Collection SR 1126 - Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Index] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Image] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 01] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 02] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 03] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 04] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 05] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 06] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 07] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 08] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 09] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 10] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 11] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 12] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 13] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 14] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 15] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 16] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 17] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 18] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 19] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 20] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 21] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 22] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 23] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 24] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 25] Oral history interview with Betty Roberts [Sound Recording 26]
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Identity elements

Reference code

SR 1126

Name and location of repository

Level of description

Collection

Title

Oral history interview with Betty Roberts

Date(s)

  • 1992-03-24 - 1994-09-19 (Creation)

Extent

.1 cubic feet 32 audiocassettes (30 hr., 34 min., 9 sec.) + index (123 pages) + 1 color photograph (3x5 in.)

Name of creator

(1923-2011)

Biographical history

Betty Lucille Roberts, nee Cantrell, was born in Kansas in 1923. She grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, where her family struggled greatly throughout the Depression. In 1942, she married Bill Rice, a drill instructor in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and after the end of World War II, they settled in Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a banker. Roberts continued her education while raising a family, and she graduated from Portland State College in 1958. Rice objected to her acceptance of a high school teaching position, and they divorced soon after. She soon got involved in local politics and was elected to the school board in the Lynch Elementary School District in East Portland, Oregon. In 1960, she married Oregon politician Frank L. Roberts. In 1961, she earned a Master of Science in political science from the University of Oregon, then took night classes at Northwestern College of Law in Portland. She graduated in 1965 and passed the bar in 1966. She was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives as a Democrat while still in law school. She represented Multnomah County in the Oregon House from 1965 to 1968. She and Frank L. Roberts divorced in 1966, and she married Oregon Representative Keith Skelton in 1968, the same year she won a seat in the Oregon Senate, where she served from 1969 to 1977. She ran unsuccessfully for Oregon governor in 1974, and was appointed by Governor Bob Straub to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 1977. She was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1982 by Governor Vic Atiyeh, and she retired in 1986. After retiring, she focused her efforts on women's rights. She helped found Oregon Women Lawyers in 1989, and she presided over the state's first legal same-sex marriage ceremony in 2004. She died in 2011.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This oral history interview of Betty Roberts was conducted by Clark Hansen from March 24, 1992, to September 19, 1994, at Roberts' home in Portland, Oregon. In the interview, Roberts describes her early life and family background, including growing up in Texas during the Depression and her father's alcohol poisoning. She also discusses meeting her first husband, John Willard "Bill" Rice, as well as their marriage and starting a family in Oregon. Roberts discusses attending Portland State College and the strain it put on her marriage to Rice; discrimination she encountered as an older woman student; and pursuing a master's degree at the University of Oregon. She also talks about her divorce from Rice due to his objection to her working outside the home, the divorce's effect on her children, and her subsequent marriage to Frank L. Roberts. She also discusses her divorce from Frank Roberts in 1965.

Roberts discusses her career as an educator, including teaching at high schools in East Portland; serving on school boards; and her activity in the Oregon Education Association. She talks about meeting her third husband, Keith Skelton; civil liberties; her involvement in the Democratic Party; and practicing law. She then talks about her experiences in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, including campaigning, sexist media coverage, and teaching high school and attending law school at Northwestern College of Law while in the Legislature. Roberts discusses legislation she worked on during her time in the House, primarily on education, including sick leave for teachers and universal kindergarten.

Roberts also discusses her 1968 campaign for the Oregon Senate against Tom Mahoney, as well as the 1968 presidential campaign, including the debate around the Vietnam War and her attendance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, with U.S. Senator Wayne Morse. She then discusses her experience in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977, including legislation on taxes, particularly sales taxes; women's rights; abortion; environmental issues; rape shield laws; and child custody. She discusses working with Debbs Potts, John D. Burns, and Gracie Peck, and and talks about running for governor against Bob Straub in 1974. She also discusses her run for the U.S. Senate against Bob Packwood the same year. She talks about the various forms of sexism she encountered while in the Senate, the formation of the Women's Caucus in 1973, and support for the Equal Rights Amendment.

Roberts talks about her time as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to 1982, and about working alongside judges Herbert Schwabe and W. Michael Gillette. She describes being appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Governor Vic Atiyeh and the encouragement she received from Norma Paulus. She discusses several cases from the years 1982 to 1986, including cases regarding sex discrimination and misuse of taxpayer monies. She also talks about her law clerk, Maureen Leonard, and about working alongside judges Jacob Tanzer and Mercedes Deiz. Roberts relates her opinion on the efficacy and procedures of the judicial system in Oregon. She discusses her activities after resigning from the court, including her involvement with Oregon Women Lawyers and the Bob Packwood sexual harassment scandal.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Collection is open for research.

Physical access

Incomplete transcript available for in-person access at the OHS Research Library.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright held by the Oregon Historical Society. Licensed under Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

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Custodial history

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Notes element

General note

Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Betty Roberts, by Clark Hansen, SR 1126, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

General note

Forms part of the Oregon Legislature Oral History Series.

General note

More information about Betty Roberts is available at the Oregon Encyclopedia: https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/roberts_betty_1923_2011_/

Specialized notes

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.

Sources used

Archivist's note

Sarah Stroman

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