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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Robin Lauriat
Interviewee: Felicity Trueblood
February 18, 1992
L: This is a recording of Felicity Trueblood with Robin Lauriat for an oral history project
at the University of Florida. [It is] February 18, 1992. I am interviewing Professor
Trueblood in her home in Melrose, Florida. Felicity, I want to talk a little bit about
your earlier life. First, to establish who you are, can you tell me your title and how
long you have been with the University?
T: My title now is Associate Scholar of English and Latin American Studies; I have a
joint appointment. I have been at the University since 1959 in one capacity or
L: Let us go back then. I know that you had a very interesting early life. Let us begin
at the beginning. I assume you were born at a young age. [laughter]
T: Yes. I was born at an early age on a mountaintop in Costa Rica, in San Jose, to be
exact. My parents were serving in what was then the American Legation, later to be
the American embassy. My father was a career foreign service officer. So I spent
my early childhood in Latin America, [in] Costa Rica and Chile.
L: The United States did not have full diplomatic relations with Costa Rica at that time?
T: Well, it did, but in the old days only major cities [like] Paris and London had
embassies; everything else was a legation or a consulate general.
L: What was your father's position in the legation?
T: He was second secretary and later became first secretary.
L: What period of time are we speaking of here?
T: I was born in 1932, and we were there until 1935. We came back to Washington,
where, curiously enough, my father served as deputy to Alger Hiss [American public
official, lawyer; alleged Soviet spy convicted of perjury, 1950] of later fame. Then, in
1937, we went to the embassy in Santiago, Chile, and stayed there until 1940.
L: Do you have any childhood memories of life in Costa Rica?
T: No, none.
L: So your earliest memories would be when?
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T: [They are of when I] came back in 1935. Probably the earliest thing that I can really
think of is around 1935 and 1936, [when I] saw the effects of the Depression. [I]
saw grown men in surplus army great coats standing on F Street in Washington
selling apples and pencils. I thought that was sort of strange, but of course those
were really bad times in 1935 and 1936, even 1937.
We lived in Alexandria across the river, right across the street from the railroad
yards. [They were] the marshaling yards--part of them, anyway--in northern Virginia,
and we fed a great many people who were riding the rails. They would stop off [and
eat]. I tell this to people today, and they think it is insane. We would leave the back
door of our house open all night long with food on the table or in the oven, and
people would come in and eat. In the morning, they would chop wood before we
were up, do some chores, and leave a note saying "Thank you," and leave. I tell
that to people today and they think it is incredible that life was like that. Those are
among my earliest memories, I think. Really, the impact was just terrible. There
was terrible devastation because Latin America was not like that. Latin American
people did not go hungry--not in the tropics, anyway.
L: Your family actually had some historical connections there in Alexandria, did they
T: Not in Alexandria so much, but in Washington. My great-great-grandfather was in
the first Congress[ional delegation] sent by Wisconsin when it joined the Union. So
the family started living there. I am a sixth-generation Washingtonian. So my great-
great-grandfather, Alexander Mitchell, was in the congress from Wisconsin [served
in the Forty-second and Forty-third Congresses, March 4, 1871-March 3, 1875. The
first Congressional delegation from Wisconsin was in the Thirtieth Congress].
His son, John Lendrum Mitchell I, was in the Senate from Wisconsin [1893-1898].
His son was a man named Billy [William] Mitchell [1879-1936] who later became
general in the Army and founder of the U.S. Air Force. So the family was intimately
involved with Washington in what I call the imperial process.
L: Why do you use that term?
T: Because that is what they were; they were the last of the red-hot imperialists.
[laughter] Alexander Mitchell was a railroad builder. He was one of the great
barons of empires, they called them. [He was] putting the iron horse out to the
Pacific. He built the northernmost railroad that went to the Pacific.
L: The Northern Pacific?
T: No. Chicago, Milwaukee, [and] St. Paul [1864-1887]. If that is not empire building, I
do not know what is. And then his son who was in the Senate, Senator Mitchell, had
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the foresight to see that if we entered the Spanish-American War and became a
Pacific power, we would become an imperial power. He was on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, and he voted "no" to our going into the Spanish-American
War. At the very moment, his son, Billy Mitchell, was joining up at the recruiting
office at the age of seventeen without permission to go fight the Spaniards. So it
was a very interesting contrast, and it shows the tensions and schisms in our society
just 100 years ago. Every time we have a fin-de-siecle, we have strange goings-on.
We had them in the 1890s, and we are having the same tensions and strains and
convolutions now. [It is] in a more happy sense in Eastern Europe and stuff, but
who could have predicted the breakup of the great Spanish empire? Who could
have predicted the breakup of the Russian empire? So it is interesting to see. [It is
like] deja vu--all over again.
L: You were in high school in Alexandria; is that correct?
T: Yes. I graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria in 1949. I had
previously gone to St. Agnes School for Girls in Alexandria. In between, [I] had two
years at Ms. Harris's school in Miami from 1943 to 1945.
L: So there was a long gap between the first time you lived in Alexandria and the later
T: Well, not that much, because we came back in 1940. We stayed until 1943 and
[then we] were gone for two years. We came back from 1945 to 1949, and then I
went off to college to [College of] William and Mary [Williamsburg, Virginia]. So we
were in and out, really. That was our home.
L: What did your father do during the war years?
T: He was in the foreign service. One of his jobs I will never forget. When we were in
Miami, he came by. (He was stationed in Costa Rica.) He was in handcuffs; we
saw him in the Miami airport handcuffed to German prisoners being brought back
from Costa Rica to the United States. So he did that kind of thing. But basically he
was in our foreign diplomatic service all during the war. [He was in] Costa Rica and
Mexico. And of course the Mexican border situation was very critical because the
Germans were trying to penetrate that border. Of course the FBI had a major
operation in Mexico, and he was involved in that kind of thing, too. It was a critical
post to be in Mexico.
L: You and your entire family accompanied him to every post?
T: No, because my parents were divorced in 1942. So then we stayed, and he went
off. And then ultimately, [he] remarried and had another family. We would see him
periodically, of course, but we were not with him after 1940--not officially.
L: Your family then consisted of what members?
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T: There was my brother and me, our mother, and then we lived with her parents in
Alexandria. We had a lot of aunts and uncles in the neighborhood as well as near
and distant cousins. My father was one of six children. My mother was one of forty
first cousins. There were oodles of family [members]; [there was] all kinds of family.
We recognize cousins. We kiss everybody; we do not care if they are kissing
cousins, or if they come from the seventeenth century. We do not care; we have an
awful lot of relatives.
L: Of course, you did not spend all of your time in Washington or the Alexandria-
Washington area. You traveled quite a bit; is that not so?
