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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Pat Farris
Interviewer: Stuart Landers
July 28, 1992
L: This is an oral history interview with Mrs. Pat Farris. [It is] being conducted in Mrs.
Farris's home in Tallahassee, Florida. Today is July 28, 1992, and my name is Stuart
Usually the first question that I ask is, What is your full name?
F: Patricia Bostick Farris. Bostick is my maiden name.
L: When and where were you born?
F: Durham, North Carolina, [on] October 30, 1931.
L: Tell me a little bit about your parents.
F: I do not have any memories of living in Durham when I was small. My father was
a lawyer, and he had just gotten out of law school about the time the Depression
started. He got a job in [Washington] DC and helped write Social Security
legislation. So my earliest memories in my life are after I had moved to Washington,
when I would have been four or five years old. He was a lawyer for the federal
government in what became the Social Security Administration after the legislation
L: [He was] a New Deal lawyer.
F: Right. Both of my parents had graduated from Duke [University in Durham, NC]
the year they got married . They met because they were both in school at
Duke. My mother majored in history and education. She was going to be a
schoolteacher, but she became a housewife and a mother and never had a "real
As I said, my early memories are of Washington. They lived in an apartment, and
I only remember it a little bit. He fell in love with another woman, and they got
divorced at a time when divorce was extremely unusual. I was five years old.
L: What were your parents' names?
F: They are both now dead as of the last few years. My father's name was Wade
Huntsman Bostick, and my mother's name was Zoa Lee Haywood. She was from
an old, wealthy North Carolina family. He was also from a North Carolina family,
but both [of his parents] were medical missionaries in China all their adult lives, so
he was born there. The only photographs I have of him--only two--were both taken
in China when he was a young fellow. Then they sent him to this country to go to
school at [what was then] Wake Forest [College in Wake Forest, NC], which was
highly associated at that time with the Baptist church. When he graduated from
there he went to Duke to law school. My mother was in Duke as an undergraduate,
and that is how they met. I am a native Southerner, basically.
L: [Did you] pretty much grow up in Washington, DC?
F: No, not really. When my parents got divorced, my mother took a job as a secretary
for an office in DC, and I have never known what it was. She did not like to talk
about that period of time. I was sent to boarding school in North Carolina for first
grade. My life revolved around North Carolina from then until I grew up. I went
to private boarding schools for the first five or six grades. My mother, meanwhile,
was in Washington. She met another man and remarried when I was about nine
years old. They moved to the house in Durham that my mother, father, and I had
vacated--but had been rented out--when my father went to DC to take this job with
the government. My new stepfather and mother and I all lived there for about two
Then, one Christmas day, he walked out to "get some cigarettes" and never returned.
So a second divorce eventually happened. About two years later I went to a prep
school in Virginia. I did not re-enter the Durham public schools until I was a junior.
So, basically, I was born in Durham, went to school there in the fifth and sixth grades
(due to the second marriage of my mother), and did not attend public school there
again until I was in high school, for the last couple of years.
I went from Durham High School to the College of William and Mary [in
Williamsburg, VA] to major in English. I worked on the student newspaper. I got
interested in journalism and transferred from William and Mary to the University
of Alabama for my sophomore year because no journalism school at that time--this
was 1950--would accept women. For instance, [the University of North Carolina at]
Chapel Hill had a journalism major, but Chapel Hill was for men only at that point.
The nearest journalism school that women could go to was at Columbia [University].
My mother did not want me to go live in New York City, so I ended up safely
ensconced [laughter] in the University of Alabama, which was the next nearest
journalism school. I graduated from there in 1953. The year I was a senior I had
decided that I was interested equally in government or political science, so I
graduated with a double major in political science and journalism in the summer of
1953. In the process, I met the man that I was going to marry; it developed. He was
a political science professor.
L: This is Charles Farris?
F: Right. But the interest in political science came before I met [Charles]. He was one
of three or four people that I had classes with. I graduated in June of 1953 and went
to Paris to write a "great American novel." [I] wrote it, but it was not great.
[laughter] I returned in December of 1953 and got married to Charles Farris.
L: What was your novel about?
F: A white, southern female working with black people on welfare in Durham, North
L: Was there anything in your experience that prompted you to pick such a subject?
F: All I could ever figure, when I thought about it, was that one summer when I was
an undergraduate in college [I was a Fuller Brush cosmetics salesperson in poor
black and poor white neighborhoods]. I went home every summer from Tuscaloosa,
Alabama, to Durham. My mother still lived in Durham, and I was still connected
to it in the sense of summer vacations and winter [breaks] like Christmas while I
was an undergraduate. I did different things different summers. One summer I was
a camp counselor. One summer I was the equivalent of what today would be an
Avon salesperson. Fuller Brush, which then sold brushes and cleaning things, had
a subsection that sold cosmetics. So at age eighteen or nineteen I was going around
the poorer white and black neighborhoods of Durham, trying to sell people
cosmetics. [laughter] It actually worked out; I made a reasonable amount of money.
But probably the most significant effect it had on me was I was exposed to other
ways of living, from going to people's households to sell things, than I had been
exposed to as a white, middle-class Southerner. [I went] across both race and class
lines, in other words.
L: What did you think of what you saw?
F: It was different.
L: Real quick, do you have any brothers and sisters?
F: Not from my mother's original marriage. From when she married the second time
I have a half-sister who is twelve years younger than I, but we never grew up in the
same household because of the timetable that I was outlining of when I went to
boarding schools and so forth. I have one, but [we were never close].
L: So you were never around your stepfather very much?
F: Only for the two years before he left that Christmas day. That is all the marriage
lasted. We were now in the middle of World War II. One year of that was in the
DC area when I was out of boarding school [and] in a public school in Alexandria,
and then one year was back in Durham in sixth grade. So I have a very checkered
L: Do you remember much about the Second World War and what it was like?
F: My memories mostly center around my own involvement. The thing that was neatest
on the homefront, as far as I was concerned, was something called the Junior
Commandos. This is probably an early indication of my later involvement in
women's rights, which, for me personally, happened before GWER [Gainesville
Women for Equal Rights] happened. [It was] what is now called feminism. In any
event, unlike in the regular armed forces, this was something for kids, as you can
guess from the name. It was not sex segregated, so girls could advance through the
ranks. It was an organization like the scouts, but instead of being a second class
scout, first class scout, eagle scout, or whatever, the ranks had the same names that
the military has. You start off as a private, then you became corporal, then a
sergeant, then a lieutenant, etcetera, up to a general. I became a three-star general,
so it was a very big deal.
The way you accomplished all this was you had to collect scrap. In all cities in the
United States, therefore including Durham, there were places where you turned it
in and got it weighed, and you got little receipts. You took the receipts to your
school, and they said: "Two thousand more pounds of scrap metal. You get
promoted to lieutenant," or whatever.
L: Was it just scrap metal, or was it other [items such as] rubber or lard?
F: No. It was all scrap metal. Many girls were big in what were called victory gardens,
but I was not into gardening. I was into scrap metal.
L: OK. To jump back to where we were, you went to Paris ...
F: [I] came back, got married, and my husband continued to teach at the University of
Alabama. The way I got to Gainesville was through a civil rights event.
