This oral history interview with Norma Paulus was conducted by Clark Hansen at Paulus's home in Salem, Oregon, in Lincoln City, Oregon, and in Portland, Oregon; and at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, Oregon, from February 10, 1999, to November 2, 2000, and from February 10 to 27, 2010. In the interview, Paulus discusses her family background and early life in Burns, Oregon, including life during World War II and contracting polio at the age of 19. She also discusses working as a secretary for the Harney County district attorney, Leland Beckham; moving to Salem to work for a law firm; working for Judge Earl Latourette; and going to law school. Paulus describes meeting Bill Paulus while attending law school; his family background; and their marriage. Paulus discusses her involvement with the Republican Party; working as an appellate lawyer for the Oregon Supreme Court; working on Wally Carson's campaign for the Oregon Legislature in 1965; and getting her first political appointment, to the Marion County Boundary Commission, where she focused on land-use and city planning issues. She focuses on managing a career in law and politics while raising two young children and building a house.
She then discusses her time in the Oregon House of Representatives, from 1970 to 1976, including environmental issues such as the Bottle Bill of 1971 and recycling; education; the criminal code; taxes; attempts to make Cape Kiwanda a state park; and the Rajneeshees. Paulus goes into detail about the women's caucus and the bills they focused on for women's rights, as well as efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. She describes working with Bob Smith, Paul Hanneman, Betty Roberts, Stafford Hansell, Jack Anunsen, Wally Priestly, Dick Eymann, Lynn Newbry, Glenn Jackson, Jason Boe, and Gretchen Kafoury. She also talks about being co-chair for Clay Myers' 1974 race for Oregon governor.
Paulus goes on to speak about her time as Oregon's first woman secretary of state from 1977 to 1985, including her first campaign in 1976 against Blaine Whipple; her efforts to increase voter turnout; and conducting audits, particularly of the Forestry Department. She also discusses the secretary of state's role as state archivist and the conflict between the Oregon State Archives and the Oregon Historical Society over which records belong with which institution. She also discusses working with Governor Vic Atiyeh. Paulus discusses running for governor against Neil Goldschmidt in 1986 and the challenges her campaign faced. She discusses her position on the Northwest Power Planning Council from 1987 to 1990, including working with Ted Hallock and Bob Duncan. She also discusses her position as Oregon superintendent of public instruction from 1990 to 1999, including her efforts to fund K-12 education. Paulus also relates a story about sharing an airplane with Moshe Dayan.