T: Not as a child. I stayed there, but we would later go to our father's summer place on
Washington Island, Wisconsin. So we would spend summers there. We would
spend summers at his father's place on Long Island, Far Rockaway, at the seaside.
We would do stuff, but we did not go abroad. I did not go abroad until I was an
exchange student at the University of Mexico in 1954. I stayed home; I was
educating myself [by] working and learning. In 1954 I started a series of trips. My
mother had moved to Ireland at that point, and I spent a lot of time in Ireland. I went
as a tutor to Spain, and that kind of thing. I traveled in Europe a lot, but after I came
down here in 1959 to Gainesville to the University, I went regularly to Europe, for
either professional reasons or just for travel.
L: So you went to William and Mary. What was your major there?
L: I assume you chose Spanish because of your exposure to the Latin culture.
T: Right. But I only stayed there for one year, and then I transferred to the University
of Wisconsin at Madison. At that point I decided to change my major to International
Relations Foreign Service Prep. And so that way I did not have to have a major; I
could have five minors, one of which was Spanish. That is what I did.
L: So your degree was from Madison?
T: My undergraduate degree, yes.
L: What year did you finish?
T: That was in 1953. Then I went briefly to GWU [George Washington University] in
Washington. I then went to Mexico for the whole year of 1954, [and I studied]
philosophy and letters. I then came back and went to work for the government for a
couple of years. I then went back to the University of Wisconsin for one semester
and decided I did not like it. I went over to Ireland for a while and then was offered
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the job down here. I came down here in 1959 and started my master's here in
political science and got my master's in Latin American politics under Harry Kantor
[associate professor of Political Science] in 1963.
L: Was there anyone in Wisconsin that had a big influence on you academically? Did
you have a mentor there?
T: We were very fortunate; [the University of] Wisconsin was blessed with a wonderful
faculty. In my own field, William Stokes, the Latin American politics man there, had
a major influence on my life. I went back there later to be his research assistant.
He was very conservative and royally hated by a lot of the faculty at Madison. You
could imagine how left of center they are. He was to the right of Genghis Khan. It
was not always a very pleasant thing. But he knew his politics, and he knew Latin
American politics, so I was privileged to have worked with him. The other person I
think was a major influence--the humanities building was named for her at
Wisconsin--was Helen Constance White.
L: What was it that attracted you to study in Mexico? How did that come about?
T: I was awarded an exchange fellowship--it was after I graduated from Wisconsin--by
the Institute of International Education in New York, and I wanted to go. Mexico was
a major university in the hemisphere, I was fascinated by Mexican history, and I
wanted to study abroad. I had this opportunity, and frankly I took it.
L: So you are in Mexico in the mid-1950s?
L: What was Mexico City like at that time?
T: It was wonderful. You could still see the volcanoes. There were only seven million
people there, rather than the close to forty million today. It was still a tolerable,
lovely city. It very much bore the stamp of the Porfiriato, the time of Don Porfirio
Diaz [Mexican political leader, overthrew govt., ruled as dictator, 1876-1880, 1884-
1911]. It had all of the French influence in all of the little colonies (as they call the
little residential areas). They were the quarters of the city. They were all very
French in aspect. It was a delightful, wonderful city with every kind of amenity you
can imagine. It was multicultural and multilingual; it was just a delight. Of course,
Mexico had severe economic problems and severe political problems, but I was
I was thinking the other day that the leader of the student body when I was there
was the son of Nasaro Cardiias Qualtenoc Cardinasuvus. [He] was in the news last
year as having run for the presidency of Mexico. The margin of victory was stolen
from him by [President Carlos] Salinas [de Gortari].
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A lot of stuff was happening in the arts. It was a veritable ferment. I got to study
with Diego Rubeda. I knew him and his wife Fida Carlo. I knew a lot of the writers
and the people who are major figures today. Leopondo Cea was my boss in a
sense, because he was the head of the Department of Intellectual Cooperation
where I had to go and get my checks, and the Secretariat of Public Education. So I
got to see all these people: Octavio Paz [Mexican poet, critic], Jorge Lopez Paez.
You name it. I did not get to meet Carlos Fuentes [Mexican author], although I later
wrote my master's thesis on him. I think he was not in Mexico at that time. Of
course as you know, he is one of the major figures in world literature today. So
there was a great ferment; it was just delicious to be there.
I did a lot of photography. I went all over Mexico. I went to a lot of very remote
areas. I spent a lot of time with the Campisimos. I was really interested in
agriculture and what they were doing. I spent a lot of time on the agrarian reform. I
just generally learned about Mexico.
And I developed myself, I must say. Everyone needs to be twenty-two years old in a
creative cauldron like Mexico. [It is] much better than Paris because everything was
so fluid. It was not fixed, and everybody was doing wonderful things. And then
everything--music, the arts, the plastic arts, the written arts--was just wonderful,
especially for a North American.
L: It sounds as if Mexico at that time was experiencing something entirely different
from what was going on in North America. Today we think of the middle 1950s as
being, in general, sort of a dead time.
T: It was dreadful.
L: There was the exception of the beginnings of the Beat movement in New York, but
nobody knew about that.
T: The Eisenhower years were just a disaster. I had to go abroad. My brother went
abroad in 1958 and did not come back for ten years. Anybody with any kind of
creative juices was appalled. There was a terrible recession. Eisenhower did not
know up from down, and he was in bed with a lot of very corrupt people. His wife
was drunk all of the time. You would go by the White House in the mid-to-late
1950s, and there would be one twenty-five watt light bulb burning. It would look like
a graveyard when you went by. So when the Kennedys came in, bless their hearts,
and put light bulbs in even the closets, we all rejoiced because at least the White
House was there.
You are right, it was a really congealed period. [One] exception was Adlai
Stevenson [American politician; lost to Eisenhower in presidential races, 1952, 1956;
also governor of Illinois and United Ambassador, 1961-1965]. I was very active in
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his campaigns, both as a student and later. He was a friend of my father's, and I
knew one of his sons. So we were close to that family. That was the only breath of
fresh air. The only thing that I think Eisenhower ever did of any great moment in my
mind was to talk with wariness about the military industrial complex. We owe him a
lot for that.
But the rest of the time--you are right--it was just abysmal, except maybe for the
Beats and a few people. Jasper Johns [American pop artist known for using flags,
letters and numbers in work] and a couple of people were getting organized in the
plastic arts. It was a very, very dismal period. It was also the end of the lower to
middle class dream of behavior and life, which was just awful. [The dream was] a
house in the suburbs, four children, Levittown [named for William Jaird Levitt,
postwar housing revolution leader; mass produced communities of Levittowns in
New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania], whatever. If you did not do that, you
were not really part of American society. I did not do that, obviously; I did not want
to. I felt very turned off, as you would say today.
L: Would alienated be a good word?
