Patty Duke died today at the age of 69. I met Patty in 1982 in an elevator at the State Capitol building in Springfield Illinois.
Patty Duke was most famous for her role as Helen Keller in the movie “The Miracle Worker” as a young girl. And a lot of people remember her play identical cousins in the sitcom The Patty Duke Show on TV. She also appeared in many movies and was an author who wrote a book about her battle with bipolar and manic depression.
But not as many people remember Patty as an activist in the 1980s for the equal rights amendment. It was for that cause she made a trip to Springfield Illinois in 1982 to speak on the steps of the Illinois Capitol during an ERA rally.
I was one of only a couple of female reporters in the city at the time so I was granted an interview with Patty. Patty was running behind so she invited me to do my interview as we rode the elevator down to the main floor before she made her appearance on the steps outside.
We only had a couple of minutes. So my first question was “Why should we support the equal rights amendment?” Patty stared me down (actually up, since I towered over her!) and said, “You don’t support the equal rights amendment? Why would anyone not support a woman being paid the same as a man for equal work?”
Of course I supported that. I told her so. There was a little pause. She went on to answer my question, shook my hand as the elevator door opened and off she went.
A short encounter but one I will always remember.
It was only topped by the time I interviewed Ann Landers and she spit on me. But that’s a story for a different day.