L: When you were at the University of Alabama, and before you came to Gainesville
what were you doing? Were you involved in any organizations? [Were you]
politically involved or anything like that?
F: Yes. I was active in student government, but all the offices except secretary were
controlled by men, usually people in law school, so I never got to be like a president
or vice-president or anything. But I was active in student government. My biggest
interest was in the newspaper, the Crimson & White, of which I became the first
woman editor. Remember, I had gone there to take journalism, so this is where it
figures. I was in the Young Democrats, but again, more as a participant than a
leader. So my leadership energies mostly went into this newspaper.
L: After you graduated and continued to live in Tuscaloosa, what did you do while your
husband was teaching?
F: Six weeks after we moved back to Tuscaloosa--this was during one of the
innumerable recessions that plagued the 1950s and 1960s--I could not find a job for
those several weeks. It seemed like a long time.
A journalism professor that I had had in school the year before called and told me
that someone was leaving from the University of Alabama news bureau. University
news bureaus--then and now--are basically PR arms of universities. Whoever works
for them writes lots of stories about [the accomplishments of the people who are
involved in the university, such as] "Dr. David Chandlers has now published a book."
Then you send it out to all the state newspapers and hope that they will print it.
The news bureau had only three employees, and they were responsible for different
colleges within the university as far as writing copy to be disseminated on a daily
basis by teletype and mailed to the sixty-some newspapers in Alabama. So within
one year of graduating, after the stint in Paris, I became the associate director of the
University of Alabama news bureau. That is what I was doing when my first child
was born in the summer of 1955, and I then resigned.
L: Was [the baby] a boy or girl?
F: A girl.
L: What is her name?
F: Patricia Lee Farris.
L: So how did you get to Gainesville?
F: Two years later we had a second--and our only other--child, a boy, who was named
Charles, Jr. So we had two juniors, first a female and then a male. Our family of
four was living in Tuscaloosa.
One fateful January day someone named Autherine Lucy entered the University of
Alabama in an attempt to integrate it. The attempt crashed about ten days later,
thanks to the Ku Klux Klan, which bused people in from all across the South,
complete with robes and the whole nine yards. The way we got personally involved
[was] this Autherine Lucy took four undergraduate classes, and one of them was
American government, which my husband was teaching. He always began the first
week with the [U.S.] Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The irony
of it all struck him, since the building [in which] he was teaching Miss Lucy was
surrounded by Klanspeople who were throwing things at the windows.
We used to eat lunch together; he would come home for lunch. We kicked it around
and decided that it would be a good thing to call a faculty meeting. There were only
about 300 faculty at the University of Alabama; the enrollment then was probably
about 8,000 students. So Charles got other people in the political science
department to call a facultywide meeting. It got heavy press coverage: journalists
were there from the The New York Times and two papers from London and Life
magazine, etcetera. Anyhow, at lunchtime that day, when he knew the meeting was
going to happen, he and I jointly wrote a resolution saying that if the university could
not protect all of its students, including Miss Lucy, then the university should close.
So in a complicated parliamentary manuever, carried out by the president of the
university (who presided over all faculty meetings at that time), the motion lost, and
the university stayed open. The board of trustees met that night and expelled Miss
Lucy for her safety. After that, my husband was persona non grata at the University
of Alabama with the administration, which was very shaken up and scared.
L: Did he have tenure at this point?
L: When you said that this resolution was defeated only through some fast footwork by
the president [specifically what do you mean]?
F: I do not know how familiar you are with parliamentary law, but ...
L: Does that mean that most of the faculty supported it?
F: There was never a straight up-and-down vote, so there really is no way to know for
sure. Charles's feeling and my feeling from the people that I knew (because I had
been in journalism and had worked there and gone to school there, I sort of had one
network of acquaintances and he another) was that it would have passed on a close
vote. Instead, the motion was to table. I do not know if you are familiar with those
things or not, but it is a nondebatable motion, and it is sudden death.
Anyhow, the administration was not very happy with him, and he was given to
understand in the year that followed (I will try to be brief about it) that he would
never even get promoted at Alabama, so he began to look elsewhere for work. He
had done undergraduate work at [the University of Florida in] Gainesville. He was
from Jacksonville. The fellow that was head of the political science department in
Gainesville at that time (and was to remain so for another twenty-some years)
offered Charles a job. We went to Gainesville in 1958.
L: Was that Manning Dauer?
L: What did you think of Gainesville as compared to Tuscaloosa--the college, the town.
F: They were remarkably the same. Both towns were about 55,000 or 60,000 in that
particular year. Probably Tuscaloosa had--and has to this day--a little more of a
downtown than Gainesville. I think perhaps [that is] because that part of Alabama
is somewhat older than north Florida is. But both, essentially, were simply very
small cities [and] not all that cosmopolitan.
L: Did you notice any difference in race relations?
F: No. To me, both places were seriously and severely segregated.
L: Did any of this, with Tuscaloosa or Gainesville being in the Deep South, look
different from the upper South where you used to live?
F: North Carolina?
L: Yes, North Carolina and even Virginia, where you had spent some time.
F: Well, in Virginia I was always in boarding schools sort of out in the countryside
somewhere. I did not really see much of town life. It was different from Durham,
and I do not know enough about southern history to know exactly why. I can guess.
Durham was an industrial town, because there were three tobacco companies there
that made cigarettes. Also, [there were] two large hosiery mills and two large cotton
mills. So although it and the South in general were not unionized, people lived by
shifts and whistles blew and large arrays of men and women got off work there for
fixed hours. What Tuscaloosa and Gainesville had in common was that essentially
there was nothing there except the university. People were fairly autonomously
employed at the university, and then [there was] lots of service/support businesses.
Anyway, Durham was a big industry town, and therefore it offered black people
opportunities that I would say places like Tuscaloosa and Gainesville did not. They
could operate machines for packaging cigarettes as well as a white person. I
remember when I was just a kid when the whistle blew for the daytime shift to get
off at 3:00 in the afternoon, you would see lots of both male and female black and
white people get off work, and they would literally fill the sidewalks of downtown.
Of course, a little kid would notice that. As I look back, I remember they would
move in segregated groups, segregated by gender and race. These were all working
people. So, basically, you saw black people more than you would if, at that time, you
lived in Tuscaloosa or Gainesville.
Tuscaloosa and Gainesville had in common that if black people were employed at
all, it was as maids and yardmen. They were in some individual white person's
employ. They did not even work in stores or anything. So a white person never saw
black people most of the time in the South in the 1950s. You just did not have any
dealings with them, except the one person that might be your maid or your
yardperson. In Durham, because black people had industrial jobs that paid a check,
they were out and about on the streets, as I already said. My grandfather on my
mother's side had the town's only drugstore, so I hung out there a lot when I was
L: Did this drugstore serve blacks and whites on an equal basis?
F: No. The part of the drugstore I liked best had what has basically disappeared now.