T: Yes. That is more dramatic, but yes. I loved going to Mexico where everybody was
crazy. [laughter] It confirmed certain things in me that were important to a twenty-
two-year-old. I think the most important was freedom. I wanted to evolve and not
pay too much attention to what everybody else said-- within the constraints of having
to make one's own living, and have a career, and make a contribution to society--
which I think are important. But the 1950s were absolutely abysmal.
L: So when you returned to the United States, it must have been a difficult time for you.
How were you regarded by your peers?
T: Everybody I knew was crazy. I went right back to Washington. I was surrounded by
people like Tom Lair and Nancy Ames and all of these fugitives from the Princeton
Triangle Club. We organized the Hexagon Club, and we gave these great reviews.
It was a wonderful time in Washington for people who were my age and for people
who were disaffected. We all had jobs; we had to work. But there were touring
companies of things like "Beyond the fringe". Mike Nichols [American director, won
Oscar for The Graduate, 1967] and Elaine May [American actress and director]
would drop down a lot. There was a lot of fun stuff going on, poking fun at what was
going on in the larger society. And all of us were starting careers.
It was fun for me for a couple of years, and then I just started to get very bored. I
could see myself staying in government. But as I was saying, it was a lot of fun. I
met some very interesting people who would later have a major impact on our times.
But we were all young together; none of us were over thirty. A lot of these people
who I knew were childhood friends who hung around. That is what the spawn of the
bureaucracy does; they just hang around.
I just got tired of it. I got tired of weekends at Rehobuth, weekends in New York,
Given what was going on in the late 1950s, it seemed to me that we needed to be
making some severe changes. That is why I think Kennedy burst on the scene with
such an impact on my generation. We already knew what was happening. The
French empire had, of course, collapsed in 1954. We already knew what was
happening in Indochina. That was already on the scene. I was particularly
concerned about that. We were also concerned about Cuba. In the late 1950s, the
U.S. government, as we now know, was mounting this tremendous effort on the one
hand to get Fidel [Castro] in, and on the other hand, to get him out. It was the most
contradictory period in our foreign policy that I can remember. I was on the fringe of
that and decided that I did not need this. I wanted to do something more important.
I was offered a chance to start this new magazine, The Journal of Inter-American
Studies at the University, so I took it.
L: At the University of Florida?
T: Yes, I sure did.
L: You left a government job?
L: What was your position?
T: I was in the State Department in intelligence, what they used to call--I think it has
changed now--INR. It was research. It was just reading junk and writing reports. I
was a reports person. It was fun but it is not an action or policy job. You may
prepare things for an action or policy person, but you yourself are not in the loop. I
just decided that it was not worth it. I thought it would be far more fun to be in a
communication situation and start something new. Plus, I wanted to come back to
I wanted to come back here because [of my time] at Ms. Harris's School at 1051
Brickell Avenue in Coconut Grove in Miami in the 1940s. [The school] later moved
to Stuart and is now defunct. There were a lot of very interesting girls [there]. There
were people like Hope Portocarrero de Vaidi, who later married Chitos
Santosamosa's son. There were a lot of people from Cuba. And then there was this
Virginia Penney, who was the granddaughter of the old J.C. Penney. They had
started Penney Farms up here for retired clergy. They had the land that later
became Camp Blanding. So her parents were living up at Green Cove when I was
at Ms. Harris's, and they invited me to come up and visit. So we rode horseback all
over this part of the country. We came almost to Melrose. We came to Middleburg
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and rode all around there. I saw this country, and I loved it. I thought, "This is really
spectacular." [I loved] the oaks, the streams, the springs, the lakes, and the
Spanish moss. [I loved] just riding over open country. See, there were no fences
then because the Florida fences did not go up until 1945, and you could just ride all
over kingdom come. I made up my mind that if I ever had the chance to come back
here, I would come. As luck would have it, I had the chance to come back, and I
took it in a heartbeat. I had always wanted to be a farmer, too; I always had that
great dream. I did not know any place I could do it better than in North Florida. But
as I told my students, suppose I had been exposed at twelve years old to drugs or
white slavery? I could have gotten into that. All I got into was North Florida.
L: Tell us a little bit more about Ms. Harris's school and what life was like for you during
T: From 1943 to 1945, I went to Ms. Harris's Florida School in Coconut Grove. It was
a boarding school, although it had day students. Ms. Julia Fillmore Harris was a
grand-niece of Millard Fillmore [13th U.S. president, 1850-1852]. She had
established this school in the 1920s for the children of the well-to-do winter residents
who lived on the islands in Biscayne Bay or lower Miami Beach (south of the Roney
Plaza). She had this thing called the Arrow Car which she would send to Miami
Beach to pick up the day students. It looked like the Hindenburg; it looked like a
blimp. It was shiny, and it was really just a bus. But it was a very elegant bus that
had desks and chairs in there so that the girls could work on their studies on the way
over and on the way back. I cannot remember exactly how many students were
there, but there were a good many. I would say there were probably, counting day
students and boarders, at least 100 or 150 students at all different levels through
high school. We were co-ed for one of the years that I was there. There were a lot
of people from Cuba and Central America. There were well-healed winter visitors
who lived on the islands in Biscayne Bay. School was open from October to very
early May when everybody went home. Of course, in those days, nobody stayed in
I must say that Miami was spectacular in those days. It was a little pinched,
crowded, Latin American city with juice bars and huaiavera shops, and everything
that has now been bulldozed in downtown Miami. The Grove was spectacular; it
was wild and crazy. I loved it. I also loved Ms. Harris's school. Many foreign
service children went there. That is one of the reasons that I was there. It was sort
of an international atmosphere; it got us ready for the future with very good
instruction. It ranks with Bolles and Cathedral and some of the Episcopal schools
around Tampa as a major influence in private, secondary education in Florida.
L: What kind of courses [did you take]? Was it run like a high school? I know it had a
very small student body. Did you change classes? Did you go from one room to
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T: Yes, we did. I was in the seventh and eighth grades there. The reason I am an
English teacher today is because of a teacher there named Ms. Forbush who was
4'8/2" tall, and weighed about sixty pounds, wringing wet. She was a Tartar
[descendant of peoples that overran parts of Asia and Europe under Mongol
leadership in the 13th century] and a tyrant. Everything I know about English, she
taught me. She taught all of us, and she was a horror. We had to work to satisfy
her. The teachers there were what used to be called "broken-down gentlemen."
They were people with no other options, and they were there. They had their living
and what-not. But they were superb teachers. They really cared and were good.
They may not have had all of the credentials that we require today, but judging by
Ms. Forbush, they were terrific. So we would go to English in one room and math [in
another]. But I only remember the English classes; they had the real impact on me.
