Name and location of repository
Level of description
Oral history interview with Betty Roberts
- 1980-10-29 - 1980-11-14 (Creation)
.1 cubic feet; 3 audiocassettes (3hr., 17 sec.)
Name of creator
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 with Betty Roberts was conducted by Linda S. Dodds in Portland, Oregon, from October 29 to November 14, 1980. At the time of the interview, Dodds' name was Linda S. Brody.
In the interview, Roberts discusses her early life in Texas, including her memories of the Depression and her childhood activities. She then talks about attending Texas Wesleyan University for a year; meeting Bill Rice and their subsequent marriage; and her early years as a housewife in Oregon, where she and Rice moved after World War II. She talks about returning to college in 1955 at Eastern Oregon College of Education (now Eastern Oregon University), then transferring to Portland State University. She talks about the difficulty of balancing school, a part-time job, and family life; her interest in both a teaching career and politics; and her involvement with the Lynch School Board from 1960 to 1966. She also talks briefly about studying at Northwestern College of Law.
Roberts discusses her service in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1965 to 1968, and in the Oregon Senate from 1969 to 1977. She also talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for the House in 1962 and her successful one in 1964. She discusses some of the legislation she worked on, including on universal kindergarten and victims' rights, and particularly regarding women's rights. She talks about her experiences as a woman in the Legislature. She describes her 1968 primary campaign against incumbent Senator Tom Mahoney; the casual sexism she observed; and the formation of the women's caucus in the 1973 legislative session. She discusses her committee assignments, including the judiciary committee and Ways and Means. She also gives a brief history of the coalition of Republicans and Conservative Democrats that controlled the Senate throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She then talks about her unsuccessful campaigns for governor in 1974, and the U.S. Senate later that same year. She describes the passage of the Bottle Bill in 1971 and the opposition the legislation faced.
Roberts closes the interview by discussing her service as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals from 1977 to the time of the interview in 1980.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following license: Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
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Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
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Immediate source of acquisition
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
Oral history interview with Betty Roberts, by Clark Hansen, SR 1126, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Preferred citation: Oral history interview with Betty Roberts, by Linda S. Dodds, SR 9066, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Incomplete transcript (63 pages) is available for in-person use at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Finding aid based on DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard), 2nd Edition.