It was a soda fountain where you got Coca-Colas, ice cream sodas, milk shakes, and
all that, and it did not serve black people. Of course, it served black people--as all
other stores in the South did--if you came in and wanted to buy something that was
not a matter of sitting down at a lunch counter and consuming. See, the soda
fountains in drugstores were just like the lunch counters that were to become famous
ten years later for being integrated. In other words, there would be a counter and
maybe twelve stools, and people sat at them and maybe had a cherry Coke and a
chicken salad sandwich. It becomes social, and black people could not do that. But
they could come in and buy cough drops or get a prescription filled or buy aspirin
the same as anybody else.
L: Or take the chicken salad sandwich out in the street, maybe?
F: I do not remember seeing people do that. I do not know whether they did or not.
L: So you are in Gainesville in 1958, and your husband is ...
F: Teaching political science.
L: You mentioned being politically active and also getting interested in women's rights
before the formation of GWER.
L: So what were you up to, specifically?
F: The first couple of years that I was there, basically, I did not know anybody. I was
very lonely, and I was a housewife at home with two little kids. Then some
acquaintance, a woman that I had met very casually in the neighborhood in
connection with living there and having kids and all, had told me there was
something called a Democratic Women's Club. So in 1960 I joined it in the hopes
of finding other women who were politically inclined. I became an officer of it
within the year. It was not large; [there were] maybe thirty-five people. Basically,
it was a woman's organization with counterparts all over the United States and all
over Florida that did the basic schlepping for Democratic party campaigns. For
instance, you are running for Congress, and you need umpteen envelopes addressed.
You give a ring to the Democratic Women's Club and say, "Hey! Can you guys help
address umpteen envelopes?" It was the role that women played often in the late
1950s and early 1960s--at least in the South, which is all I know very much about.
It was sort of like a support group for major male political activities, since the people
that ran for office were male. Now, of course, at the time I did not think it was
strange that men ran for office and the women addressed the envelopes. [laughter]
Anyhow, I got very interested in this group and became very active. Through it I
learned that the party organization in that county (and everywhere else in the U.S.)
was controlled by something called the Democratic County Executive Committee.
It was made up of people elected--one woman [and] one man--from every precinct
in the county. Some acquaintances and I who were in this Democratic Women's
Club looked into this county committee further and learned that it was controlled
by segregationist, white, redneck (whatever you want to call them) Southerners, so
we began a surreptitious campaign to try to find a man and a woman from each
precinct in the county to run on a new "liberal" slate [in 1961-62].
We did so, and I would like to say we took over the county committee, but we did
not. We split it in half so that [the representation was about fifty/fifty]. A county
committee sits for four years. When it had its first organizational meeting, we had
beaten about half the conservative people, so the committee, which had at that time
eighty-some people on it, was half/half. There had to be some heavy-duty political
compromise real fast. [laughter] We did not like them, and they did not like us, but
the realities of politics were such that the segregationist fellow who was a justice of
the peace ended up being chairperson, and I got elected vice-chairperson of the
committee. It is in that connection that I became politically active, as the vice-
chairman of the Democratic County Committee. [It was] a position that I held for
over a dozen years.
L: Who were your allies in the Democratic Women's Club that, together with you,
brought about these changes? Do you remember any of these names?
F: Yes, [I remember] probably all of them. The only ones that would cross-connect
with the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights would be Jean Chalmers [wife of UF
social science professor David Chalmers] and Shirley Conroy [wife of UF social
science professor Stephen Conroy].
L: Those are important names.
F: Right. The others are women whose paths took them in other directions. The
women's club, since it was sort of a support group, was made up of all sorts of
different women. They were all white, and they were all middle class, but most of
them were not connected with the University of Florida. They were the wives of,
say, businessmen [and] insurance persons--people who had their own reasons for
being interested in county politics. They were not necessarily liberals.
The three of us, and maybe three or four other people who were never in GWER,
were the only liberals in the Democratic Women's Club in the sense that we had
been for John Kennedy. One of the things that activated all the things that, in my
opinion, were then to happen in the upcoming two or three years--as I look back at
it--was his assassination and Johnson taking office. I got to catapult faster and
farther probably than I would have in a normal course of events, because the
segregationists that we had struck the county committee compromise with were
mostly elderly males. The significance of that is that they really were not into doing
front-line [work or] organizing door-to-door precinct work or anything. By striking
this bargain with these fellows from out in the county, the people that we shoved
aside off the power track locally were the conservative, Gainesville, white
businesspeople. They are the ones that lost.
Anyhow, there was this strange alliance between these University-connected liberals,
both male and female. There were a lot of faculty wives and faculty that we had
drafted to run for these county committee seats, since those were the people we
knew in Gainesville. We were not friends with businesspeople. The background of
this county committee grab for power and later for GWER, basically, as far as the
white people [were concerned], is people from elsewhere who had been brought
there because there was a University there, and that is what had brought them to
Gainesville. Anyhow, there we were, and because the people we had made the
liaison with were elderly, we got to do lots of precinct organizing and did the first-
ever sort of modern campaigning in Gainesville.
L: Were you involved in the Civic Action Association [CAA]?
F: Right. I was one of the people that helped start it. This was all happening at one
time, and these things all preceded GWER.
L: What can you tell me about the Civic Action Association?
F: It was the brainchild of a man named John DeGrove who taught political science
[at UF]. He is now at Florida Atlantic University; he left Gainesville to become
chair of that political science department, and then [he] became dean of arts and
sciences. Now he runs some institute. I do not know his exact title. Anyway, John
is not--and was not--your usual academic. Unlike my husband and unlike David
Chalmers, he was the type of academic who goes and joins the Rotary Club, the
Lions Club, and all that good stuff. All the men's groups at that time met at this
particular hotel, the Primrose Inn, and John ended up being friends, therefore, with
a couple of townspeople who were themselves unhappy with how the money interests
ran in Gainesville. He got the Civic Action Association together with a guy named
Byron Winn, who owned the Primrose. Byron was one of the first people that ran
for office, and he won with the help of Shirley Conroy and Jean Chalmers and me
and a cast of characters that would become familiar as the 1960s moved forward.
The same people ended up being active in three groups: the Civic Action
Association, Democratic Women's Club, and the [Democratic] County Committee
before and during GWER's beginning.
L: Do you recall a branch of the Southern Regional Council called the Council on
L: Were you part of that?
F: No. When I say that my thing became Democratic party politics, I mean that very
literally. Each of the women that you have interviewed or will interview basically
had two small children. [Among] Shirley Conroy or me or Jean Chalmers or Bev
Jones [wife of UF professor of psychology Marshall Jones], I think you will find
endless sociological similarities over and over and over. Your ordinary Gainesville
female resident at that time might have been active, as all my neighbors were, in
something called a garden club or whatever. These people that had moved from
elsewhere got into something political, and some people took sort of one aspect and
some another and some another. It was about all you could do with a struggling
professor for a husband, not much money, and two little kids. I mean, most women
tended to have one activity. I would imagine if anybody ever did a sociological study
of it, they would find that the same X hours were spent [in this one activity,] whether
it was a garden club or the Democratic party or the Southern Regional Council or
whatever. It is like the thing you run around and do for a few hours a week.
L: I understand--and I was told this by Rosa Williams--that people from the black
community campaigned for Byron Winn, and, more importantly, the black vote
helped get him elected [to the city commission in 1961]. [See AL145, UF Oral
History Archives, for the interview with Rosa B. Williams. Ed.]