Forget about science; in a school like that there was almost no science. The
science we had were the land crabs coming in and crawling on the floor of our
classrooms. [We were] right on Biscayne Bay and there were open pavilions for
classrooms. Anything would come in and out--snakes or whatever. All of that is
gone; there are high rises there now. I weep when I go by them. It was right there,
just beyond the bridge over the Miami River, in that part of the Grove. It was right
on Biscayne Bay. [There were] beautiful old palms, and it was just gorgeous.
L: Did they teach Latin and Greek?
T: They did not teach Greek. They taught Latin, which I did not take. They taught
Spanish; I took some of that. But it was mainly for the seniors and the people in the
For many of them, it was the last stop. It was a finishing school experience. They
would take an extra (thirteenth) year--especially the Latin American girls. There
were a lot of Cuban girls who just went back and married. They would take that
extra year just to be finished. Most of the Americans usually went on to universities.
But remember, this is 1945. The war had not ended yet. I finally left [the school] in
May of 1945. The war did not end definitively until August of 1945. So I really do
not know what happened to some of those people; they may have changed their
plans with the end of the war. It was a school for everything from well-to-do
dummies to people who needed to be finished off, to people who were going on to
universities, to people who needed to be parked in a boarding school. It was just a
classic kind of boarding school, but it was a very good school, on balance. I am glad
my mother put us there. We were living on an island in Biscayne Bay, and we would
come home on weekends. We were boarders during the week, but on weekends we
would go home.
L: What island was that?
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T: [It was] Belle Isle. It was really wonderful because Belle Isle in those days was the
home of the University of Miami's marine biology lab and boat. So we got to go out
with the University of Miami's marine biology team almost every weekend as gofers
and helpers. It was more fun. In those days Biscayne Bay and South Beach were
just a delight. Nothing was polluted. Our mother would say, "Hey kids, get a lobster
for dinner." We would go out to the seawall, get the gig, and come in. We fished
almost every night off of the bridges on the Venetian Causeway. One of my major
memories is that in the darkness you catch squid and sometimes little baby octopus.
People would throw them on the roadway, and you would hear the suction of the
squids walking across the pavement. It was just incredible. There was wonderful
fishing and wonderful sailing, boating, and swimming. You could not have asked for
a better growing up.
Of course, I was devastated later. The Bay is trying to come back now. And the
Beach, certainly South Beach, has come back. To go to Bailey's Haulover for
example, which is where you had to make a portage, was like an all-day trip for us.
Today, it is just part of North Miami Beach. As I said earlier, the Roney Plaza was
the limit of the known world to me. And that was at about 38th Street; I forget now.
But I just loved it. And I really loved the Cuban atmosphere of Miami. Even then, it
was a Cuban city.
L: That is interesting, because I think a lot of people now have the impression that
Miami was quite Anglo before the revolution.
T: No. It has always been very Cuban. [This was] mainly because the very well-to-do
Cubans, [like] the owners of Enjenios with big plantations would all maintain houses
in Miami. They sent their kids over here. They were not part of the metraya. They
were all over here; they kept a lot of their accounts here. They did all of their
marketing, buying, and shopping here. I do not think people realized [how Latin
Miami actually was]. Of course that started in the 1880s with the Ten Years War
[1876-1886] and Cuba, and all of that, and coming to Key West then moving up to
Tampa and everything. After Flagler and his work, it got easy to go to Miami. And
then the Cubans just went there, just as their second home.
We arrived in Miami in very late 1942. I will never forget: we got off of the train, and
we had booked rooms in the old Exchange Hotel which was right downtown by
Biscayne Park. We walked into the hotel, and the lobby of the hotel was covered in
oil. There were these sailors covered in bloody, black bandages, and they were
merchant marine sailors from a boat that had just been torpedoed off Miami Beach,
and they had been brought into the Exchange Hotel until they could be taken care
of. I will never forget that; that was our introduction to wartime Miami, seeing these
guys. They were badly burned and black. It was just incredible; it was a sort of
Faustian thing. It was almost midnight when we got there. I was ten years old and
my brother was nine. We did not know what in the world all of this was. But that
was our introduction to the war in Miami and Miami Beach. You could not be on the
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beach after dark. There were canine patrols. You could not have any light or
anything. You were ordered off the beach at sundown. And everywhere, there were
these huge piles of oil; they were big tarry piles. So Mike [Michael Valentine]
Gannon [professor of history] and his book [Operation Drumbeat: The Dramatic
True Story of Germany's First U-Boat Attacks Along the American Coast in World
War II, New York, 1990] is entirely correct. The U-boat effort in 1942 off of Miami
was incredible. We found a lot of stuff; my brother and I would prowl the beaches,
and we would find stuff. So [Mike Gannon] is entirely correct on that. And that was
really the closest that the war came to us. I do not remember any blackouts in
Miami, except on the beach.
T: And then the other lovely thing was that, living on Belle Isle, there was an army
camp on the beach right across from our island on South Beach. Every morning, at
about 5:30 (sun-up) there would be reveille. We could here them floating over the
water: "Sound off, one two. Sound off, three four." [We heard] all of the sounds. It
was the most beautiful thing.
I hope I am not making this up. It seems to me Glen Miller [American band leader,
1904-1944] was there part of the time, playing in the army band. We could hear the
army bands just across the water. It was the most wonderful thing and a great
backstop to patriotism. It made everybody feel good. I remember hearing all of this
swing coming across the water. I think it was Glen Miller; I do not want to say for
sure. We could hear the reveille and the footsteps of the men marching. It was
really, really beautiful. I will never forget that.
But Miami was a wartime city. Of course, all of the air fields were there in Opa
Locka. The Pan American Clippers had been put into service, so there were all
sorts of war stuff going on. It was a uniform city; there was uniformed personnel
everywhere. This made it fun, too.
But I do not remember any blackouts except at the beach. There were dog patrols
and everything. Of course, in Washington, D.C., we had these massive blackouts.
We had to have blackout curtains. We could not show any lights in Alexandria, but
that was not true in Miami, at least as I recall. I could be wrong. So that was our life
L: What other connections do you have with Florida in your pre-University life?
T: I was telling you about my great-great-grandfather, Alexander Mitchell, who was this
railroad builder and banker. [He was this] politico in Wisconsin. He liked to get
warm in the winters, so he would put his own private car on whatever [train] ran
down here to Jacksonville, and he would spend the winter down here in
Jacksonville, as did his son. It was easy--I do not know if they went from Milwaukee
or Chicago, but he had his own private car--and they would zoom down here. In the
district of Jacksonville called Ortega today--I do not know what it was called then,
- 12 -
maybe the same--he had what was called in those days (the nineteenth century) a
villa on the St. Johns River. I think they started coming down here in the 1870s.
