that she was decentest of the lawyers on the other side. I know Nan thinks very highly of her, too, has gotten to know her since she came to the Times.
The deposition in part was very mystifying. And Harriet was mystified. Mine was not different from other people particularly. They were trying to—there was a great long series of questions about when certain other people joined the New York Times and were they classified as domestic correspondents—which was my title and that of most of the reporters in the bureau. I think what they were probably trying to do was obviously impeach my assertion that I was not fairly paid by trying to find out what I knew about how senior people were so that they might be able, in a subsequent trial to say, "Yes, and she was ten years off in when so and so came," or whatever.
Well, I had been warned. Harriet had told me that she didn't know why they were following this line of questioning really but this is what they were going to ask me, she thought, if it was like the earlier depositions. Well, as it happens, there are records in Washington. There is a publication called the Congressional Directory which has a section in the back listing everyone who is an accredited correspondent to the Congress. It's sort of the universal press credential in Washington. People who never go near Congress, who cover the State Department or whatever and never go to Congress, get that credential because it is kind of a universal ID that says, "Hey, I'm a legitimate press person." It has three thousand journalists' names in it.
It was very easy to go back—I think the New York Times' own library had Congressional Directories back to year one because from time to time you need to know about some guy who was in Congress twenty years ago. And so they saved them. And I was able to look up, year by year, and see who was listed as the New York Times reporter. So "let me refresh your memory," I did it for myself so that I knew I couldn't possibly be more than a year off on any of these—that I might say somebody was hired in '67 when it was really '66
because the publication was as of March of every year. But anyway, I was ready for bear on that one, and kind of refreshed my memory a little bit on some other things, like people who've been in the bureau and then out of the bureau and then back in, on the in dates. Not completely but a tremendous part of that deposition was about that kind of stuff and whatever they sought to establish.
In fact, jumping ahead—well, I won't, I get to it when I get there. Well, I'll say this much. When Harriet went and deposed Gene Roberts, who had been national editor of the Times and then for many years was the executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer until just a few years ago, she told me that Roberts' lawyer told her that he understood exactly where she was heading with every question she asked but he didn't understand what the Times lawyers were headed toward, that it had utterly mystified him.
Clark: Yes, it would. It appeared very mystifying in the depositions, very hard to figure out what they were after.
Shanahan: Yes. There were certain things you could tell they were after. And I think the first zap I got had to do with—I had worked for six years for a weekly newsletter.
Clark: Let's turn the tape over.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Shanahan: I had spent six years of my life working for a weekly newsletter, when I first got into economics reporting, actually, and they were trying to indicate that this was less valuable experience. Also that my stint in the government, my first stint which was at the Treasury in '61'-62 was less valuable experience. Well, when they asked me about the experience on a weekly, was that less valued, I said, "No, I don't think so. I think they valued Charlie Mohr's years and years of experience on Time magazine very highly." So they didn't pursue that any more.
Clark: He was on the publisher's payroll, right?
Shanahan: Yes. Exactly. And very highly valued—and rightly so. I would not have felt bad—I did not feel bad knowing that Charlie Mohr made more money than I did. There were probably, maybe six guys—[Ned] Kenworthy, some others, Johnny Apple probably, though he was a funny in-and-outer, but when he was on there was nobody better. He's the Times bureau chief now, of course. But unequivocally, certainly Mohr and Kenworthy were two that I can tell you right now today and would have told you then: If they get more than I did, fine. They deserved it. But there couldn't have been more than six, not eighteen.
The deposition—there were some points I made which I thought were worth making that would be worth a researcher reading, about how much I was valued. The budget thing is one example. There are many others, including all of these notes of praise that I got over the years. Some were out in the open, what we used to call "herograms" in the bureau, where a message came down on the teletype machine for posting on the bulletin board, saying "Great job today by Eileen" and explaining the XYZ. Others were private, just personal little notes from—Max Frankel was a great note writer.
I only remember one time—and I think there was only one—when he thought I had missed something important in a story I had done and that was delivered orally and very nicely. He didn't say, "Hey, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both had this and you didn't," which was the case. He just said, "I thought there was an important point in the Post and the Journal and do you see a way to catch up with that today and get it in the paper?" which I did. I'd already seen the Post and he was right. That's the only time I remember.
So I guess maybe all criticisms were delivered orally and the praise was delivered very often in these wonderful, wonderful, wonderful notes he wrote. And I got many of those. You'd come in and look in your mailbox. And his stationery was a distinctive color and you knew it was a note from Max and you were pretty darn sure that it was going to be a note saying, "Hey, you did great this morning." I have many of those and it was quite wonderful. And I mentioned a number of them in my deposition, although by no means all because I didn't save all of them. I don't know why. Not enough of a squirrel, maybe. If I'd known about the lawsuit, I would have saved them all.
The deposition was—Harriet had warned me that it would be tiring and said, "If you get tired or you just kind of want to reassemble your thoughts or maybe have a quick conversation with me, just ask for a little recess and we'll go to the john and talk." I did a couple. But I think they were both real john breaks. But they kept us there through lunch and Harriet every now and then would pop up—I think that's all in the off-the-record in the transcribed deposition, saying, "Well, you know, it's 1:30. Shouldn't we break for lunch?" And the Times lawyers would say, "Well, I just have a couple more questions."
She did that several times and they said, "But I just have a couple more questions." So we went straight through. Incidentally, the typed transcript of the deposition is wrong about the hours of the beginning and the ending of that deposition. It says beginning at eleven o'clock. And I can't say when it was but it was a damn sight earlier than eleven o'clock. And it says it ends at three and I know that's wrong because it was getting dark when we left. Now, it was November, I think, so dark came early. But dark didn't come at three o'clock. Dark came maybe at 5:30. I think it was about five and we'd had no lunch. And so we walked down the street and had sort of a lunch/dinner. I simply know it was longer than that says. There are a number of mistakes in the transcript.
And it was long, it was grueling. But Harriet was so wonderful at keeping your spirits up. We sat side by side in the middle of this long table and the lawyers for the other side sat across from us. And Harriet every now and then would put her hand underneath the table but where I could see it and signal me a "Thumbs up!" It was wonderful. And one time she passed me a note that just said, "You are wonderful," which is good, you know, just reassuring. It means just don't change anything, just keep on doing what you're doing.
I don't know how much effect my deposition had. Re-reading it, I thought I made a hell of a case. Something I've always wondered about, though, was Harriet's deposition of Gene Roberts. This was a guy whose judgment could not be impeached. He was the executive editor of a major daily newspaper.* That's unimpeachable. In fact, when he left the New York Times to become that, Abe Rosenthal was reported—this is second-hand information—but to have said to him, "What do you want to do that for? Philadelphia?" Totally in the Times arrogance failing to understand that the top job at a major daily newspaper was better than a third, possibly fourth-level job at the New York Times.
Anyway, Roberts almost won more consecutive Pulitzer prizes than the New York Times. Damn it, he missed one year, sometime in the seventies. I think the Times—I don't remember the numbers exactly—was like fourteen straight. And Roberts had thirteen. If the Times was fourteen, I know there was one year when the Inquirer didn't get one and that broke my heart. I would love to have seen the Inquirer stick in their eye.