L: Do you have any recollections about how this worked?
F: After this meeting I was telling you about on the [Democratic] County Committee,
where we somewhat seized control of it [we appointed people to vacant seats].
Besides running for election, the other way to get on a county committee is if a seat
is vacant, you appoint somebody. So we racially integrated the committee that year,
1962, with Rosa [B. Williams] and Barbara Bryant and other people who were later
to become active in GWER.
F: Simultaneously, the CAA and the Democratic County Committee [began to
integrate]. The CAA began integrating among the half dozen people. [The person]
at the first meeting that started it was a guy named Tom Coward, who is black.
L: He taught at Lincoln High School.
F: He is the only black person I can remember being there at the first meeting that
John DeGrove called. My memory is by no means impeccable. The way history sort
of lurches and jerks instead of running smoothly, in my opinion, is that not much
happens for quite a while, and then when change happens, a whole bunch of things
happen all at once. So it is not really very easy for me to unscramble [these events].
Within, say, eighteen months of this organizational committee meeting of the
Democratic County Committee which I was in charge of this insurrection, so to
speak, the CAA was beginning; I was at its initial meeting. And then GWER was
to begin; I was also at its initial meeting. There was a lot of overlapping of people
between these different things, so it would be very hard for me to say for sure who
was or was not [present at which meeting]. In other words, I remember some of the
people at each big-deal meeting, but I could not, by any means, be 100 percent sure
that I would remember a total set of names. Do you see what I am saying?
L: Yes. The Focus [GWER's newsletter] lists a lot of the names of the officers of
GWER, so that is not all that critical. You were involved in these early meetings
that led to the formation of GWER. Do you remember any of those big meetings?
F: I was trying to remember yesterday and today. The first one was at someone's home.
It was not Bev's, but it was about a block from her house. I cannot remember whose
[house] it was. [Maybe it was at Joanne Hahn's house.] If Jean has not told you,
you are going to have to find out from Bev. Bev will really have to fill in an awful
lot of this [about GWER]. This county committee stuff that I went on so long about
is my brainchild, so I remember it very clearly. Unknown to me, since I did not yet
know Bev, while I was doing that, her husband Marshall was active in the Students
for a Democratic Society [SDS]. From its meetings ... I presume you are familiar
with Stokely Carmichael's saying that a woman could best serve on her back.
L: "The position of the woman in the movement is prone."
F: Yes. Right. From readings that Bev wrote that we were looking at before the
interview began, I think you will see a great deal of anger in it against men and
husbands, so I can only guess where she was coming from. Like I say, she will have
to fill you in. Anyhow, my understanding, retrospectively, was that women were sort
of shoved off the track in SDS and CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], which
Judy Brown (well, she was then Judy Benninger; she had not gotten married yet) was
L: The SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference].
F: Yes. There was a whole other group of people who at that time were farther to the
left than I was at that time. I did not even know them yet, but they were in CORE
and SDS and other similar groups. Later I was to become good friends with Bev.
Later still, when my husband died and I got a job for the first time since I had
moved to Gainesville, I worked for years with Judy Brown, who had undergone
several metamorphoses by then. When you know a whole lot about something, the
problem with history is you have to remember what you found out about because you
were there and be able to separate that in your head from what you know about
because later on somebody told you about it. My point is that GWER was getting
ready to happen, and I view Bev as the person who caused that to happen. To
understand why and how it happened at that moment, you probably have to
understand her and, as significantly, her husband's involvement in the far left and
then the two people's relation to each other.
L: From what I know so far, when the Student Group for Equal Rights [SGER] began
to come together (it began picketing as early as June or July 1963), at some point
they circulated a petition of support among the UF faculty in order to improve their
position as a student group with the UF administration. If they got a petition from
a number of faculty members supporting what they were doing, then the
administration would have a harder time stamping them out as a student group. As
I understand it, it was from that list of male faculty names that someone sat down
and started calling wives and inviting them to a meeting in mid October 1963 that
became the Gainesville Women for Equal Rights. Does that ring any bells?
F: I could not confirm that one way or the other. Like I say, I did not know of
GWER's potential existence until, [when] in my position on the county committee,
I was contacted by Bev, whom we had filled a vacancy with. As these vacancies
happened, [we tried to fill them with blacks and whites sympathetic to blacks]. In
other words, one thing was running about a year ahead of the other thing at this
point. As they happened, in very controversial moves to poor white segregationists
that we had lined up with, we were filling the vacancies with black people and white
left people. That is how I was meeting them. In other words, when a vacancy
occurs and I know you live out in Precinct 22, I call you up and say, "Hey, do you
know a good guy?" That is how Bev and I met. We met through the county
committee. That is where I am going to be coming from throughout this period of
time that you are interested in. In other words, I did not ever make any crucial
decisions about the creation of GWER. I am all tied up with this Democratic deal
all this time.
L: [I have] a question about that, then. Rosa Williams told me she was the first black
woman to be part of something called the Democrat Club. Is she referring to the
Democratic Women's Club?
F: Yes. Rosa is a good example of someone who, unlike myself, has stayed put and
stayed in place, so if you had to bet on someone's memory, I would bet on hers. In
all the years that I knew her well, she is usually a pretty accurate person.
Some time (but I do not know when) in the mid 1960s, someone mentioned (not
myself; I have no idea who) that instead of there being a women's [Democratic] club,
there could just be a Democratic club made up of people who were active in
Democratic campaigns--both men and women--who had not gone through or did not
wish to go through the elective process to get on this county committee. It did not
last very long--maybe two years tops. It was one of those ideas that sounds great:
besides this worldly, small set of people, this Democratic County Committee that has
to get elected, there is another outfit, and you can call on this outfit whenever you
have a candidate you want to support. The Democratic committee focused on
something because it was an official part of the Democratic party with rules,
procedures, and, most significantly, money. Quite big bucks. Whenever a candidate
files for election, part of their filing fee goes to their party. A lot of people do not
know that. At that time, everybody that ran for office, like if five people were
running for sheriff (they were all Democrats, of course) they all had to pay this
contribution. So we had several thousand dollars that we could spend on any
election. That is why it was an easy thing to get oriented to. By backing candidates,
you could help assure their election. That focuses that.
The Civic Action Association is focused because it has very clear purposes, mainly,
electing people to city government, which was nonpartisan; it is not Democratic or
Republican. GWER, obviously, as you know by now, had a pretty clear focus of
racial integration. But this Democratic Club thing was one of those ideas, like I said,
that sounds good. People that are Democrats would have a club, but because it
did not have any particular thing to do, as I look back on it, [they might] wonder,
Why did this last a couple years? That would be what I would tend to think, if it
was not very clear what it was supposed to do. It did not have any one purpose or
two purposes or anything.
L: And it would probably only exist close to elections anyway. People would get
involved around election time.
F: Right. I would guess what did it in is here is a Democratic Committee with the
official power and the official money, and it itself is made up of these shifting
coalitions. Simultaneously, here is a CAA moderate center, GWER [is] over on the
left someplace, and way out past it [is] Students for a Democratic Society and CORE
and so forth and so on. They were all agitated at the same time, and you tended
to see many of the same people, black or white, at whatever [event] you went to.