The house no longer stands, but there is a Mitchell Street over there. I have talked
to the Jacksonville Historical Society. There is a little park where the house was. I
need to go over there sometime and see the exact site with their photos of the
house that survived. The family had that place from the 1870s to the 1920s
L: Are we going back to your great-grandparents now?
T: It was my great-great-grandfather Alexander Mitchell's son [who] inherited the place.
[His name was] Senator John Lendrum Mitchell I, whose first wife was the daughter
of a governor of Florida. I have not been able to establish who that was, because
we are from his second marriage. His son from the first marriage inherited that
property. But it turned out that he was a ne'er do well. In fact, one of the shocking
things in my family was when my grandfather Billy was about to go to Tampa to sail
for Cuba in the Spanish-American War, he and his wife (my grandmother) were
walking down the street in Jacksonville. They saw his half-brother come by driving a
dray, if you can imagine. In my family that was not considered real neat. So he was
a true ne'er do well, and he lost the place. He may have even lost it even before the
But the cream of the jest is that the male line of the Mitchell family has died out,
except through this David Mitchell (the half-brother). There was an Alexander
Mitchell over in Jacksonville who died not too long ago. He was the son of this
David Mitchell. He has a son named Sandy Mitchell. They are the only males who
survived in our Mitchell line. I have not been able to find Sandy Mitchell. He went
into the air force or something; I do not know where he is.
But our family has been in Jacksonville--at least as winter residents--since the
1870s. I still have this cousin there. We did not do much other than winter there,
but I think the family--if I am not mistaken--helped set up some kind of park in
Jacksonville. I need to find out about that; I do not want to say for sure. But my
great-grandfather, John Lendrum Mitchell, was a founder of the Wisconsin State
Horticultural Society. He set up the Milwaukee Zoo with zoological and botanical
gardens. I think he did much of the same thing down here. He was interested in
exotic plants and all of that. That is all I know. I do not want to say more than that,
because I may not be telling you the absolute truth.
But they were in this south Ortega district of Jacksonville for some fifty years. So
when people say to me, "You are not a Florida native," I say, "Hey, was your family
here in 1870? Or were you still in South Georgia?" [laughter]
L: A while ago, we were discussing what brought you initially to the University. Can we
take that up again?
- 13 -
T: Yes. As I mentioned, I was living in Europe in 1958. I was living in Ireland with my
mother--and also in Spain. I came back in late 1958, and I went to work at the U.S.
Senate in Washington for Senator [William] Proxmmire from Wisconsin. At that
point, he was trying to break majority leader Lyndon Johnson's iron rule over the
Senate. So I was hired to do a content analysis of editorial opinion all over the
country as to whether Lyndon Johnson's iron rule should be broken or not. Proxmire
was really trying to do that. Proxmire, I might say, had employed all of my family.
My brother worked in the Senate Post Office. His wife worked in the Senate Post
Office, and her sister worked in the Senate Post Office. So he was an important
person to us. So when I came back from Europe and did not have a job, he also
employed me. It was one of my greater misfortunes that the person I was trying to
dethrone and uncrown later became president. But that is neither here nor there.
[laughter] That is the way that Washington is.
So I was offered a chance to help start this magazine down here at the University of
Florida through a fluke through a friend. I said yes, and came down here in April of
1959. It was part of the old School of Inter-American Studies, headed by Dr. [A.]
Curtis Wilgus [Director, School of Inter-American Studies and Professor of History].
He had founded that school in about 1931. The antecedents of this date from 1900
here and there. This magazine was published by the School of Inter-American
Studies. That continued here for five years until 1964, and then the University
wanted to give it up. The University of Miami made a bid for it and took it over. I
was asked if I wanted to go to Miami, and I said no.
As luck would have it, I was offered a teaching post in University College in
comprehensive English and comprehensive social sciences. I had not been faculty
before. I had a joint appointment in both departments. If I am not mistaken, I was
the second woman hired as a regular faculty member in University College. This is
in 1964. The first was a faculty widow. In the old days, we took care of faculty
widows. That shows what things were like around here.
Anyway, I was hired in University College. University College, as you probably
remember, covered the freshman and sophomore years of students at the
University. Later, through a series of power plays and I think very misguided actions
and a desire to have FTEs in the upper division, University College was abolished.
In the meantime, I ultimately served as Director of the English as a Second
Language program. So I was directing that program and also teaching Latin
In 1971, I had to take some time off to go live in Ireland to run my mother's affairs
there. She was gravely ill. I came back in 1972 and was named executive director
of the Latin American Studies Association, the national association for Latin
American Studies. So I switched, then, from English in 1973 to the Center for Latin
American Studies. I stayed there until 1982. I gave up the executive directorship of
- 14 -
the Latin American Studies Association in 1978, but I continued as the outreach
officer for the center. We had a federal grant to work with public schools, colleges,
and community colleges in the Latin American curriculum. So I did that until 1982.
From 1982 to 1984, I was on leave of absence for personal reasons. I then came
back to the Department of English in 1984, where I still am, although I still have a
joint appointment in Latin American studies.
L: That gives us a broad outline of your career at the University. Let us go back and
try to fill in some of the details. You say you were involved in editing this magazine?
How long did you do that?
T: For five years.
L: Did you enjoy that work?
T: Oh, I loved it. I love anything like that. So when that went to Miami in 1965, I
became Secretary-Treasurer of the Southeastern Conference on Latin American
Studies. I ran that for five years and published their newsletter. So I continued
doing that, and I did all of the Center publications, including some of the things that I
L: The Center?
T: The Center for Latin American Studies.
L: When was that actually founded?
T: The Center for Latin American Studies was a successor to the old school of Inter-
American Studies. It was founded in the mid-1960s as a result of the National
Defense Education Act which suddenly started pumping all sorts of new federal
funds into area studies. We had two programs here that were merged into the
Center for Latin American Studies. I am not clear on the year, but it is mid- to late-
1960s. I became part of that effort.
Also in that period, I continued my interest in publications and communication. I
started in 1969 with a colleague here, Francine [F.] Rabinovitz [Assistant Professor
of Political Science], in Latin American urban research. We published five volumes
of that. We saw the urban explosion in Latin America, and we wanted to deal with
that. That was a major activity of the University Center for Latin American Studies. I
was doing all of this stuff but mainly publications, communication, and the outreach
effort. And the biggest outreach effort was running the Latin American Studies
Association. Bill [William E.] Carter, who was director of the center in 1971 [and
Associate Professor of Anthropology], called me when I was in Ireland. This was a
very politicized time. It was a critical time because everybody was questioning the
legitimacy of everything from the Army to the Center for Latin American Studies, to
- 15 -
our involvement in Latin America, to the Latin American Studies Association. Bill
and I were determined that if we took it over, we could stabilize it, depoliticize it, and
make it more democratic; [we wanted to] give everybody a chance to say what they
wanted to do. We were still intervening in covert actions in places like Chile.