But in any event, you could not impeach this editor. Everybody in journalism knew that Gene Roberts was one of the great newspaper editors in this country. And I had worked technically not directly for him because my boss was always the Washington bureau chief who in turn reported directly to the executive editor. But de facto—well, it varied from year to year. But way better than half of my stuff went to the national desk and that's where Roberts was for some substantial portion of my time at the Times—and most of the rest went to financial.
* The Philadelphia Inquirer
You will see in the file my great, long, typed-on-three-different-typewriters letter to Harriet about just all of the various ways in which I felt I had been discriminated against. I was astounded at how many—I remembered every one of them but I was astounded at the cumulative impact of it when I re-read it just now. But also I suggested to her how to do the deposition of Gene Roberts. And she told me that she had followed it to a large degree. The point was to answer what the Times said about why I wasn't paid more than I was paid. They couldn't say I was lousy in my job. They just couldn't, given all my internal awards. So what they said was, well, yes, I did what I did very well but I was a narrow expert. I couldn't do just everything the way a New York Times reporter should be able to do everything.
Clark: When you say "they," do you have any idea who were the individuals that gave that information?
Shanahan: No, but it certainly came out in the pre-trial and that's why Harriet knew that's what they were saying. I don't know who. She may have told me but, in any event, I don't remember if she did.
Well, I realized that Gene Roberts was my very best witness to counter the charge that I was a narrow expert. It was not only that I had jumped in and done things really off my beat, like a couple stories I was very proud of at the time of the New York City near-bankruptcy when I was told, "Go find out what other cities are up to." And I did a piece that I'm very proud of and I've had occasion to re-read in recent years, with all the problems that local governments are having about that. Well, that was for the metro desk.
When I called Gene Roberts and asked him if he would be willing to be deposed he wasn't real happy. It may be that he thought he might well be the next executive editor of the New York Times and I would feel very bad if I thought this deposition had done him out of it. But I don't think that's the case. I think Frankel was in fact the logical choice and they didn't need to go outside and bring Gene Roberts back. But my guess is that, though he did it, he wasn't happy to have to do it because he may at the time have thought he had a chance to come back as the executive editor.
In any event, what he said to me when I called him and asked him if he would be deposed—or maybe Harriet did it and reported to me, I don't recall—was that he would be happy to testify to any fact but he did not want to characterize anything. Okay. Fair enough.
There was a specific bit of history that I wanted Roberts to recount that would make the case against what the Times was saying about my limitations. Here's the story. My husband was on the Washington Daily News for the bulk of its career, and it went under in 1972, bought by the Washington Star and closed. At that time, we didn't know what was going to happen about John's job. Scripps-Howard, which had owned the Daily News, was talking to him about a job in their New York headquarters and was talking to him about a job in Pittsburgh, not the paper I subsequently worked on but the afternoon paper, the Press. Memphis was mentioned as a place he might go, in a top-level management job in all of those places. He wound up at the Washington Post and we were both happy because we really wanted to stay in Washington. But in any event, that was all up in the air for several months, as he remained on the Scripps-Howard payroll in D.C., literally closing the News building and selling the equipment and so on. So it hung fire for a while.
During the period when we didn't know what was going to be happening with John's job, Roberts came to town for some reason or another and stopped by my desk and sat down and talked to me for a little while, which wasn't all that unusual, and in the course of that conversation asked me, "What's happening with your husband?" And so I told him that it could be New York, it could be Pittsburgh, it could be Memphis, it could be someplace I hadn't heard of yet. And he said, "Eileen, don't worry. If your husband goes to Pittsburgh, you know, we can make a rational case for putting the Pennsylvania job—they had a full-time Pennsylvania regional reporter—either in Pittsburgh or Harrisburg or Philadelphia. We can move it to Pittsburgh and you'd have to travel some. But you can have that job."
"Memphis," he said. "I'd have to check the airline schedules to see whether you'd have good access to the whole South. But if it can be done, physically, we can move the Atlanta bureau to Memphis and let you have it. Look, Eileen, let me tell you something. There's one job you can't have and that's San Francisco because we have promised Wally Turner he can have it for the rest of his working life. Any place else that we have a bureau or reasonably could put a bureau, you can have it."
Well, my suggestion to Harriet as to what line to pursue in the deposition was first to affirm that Roberts had said that. And he remembered saying it about Pittsburgh. He said he didn't remember saying it about Memphis but he didn't deny—he wasn't sure he hadn't, he just wasn't sure he had. And then I suggested she pursue a line of questioning, to deal with the allegation that I was just a narrow expert of "Well, now, in those regional bureaus, do you have to cover politics?" "Yes, a lot of it's politics." "Do you have cover"—and I go through a list—"Even the occasional sports story?" "Yes." "Even the occasional arts story?" "Yes." "Financial?" "Yes." "In other words, the whole galaxy of everything the New York Times covers." "Yes. That is what you do in those jobs."
The Times actually finally came in to talk settlement not very many days after that deposition was taken. And I don't know whether it's cause and effect. It did occur to me considering the fact that Roberts was such an unimpeachable witness that maybe—I'd like to think so. Now that may be a little braggadocio and I don't say that it is so, but it might be, it might be.
There were a couple of other specific things that might have come out at a trial about how much the Times valued me except in my paycheck—though both were about my abilities in the field of economics, so they wouldn't have rebutted the charge that I was just a narrow specialist. But apparently a helluva specialist.
Some time before the lawsuit even started, the man who had been doing the editorials on economic subjects left to go head a foundation and John Oakes, the editorial page editor, offered me the job. Not only did he offer me the job—this was while the Washington Daily News was still alive and John was there—but he said since I would have to live in New York, he would either pay for an apartment for me in New York (if we wanted to keep the Washington house as our base) or for an apartment in Washington for John if it was vice versa. You've gotta say that was an incredible offer. But I was quite sure, at that time, that I didn't want a commuter marriage (thought I did it years later, in Pittsburgh, for two and a half years) and so I turned it down.
The other episode did come after the Daily News folded. Dick Mooney who was then either financial editor or deputy told me if John wound up in New York, I could have any job in the business section. I remember exactly what he said: "Name it. I just want you to come up here and tear up the pea patch. Any pea patch."
Clark: Okay. We were going to follow up a little with some of the other charges that were leveled against you.
Shanahan: Yes. I remember Harriet telling me about the Gene Roberts deposition in that regard, the charge that I was hard to get along with. And she was asking him about that. And as she recounted it to me, he said something like, "Hell, she could argue. I mean that woman could argue. I mean, if you said you liked purple, she'd tell you ten reasons why you shouldn't like purple. But when she argued, you'd really better listen because most of the time she was right." Apparently he was asked sort of what did she argue about. "Oh, about a particular story and how it should be covered or whether it should be covered." And then they asked Roberts, "Well, suppose you decided she wasn't right. Could you go ahead and tell her to do it anyway? And how would she respond?" And Roberts said, "Oh, she'd just come back with the best damn story anybody could possibly have done."
Clark: Now, did this charge come from, do you think, Abe Rosenthal? Did I see a note somewhere that he said that you flew off the handle? Where did that information come from?