The black people were really stretched thin. Throughout the 1960s there were only
a certain number of blacks in Gainesville who had either the time or the inclination
to run around and be in all these civic groups. I would say [there were] not more
than a dozen women and maybe a similar number of men. No matter what meeting
you went to, a couple of them would be there. So Rosa was probably in everything
that happened throughout the 1960s, I would imagine. Anyhow, the Democratic
Club never went much of anyplace.
L: Let me bounce a couple of early names off of you and see if you remember them.
L: Do you remember a woman named Terry Alt?
F: Only very faintly.
L: What about Mrs. Ed Richer? Her husband was a humanities instructor. He was
denied tenure and run out of the University.
L: Her name appears in a couple of the early issues of Focus. She was chairman (not
woman) of the picket committee, and then she vanishes. I do not even know her
first name. That is why I am asking you about her.
F: I remember what she looks like and all, but I cannot tell you her first name.
L: Did you know Jane Sterrett?
F: No. The name sounds familiar, but that is it.
L: She was a [local] music teacher, and her husband [Delbert] was on the music faculty.
She employed Rosa Williams as a domestic for a number of years but did not treat
her as a domestic, and [she] sort of pushed her into doing things. But she never
seemed to end up on the GWER [roster].
L: Do you recall attending an early GWER meeting that featured a panel of local black
L: Yes, presenting to a group of faculty wives what was wrong for blacks in Gainesville.
Do you recall that?
L: What do you remember about that, other than that it happened?
F: To me it was interesting, but it did not have as much effect as it did on the people
instrumental in starting GWER. See, Bev was from other parts of the country.
When I got into sociology and went back to school in Gainesville, I often thought
of GWER as being a very interesting sociological group. Basically, the people that
gave birth to GWER were not from the South. I think it [the panel] was probably
more edifying and perhaps more shocking to them than to a Southerner.
L: Because you had known about all this . .
F: All my life. The early short stories that I wrote when I was a teenager often had to
do with questions of race, class, and gender. I was preoccupied with questions of
inequality when I was young.
L: Do you have any idea why?
F: Well, no. Of course, I have often wondered that. I do not know whether it is
because being the child of divorce when it was very unusual, like it marked you,
[made me think differently]. It was a stigma to have divorced parents. [Maybe it
was because I was] traveling around more than most kids, or had grandparents who
lived in China who were missionaries. Who knows? I felt very much the odd person
- 15 -
In my own sociological reconstruction through friendships that were to happen years
later in GWER, one of the things that I observed was the three people that I got to
know best who helped start GWER had in common extremely unusual childhoods.
L: They were ...
F: Jean Chalmers.
L: From Canada.
F: Right. She is the only other person that I ever met who did the same two things in
the same first eighteen years of life that I did. She went to boarding school also, and
she hitchhiked across Europe in the same year that I did. Women simply did not
do that at eighteen years old.
L: [That was in] 1953. Who were the other two?
F: Bev, who comes from an unusual background that I think you should get her to tell
you about, and then Joan Henry, who I can tell you about because she is dead. She
cannot tell you herself. The first meeting that GWER ever had, two people
emerged, I think, in my personal opinion (if an extraterrestial had been hovering, or
if you had been concealed in the wings, I think you would have seen this), who were
to lead GWER through its first six years and stamp the group forever in historical
terms. Beverly and Joan Henry were there only a couple of years, and they were
about as opposite as two women you could find. Beverly is your stereotype Jewish,
Chicago-type person, and Joan was soft spoken, super polite, and the only member
of the genuine upper class of the United States ever to join GWER to the best of
my knowledge. She came from a family of multimillionaires [from] Oklahoma oil
in Tulsa. To sit at a dining table and [listen to] whoever [it was hosting the meeting]
(it could have been Terry Alt) [and Bev Jones and Joan Henry was very exciting].
I do not know where the first meeting was. Ask Beverly. I just know it was down
the block from Beverly's house. I mean, maybe Marshall was having an SDS meeting
at his house. Who knows? Anyway, for some reason, we were in some house that
I had never been in before. It was not [the home of] anybody I knew, so it did not
make a big impression on me of where it was. Anyhow, I remember very clearly
sitting at this table and observing that these two women were really, really different,
and they came at the whole problem of segregation from different points of view.
Joan was characterized--as it was to be for years--by super-polite but iron-will
negotiation and confrontation and study. Bev's manner was more like "to the
barricades," like yesterday already. [laughter]
There were times in the couple years that were to come when the two different styles
practically tore the thing apart. What would now be called political factions would
emerge, what Bev would call women's cliques or groups. In other words, [there
would be] twelve people basically on a board or head of committees, and they would
split, depending on which person they were most influenced by--Bev or Joan. I do
not even know if Bev sees that that way. Since I was writing at that time, I think of
myself as somewhat the proverbial outsider, watching these people do their thing.
L: Were you studying sociology yet?
L: What were you writing at this time?
F: Short stories.
L: Did you publish any?
F: Yes, but none of them have anything to do with this.
Anyhow, Joan was one of two kids, and her family was super rich. She, Shirley
Conroy, and I once had lunch years later. [This was] probably 1969. I said: "What
happened in your childhood where you grew up that by your twenties you were
interested in equality? What do you think happened?" This was supposed to be a
regular lunch, but we must have sat there for like three hours. Each of the three of
us felt that in our childhoods we had felt different from other people.
Joan attributed hers [to her sister]. (Like I said, I can only really speak for her, but
I will speak for her.) She had had a sister who, Joan thought, was prettier. She was
an A student, an athlete, excelled at everything, and [was] best loved by her parents,
Joan felt. She got polio when she was twelve years old, and Joan felt that it affected
Joan forever after her sister then died. But she attributed to that set of events the
fact that she became interested in people who, for whatever reason, were not in the
mainstream of society. I already told you the reasons that I think I might have
become interested in people who were not just your basic, average, middle-class
American. Shirley felt that ... Have you interviewed Shirley yet?
L: Yes, I spoke to her. [See AL144, UF Oral History Archives, for the interview with
Shirley Conroy. Ed.]
F: She felt--at least this is what she told me that day in 1969--that because she had been
so terribly poor she grew interested in these things later.
L: She mentioned that briefly.
F: Whether she even remembers that [lunch I do not know]. It was a big year in my
life because my husband died that year, and this lunch was happening because these
two friends were getting together and offering me social support while I looked for
One of the things interesting to me about history and memory is that not only do
different people remember things differently, but they simply plain remember
different things, depending upon how significant they are to them. So, since this
lunch was a big deal to me because I was lonely, I did not have a grown-up to talk
to anymore, and my kids were still real little, so I remember it very clearly. It was
not a political event or anything. It was just this conversation.
L: That is why oral history works so well. One thing that I have not found out yet--I
will be talking to [her husband] Selden [UF professor of history] when he gets back
from New England--[is] when did Joan Henry die? Do you recall?
F: The summer of 1979. I do not know if it was July or August.
