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.