Shanahan: I don't recall if I ever knew. I think Roberts is right. I am argumentative. But I also think he's right about the rest of it. I have an unfortunate trait which even my friends recognize—there's a mention of it in Nan's book—that my voice really rises when I am excited. It doesn't have to be angry, it could just be excited. Not so much volume as up the scale to the—whatever goes beyond soprano, Nan said something about the wailings of the Walküre or something like that. It's the only thing I didn't like in her book but I think it must be true.
So there was that. God knows I was a willing worker and jumped into things. I probably filled in on other people's beats much more than the average and just jumped in and did it.
There was other stuff. I guess the thing that made me the most furious was the statement by somebody—maybe Frankel, I think it was Frankel—that I was an advocate for women. Well, I don't know where to start rebutting that, there are so many ways to rebut it.
Clark: What specifically was the claim? Did he have a specific claim behind it?
Shanahan: No, I never heard a specific. And there was plenty of evidence to the contrary. For example, Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina was the leading Senate opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. And I covered his hearings and the Senate debates and all that, so he knew my work very well. At one point—somewhere—I think it was in the Senate floor debate, one of the things that the feminist movement wanted, of course, was a legal right in every state—some states still forbade it—for a woman to use her birth name even if she was married. And I remember Sam Ervin getting up on the Senate floor and said, "I do not understand why any virtuous woman would not wish to have her husband's name."
Well, I had some occasion that day to call him off the floor to ask him some question or another—not related to that. But he was all wound up on that subject and he said did I understand why a virtuous woman wouldn't take her husband's name. And I said, "Well, to tell you the truth, Senator, Shanahan is not my husband's name. It is my name." I probably said maiden name in those days, because that's what we said.
And he looked at me with this sense of shock. And he said, "Oh, but you're not for that Equal Rights Amendment, are you?" So being asked a direct question, I felt I had to answer it. And I said, "Well, yes, as a matter of fact, Senator, I am." And he said, "Well, I would have never known it from what you've written." I subsequently called his legislative assistant, with whom I'd had a lot of dealings, and said, "Would the senator write me a letter saying that he had never known until this conversation that I favored the Equal Rights Amendment, from my coverage?" As it turned out, the senator didn't want to write it but the legislative aide wrote me such a letter. That's a pretty good refutation right there because whatever Sam Ervin was, he wasn't stupid.
And I once got a letter from Phyllis Schlafly, the big Equal Rights Amendment opponent, thanking me for my fair coverage. That was before she found out, like Ervin, in answer to a direct question, that I favored the amendment. Then she started seeing bias in my stories.
Then there was the occasion when Rick Smith, by then the bureau chief, at some luncheon with some public figure that we had in for lunch, made a reference that made me realize that he was thinking about giving the assignment of covering the women's movement to somebody else. So I went in that day or the next day to see him, to say in effect, "Did I hear you right?" And he said, "Well, yes." He wasn't going to do it anytime soon but he was going to give that to somebody else. And he made some kind of a charge of advocacy—or being too close, I think is what he said.
And I said, "What do you mean, being too close?" And he said, "You have very strong opinions about what the law should be in this area." And I said, "Yes. I'm a person with strong opinions. I have very strong opinions as to what the tax law ought to look like and you're not considering taking me off the tax beat." That was one of the major, major things I did for the New York Times, probably the last ten of the fourteen years I was there, I was covering tax legislation. And there were many, many major, five-hundred-page tax bills during that time.
And he said, "Well, but you're not a member of any organization that advocates tax reform." I said, "I'm not a member of any organization that advocates women's rights, either." He said, "Well, I understood you were a member of NOW." And I nearly blew up. "Understood from whom? Absolutely not. What kind of a moron do you think I am? Of course I know that I'm not supposed to be a member of any organization that I cover." And he repeated, "I understood you were a member of NOW." And I said, "From whom?" Well, he wouldn't tell me. But that episode illustrates how people with biases against an individual or a group can come to believe things that are just plain nutty.
There was another interesting illustration of that. Max Frankel in his deposition, which Harriet informed me of, I guess, before mine, had said that he didn't like to see his reporters writing about a subject one day and being in a picket line the next day. What he was referring to was a protest, of which I was one of the leaders, of women journalists in Washington against the all-male Gridiron Club.
First of all I'll explain why the Gridiron Club was important. It was the way that Washington bureau chiefs, mainly, really made their editors feel important. This was a dinner with a club that had fifty white, male members. It was like a fraternity, with self-perpetuating membership. They selected their own successors, and they had just this one gigantic dinner a year (they had a smaller dinner, too, but it didn't amount to anything) which virtually every president went to, every Cabinet member, every Supreme Court justice, every you-name-it. And their editors just loved it because they had guest—a head table, of course, but mostly all these big-name guests were scattered through the audience and so your editor back home got to sit next to the secretary of the treasury or whomever and the editors loved it. And it made the bureau chiefs more important in the eyes of their own employers. It also cemented contacts, much more than it would do today, the press corps has gotten so large.
But it was very important. All the top officials—male officials—and editors loved to go to the Gridiron dinner. First of all, it was an entertaining evening. They did all this satirical singing, taking popular songs and writing new satirical lyrics to them. It was a fun evening. I got to go several times, after women were finally admitted.
Well, anyway, the Gridiron, there was a group of journalists, including a lot of the younger journalists, younger than my generation, mostly women, but some men, who really started to try and force the Gridiron to admit women members. It was ultimately successful after eight years, and maybe I ought to talk a little bit about that later.
In any event, the picket line that Max saw me on was the counter-Gridiron picket line in front of the hotel saying, "Let Women In." And I'll talk more about that because it's fun. It wasn't the most important issue on earth. But it had some importance. It wasn't as important as getting women in to cover the foreign leaders at the National Press Club, which I had only a very peripheral involvement in. Gridiron was the picket line Max saw me in.
Now, the history of this is very interesting, in light of Max's charge, because I had been, with his specific approval, in some other advocacy positions on things involving the press itself. I was for a number of years on the board of a highly worthy organization called the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press. I was the only woman on that board while I was there, and maybe ever, which litigated First Amendment cases. We found pro bono lawyers to litigate cases where reporters' notes were being subpoenaed or somebody was threatened with being thrown into jail because he wouldn't testify before a legislative committee and many such
incursions into the First Amendment freedoms and protections that were quite endemic in that period of the seventies and a little bit before.
When I was asked to go on that board, I went to Max Frankel who was then the Washington bureau chief and said, "This is after all an advocacy situation. Do you have any objections?" And he said, "Absolutely not." But, you know, he'd check with Abe and he was sure Abe wouldn't have any objections, either, but he would check. And the answer came back, "By all means, do it." So it was perceived that what you did within your own profession was perfectly appropriate for advocacy. And obviously that is the case because the paper itself litigated First Amendment cases. We filed a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests and so on.
So as far as I was concerned, actually I went to—it must have been Max—when I was getting involved in the Gridiron thing, or shortly after I began to get involved, and said something to him about I assumed that this protest would fall under the same rubric as the reporters' committee. And he said yes, and adding the perfectly obvious caveat that if it got to be a matter of news, I would not be the one to cover it. Well, of course that's right. So I literally had his permission to do that. And for him then to say he didn't like to see me covering a women's story one day and in a picket line the next was just—he knew better. He knew better. It wasn't that his mind slipped. He had to know that. It made me very angry, very angry.
