In my search for people involved with the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood (NAOP) that was in existence in the 70-80s, I recently found a wonderful woman named Marcia Drut-Davis. She was President of the Long Island Chapter from 1974 to 1977. In 1974, NAOP had its first national convention, and afterwards, she and her husband agreed to do an interview with 60 Minutes. Not just any interview, mind you-they agreed to invite her in-laws as well, and have the pre-recorded segment include Marcia and her husband telling them they did not want children.
In 1974, this was a big deal—a bigger deal than Marcia could have imagined.
When the segment aired, in Marcia’s memoir she writes, “..the more I watched, the more upset I became. Several hours of film had been cut to three minutes of pure propaganda.” Where was her talk about her passion for teaching, and role as mentor? Cut. Words from her husband? All on the editing floor. The childfree couples were portrayed as “selfish and insensitive, flaunting their material wealth and hedonistic pleasures…Our commentary on the positive aspects of parenting was nowhere to be seen. Our discussion of the many joys associated with that lifestyle, joys we would miss, had been omitted.” Mike Wallace even ended the segment saying, ” ‘Pardon our perversion for showing this on Mother’s Day,’ wearing an expression of intense concern.”
Marcia was shocked that the purpose of the segment –”to speak the truth about the realities of parenting, gain societal acceptance for those who choose not to parent..had been lost completely” and she feared that viewers’ “preconceived notions about the childfree would be confirmed.”
In a recent phone interview with Marcia, she told me that she and her husband encountered backlash like you can’t imagine. She lost friends and was harassed by strangers as well as people she knew personally. At that time Marcia had also been a sought after substitute teacher and was about to get a teaching position. What happened after the 60 Minutes segment? She was never called again to sub, and did not get the teaching position. In time, she went back to graduate school, and twenty years later, with a name change (by marriage) she finally taught again. After returning to teaching her school district nominated her to be National Teacher of The Year.
Listening to Marcia tell this story made me realize how far we have come. When I have been part of network television segments, including The Early Show, I have not encountered anything like this. Curiosity–yes. Myths and judgments–yes, but the kind treatment that Marcia faced, no. We see more stories in the media about being childfree than ever before, and while we have a ways to go in terms of total acceptance, one thing I can say is we’ve come a long way since 1974.
Postscript: I have contacted 60 Minutes a number of times to see if the show on which this segment aired can be purchased, and so far no response.
Read Marcia’s story in her memoir, Confessions of a Childfree Woman.
Who else has stories of how the childfree have been treated in the past?
Wow. This is really amazing. For many reasons. I had no idea this was even discussed in 1974 like this. (But it makes sense now that I think about it. Women were demanding more rights and freedoms and discussing them more openly.) But that it was edited as it was to provoke a certain train of thought. Sad. VERY neat article you worked up.
Courtney, her 60 minutes story and what happened to her afterwards is really is amazing — I plan to do a part II to share part of what she did in the 20 years before going back to teaching, which also was not always “accepted” by the masses. She is in her late 60s–she is one of those women where you go — I want to be like Marcia when I’m that age! ~L
This kind of thing still goes on, although I am sure it was much worse back in the 1970s. I was interviewed for a short “fluff” piece a couple of years ago for a local Philadelphia news channel. The subject was “DINKS”. They edited everything I said down to make the piece say what THEY wanted it to say, and chopped out what I thought were the most interesting points. I addressed the “selfish” assumption and talked about how all people are inherently selfish (including parents) because we are all motivated to do things that make us happy. CHOPPED. What was left? Me saying something to the effect of, “we like kids but there are other things we’d rather do” and some clips of parents being asked their opinions of childfree couples, expressing how selfish we are and how sorry they feel for us.
How frustrating. I have gotten more flack on the radio, especially call in shows. Besides being accused of being selfish (amazes me how people just can’t see that kids are not the thing that makes a person selfish or not!), in certain states I was accused of being a racist – that I somehow “preaching” have no kids (which I was not doing) meant I wanted certain minority populations to decline–crazy..
Doesn’t the media just feed what the masses crave for? It’s not for the truth but the advertising dollar. In this case it was shock and outrage that someone was “living outside the square”. Why not try to get another interview with 60 minutes to compare attitudes now? And if 60 Minutes US won’t, why not try here is Australia?
You are reading my mind–I have sent 60 Minutes a letter asking them to do just that. I will do the same for 60M Au! They undoutedly get lots of pitches for segments, but this really could be a great “update” segment. ~L
Wow! Thank you so much to Marcia and others for bravely paving the way for us childfree couples today!
