Ruth Easterling: Timeline

1910: Dec. 26: Born, daughter of Lily and Ben Moss; grew up in mill towns Gaffney, Blacksburg, Chesney, Shelby. Her father was first a loom fixer, then a weave room overseer. Her mother and father each had only a grade school education—her mother finished fifth grade, and her father went to work in the mills at 11 or 12.
1920: August 26: Women’s suffrage amendment passes.
1929: Graduated high school in Blacksburg, went to Limestone College in the Fall. She finished in fewer than four years by going to summer school—to save money. She was a scholarship student, with both a scholastic and work scholarship. She worked 9 hours a week in the library. Her father borrowed the money to send her to school, at the insistence of the superintendent of the mill, who co-signed the note.
1932: Ruth Easterling’s grandmother Moss died the week before her college graduation. Her grandmother was very influential in Ruth developing religious tolerance. Her grandmother had converted to the Mormon faith because her Methodist church objected to Mrs. Moss offering a place to stay to a pair of Mormon missionaries traveling through Grover, SC.
1932: Graduated from Limestone College with a BA in English. Voted for Roosevelt for President. Went to work in cost accounting department at Dover Mill in Shelby, where she made $50 a week. She took a business course at night while working there. She later worked as a secretary at First Baptist Church in Shelby.
1937: Business and Professional Women first endorses Equal Rights Amendment
1939: Married Claude B. Easterling of Mississippi. He was with Sears, and was transferred a lot. They eventually settled back in Mississippi, where he took over the family business and purchased some farms. Ruth continued to work outside the home.
1946: Divorced; Easterling was left with no property from the marriage, leading to her strong convictions about equitable distribution of marital property.
1947: Started work for I.D. Blumenthal at Radiator Specialty in Charlotte. Ruth said his philosophy and hers were so much alike, and he was involved in so many things she believed in, that it didn’t seem like work. She continued to work for him, even after she went to the General Assembly.
1954: Easterling is named Charlotte Secretary of the Year. She was one of the first two women in Charlotte to pass the Certified Professional Secretary exam the year before.
1955: Easterling becomes president of Charlotte Business and Professional Women. Ruth used most or all of her vacation time to participate in BPW activities and conferences.
1960: Oct.: Easterling featured in Charlotte observer article on secretaries’ week. Article notes she chairs the women’s circles at First Baptist, and goes home to Gaffney, SC every weekend to fix her parents Sunday breakfast in bed.
1962-63: Easterling named State BPW president; called on Gov. Sanford to establish Commission on Status of Women. The establishment of "Status of Women" commissions in the U.S. in 1963 was due largely to BPW efforts.
1964: Charlotte Woman of the Year, (spons. WBT, 10 th anniv. of the award).
1965: Professional Secretaries Week article.
1970: National president of BPW.
1971: December: Attends meeting called by Martha McKay about women and politics
1972: January: Meeting with others at Liz Hair’s guest quarters re: formation of Women’s Political Caucus; active in formation of Caucus
1972: March: Appointed to City Council; US Senate passes ERA same week. Mr. Blumenthal agrees that Ruth can be away from her job to participate in Council meetings.
1973: Sept.: Easterling ran for re-election: platform on long-range planning; lost primary in October; Spiro Agnew resigned day after election and wiped the election story out of the papers.
1974: Ran for the House and lost.
1976: Elected to NC House—there were 23 women in the House when she got there. Ruth said she would run until NC passes the ERA, or until she is 91.
1977-1984: Ruth Easterling traveled to and from Raleigh with her fellow House member Louise Brennan, her political mentor. Louise was a political science professor at UNC Charlotte and an outspoken advocate of women’s rights. Louise lost her seat in 1984 after redistricting.
1984: About this time, Ruth and Ruby begin the tradition of having their entire family vacation together at the beach for a week. The first year there were approx. 13 family members. This year there were 60 at the peak
1993: Easterling speaks on House floor for 1 ½ hours at 2 AM to defend Smart Start against GOP attacks.
1994: November Republicans win majority in House
1995: January: Easterling moves to the back row in seniority because of GOP majority. That same year she and Joe Hackney push through bills reforming divorce laws
1998: April: Easterling gives commencement address at her alma mater; in November Democrats regain the House
1999: January: Easterling part of leadership effort for Black to become speaker, is appointed co-chair of Appropriations. First woman to hold that post. She was ranked seventh most effective member of the House—highest since the rankings began 25 years earlier.
2000: Easterling runs for re-election the last time.
2001: Easterling suffers from heart problems and misses a few days of the session. From home she sent a note to fellow House members struggling with the budget to “do the right thing for the people of NC,” and suggested they prove that voters “did not send a bunch of weaklings” to serve.
2002: Easterling retires from NC House. There were 31 women when she left.
2003: Easterling is diagnosed with breast cancer and has a mastectomy.