I guess those were the main charges against me, other than the "narrow expert" which I think Gene Roberts successfully demolished on my behalf. [Tape interruption.]
I don't remember much that I was involved in between the time of my deposition and the settlement. I was certainly kept informed about things that were happening in the course of other people's depositions. The thing I most brilliantly remember from that interval—this might have been before my deposition. Harriet called me one night. I had by this time left the New York Times and was at HEW. Something had come up in Abe Rosenthal's deposition which lasted over at least two days and this was the night in between the two sessions. Some question had come up she didn't know the answer to and she called me to get it. I don't remember what the question was.
What I do remember is after we discussed whatever we had to discuss, I said to Harriet, "Well, what did you think of Rosenthal?" And she said, "Nothing that all of you had said to me over the last two years prepared for the reality of it. He trashed everyone. This one was a drunk, that one slept around, the other one couldn't write, the other one couldn't report—vicious, vicious trashing of everyone. It was like being in the presence of raw sewage." I'll never forget that sentence.
Anyway, in due course, there was a settlement. I think—though you can never be sure about your actions if the facts had been different from what the facts were—I think if I had still been there at the Times, I would have argued against taking the settlement we were offered, that it was inadequate, although I must say instantly that the affirmative action part of it was brilliant and wonderful, that women would be by, I think four years, in one out of eight of the top corporate jobs, one out of four of the enumerated list of newsroom jobs, management jobs in the newsroom. That part was wonderful and they never lived up to it. Why they were permitted not to live up to it is another story I don't know a great deal about.
But I think if I had still been there, I would have argued against accepting the settlement. I went up to the meeting in New York where it was discussed and I raised my hand and voted against it. But there were just a handful of us that did, and I didn't feel I had the right to pursue my argument because I wasn't there any more and I wouldn't have to live with the people I had called terrible things in public, if the case went to trial, the way the other women would. And so I did not make a heavy case to anyone against the settlement. I mentioned it to Betsy. I don't believe I ever said it to Harriet.
My basic sense of why I wouldn't have accepted the settlement if I had still been there and going to be as victimized as everybody else if it had gone to a brutal, ugly trial was two-fold. One, we had a hell of a good case. Those statistics—now, I grant you I'm statistics-minded and maybe everybody on a jury—or I guess it would have been a judge trial—may not be. But the statistical evidence of a pattern and practice as the law was then before the Supreme Court eroded later on just was unarguable, I think. I think they'd have had a hell of a time attacking the figures the Princeton economist* had worked out.
That was the first reason why I thought that we shouldn't have accepted that. My second reason was the simple fact that this was the first offer because they never would negotiate until Judge Werker finally—as Harriet told it to me—said something to whomever it was—probably Jim Goodale, their lawyer—"I want to see Mr. Rosenthal in this courtroom next Tuesday," or words to that effect. "Who does he think he is? Georgia Power Company"—there was some corporate name like that. "He's going to negotiate."
And so, kicking and screaming, under a judge's order, Rosenthal was in fact brought in and negotiations did ensue. And I just don't believe in accepting anybody's first offer. Harriet felt, expressed the view, that this was the best we were going to get. I disagree. It doesn't mean I think she's a terrible person or anything like that. I simply disagree. But I didn't feel I could pursue it, since I wasn't there any longer.
I know she was fearful of Judge Werker, who was no great brain, among other things. He had been a surrogate judge in New York. And anybody who knows anything about New York knows what a corrupt system that is and what turkeys who some politician owes something to get appointed surrogate judges. And I think she was afraid that one, he didn't have the intellect—he had some staff, though, if you read his opinions. And probably—she never said this to me—was afraid that in the final analysis between enraging women and enraging the New York Times, he'd rather enrage women. Those were all rational positions on her part. I assumed those were her reasons.
Clark: Can I backtrack for a moment?
Clark: Were there any discussions among you and any of the other plaintiffs prior to the settlement about what your terms for settlement might be? Or any discussions with Harriet?
Shanahan: I think there were, though not with me, maybe partly because I was gone. I don't remember any such discussions because I was out of there. I don't think anybody thought I was any less a party to the suit. But I didn't have on the line what other people had on the line because I was gone. And I don't criticize anybody for that.
Clark: I mean prior to the point that you left, were there any articulated goals among the plaintiffs about what a just settlement might consist of? Or with Harriet?
Shanahan: I'm not aware of them in any detail. I mean, obviously there was the question of back pay, there was the question of an affirmative action program. What Harriet explained to me—it was the first time I ever heard the term "front pay," in terms of what would be done for the future as well as some recompense which is always a fraction of what you've lost in terms of back pay. But there may well have been such discussions with Betsy and others. I was not a party to any such discussions, that I remember, and didn't feel necessarily that I should be.
* Orley Ashenfelter
Clark: Do you think there were any other factors that Harriet was afraid of as she made her final recommendations to the plaintiffs?
Shanahan: She was really afraid—and she told me this. One time, oh, a year or two later, I forget how it came about, I was in New York and had dinner with her and Leslie Oelsner and Betsy and I forget who else. Leslie, of course, was one of the women in the Washington bureau the last couple of years I was there, a brilliant woman. Harriet really was afraid of women being emotionally destroyed by what was going to be said about them in public. Obviously, the other New York papers were going to have a field day covering this thing, and maybe the New York TV stations and God knows, because the New York Times is the New York Times. Anything the New York Times does is news.
Clark: But is that really true?
Shanahan: I don't know.
Clark: Wasn't there sort of a blacking-out even as the—I know the newspaper was on strike when the settlement was made but nonetheless, there seemed to be very little coverage even of the settlement itself or of the fact that the lawsuit was brought except in this Media Report to Women organized by Donna Allen.
Shanahan: That may be the case. There might have been some publisher solidarity on this that would have kept the New York coverage to a minimum. On the other hand, the day of the settlement, there were out-of-town reporters there. I specifically remember the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer sent reporters up to New York and local TV got interviews on the courthouse steps.
There were the out-of-town papers and the wires carried stories. So, I don't know. It's possible that what you suggest isn't wrong. Maybe the New York press wouldn't have covered the trial that way. But I just have a feeling, especially, you know, the tabloids would probably just love to hear the testimony that so-and-so was a drunk and so-and-so slept around, if it came to that. How's that for an old-fashioned phrase, slept around? That's what my generation called it.
My own sense of it was—and you ought to ask Betsy about this—that Harriet was a little over-protective, that we were grown-up women who could make our decisions as to whether we were willing to put up with having our good name besmirched in court. Now, she may have raised that question. She may have discussed it with Betsy and Joan and Grace and some of the others who were the core people. I don't have to know. It would be worth having that on record from Betsy and whomever. But I did have a sense that there would be—the trouble is you couldn't control it, you know. Somebody like me and various others, Betsy, strong women, women with supportive husbands and so on might have said, "Sure, let them say their worst." But you couldn't confine it to that because if they wanted to attack some woman who really was a more fragile person than the leaders of this group were, you couldn't stop it from being introduced into evidence if it looked relevant.