L: OK. Once GWER got going, the picketing had gone on in front of most of the
major stores and businesses through the Christmas of 1963, and then it pretty much
stopped. What do you recall doing into 1964 right around the time of the Civil
Rights Act? Do you recall anything like that? I have some specific GWER
F: No, [I recall] nothing that would be of any help to you. See, for me, 1964 is when
I was vice-chair of this Democratic Committee, and, of course, Lyndon Johnson has
to run for office. It is the first time I had ever run a campaign for a national
candidate in my entire life.
L: Tell me about that, then.
F: By now I knew all the people, of course, who were in GWER, and they were all on
the county committee. So my big interest in life was electing Lyndon Johnson to the
presidency because he was running against Barry Goldwater. I was anti-Vietnam.
L: That early?
F: Yes. So was Bev. I mean, the overlaps in this are just really incredible. The peace
movement is simultaneously getting ready to happen, which is also a different sort
L: Was anybody coming out and saying anything in public in 1964?
F: No. We were just talking about it. It was the first time I had ever run a national
campaign locally, as I said, so I sort of had to make it up as I went along with only
the CAA model to go by of candidates for city commission. The next-up model is
running somebody for the county commission. See, half the precincts on the county
committee were out in the county, and none of us had friends or neighbors out in
the county, so this was a real political balancing act.
North Florida was incredibly, heavily conservative, so the other problem was to keep
people in general from voting for Goldwater in all the counties across north Florida.
We were the only outpost of liberal sentiment. So I spent literally all of my energy
running around trying to get these people in these strange places to support Johnson.
Most of them did because of reasons having to do with the history of the Democratic
party. But a few of us on the county committee were for Johnson because we
believed him when he said he would not extend the war further in Vietnam.
L: Was your support for him also a result of his promises about civil rights [and] to do
things about poverty? Did that appear in his record?
F: Absolutely. When Jack Kennedy had been running, as I am sure you know--[Martin
Luther] King [Jr.] has given his ["I Have a Dream"] speech, [and] Kennedy has not
yet been assassinated--he had some real political problems with being very overt,
either about civil rights or war or whatever because the presidential election is fast
running up, and that is what took him to Dallas. So simply in the space provided,
so to speak, by his death, Johnson was able to run around and actually enunciate that
he is for having a Great Society with opportunity for everybody and peace in our
time. Bev, I, Joan, and Shirley all bought into this. So while they were doing their
different activities as the first two presidents of GWER, really setting the pace and
tone for all of this to come, I was mostly (like I have said two or three times)
enmeshed in the apparatus of this campaign.
L: So you did not have any time for much else.
F: Well, I went to meetings, but I am just saying my actual activities [did not center
around GWER]. There were twenty-three counties in the Congressional district, and
my actual activities were.basically connected with the nuts and bolts of how to get
somebody active--and each of them--as in the sense of distributing bumper strips and
posters and so forth. As you drove across north Florida, there was no visible
campaign for Johnson. Goldwater was pretty big, and we were very worried. You
can look back and see that Johnson had a landslide [victory], but we did not know
that was going to happen.
L: Alachua County did go for Johnson, right?
F: Right. [That was] one of the two times since World War II that it ever went
Democratic in a presidential election. It had gone for the states' rights candidates
after World War II, and that is why we were so concerned.
L: And it went for McGovern in 1972. Once Johnson was elected, the war on poverty
- 19 -
L: As part of this, an antipoverty agency was formed in Gainesville called the
Community Action Agency or Committee or something like that. Were you involved
with that at all?
F: No. I knew that all these things were happening. See, the way sociologically that
I remember my interaction with GWER is simply at two levels. I was close friends
with a couple people that were the most active in its formation, but also--whether
it was ever conscious or not, I do not know, but I think it was--I think Bev's interest
in my being involved with GWER was because I was a Democratic party official.
So, like you were talking about using University lists to get legitimacy for a group,
with anything that is new, especially if it is liberal-left or suspect, it needs credentials.
There were, of course, not many regular established people in the community of
Gainesville, businesspeople and all who are going to lend any legitimizing seal to
anything that is about integrating facilities racially.
Although Bev and I had gotten to know each other through the Democratic party,
I think the reason that I was always being on the board, even though I really did not
do very much [laughter], is that I should probably regard this as a (I would have to
ask her; I do not know) strategically sound move. See, I am balancing. Half the
committee is real liberal, and half is all these other people. Bev has an agenda--
like I had one for the Democratic party--to integrate the committee and thereby to
integrate all political campaigns from then on, with candidates being of either color
and their supporters being of either color. That was my goal in life in the 1960s.
More than most of the people in GWER who were sharing my social identity were
the wives of the faculty, basically. Because I was doing this Democratic party thing,
I was getting to know lots of [people]. John DeGrove and the people that started
CAA got to know local people through men's clubs. But see, there were not
counterpart female things. [It was] very unusual at that time for a woman, because
of party politics, to get to know a lot of businessmen, state legislators, county
commissioners, and all that kind of stuff. You have to work for them to run
presidential campaigns. So from the presidential campaign, I then moved on to a
gubernatorial campaign. I spent the 1960s running campaigns for whoever was the
most liberal of the Democratic nominees and trying to take the county committee
money and funnel it to that person.
L: One thing that never seems to have really occurred in Gainesville is [for] most
staunch segregationists to appear and take a really vocal public stand about
segregation, it seems to me.
F: That is probably true.
L: Why do you think that was? In a lot of other communities there were people who
said, "These are the steps we need to take in order to protect the status quo." But
there were a lot of people in Gainesville who wanted to protect the status quo, but
they never resorted to racist demagoguery or anything like that.
F: Not in so much a public forum, but many of the ads that were against the CAA
candidates, for instance, had implicit tones of racism in them. When all the men's
clubs stopped meeting at the Primrose [Inn], Byron was pretty much given to
understand it was because of his letting an integrated group eat there. So there was
a price to pay. I think you are right. It was not public. But ads in the Gainesville
Sun, handbills, fliers, and all intimated that if you let these University people get
much further with electing folks, that ... The subtext was always that your daughter
might end up marrying a black man. I mean, there were just these little kinds of
This kind of stuff is often pretty well hidden in my opinion in America today as well
as then. It is hard to explain, but we did not have TV ad campaigns yet or anything,
so mostly the campaigns for the city commission or a president are being conducted
just like another age [and] another time, with handbills and handouts and things like
that. The people would leave them at front doors and at mailboxes. The early
Democratic campaigns and the early CAA campaigns all used handbills (which I do
not have any examples of here in Tallahassee) which implied that life as you knew
it in nice, pleasant, peaceful Gainesville could be upset if you elected these new
candidates. It would not be good for Gainesville.
So the threads sort of like in the 1960s and 1970s keep coming together and going
apart, coming together as far as the actual people that were doing what. But I would
imagine that the people that were on the other side from me probably have a pretty
clear perspective of how they solve things. Why they were no more overt than they
were, I have no idea.
L: Do you have any memories of anybody leading the forces of status quo? Who would
you say was a segregationist in Gainesville at the time?
F: I think, to the best of my knowledge, nearly all the middle-class businesspeople like
Finley Cannon and [M. M.] Parrish were. But they were always behind the scenes,
so they put other people up for office. The people I was working with on the county
committee were staunch segregationists in the sense that they called black people
When we set up a headquarters for Johnson, it was a real problem. One of the
biggest segregationists in the county was a guy named Ledger Walker of Walker
Furniture Store. It is still there; his son has it now. He donated the desks and
chairs for putting in the headquarters, but he would not be in the same room with
a black person. So this entire political trip, like I said, was a real balancing act.
