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December, 2009, Page 48
Photo courtesy CC Goldwater
Arizona’s leading conservative was aN early supporter of Planned Parenthood. after a 20-year hiatus, another goldwater is on the board.
Family planning pioneer Margaret Sanger often liked to say, “We must put our convictions into action.” Since the early 1900s, she had been urging women to do just that by opening health clinics around the country. And in 1937, her aim in Phoenix was no different.
Addressing a group of the city’s most prominent women, with names like Goldwater, Heard and Bimson, Sanger told of alarmingly high death rates for women and babies in Arizona.
The elite group was collectively shocked – and inspired. Less than a year later, using their status and sweat equity, they opened the Phoenix Mother’s Health Clinic. In the coming decades, one of the clinic’s original founders, Peggy Goldwater, wife of conservative political icon Barry Goldwater, would bring her passion and clout to help grow the fledgling clinic into a large Planned Parenthood affiliate.
After Peggy died, her daughter Joanne carried the torch as a board member. Now this year, for the first time in two decades, a third generation is playing a key role. CC Goldwater, Joanne’s daughter, is one of 15 trustees who helps raise money for the organization.
Her appointment is not just a tradition being carried on in name. Peggy rolled up her sleeves to do whatever was needed to open the first clinic, whether painting walls or hanging curtains. Today, her granddaughter is a clinic volunteer each week. And CC is speaking out for the cause, like both of her grandparents did.
“If I can follow a legacy of commitment and have that ability to hit the ball all the way through for different things my family was involved with, it’s important to me,” CC Goldwater says. “Planned Parenthood is important to me.”
Few today would peg a family whose patriarch was called Mr. Conservative, as Barry Goldwater was known, as an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood. But the Goldwaters brought a “values-based leadership” in which self-reliance and individual freedom ruled, says Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Bryan Howard. That contribution was so pivotal that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America created a Barry Goldwater Award to honor pro-choice Republicans each year.
Today, Howard says, CC’s involvement “reinvigorates the connection to values that have been at the heart of Planned Parenthood’s work: personal responsibility, taking charge of one’s life, and not having the government interfere with the ability to make health decisions for yourself.”
The family planning fight in Arizona dates to the 1930s, when Sanger, the country’s leading advocate for birth control, first visited Tucson. She rallied a group of women to open a clinic there in 1934; three years later, she did it again in Phoenix.
Phoenix’s small, volunteer-run clinic offered diaphragm fittings and family planning counseling for married women. It overflowed with patients daily. Peggy Goldwater later described the clinic as a “speakeasy-type operation.”
“We knew family planning could relieve a great deal of human suffering,” she would write in a local magazine piece. “Still we felt somewhat bold and daring in planning our program. Even among intelligent people, the subject was considered too intimate to be discussed or dealt with openly.”
Photo courtesy Planned Parenthood
Peggy took on myriad roles, big and small: board chair, fundraiser, party hostess, even magazine cover girl. As the latter, for an article in The Arizonian in 1967, she recalled her volunteer days at a New York infirmary where poor women with children seemed to view a newborn as a drain on limited resources. That experience stuck with her and ignited a passion for Planned Parenthood, which she called “my baby.”
Peggy also had a much more personal story that wasn’t publicly told at the time. In 1955, daughter Joanne became pregnant and wanted to get married and finish college rather than immediately start a family. She decided to have an abortion.
“My father, being conservative, he felt that the government should not decide what women do with their bodies,” Joanne says in the DVD documentary Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, which CC Goldwater produced. Knowing that, and her mother’s deep involvement with Planned Parenthood, Joanne only confided her plan to her parents. “They were very, very supportive.”
Even in her later years, Peggy’s interest and passion didn’t seem to wane, says Gloria Feldt, former CEO of what was then called Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona. When Feldt came on board, she was told to call Peggy about hosting a reception. Feldt hesitated.
“They used her name a lot, but she hadn’t been intimately involved in a while... (and) things had progressed quite a bit since it was the women’s health clinic,” Feldt says. “Shaking practically, I picked up the phone and dialed the number.”
Peggy didn’t skip a beat. She knew Feldt was the new CEO, and she wanted to send her news clippings about teens needing parental consent to have an abortion, a restriction she didn’t care for. The two forged a relationship that lasted until Peggy’s death in 1985.
In March of this year, CC joined Planned Parenthood’s trustees and immediately became involved at the clinic level. She says she is especially struck by the young female clients who are weighed down by stress, trauma and the tough decisions ahead.
CC believes her grandmother would applaud the organization’s work today, particularly its emphasis on education.
“She wanted to support the community, young women. Having two girls, she really knew the importance of that,” she says.
Today it’s critical, CC says, to fight attempts by politicians to block education and services. One such battle was being waged at press time in Maricopa County Superior Court, where Planned Parenthood recently won a ruling that temporarily blocks new abortion restrictions from being enacted.
As a trustee, CC’s key role is raising money, which means carrying on another of her grandmother’s traditions: party host. Her grandparents frequently held cocktail parties at their hilltop home in Paradise Valley. Guests would enjoy hors d’oeuvres, the couple’s collection of Western art and breathtaking views and sunsets.
To mark Barry Goldwater’s 100th birthday, CC and her family planned a fundraising party at her home in September. The invitation decried recent abortion legislation in Arizona and the number of “anti-choice” lawmakers here.
It carried a photo of Mr. Conservative and a 1992 quote: “I don’t think banning abortion is something that should be in politics.”
More than 70 years after helping open the small Phoenix clinic, it’s clear that Peggy and Barry Goldwater made a lasting mark on Planned Parenthood, observers say. To longtime board member Gary Hammond, it was their willingness to “lend us their name and credibility in a time when issues regarding contraception, abortion, family planning were not things that respectable people would talk about.... It moved the agenda ahead.”
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