As you can see, I'm a little ambivalent. I would have fought the settlement for at least one more round if I had been there, one more round of negotiations.
Clark: For specifically what? More money?
Shanahan: Yes, more money, because the affirmative action plan was wonderful. Now, that's another question. I don't know why it was never enforced. I am aware—I've been told this is second-hand but I think it's good second-hand—that during the four years that under the settlement it remained under the jurisdiction of the court, that the narrowing of the wage gap—in fact, the wage gap narrowed considerably. And then the minute that four years was over, blooey! It widened again. I think I have that information from Jan Goodman, the lawyer in New York who did the AP case and who is working on an ongoing way in this field.
Harriet did not continue in this field. I think she was emotionally exhausted and decided that this was the last journalism case she wanted to do and then she created this center for the study of immigration law and what happened to immigrants, which plainly is worthwhile work. And maybe that's the reason why—and her assistant whose name I'm blanking out on [Howard Rubin], a wonderful guy, was also moved on to something else. And maybe that's the reason why it wasn't enforced—nobody challenged it.
Also it would have taken money. I think the women who did the bulk of the work, which I did not, may have been exhausted, that mounting another effort and the money it would take, was such that they just didn't feel up to it. I'm sorry it wasn't lived up to but I don't feel critical. It would have changed the New York Times. The suit changed the New York Times anyway, some, but it would have changed it more if they had had to live up to that. But I don't criticize anybody for that. That is sincere on my part.
Clark: Do you think if you hadn't left the paper at that time—and I want to hear more about the process of leaving and what that was really like for you, the decision to leave—but if you hadn't left, do you think that your voice would have made a difference with the decision to settle or not to settle? And what would the impact—looking back, could you sort of construe what the impact of your staying might have been?
Shanahan: I think it might well have been influential, first of all because I did have a lot of status within the group. I was, as Betsy, Nan Robertson and others have noted, the most widely known in the outside world of the seven named plaintiffs. I was something of a figure in journalism, wholly apart from being a woman, because of what I covered: serious, male-type news—the economy, tax laws. These are the kind of things that the male establishment in and out of journalism values, second only to politics. You can always tell what the white male establishment values the most by what it is they let women and minorities do last. This past 1992 campaign was the first time we had—not just the Times—journalism had women in very substantial numbers on the top candidates because politics is the news the editors of our newspapers value most. Most of them came up that chain.
I recognized a long time ago that the last place women and minorities are let in are the areas white men value most. Way back in the forties, fifties, when Washington, D.C. was changing, every job that you could see with your eyes, up through maybe World War II, was held by whites. The people behind the counter in drugstore soda fountains—rotten jobs, but were all white until sometime during maybe after World War II. And I remember noticing then that even if everybody else in sight in semi-shabby places like chain drugstores and five-and-dimes was black, the person at the cash register was white. Money is valued most in business.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Shanahan: I noticed that years later in the middle seventies when John and I took our first trip to the West in areas where there was a heavy Indian population, Native American population. And there again, you always saw Anglos at the cash register. A digression.
But your question was whether it would have made a difference. It might have made a difference partly because I had status within the group, partly because I guess I can be very persuasive. I remember the years, about ten or eleven in total that I was on the board of the Women's Press Club in Washington and my friend Isabelle Shelton pointing out to me that there was more than one occasion when it was twelve to one against me when we started out and I turned it around, just by making logical arguments.
I was also a very influential member of the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, often in ways that surprised people who think I'm very argumentative and positive. In that contentious group—and it was contentious—I was often the peacemaker, the person who figured out the compromise that everybody could live with and so on. So that given my past history of being persuasive, I have to say in answer to your question: maybe. But the arguments against the fear of what might happen to women a great deal more fragile than I am—we all have our fragilities, if that's a word—
Clark: Or vulnerabilities.
Shanahan: Vulnerabilities, right. That's not a frivolous argument. That could literally have destroyed some of the women. So, who knows? We'll never know.
Clark: A question that just occurred to me: Do you think any outside pressures could have possibly been brought to bear on the women's legal team to settle?
Shanahan: No, I do not suspect anything of the sort, unless maybe Judge Werker had joined in. And I'm not sure about this, whether he might have said to Harriet, "This is the best you're going to get." I think I almost half remember that but I'm not sure. That should not be taken as fact.
What do you mean by "outside pressures"?
Clark: Well, I'm just thinking of the incredible power of the New York Times now.
Shanahan: No, I don't have any reason for thinking that. There again, it's a better question to ask Betsy and Joan and the people who were much more deeply involved and still there.
Shanahan: You mentioned my process of deciding to leave—it was a slow process. I had wanted to be an editor. This sounds silly to say at my age but I had wanted to be an editor ever since I was the editor of my college paper. And I'm still proud of this. This is really going to sound silly now. My college paper, the George Washington University—so help me God, this was its name: The Hatchet. The yearbook was known as the Cherry Tree.
The year I was editor, which was the academic year '43-'44, we won the Pacemaker Award, the top award, to the single best paper, of the Associated Collegiate Press, in its category, which was a weekly in a university or college of five thousand enrollment or more. Now, not every university was a member but we were the best of those who were members, which was a lot. I'm still proud of that. This was of course wartime and staff—most of the men had left—and they were mostly women. And everybody else was up against the same problems I was, in terms of a lot of the people that they thought they'd be able to rely on were gone into the military.
But I discovered then that I really liked being an editor, I really liked thinking about something broader than reporting, conceptualizing the whole idea of what was out there to be covered. Even back then, I expanded the sense of what a college paper should cover, and I liked having a staff to execute my ideas. I always had more ideas than I could possibly execute myself. (Then, of course, when I finally became an editor, I discovered that I had more ideas than I had the staff to execute.) So I had really literally wanted to be an editor someday down the line from the time I was the editor of my college paper when I suppose it may have looked like a silly ambition because there weren't any women editors on daily newspapers then. Even in World War II, no top editors, I don't believe.
In any event, I always had that in mind and I must say, I lied about it in my interview with Clifton Daniel just before I was hired. It was pro forma. Reston, who was the absolute dictator of who got hired into the New York Times Washington bureau, had decided to hire me, after—he always consulted his own staff, the people that knew me and competed with me, like Ed Dale and Dick Mooney and a guy named John Morris who covered a lot of the economic stuff on the Hill. Reston would say, "Who's the best, who's the best?" And all three of them, to my knowledge—they'd told me so before I was actually hired—I guess only Ed and Dick did, Morris didn't but he told me so afterwards and I believe it—that they said, "Well, you want the best,
that's Eileen Shanahan." And so did the financial editor, then Jack Forrest. So did the editorial writer who covered economic stuff or did economic editorials, a guy named Murray Rossant—all said, "Shanahan, Shanahan."
Well, Reston had decided he wanted me. He paid a lot of attention to what his own staff people said when he was hiring. He believes—I think he's wrong—but he believes that you couldn't be a good Washington reporter, you couldn't know whether somebody would be a good Washington reporter unless they'd already been a Washington reporter. So he had carte blanche at that time to hire whomever he wanted to and didn't for the most part hire people from New York. He hired them from the Washington press corps. And I was an example of that.