[For example,] we got ready to open the headquarters. How do you serve punch and
cookies and have both black and white people present? It is really hard to explain.
So it happened, and different people came and left from the campaign headquarters
at different times. No insults were exchanged, much less did anything physical
happen. But that does not mean people's feelings were any less intense. I mean,
I would hear them from both sides.
L: The reason I am asking is that, surprisingly enough, instead of having difficulties, as
a white male, finding out about the black community, I am having a lot more
difficult time finding out about the white, nonliberal community.
F: Yes. Well, it was more complex, of course. The black community was much smaller,
and the people who were to become leaders in it basically all knew each other. It
is a smaller cast, whereas the white people are three or four distinct groups, [like]
these rednecks from the county that I am working with [and] the businessmen that
I am not working with. They are the people that we beat. See, since the people I
knew lived in Gainesville, the guys that lost were these white businessmen and their
wives. That is who we pushed off committees. So they literally were not speaking
to me. It did not take very long for anybody to figure out what had happened after
the surprise vote, nor, I am sure, did it take them very long to figure out which
couple of people had organized it. So Gainesville was marked from 1963 through
about 1972. See, my husband died in 1969. I guess [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] and
[Robert] Kennedy were shot in 1968.
F: With Marshall Jones's urging, I was getting arrested for the very first time in the civil
rights movement in the spring of 1968.
L: Sue Legg told me Beverly Jones put you all up to it. Tell me what you remember
F: That is how Sue would view it, I am sure. From my point of view, what actually
happened is we would go out to a march on a nice afternoon. Marshall was getting
ready to move out of town, having been offered a job in Hershey [Pennsylvania].
He and Judy Brown go sit down on the street. I am standing next to Beverly. I feel
the personal and political really do come together for most people, at least I think
for women, practically all the time. I am feeling really bent out of shape that the
Joneses are getting ready to move away. Heretofore, Marshall has been arrested
God only knows how many times--maybe twelve. He was always getting arrested.
So was Judy. They were always in Ocala or St. Augustine or somewhere. They
actually ended up in jail and, on principle, refused bail, so they stayed overnight.
None of the women in GWER were doing any of this because they were in this
women's role where you have these little kids you are looking after. So here they
are, out there getting arrested, and I think, By golly, I am in Gainesville. My
husband is looking after my kids, and I, too, can get arrested and make a statement.
See, you were making a statement with your body with the act of being arrested. We
were supposed to be blocking a federal highway, the ten or twelve of us. [laughter]
So there were these couple of guys. I go out and sit down on the street. Marshall
had exhorted everybody to block this highway in front of the courthouse.
L: Was this University [Avenue]?
L: Right after Martin Luther King got shot?
F: Right. And this was supposed to be a peaceful march. Many people who were
active in GWER like Pat Creel [wife of UF religion professor Austin Creel] and
others whose husbands were in the religion department, like Jane Hiers [wife of UF
professor of religion Richard H. Hiers], felt that Marshall was taking advantage of
the situation. Since this was a coming-together of community of different races,
different churches, and all, [and was supposed to be] a peaceful march, [people felt]
that he should not have been having a demonstration. I did not know it was going
to happen until they did it. How far ahead he had decided to do it, I have no idea.
Anyhow, as much out of solidarity as anything (that is the only word I can think of),
I joined Marshall and Judy in the street, partly because I felt guilty that all of this
had gone on for years and I had never gotten arrested. One was never quite sure
what the police were going to do when you got arrested. [You did not know]
whether they were going to rough you up any or not. So I went out and sat down
in the street. Sue was standing there and looking somewhat horrified, and I said,
"Come on," so Sue came out and got arrested. Her husband was absolutely horrified.
Sue was pretty far to the left or liberal. Keith was and is--has always been--more
straight, shall we say. When I called my husband from jail and he had to come bail
me out, Charles was not bent out of shape at all.
L: After you finish telling me about being arrested, I would like to know his political
position on all of this.
F: Anyhow, I think Sue ended up thinking that [Marshall Jones was manipulating
people with this sit-in] because that is what Keith thought. Keith was a political
scientist, therefore he would probably know. It is hard to explain. Sue, I think, did
it impulsively, as I did. But I think she had more static. In fact, she told me that
she did. I mean, Keith was really bent out of shape.
L: How long were you all in jail?
F: Only a couple hours. It was no big deal.
L: This was the county jail?
F: Yes. But my point is that desegregating the county committee was my contribution
to Gainesville's history, so to speak, not GWER. Through this arrest, and therefore,
for about three or four more years--what we were talking about before I went off on
this tangent--[what happened] was first, the businesspeople downtown are not
speaking to me because I am a radical on the county committee [and am] integrating
it. Then, the time I get arrested, the entire neighborhood stopped speaking to me.
So for many years in Gainesville, most white people did not speak to me. That is
how bad the polarization was. As soon as you get away from the University social
life, which many University people never did much, [there was nothing for me].
They did not work with a lot of people. But, see, because of the committee, I had
to work with people who had furniture stores, were justices of the peace, were
legislators, were insurance people, and it was pretty heavy-duty to be for integration.
It affected whether they would or would not have anything to do with you that day
or that year.
All this was in response to the question why the racism was not overt or demagogic
or something, and I do not know why it was not more overt. But it was there all the
time. Different people confronted it from different roads as GWER helped bring
the suit to integrate schools in Gainesville, which, again, Beverly can fill you in on.
They encountered a great deal of personal hostility from the white people on the
school board and white superintendents. So all the stories that I know of hostility
are not massed, organized groups but are instead of personal interactions.
When my husband died in 1969 and I went to look for a job, since I had not been
a journalist for ten years, basically, the first thing that I thought of to do was to see
if I could get certified to be a substitute teacher. I mean, I had to earn a living
somehow fast. The way you do that then and now is you go around to the schools
where you live and meet with the principal and say: "Here I am. I am a nice person.
I am in the job market. If so-and-so is home sick some day, give me a ring. I have
a background in this, that, and the other." So I did all that in the first couple weeks
after my husband died. It was in the spring. Spring went on, and no one ever called,
and I could not figure it out. Then a white woman named Barbara Gallant, who
went on to become one of the first officeholders on the [school] board, called me
one day and said that she had been talking to the superintendent of schools, whose
name was "Tiny" Talbot. He had found out that I was looking for a job teaching,
and he said: "Have that commie in my classroom? Not on your life." That is how
I went into sociology. They would not hire me [as a public school teacher].
L: What were Charles Farris's politics? Could we safely call him a liberal?
L: Did he do anything [to promote political or social goals]?
L: He was mainly a scholar?
F: Right. Very much so.
L: What do you remember about Judy Brown?
F: When I was involved in all of this, Judy was not much older than you are now. She
was very young, from my point of view. I was in my thirties. She was real active in
the student movement, and I did not know her very well. I saw her, but that was
about it. She had not yet decided or realized (whatever the appropriate terminology
is) that she was gay. Law school is [still] years in the future. So she mostly was
being a political activist, both in the early women's movement and in GWER.
