DMH Spotlight - Dottie Arseneaux was 16 at Houston Back

Diana…here’s something for your website! most of my recent pictures are of me in my biking gear and a helmet!

On Feb 2, 2012, at 2:52 PM, Stahr, Dottie wrote:

Questions for participants at the First National Women’s Conference, Houston, November, 1977
Copyright © Diana Mara Henry /
Please answer as many as you like, and in as much detail as you like. My thanks!

Your name, address, phone, email and URL Dorothy Arceneaux (“Dottie”); Edmonton, Alberta, Canada,
What was your name and address at the time of the FNWC? Same, but I lived in Louisiana. I live in Canada now.
What was your occupation, age and schooling at that time? Student, 16, in high school
Were you a delegate or in what other way were you involved in the conference? I was a delegate from Louisiana.
Did you attend a State Meeting prior to attending the conference, and if so, which one? Yes, Louisiana, the details I don’t remember except for all of the women running for the delegates. Our pictures were on a wall.
Do you have ephemera (fliers, buttons, schedules, articles) from the meeting or the conference? If you have donated them or otherwise disposed of them, please tell us how. My Mother would have had them. She passed away this year. Her papers have all been given to Sophie Newcome College (Tulane University) in New Orleans.
Did you write about the meeting and/or conference and or photograph/film it and do you still have those writings/photographs/films? Do you have any intentions of placing those materials in an archive and if so, which one? No sorry, I was too young and didn’t realize the value nor did I really know how to take pictures, not sure I even had a camera.
Please share with us why you attended the FNWC and state meeting. I felt very strongly about women’s experiences and about my future and what it was going to hold if no one stood up to make a stand. I felt (and still do) strongly about a woman’s right to choose.
Please share what you experienced there. Honestly, I have very vague memories of those times. Especially, the convention itself. Here I was this little gal from a small town in south Louisiana, so many woman (and very important women), the press, demonstrations, etc. I was overwhelmed I think and it was a blur.
Please share your use of what you learned/did at the conference in future years: I learned that through focused energy of people for a common cause anything can be done.
What was your subsequent schooling/reading/research? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? Business Degree from Louisiana State University and then Master Degree in Computer Science University of Southern Mississippi.
What has been your career path or paths? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? I went into Information Technology because that’s where women were making good money and my Mom drilled it into us to be self-sufficient. She was the real feminist and activist, but I feel very strongly about our issues and I’m pretty outspoken about it.
What was your family configuration in 1977 and how did that change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? I was from a family with divorced parents since I was 8 so that’s really all I knew. My Mother shaped my views about marriage, and to some degree, the messages that were coming from the women’s movement also had a definite influence on my views.
What was your work situation in 1977 and how did that change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? N/A
What were your civic/philanthropic/volunteer paths then and how did they change until now? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? I was already involved with volunteering through Girl Scouts and other groups I was involved with at the time. Since my Mom steered me into scientific academic study that would support me well, I have a strong need to help in the social services through volunteering. My last volunteer stint was working with new immigrants to Canada. My Mom had been a social worker and teacher and knew its rewards but also knew these fields did not pay well.
Could you share a photograph with us of who you are today, either with family, in work setting, leisure occupation or any other representation of you? Sure I can, but will send under separate cover my pictures are not on this computer.
Would you like to see another Women’s Conference on the scale of Houston, 1977 and do you think State Meetings would be a necessary component? Who should sponsor/fund such a conference? Sure, but I am skeptical. You don’t have the push for the young women of today (or at least that’s what I see). I never hear any of the young women I work with or my nieces talk about women’s’ issues…ever. They’ve had so many options open to them and I don’t see them so concerned about equality. Maybe if it were centered on other issues that are more sensitive to today’s women. Yes, State meetings would be necessary to create the ground swell. Funding…now that’s a good one! I have no idea…I’ve never worked on getting funding for this kind of thing. Maybe that could be my next area of development for a fledgling volunteer organization…ha!
What part(s) of the Plan of Action concerned you most in 1977 and what issues would be most important for you to see voted on today? A woman’s right to choose has always been my hot issue and still is. I also think today violence against women is another huge issue. I also think an international women’s conference would be beneficial to all women especially those in developing, male-dominated nations trying to get women out of the most insane circumstances.
Has your political, religious, gender affiliation changed since 1977 and in what way? Did the FNWC impact that in any ways? Yes, I have to say I’m a staunch atheist after a long time searching for the right spiritual balance for me.
Are there any other changes in your life path that were or were not attributable to your experience at Houston that you would like to share?Not especially except that I have a truly blessed life.
Could you share a perspective on the women’s movement then, now and a recommendation on women’s issues for young women today? Then, I was very young and was selfishly thinking about my future because of the horror stories I had been told by my Mother. I will say that because of veteran feminists like her, I have had (and am still enjoying) a very good career and have not experienced the discrimination/harassment/etc. that many of our sisters have. I have seen it happen to others and have done everything in my power to coach, influence, etc. to make these behaviors a thing of the past. I know it is still happening although maybe not so blatantly.
Please share anything else with us not covered in these questions that you think is important to you or others.
23. May we publish your answers, along with others, on this website?
Sure…go for it.

Thank you...Dottie

Dottie Stahr l Director, Resource Management
Enterprise Program Management Office

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