In any event, when I went up for my really pro forma interview with Clifton Daniel and Turner Catledge, Daniel asked me what was my ultimate ambition. And I just flat-out lied. I said, "Oh, I just want to be the best reporter in my field. And you can't be the best reporter unless you work for the best newspaper, with its resources, with its access, and so on." And Clifton Daniel said, "Well, I'm glad to hear that because I can tell you no woman will ever be an editor on the New York Times."
That was something I heard later, too, when I asked for editing jobs at the Times, but he was the first to say it to me. Well, for many, many years, I was just so thrilled that they let me work for the New York Times I virtually forgot that I wanted to be an editor. I don't know how long that lasted, probably eight of the fourteen years I was there or something like that. But then more and more I kind of started thinking about it again. I can't give you a year. Perhaps some of it, no doubt some of it generated by what I had begun thinking about on a very conscious level, covering the women's movement.
Nobody had invented the term "glass ceiling" at that time. That came later. But being aware of the limitations on my own progress and the context that I was learning about in terms of what was happening to other women all around the country, I began thinking pretty hard about—oh, semi-hard—about leaving or trying to get a job as an editor because I knew that I would never be allowed to be an editor at the New York Times. And I think maybe—I was never bored, really, with my beat but I had been covering tax bills since forever. Sometimes for two or three years straight it was the major thing I did. And while every legislative fight is different, there are patterns and so on. So I was getting a little bored with that and other things.
My best guess—the letter that I wrote to Clifton Daniel and then to Abe Rosenthal after the Bob Smith salary list was posted, in which I said, "If I don't get the raise, I shall have to seek employment elsewhere." In my own mind, I don't regard that exactly as a watershed. I think it was a big incremental thing that "I've got to get out of here." But there were other factors. And as far as I'm concerned, I think the thing that made me say, in effect, "This is it, I've got to go," was what happened when Ed Dale was supposed to be leaving, he expected to be leaving to go to Paris. As it turned out, for some personal reasons, he never went to Paris and in fact, left the paper right around the same time I did—totally unrelated to me in any way.
Clark: Was this around 1976?
Shanahan: I think this was '76, yes. Probably late '76. Sometime before it was announced that they were going to send Ed Dale to Paris, they had set up in the—Max Frankel had done this, and it was a good idea—had set up within the bureau something called "clusters," the foreign policy cluster, the economic policy cluster, the social policy cluster and so on. The idea was that the person who headed the cluster was sort of a mini-boss without actually a lot of authority but that you were supposed to be thinking about the whole area that four or five reporters were covering and be kind of mini-manager. It was a good idea in a bureau of that size, with thirty-odd reporters.
Ed Dale had been the head of the economic policy cluster and I didn't see anything wrong with that. He was senior. Ed Dale was also smarter than I am. He's a better writer than I am, someone I always admired, respected and liked. We had quite a fabled friendship, in fact, never any back-knifing, unlike in the
foreign policy cluster when they were stabbing each other in the back all the time, trying to steal stories. He and I just never did that to each other.
Anyway, it was announced that Ed was going to go to Paris, I think probably as an attempt to revitalize him. He was brilliant beyond a doubt but he was not—he'd gotten to the point where I think he was bored and I think that's why they intended to do that. In any event, there were people in the bureau who actually kind of lined up by my desk to say, "Great, wonderful, you're going to be the cluster chief now." And everybody just took it as a given that I would be the cluster chief. And I guess I did, too. And then they announced that they were bringing Clyde Farnsworth back from Europe to become the cluster chief.
Well, Farnsworth is a lovely man and I don't like to say bad things about him, but not one of your great reporters. And it was clear to me, reading his stuff—he was the economic policy guy in Europe and his stuff was—well, it wasn't terrible but it wasn't great, either. And I really was incensed. And that's when I realized I just had to get out.
It would appear that that was retaliation, probably, a form of. I don't know. It's hard to know. Maybe they never saw a woman in that kind of a leadership role, period, even absent the lawsuit. It was either that or retaliation, and I don't know which.
Clark: How did you interpret it at the time, as retaliation or further revelation of systematic discrimination?
Shanahan: I think even at the time I felt it could be either or both. There's another retaliation item I forget to mention earlier which was the business of writing what at the New York Times were called Q-heads. Every headline had a letter, like the standard one-column headline was called an A-head and there was a B-head and a C-head and stuff. The Q-head was a news analysis.
And I noticed—not right away after I joined the lawsuit as the seventh named plaintiff—it was a matter of a few months. All of a sudden, I who had been a prolific producer of Q-heads, now whenever I recommended one, they said, "Well, no, we don't think we need that."
It was always considered an honor—recognition of your high standing in your field—to be allowed to do Q-heads. Initially, only Reston was allowed to do them, once they decided they needed this news analysis form. There were things that the straight news story, as it was defined in those days, much more tightly than it is now, that you couldn't really make the reader understand by following the old journalistic formulas of no interpretation and just facts and quoting people on opposite sides. And so the Q-head was invented as something in between a straight news story and an editorial. You weren't allowed to say, "This is good, this is bad," but you were allowed to say, "This illustrates where the power is," or various things that were analytical rather than judgmental.
Dale, I think, was probably the second person who was allowed to do them, partly because he was so good but also because economics is something a whole lot of people think they couldn't possibly understand if they tried—wrong, but a lot of people won't try—and that therefore you needed more interpretive stuff in this field. And then—I don't remember. I think Ned Kenworthy was paid very highly. There's another person who made more money than I did and I think that was fair. Ned Kenworthy did some, especially on inside Congress stuff.
But I was probably—I did as many, once I was allowed to do them, I probably did as many as anybody. And they got widely printed. The New York Times, as you undoubtedly know, has a syndicate and my Q-heads always moved on the syndicate wire and got widely printed elsewhere.
Well, as I say, a short time, a few months after I joined as the seventh named plaintiff, I suddenly discovered that every time I suggested a Q-head, some of the editors, either the national or the financial editor,
said, "Well, no, we don't think so." I kind of finally figured out that they must have been told I shouldn't be allowed to do Q-heads any more. It was considered an honor, it was considered quite an honor, to be allowed to write a news analysis, a Q-head.
Well, then I tried something tricky to test my theory, that probably they couldn't have sent these orders out to too many people because they were plainly illegal. You're not allowed to retaliate against somebody who files a sex discrimination lawsuit. So one time when Tom Mullaney, the financial editor, was on vacation, I thought, "Ah-ha, I'm going to propose a Q-head to the deputy editor" who was in charge at the moment. And sure enough, it ran. It's the only one that ran from starting a few months after I joined as a named plaintiff until the time I left.
Then it turns out—Harriet tells me—of course, I've never actually seen Max's deposition because that stuff's all been sealed. But Harriet told me that Max had said one of the counts against me was that I never wrote Q-heads. Grind-teeth here!