Salvador Allende [Chilean political leader, president who led first govt. in power
through free elections, 1970; violently overthrown, 1973; 1908-1973] would soon be
assassinated. So it was a very difficult time. I was not eager to take it over, but Bill
and I determined that if we were going to save the profession of Latin American
Studies (this sounds dramatic) we needed to take it over. And we did. I must
rejoice that everybody was wonderfully cooperative. We made it very clear that this
was going to be a democratically-run association, and it was run democratically. We
had wonderful support and got through some very difficult periods. We saved the
profession I cared very deeply about. I do not think any other school could have
done it. It is probably one of the things that I am most proud of: we did not just
descend into this madness that was going on. We just went ahead, tried to make
sense out of the absurd, and won something that was important. Women and
minorities--such as Chicanos and Latin Americans--got to be admitted. We made it
into a love feast for a professional association, which it had not been. It had been
very elitist and in the pocket of our government. Our government in those days was
wrong. It was flak jacket time. I had a lot of very difficult times.
L: Were there targeted criticisms leveled at the Center in that early period? [Were
there] outright accusations, student protests, or anything of that nature?
T: No, because Bill was pretty good about that. There were some things--they always
suspected that people were taking CIA money. That was going on at the time of Dr.
Wilgus. There were accusations made that after 1961 we were nothing but a
Gusano center. But it was not too bad. It was certainly not like Berkeley.
I think the major thrust here was the Vietnam [War]. That almost brought us to the
brink. Sure, there were problems, but I think Bill and I were respected. I think if you
believe in the democratic process, and you let everybody talk and have their say,
and say whatever they want to, everything is ultimately discussed and analyzed.
And even if you do not agree, people sort of go along. I am not saying it was always
easy; we found pipe bombs over and over in Grinter Hall. They were fake pipe
bombs, but [nonetheless frightening]. But that was the Cuban thing, really.
When Allende was killed, that was not easy. And Operation Camelot in Chile was
not easy. But we survived. [It was] mainly because Bill Carter was a person of such
integrity. Bill and I knew that if we did not take over the Latin American Studies
Association, it would go under or be so politicized that it would be useless. I think
that was one of the great achievements of the Center. We were able to save the
Latin American Research Review. We saved a lot of other things. I am self-serving
in saying this since I served as executive director for six years, but I really believe
that was a major accomplishment for us. I regard it as a major accomplishment in
- 16 -
my life. I was able to serve my profession in a way that was really unanticipated by
me. It was almost unique because of the politics involved.
L: During those early years when the Center was first formed, let us say late 1960s,
some of the notable Latin Americanists in the history department were already on
the scene [like] Lyle [Nelson] McAlister [Professor of History], for example?
T: Yes, Lyle McAlister was here. Don Worcester [professor of History, 1947-1955] had
been here, but had gone off. Of course we trained a whole generation of historians
(the Florida Generation) who are now all over the place. Some of them have come
back, like Murdo McCloud. There were three or four others who were here. We had
a lot of visiting scholars like Antonio Rivera Marcs from Portugal. We had regular
visiting scholars here in history. Of course, Andres Suarez was another. The
political science department was very strong, of course, with Harry Kantor. It was a
broadly based program in anthropology. It was very strong. It had people like Bill
Carter, Glaucio Suarez from Brazil, Charles Wagley, a graduate research professor
of anthropology. So we had a very broadly-based curriculum. It was not just in
history. Our weakness, as it is today, was in the language area, and in Spanish
particularly. But in geography and all across the board, we were spectacular. We
trained what was called the Florida Generation. That generation is gone now
because we got rid of everybody or they retired. We had a major, major impact on
Latin American studies.
L: Was the master's degree in Latin American studies awarded from the beginning?
T: The School of Inter-American Studies was always inter-disciplinary. It awarded the
master's and the Ph.D. Then they got into this thing that you should not have an
inter-disciplinary degree. So they threw that all out with the coming of the Center. I
do not think there was an inter-disciplinary degree for a number of years. Is there a
master's in Latin American studies now?
T: Then we went back to it. There is not a Ph.D., though. They never would go back
on that. Murdo's degree is a Ph.D. in inter-American studies. I think it is.
Everybody got very fussy when all of this new federal money went into the schools.
That is when they said, "We want straight degrees." A lot of our graduates were
penalized in their early years; they had to choose a discipline. Murdo chose history.
Another person, Maria Rosa Ubria Santos, chose languages, I think. Those
degrees were considered hybrid and ersatz. It has only been in recent years that
we have gone back to awarding a master's. Now, of course, everybody is doing
this. Inter-disciplinary studies are what matter because this is an inter-disciplinary
- 17 -
Once again, Florida has always snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We
abolish University College at the very moment everybody around the country is
establishing it. It was a model for the nation. And we destroy an inter-disciplinary
program like Latin-American studies at the very moment it becomes urgent and
necessary. The one thing I have never been able to understand around here is why
people do this. We have a great university. All of us have spent our lifetimes
working for it. Every time we get something going really well, somebody wrecks it.
This is happening right now. I do now know what it is. It is the [George] Santayana
[American philosopher, educator, 1863-1952] thing--those who do not remember
history are condemned to repeat it.
L: Can you give me some of your impressions of Gainesville and the University
community in those early years--the 1960s--after you arrived here?
T: I arrived here in April 1959. I will never forget. Friends met me at the airport, and
they drove me in. I did not know what to anticipate. We drove down West
University Avenue, which was the most wonderful avenue; it was really colossal. I
saw Victorian mansions,, and I was thrilled. There were still a lot of trees and
palms, and huge, big, ugly Victorian houses, many of which still survive. I thought,
Then I was put up in the White House Hotel, which is now where the First Union
Bank is, more or less. It was a wonderful hotel dating from the times the railroad
track ran down Main Street. So it was obviously a railroad hotel. (I do not know if
you have ever seen railroad hotels, but that is what it was.) I loved it; I thought it
was the neatest thing in the world. The Thomas Hotel was still running then. We
would go for tea or lunch on Sundays or for a drink in their wonderful little tap room.
Second Avenue was still two lanes. There were a lot of old oaks. University
Avenue had already been destroyed by the time I got here; the oaks were gone.
The campus was small, intimate, and nice. Of course the buildings were all turn-of-
the-century red brick. [It was] a walking campus and a friendly campus; everybody
said hello to everybody else. In Gainesville, if you would walk down to the square or
you would go to Wilson's, everybody you passed would either nod or say hello. I am
sorry to say that black people sometimes still stepped off the sidewalk [to let the
One thing I was involved with when I first got here was helping voter registration. Of
course, the civil rights movement was starting. It intensified in 1963 and got very
bitter, especially over in St. Augustine. I will never forget: we sent phalanxes of
people over there. This was 1963 or early 1964. The faculty would send phalanxes
of people over there to march. The day I was supposed to go over, there was one
of the bloodiest confrontations. For some reason, they cancelled my going. That
was the [confrontation with the] cattle prods and the baseball bats and all of that
stuff. That was going on, but I was lucky enough that day; I was not there.