You’re racist because you don’t want kids? How does that work? If you’re childfree, aren’t you denying “your own race” more members? I assume that would make Oprah racist as well, since she’s childfree.
If I saw parenthood in racist ways (I don’t think I do, but let’s say that I did), I would tell the groups of people I didn’t like that they should have LOTS of kids. Swamping people with kids is a great way to keep them down, it seems to me.
Scott, the crazy logic is that I am advocating minorities not having any kids (which of course I was not), so that minority populations will diminish, so whites will dominate…yah right that is what cf is all about. In some states on the radio I also got lots of questions about how I must not believe in god if I do not want children…
Thanks for the wonderful article and all your supportive posts.
In my memoir, I also tackle what happens when biology takes away choice and makes it a done deal through menopause. There’s another chapter dealing with the agony of step-parenting.
Love these posts! They give me more energy to get this book published even though many say, “It’s old news!”
And, I’m not in my 70’s. I am a mere 68! (LOL)
Marcia–Boy you are far from old news, and re 70s….My Bad! So sorry. I changed my comment so your age is correct ; )
This topic is fascinating. I read a stat that said in 1970, 70% of couples had a child in the first three years of marriage. Now it is only 30%!
Katelyn, Do you have a source for the 30% stat? ~Laura
Not having children makes you an atheist? Huh? That’s not just narrow-minded religious bigotry, it’s also just really poor logic. So all those monks and nuns and priests don’t really believe in God because they don’t have children? Mother Theresa was a horrible anti-religious zealot? Puh-leaze.
I don’t think being an atheist is a bad thing, by the way. I presume those people questioning your belief in God are suggesting that you are “abnormal” or dangerous or have no values.
I’m curious how many of those callers are associating “childfree” with “pro-choice.” A lot of people probably assume that this is all some sort of pro-choice conspiracy.
I know– there really was no logic to some people’s rant — it’s more from their judgments based on their own attitudes and beliefs that the childfree clearly don’t fit into..~L
I met Marcia in graduate school (1990’s)where we were
both earning additional teaching credentials. Marcia’s
dynamism and sheer love of the teaching/student
relationship was strikingly evident.
It is difficult to imagine a time in America when
ignorance and small-mindedness could keep a gifted and
dedicated teacher out of the classroom because of her
personal choices. But, ultimately, Marcia prevailed
and many, many students have benefitted from her
outstanding guidance, creativity, versatility and
Marcia, Thanks so much for writing in about Marcia 🙂 From what I know of her so far, I have no doubt she was an extraordinary teacher, and the 60 thing was so very unfair to her, yet reflected where society stood at the time–how those without kids were ostracized…
Like many of the other postees, I was not aware of the 60 minutes programme or the extraordinary backlash. To be a gifted and passionate teacher requires a deep love for children and the desire to educate and help them develop as human beings. Did so-called “educators” not realise that in the 1970’s?
Where does society stand now I wonder?
Let’s lobby for a re-visitation by 60 minutes. It would be fascinating and hopefully more measured, although bigotry still exists in so many quarters over so many issues.
Wow, the intolerance of some people to think that the population of married couples without children should be target. It’s a good thing no one is targeting the population of children and propagating that they are a lower class or less free than a married couple without children!
I am appalled at the manner in which 60 Minutes handled the Marcia Davis segment and would hope that they would revisit this topic if for no other reason than to demonstrate the change in attitude on this subject in the course of the years that have passed since that time. Marcia was simply at the leading edge of a change of philosophy that is to be lauded. Today we realize that whereas earlier we became parents either by accident or by simply doing what we all thought we were supposed to do. Now, thankfully, our young people are actually giving serious thought to this subject. There are so many questions couples should ask themselves prior to making that decision. We as a society also have to accept the fact that particularly in this era the decision to have children is actually a selfish onee whereas to opt out on doing so is most often an unselfish one. I am hard pressed to come up with any unselfish motive one could give for having a child! Do I regret having had two children? Heavens no, but again for selfish reasons!!!
Susan, I love hearing from parents who “get” those who don’t have kids by choice, and understand their motives for having children! Keep visiting and writing here! ~L
Definitely time to revisit this subject, and no better way than reinterviewing Marcia again.
So much has changed in all those years, so maybe this time 60 minutes won’t be ultra conservative in their report.