But to get back to my departure, as I say, the Farnsworth coming back to be the cluster chief really was the last straw. I had been in a very occasional way looking for another job, particularly a Washington bureau chief, which is an editing and management job, but not in a very systematic way. If I happened to hear of something, I went and applied. I applied at the Chicago Tribune—and either the Chicago Daily News or the Chicago Sun-Times, wherever [Warren] Hoag was at the time. And they politely interviewed me. I think they were afraid not to, because sex discrimination stuff was being enforced and—this would have been '75, '76—they realized that somebody with my national reputation, if I'm applying for a job, they'd better interview me or they might be in some subsequent trouble down the line.
Though nothing ever came of it.
It was either the Chicago Daily News or the Sun-Times, whichever it was that interviewed me, and they were very tough about—"Well, you don't have any management experience," to which I didn't have a terribly good reply. I had the reply that, "Well, yes, when I'd been in the Treasury Department where I had a staff and—many newspaper people don't take anything but newspaper experience seriously, which is a narrow, self-serving, stupid way to feel. But that's how they feel, many of them. And also I mentioned things like my editing the budget section.
I felt qualified to be a bureau chief because of my long Washington experience but also because of things like editing the budget section. Also I used to do a lot of what they call stringer stories. The New York Times has one or more people in every state, journalists who worked for some other newspaper, as a rule, who will respond to inquiries. And I was a great thinker-upper of stories we ought to do as stringer stories, using reports filed by journalists all over the country. I did one on women and credit, for example. I remember that got widely printed and probably helped accelerate the process toward the legislation on that issue, legislation that said you had to have a reason and you had to disclose the reason if women were not given credit by stores, banks and others.
But that's a sort of interesting thing, too. In any event, I do remember that Chicago Tribune people were very tough on me in the interview about "You don't have any management experience," and I had to say what I was able to say.
Then they offered the job to Jim Norton in the Washington bureau whom I respected then and respect now. He's now managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But he had zero management experience then. He'd never put together a special section, which I had done. And it's just systematic bias in the business. Anyway, it hadn't been a real industrious, "I gotta get outta here" job search.
In fact, the job I left for came to me when I became the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare at the start of the Carter administration. That may be a story for
the next session. But it did come to me. I'll tell this much and then there's much more to tell about when I had the job. But I'll tell you how I left.
I had been approached by a third party—someone I knew who was a very close friend of Joe Califano's—as to whether I might be interested in the job as assistant secretary for public affairs. Interestingly enough, he called me at home on a Sunday morning, right after Califano had been named secretary of HEW, and asked me— he said Califano was looking for an assistant secretary for public affairs and several names had been suggested, would I be willing to comment in confidence what I thought of these people? And I said sure. And I remember I sort of gave them an A, a C and an F. Then this man whose name was Stan Ross, a lawyer who'd been in college or law school with Califano—law school, I think, and whom I knew from my Treasury days—said, "Well, what about you, Eileen, would you be interested?" And I said, "Oh, no, you know HEW's not my thing. I really don't know much about what HEW does beyond social security and AFDC." "Okay. Thank you very much. Goodbye."
It was Sunday morning. John and I were sitting at the kitchen counter drinking coffee and reading the papers. And I came back and told him—it was about 10:30 on a Sunday morning—I came back and told him what the call had been about. And I'm sitting there trying to read the paper and I can't read the paper. All I could think about is what I would do with that job if I had it. So finally after I don't know how long, maybe a half hour or so, I said to John, "You know, I think I'll call Stan Ross back and tell him I don't want to slam the door without even talking to Joe." And John, ever wise, said to me, "You realize that is a much more serious expression of interest than if you had said yes in the first place." And I said, "Well, that's all right. I probably have some things of value to tell him about how I think it ought to be run and so forth."
So anyway, I called Stan Ross back. In due course, which was not long—I think it must have been the next day—Califano called me and said, "I can't talk to you today or tomorrow because my confirmation hearing is tomorrow and I'm busy preparing for that. But how about the day after that?" So we made the appointment. We talked for a couple of hours and he had an organization chart and took me through every part of HEW and what the problems were. Ah, I was really turned on.
And at the end of the interview, he said, "Well, how about it? Do you want the job?" I almost said yes. I came very close to saying, "Yes." I didn't feel like I had to talk to the Times but "Yes, I think I do," or words to that effect. He said, "Ah, we've got a deal, Shanahan," and shook my hand and I didn't actually contradict him.
So I go back to the office and I go in and tell Rick Smith, by then the bureau chief, that Califano has offered me this job and that I have all but decided to take it. I will never forgive Rick Smith for the two-hundred-kilowatt smile that briefly flashed across his face when I told him that I thought I was going to leave. And then he composed himself and said, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry to hear that." And then he did even talk, not at length, saying that he had been thinking about making me the social policy cluster chief. And he couldn't do it right away but maybe—and oh, he was so sorry.
Clark: What was the social policy cluster chief?
Shanahan: Oh, covering—you know what social policy is. It was HEW and Housing and Welfare and the whole urban complex that's all under the rubric of social policy. I was very interested much later when I read part of an Abe Rosenthal memo to the publisher that was about me. The publisher in effect asked why several people in Washington had left the paper recently. And Abe in his answer to the publisher said, "Eh, well, Shanahan, we can get somebody better than her. After she said she might be leaving to go to HEW, I issued orders that no one was to try to persuade her to stay." But of course I didn't know that the day I left.
Well, that was one of the most emotional days of my life. I came back, I told Rick, Rick dangled the small conditional carrot of the social policy cluster in front of me. And then the phone started ringing.
And I can't quite tell you what the sequence was but David Jones, the national editor, John Lee, the financial editor, a number of staff people—I mean, the word spread like wild-fire that I was leaving—and a number of people called me and said, "Oh, don't do it. We know this place sucks in a lot of ways but hang in." And I'm not sure. I think Seymour Topping, Abe's number two, called me twice. I think he called me in the morning and then late in the afternoon. I'm not positive that I remember that right, that he called me in the morning.
In any event, he did call me at 5:30 or six or something, after Jones and Lee certainly had both said, "Don't go, don't go. You're wonderful." And Topping called and said, in effect, "I really hope you won't go and we can try and straighten out some of the things you've been concerned about." He was the decentest human being at the top of the New York Times, beyond a doubt. I had great respect for him and liked him and respected personally as well as professionally and I think that was a pretty general opinion. I said to him, "Top, you say that, others have said it"—maybe I mentioned Jones and Lee, I'm not sure—"but no one of you has the nerve to go in there and say to Abe Rosenthal, "Eileen is leaving and you're the only one that can stop her." And Topping said to me, "I said that to him at ten o'clock this morning." And I said, "Thank you very much, Top. I have now made up my mind. I'm leaving."
Shanahan: One just tiny, wonderful little footnote to all of that. That was, I think, all on a Friday. And Harry Schmeck who was the medical writer had the Saturday duty. It wasn't supposed to be announced but it leaked, from a women's party I went to—that's interesting. I'll tell that first and then I'll tell you about Harry Schmeck.
One of the feminists I knew very well had some good-sized party of twenty or so at her house. There was probably an occasion but I don't remember what it was. I was scared to death that the feminists would be outraged at my accepting the job because Califano was on the record as anti-abortion and as believing that the feds should not fund abortions for poor women under Medicaid. And I should tell you that he and I discussed that in the interview. In fact, he's got this in his book, modestly entitled Governing America.