I was active in the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights which was a way for the
black and white women to get to know each other and work on community issues. I
was active in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church was one of the few
churches in the South that was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. So that
took up a lot of time.
And frankly, I was just doing my job at the University. When I started in 1964, I had
four classes one right after the other. At the end of the fourth hour, I could not talk.
Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.
We were getting very good students then; we started getting some really
spectacular students about then. They continue to be spectacular. A lot of them
were caught up in the civil rights movement and SNCC [Student Non-Violent
Coordinating Committee] and SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference]
and the marches. There was a lot of ferment and fervor in the early period of civil
rights. In the later period, of course, it was [about] political rights and Vietnam and
the unconscionable things that our government was doing abroad.
So I must say that I do not think there has really been a halcyon moment since I
have been here, except maybe from after Fidel went into Havana and took over.
When I first came here, there were planes leaving from Florida from right around
Ocala going over to burn the sugar. That was going on. We all knew where they
were coming from. I complained about that over and over, and I never could get
anybody in our government to stop it. So all of that was going on. And then in
1961, everyone came over. We were trying to assimilate Cubans, we were trying to
assimilate blacks, and we were trying to do something about our government, which
was out of control.
We were also a growing [and] expanding university with major demands made upon
us. We were in a medieval state with modern conveniences. We have progressed,
I am glad to say. But Gainesville was expanding, and we were not providing
adequately for the future in many ways as a state, as a county, as a city, [or] as a
university. I think a lot of what we were doing in that period could be called
exploitation. We were simply getting the most out of something with the least
amount of expenditure. It took many years to throw the rascals out of city
When I first came here, in 1961 and 1962, Red Atkins was mayor. He was the last
"pork chopper." And then came this wave of foreign university professors coming in.
We had been forbidden, of course, to be politically active until there was a court
case that said we could be. So gradually things became more liberal in the finer
sense of that word. We started getting some controls on land development and all
of that. And the University was caught up in this. I have got to say that the
University has not shown, I think, the kind of leadership on the local level of land use
planning that it should have. Right now we are told that we have a nuclear toxic
waste dump on our campus. That is unforgivable.
We started getting a different kind of faculty. When I first came here everybody
wore washed pants and T-shirts to class, including people like Manning Dauer
[professor of political science, 1933-1950]. Nothing happened in the summer.
Everything just came to a grinding halt. Most buildings were not air-conditioned. It
was a very low-key, relaxed environment. Of course, Alachua County was not wet;
everybody got killed on the road going to Ruby's to get booze. Moonshiners were all
over Gainesville. You could go down on 6th Street and buy a quart of shine. It
would probably kill you half the time, but people did that. It was a totally different
scene. It was really sort of a little backwater that suddenly became important.
L: I first came here in 1959, and I remember coming here in the summers and being
really overwhelmed by this sleepy-town, down-South atmosphere. Half of the
streets were not paved, the Spanish Moss hung limply in the trees. Black women
still had parasols to protect them from the sun.
T: Well, they still do; they are smarter than white women. [laughter]
L: They all did in those days; it was very common. I just wondered if you could
corroborate my impressions in that regard.
T: There is no question about it. Getting back to the University, we became a great
university almost by accident. Mind you, I came here in 1959. That was twelve
years after the University of Florida had become co-ed. Most young women in
Florida were still sent to FSU. This was a jockey club; [it was] a man's school. The
Florida Blue Key was probably the most efficient route to power that I have ever
seen, other than the Communist Party in the old days of the USSR. It was a very
sleepy atmosphere, and [it was] very low key. But we had one crazy thing; we had a
magnificent library. Even then, we had a library of almost one million volumes when
you count up all of the branch libraries, which was incredible. Although I say we
became a great university by accident and inadvertence, what happened was that
we were uniquely positioned in the mid-1960s when all of this federal money
suddenly came. [There were] Pell grants and whatever they were called then.
Once Sputnik went into the sky, everybody was doing stuff [as a result of] the NDEA
[National Defense Education Act]. We were uniquely positioned to do something.
Even though it was kind of accidental, we had faculty like Lyle McAlister, Don
Worcester, Harry Kantor, Samuel Proctor, Manning Dauer, and even people like
myself. We had a unique generation able to train students and researchers and
move with this new emphasis on building universities. And we were absolutely,
uniquely positioned for that. So I say it is accidental on the one hand, because
nobody could have foreseen [this]. I did not have a clue when I came here in 1959
two years after Sputnik that this would have happened. But this was already going
on. And then we started getting wonderful students, and all the rest of it is history.
- 20 -
But it is really the most wonderful triumph of inadvertence. Who would have
believed that this would happen? But this happened to everybody; it was a
L: As most people today are aware, you had a prominent role in the struggle for
women's rights here at the University of Florida and in the state of Florida. Can you
tell us something about that?
T: This whole period that I have been here has been marked by tumult and discord.
First, it was the civil rights for African-Americans. And then it was for political
rights--"down with empire," etcetera. When the decks were cleared on that, it
became apparent that women were being exploited and devalued at the University.
I was involved in a number of initiatives--both administrative and official.
And then [I was involved in] other things. I was the founding president of the
Association for Women Faculty in 1974. That still endures. It is a very vigorous,
active group. It has both male and female members. It is devoted to the
advancement and protection of female faculty. The University of Florida has not had
a very good record to this day on that. It still continues to be a jockey club and a
white, male preserve. It is a little better, but not much. We are below the national
average in where we should be for employment of women. So in 1974 we founded
the Association for Women Faculty. At one time, I was also chair of the Affirmative
Action Council, which reported to the executive vice president of the University. We
had some impact there, but not the kind of impact I would have wished for. As part
of that, I was appointed chair of the Title IX Evaluation Committee. This was all in
the 1970s. When Title IX was passed by the U.S. Congress, every university had to
survey its facilities to see how woman-friendly they were. I was appointed chair of
that, and I must tell you that in one building we looked at--you are not going to
believe this--there were no women's rooms. There were no toilet facilities for
women in the engineering complex. Nobody had ever paid any attention to that.
Now we are doing the same with the disabled. There are whole buildings at the
University that disabled people cannot enter because there are no elevators or
doors that work properly. So we have a long way to go. I have been active in these
I am now on the Advisory Committee for Women's Studies at the University. Some
of my research and writing and publications in recent years have been devoted to
the role of women in history. I have been concerned about the lack of attention paid
to women in the early modern European period. I have been working on that and on
the Queen Isabella issue. I am interested in heroines; I am interested in role
models, especially for young women. So that is what I am doing now in my
- 21 -
L: Can you mention some of the other women who have worked with you and have
had prominent roles to play in these kinds of activities?