What happened was, I had talked to him on the phone, made this appointment for two days later. The intervening date was his confirmation hearing. So the morning of the appointment, I go out on the front porch, I pick up the Post and the Times. And there on the front page of both papers, down at the bottom of the page, was a story about Califano's confirmation hearing in which he had said he believes that the feds should not fund abortions for poor women under Medicaid. I looked at it and I thought, "Oh, dear, I'm making a terrible mistake here." I forget whether he said—well, the whole issue was pending before the Supreme Court at that time, what was known as the Hyde Amendment, for Congressman [Henry J.] Hyde of Illinois that forbids federal funding of abortions under Medicaid. And it was pending before the Supreme Court, whether the Hyde Amendment was constitutional.
I don't now remember whether Califano said in his hearing, "However, if the Supreme Court decides that the Hyde Amendment is unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, yes, I could administer such a program." It turned out that he had gone to the great Father [Thomas] Healy of Georgetown University, a great Catholic ethicist, and discussed this with him before he took the job. And Father Healy had said, given him kind of a render-unto-Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's, and said that he didn't really see any ethical problem with his—after all, he was a citizen as well as a Catholic. And if that was the law, then he should honorably enforce and execute the law and he didn't see any problem. That was in any event Joe's position. I don't think that came out in the stories that day. I think they just said he said no federal funding of abortions.
So I pick up the papers. I had this early—Califano was an early person—like eight o'clock appointment with Califano at his office. And I see that he has said no on abortion and I think, "Ach, I've made a terrible mistake. I can't work for this man." And I started to cancel the appointment and then I thought, "No, I really
have thought such a lot about how you really ought to run a first-class public affairs shop." And I knew that I would be in favor of most of what Califano wanted to do because he cared about poor people and so on. And I would go down and offer my two cents worth of advice. But I couldn't possibly take the job.
So anyway, I go down to Califano's office. And after just kind of a minimal handshake and "How are you?" I said, "Listen, there's something I've got to say to you right from the start. I don't think I can take this job because I could not speak for you on abortion. I couldn't flak for you, I couldn't write anything, I couldn't edit anything that had anything to do with abortion." And he said, "Oh, I'm not surprised you take that position. Well, I'll find somebody else to do it." And he never gave me one minute's worth of flak about it. Not one.
In any event, after I had decided to take the job, that very night, I think, Friday night, there was this feminist party I went to. And I was scared to death. I thought they would shun me and just about throw me out of the house when I told them I was going to go to work for Joe Califano. And quite the contrary, the hostess opened the door for me, a woman named Lael Steagall, and "How are you?" And I said, right off the bat, "I'm going to be the assistant secretary for public affairs at HEW." Well, she walks into the living room, pulls up a chair, stands up on the chair and announces that I'm going to do this. And they were just thrilled that a woman they knew, who was known to be a feminist, was going to get that job. I was hugged so hard by so many people that my ribs hurt for days.
And inevitably the story leaked out. There were some other reporters there. I guess Sara Fritz, of UPI at that time, she's now at the L.A. Times—in any event it was all over the Sunday papers. I'm not sure of my timing here. In any event, I guess Harry Schmeck, the medical writer, was the person who had the Sunday duty and he was told to write a little piece about I was going to be the assistant secretary of HEW, not because I was leaving the Times but because I was going to the kind of a job the New York Times would cover.
So I sat down with Harry and told him whatever I needed to tell him to write this piece. And when he finished, he showed it to me. And he had written something that was probably about three-quarters of a column long, much too long. I said, "Oh, come on, Harry. You know they're going to print about three inches worth." And between clenched teeth he said, "Yes, probably. But I wanted them to see what they are losing."
Clark: Oh, wow.
I'm going to double back for a second in terms of your participation in the women's caucus and hear the story of how you were asked to write the press release about the settlement.
Shanahan: I don't know whether I was asked or I volunteered.
Clark: Oh, I see. Well, that was my first question.
Shanahan: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. Joan called me to say a settlement had been reached. Or I guess maybe I knew that before, I'm not sure. And that they were going to have press availability the next day at the courthouse when it was officially filed and so forth. And I think I asked her a question about what we were going to do, would we have our own statement? Yes, we certainly would. And I think I volunteered. I think I said, "Boy, you know, I've been a flak for—however many years it was. I would love to use all the skills I have learned in the service of my government to come up there and help you write this press release." "So come along."
I think I volunteered. I don't know whether I said what I just said. I remember feeling that way, that I would just love to use the skills I had learned doing PR for the Treasury in the Kennedy administration and for HEW in the Carter administration to really write one hell of a press release. Not that they couldn't do it but maybe I knew a few tricks or something.
So anyway, I came up. And I think it was in Harriet's office. Somebody might have a better memory of that than I do. And it was Betsy and Joan and me—and Harriet for a time but Harriet went home because I don't think we got started until like eight o'clock at night or something. So we wrote the press release. Harriet knew of an all-night xeroxing place that lawyers, often under various kinds of court deadlines, had to work way into the night—or maybe because they were procrastinators or something. Anyway, there was such a place.
So I wrote. Betsy edited and improved it, of course. She was a great editor. I don't know, Joan probably had a hand in it, too. I don't quite recall the details. Anyway, it was a good press release and we got it printed. And we just had a wonderful time. I don't think we finished until about two o'clock in the morning. And I remember we cracked a lot of jokes and I can't remember what they were. They were obvious situational jokes that were very funny at the time. We had a lot of fun doing it. And that's really all there is to say about it.
It's a shame that the New York papers were on strike because they would have had to cover something even if they didn't much like to cover a defeat by their competition on an issue such as this that might expose them. But we would have gotten more coverage. As far as I know, though, it did not go out on the network news. There was a lot of local TV coverage. And there were some out-of-town papers which I mentioned earlier. I remember specifically the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer. It got good coverage in New York.
Clark: What was the New York Times' official response? Did Jim Goodale make a public statement?
Shanahan: [Laughter.] He certainly did. He said, "One, we admit nothing. And two, the women didn't win anything." The New York Times behaves like a corporation and that's what you've got to always remember. We hoped for better and I think we learned forever that the New York Times was just another corporation. And they said, "One, we admit nothing and two, we didn't give them anything really much." I don't know the words he said. The statement's a matter of record.
I remember after our press conference was over—and they were in separate places in the courthouse. Maybe ours was on the steps. I forget. I think it was and they had a room. I just decided to wander over and see what they were saying. And I did. And Goodale was speaking and saying, you know, "The New York Times never discriminated and there was nothing that indicates we ever once by any minuscule amount ever discriminated." I forget his words but they were terrible.
And I stood there doing a slow burn. And afterwards, I don't know why I kept standing there but I did. And he saw me. I wasn't going to speak to him, necessarily. He came over and greeted me very cordially. I had worked with him. He was a real good libel lawyer. He was what a newspaper libel lawyer ought to be, dedicated to helping you to figure out how you can get it into the paper and not why you have to keep it out. And I worked with him in particular on one SEC story and liked him a lot in that role. And he was obviously smart.
Anyway, he came over and greeted me very warmly and I had to decide in an instant whether to let him have it or just turn away without speaking—and elected to do the latter.
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