T: I would have to say that first and foremost would be Irene Thompson, the founder of
the Women's Studies program here at the University in the 1970s. She is now
retired. She was also an officer in the Association for Women Faculty. [She was in]
the English department. She was a major figure.
I think Dean Ruth McQuown, for whom we now have a scholarship named, was a
major figure. [She was] one of the first top administrators at the University who was
female. She was one of the very, very first. She had a major impact on everything
from women students to faculty to policy to fairness. I think at the University, in the
eyes of students and women faculty, the issue is ultimately fairness. Fairness has
been in short supply, and Ruth McQuown [associate professor of political science]
brought a very wise head and a fair and just disposition to the affairs of the College
of Liberal Arts and to the University. So she was a major figure. She died early, I
am sorry to say.
Glenna Carr, [professor] in the College of Education, has been another major figure
doing all sorts of things. [She was on] committees--you name it. Phyllis Meek, who
is still associate dean of students at the University, has been a major player in all
sorts of policy decisions on everything from sexual battery to AIDS to women to men
to students to faculty to fairness to whatever. Again, she is one of the highest
ranking women (which, by the way, you can count on the fingers of both hands still)
at this University. She was one of the early officers on the Commission on the
Status of Women at the University and in Alachua County. Phyllis Meek was a
major role model and a major figure.
I would have to cite Sheila Dickison, who is associate dean of the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences. She was a major player and role model in women's affairs. And
the new director of the women's studies program, Helga Craft, is from the German
department. She is really outstanding and has really galvanized the women's
studies program, building on the efforts of people like Connie Shehan in sociology.
Linda Wolfe in anthropology was another earlier director who the University decided
they would not keep, and [they] permitted [her] to go off to a North Carolina school.
So we finally got what George Bush calls "the big mo." We have got women going
in their disciplines, courses, research, in their role modeling activities for students,
and of course in their political activities. Ultimately, this is all political.
L: What do you feel has been accomplished over the years in terms of women's
T: I think we are keeping the faith and fighting the good fight. [We are] trying to keep
the State University System and the University of Florida honest and in obedience to
federal and state law. It is difficult, I must admit. [We were] trying to keep the
- 22 -
University and the State University System honest in the sense of obeying and
complying with federal and state laws with regard to women and minorities. The
record is not very good, and we are below the average here at the University for
women in employment, and [we are] certainly well below in terms of black and other
But I think that what we have been able to do in terms of women at the University is
set up a pretty good networking system, a mentoring system, and a monitoring
system. [This is] so that women do not feel so isolated; they have somebody to talk
with and fight with. This has been an achievement of the last fifteen years. But
women are isolated, depreciated, underpaid, exploited, and unsung. It is still a
grave concern to me. Just this week in February, 1992, it has once again become a
concern to the legislature and the cabinet because, statistically, there is no way we
could have so few women in positions of administrative power unless there was a
deliberate campaign not to have them in those positions. This is being investigated
now. So we are hanging in there. I think the main thing is that we have a strong
women's movement in the faculty and the students, a strong women's studies
program, and a strong network of sisters and brothers who help us.
T: Felicity, let me just ask you one other thing before we finish. I know you do not want
to discuss your personal life, but maybe you could just tell us a little bit about your
farming activities out here in Melrose. Not many women are engaged in cattle
operations. Please tell us: have you ever had goats?
T: No, I have never had goats. [laughter] I have considered it, but I have never had
goats. I like to farm. I think it is a welcome antidote to things and labors intellectual.
I like the earth; I like creating and growing things. I am basically a grape grower. I
have been active in the Florida Grape Growers Association. I have been an officer
here and there through the years. I am a supporter of my industry. I have a small
cow and calf operation. I love to watch them. Most of what I know about human
beings, I learned from watching animal behavior. I have a sort of closed-system
farm. Everything that comes out of the cows ultimately goes on the grapes. What
comes out of the vineyard in terms of cuttings goes to the cows for them to eat. So
it is a closed ecological system that I like. As I said, it is a welcome antidote to life
at the University of Florida. And it is fun. It is intellectually challenging. We have the
chance to do things in North Florida in a horticultural sense that can have big
implications for our relatively debased, rural population. Many of them are poor
whites and poor blacks. I am setting up a nursery operation this year which I hope
will be able to provide appropriate plant stock at a relatively cheap price to people
who want to go into the grape industry, which I hope is expanding. It will make
people some money. I am interested in it from the socioeconomic perspective as
well as from the sheer delight of growing things.
L: I know you also have a strong interest in local history, that is, the history of Melrose.
You have been active in historic Melrose. Do you feel that your involvement in
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modern day agriculture in some way helps you to relate to the history of the area
and get a feeling for the history of the land?
T: I think so, because this whole area around Lake Santa Fe, down to Hawthorne, over
to Green Cove, as you know, was a site in the early nineteenth century of some of
the big vineyards. [These vineyards were] started by northerners who were growing
V. labrusca [type of grape prevalent in the U.S.]. Of course, they came to total
disaster. And then came the diseases that hit the grapes before the Civil War.
And then, of course, the orange groves were all around here. All of our place
names are "Orange this" and "Orange that." So I became very interested in how it
was that people came and from whence, what they did economically, how they
organized themselves, [and] how they survived. I was especially interested in
seeing how large-scale agriculture was replaced in the late nineteenth century--after
the beginning of all of these disastrous freezes--by winter tourism that started in
North Florida and then proceeded South. So that is how we got interested in doing
our survey of Melrose and getting it on the National Register of Historic Places.
Because we have around here the legacy of not only the orange boom, but the early
tourist boom of the nineteenth century when people had plenty of money. [They
had] more money than taste plenty of times. They built these really outrageous
houses around Melrose, all in the space of twenty years. They were truly
magnificent; it is one of the most exciting agglomerations of like housing anyplace,
all built within twenty years or so. So that is why we got on the national register,
because it was an exciting thing. I have been very interested in that, because I am
always interested to see what happens to it when there is an economic surplus.
There was a little economic surplus in the nineteenth century from things like green
peppers, grapes, and oranges. That went into the early housing. And then the later
surplus was provided by the northern tourists who came down here. So I have had
the pleasure of serving as the secretary of historic Melrose. I was just recently re-
elected--I am sorry to say--for another three-year term. I am heavily involved in this
kind of thing--tracing what happened in the nineteenth century (even earlier, for that
matter, because we are on the Bellamy Road, and that comes from Spanish times)
and trying to preserve the patrimony for the future. It is very closely linked to
L: Thank you very much, Felicity.
T: Thank you.
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