Again, Bev knows [her better than I]. They were real close, and they stayed close
after Bev moved away. I never knew Judy as well.
The only place that my life hitches up with hers is GWER. I would say by the time
the stuff that Jean handed out (which I just looked at today, and it is from 1972) that
GWER was on the ropes by 1972. I am just saying [the end was near]. I did not
feel that then, but you can look back and tell when an organization [is falling apart].
It is getting harder and harder to find officers, people are not coming to meetings
as much, and that kind of stuff. The civil rights movement was getting ready to end.
I think historically you can look back and see that it was because the people that
had made GWER (they are practically all still in Gainesville [and] still acting on this
stage) were getting ready to move into other stuff. They were already involved in
the peace movement--that accounts for one whole group of people--or they had gone
strongly into the feminist movement. I was in the peace movement initially, and
Judy was in the feminist movement. So, again, there is a set of liberal white folks.
Each group does not have but maybe twenty or thirty core people, but they are like
these concentric circles that you see overlapping when you do sociological or
psychological diagrams. So I was seeing Judy like on a casual basis, meaning that
I do not know her very well. She is removed by a generation in age, and therefore
her experience is pretty different. I did not ever really get to know her as a person
until after my husband died and I went and got a master's in sociology. [Then] I got
a job on a research project.
L: Was this the one with Shirley Conroy?
F: Yes. I hired Jean and Shirley.
L: OK. [This was] the mortality [study] stuff?
F: No, that was later. First, it is 1969. I am desperately looking for a job, and I had
been arrested the year before. There is a guy at the med. center in psychiatry who
gets a great big grant to do a mental health study of Alachua County. [It was] half
a million dollars, which was big money back then. People knew I was looking for
a job, and someone remembered that I have perhaps some experience at drawing
up survey interview instruments and analyzing data. That is because I used to do
that with my husband when I was a housewife. That was his thing, [one special area
of] political science. He was in two fields. [One was] public opinion, which was
surveying attitudes, which has since become real popular but was not all that well
known then. [The other was Congressional voting.] In any event, somebody called
me and told me to go interview for this job. I got this job. Judy had already arrived
there through knowing the psychiatrist. How [she knew him,] I do not know. She
was there as a graduate research assistant. I was there as a regular employee. That
is the first time that we ever began to see each other. In other words, six years have
passed from when GWER started. This is the first time that we are going to see
each other as adults. We are working in the same place.
For some reason that absolutely escapes me, Judy was in charge of the
anthropological field study of Alachua County. We were having weekly staff
meetings. Here is a psychiatrist, John Schwab, who got the money. He hired a
Ph.D. sociologist, a fellow named George Warheit. He brought him to town, and
the guy gets an appointment with the sociology department, so he is all part of the
package, because he is going to direct this big grant. They had to hire staff. Maybe
Judy was getting a bachelor's degree or a master's in anthropology. That is all I can
figure. Who knows? For some bizarre reason, she was, at the moment, an
anthropology expert on life in Alachua County. We were having these Monday
morning staff meetings, and Judy was giving the anthropology of Alachua County.
I was saying how I was designing the survey interview. I was reading lots of books
in the library and getting questions from previous research instruments for
interviewing people. We were just about five people at this time. There was a guy
in charge of analyzing data.
Fast forward a year. The instrument has been field tested and approved, and the
National Institute of Mental Health was turning loose the money. We needed to
hire twelve interviewers, so I was the person in charge of interviewing. So guess who
I hire? Shirley Conroy and Joan Henry. It was the only paid job Joan has ever had
in her life, since she was so rich. Selden is rich, too. They are both rich. You
should know that. It affects a lot. I mean, [they are] really rich. [I hired] Jean,
Shirley, [and] Joan, and I hired other people from GWER.
From the selfish point of view, it is just as well the University is not enforcing
anything like this at the moment, because the jobs were not publicly advertised or
anything like you would have to do now. It was all by word of mouth. What is
happening is the equivalent of the "good old boy" system is working, and it is the
"good old girl" system. Most survey literature for sociology shows that women are
less threatening if they knock on your door.
L: The nepotism law is gone by this point. Is that correct?
F: Right. I guess it would have to be. I do not know. See, when you are in grant-
funded research, it is really a sort of never-never world. Actually, the federal rules
would probably have been more binding on us. If anybody had gotten their
personnel offices together enough to where they paid any attention to whether you
advertised, whether it was equally open to Hispanics and blacks and so forth, [there
is no evidence of it]. None of that has happened yet. It might have been on paper,
but it was not really working. I mean, nobody was enforcing it or anything. [For
example, say] I need a bunch of people fast. It sounds very prejudiced and all, but
I basically just hired friends for this reason. The interviewing was going to go on for
only a few months. Most people that would want a job would either want something
with more future, better pay (this was minimum wage), and would not be interested
in temporary work.
This went on for three years. Then the same psychiatrist got another grant, but
much smaller. [That was] the mortality study. Jean [Shirley] and I were the only
people in GWER who went from grant project number one to number two. Jean
had by then begun a career as an undergraduate to get a bachelor's degree, so she
was interested in part-time work. But [for] the other people that I had hired, this
was their first job after being a married housewife. I did not hire Bev because she
moved away. But otherwise I am sure would have. [laughter]
Anyhow, I got a bunch of middle-class housewives who are friendly [and] who are
running around. It was the first-ever study done anywhere in the world where people
out in the country were interviewed. See, most mental health studies were just of
people in cities because they are easy to get a hold of. They live on the streets with
addresses and not out at Box 103 on Rural Route 7. Anyhow, you have to have
some pretty intrepid women--not typical of your white, Southern, middle-class
woman--who are going to get in a car, hand them some address on this mythical
Route 7, and say, ["I would like to ask you about . ."]
We were sampling from the [Gainesville Regional Utilities billing list]. I invented
the sampling scheme out of thin air, so to speak. I read a government census
statistic from 1970 that said that 98 percent of all American households have TVs.
I was trying to find something that would cut across race and class lines out in the
country as well as in the city, and I thought, "By God, that means they have
electricity." The best sort of sampling, the most representative kind of sampling,
[which] I learned from [my coursework]--I mean, I am a graduate student like you,
taking all this stuff I am learning seriously--is to sample off some already existing list.
But, of course, your sampling is no better than how representative the list is. The
most famous example is the Truman-Dewey 19[48 election]. Only certain sorts of
people have phones. They teach you about this in sociology. So you want to be real
sure you do not have a biased list. So when I hit on this 98 percent, I thought, Wow!
Most people have electricity. I can sample from all the Gainesville Regional
Utilities billing list. And would you believe through my Democratic party
connections, I got them to give me the printouts of the utility list! So we sampled
every twelfth person. That is how I got this sample.
L: Was all of Gainesville electrified at that point?
L: Were the black areas electrified?
F: Yes. See, that is why I was desperately looking for something that will not be
[biased]. See, TV had done it. You can only look back and see this happened. But
people, [even] poor blacks, [had TV]. I mean, Gainesville was electrified when I
arrived in the city, but the county was [not--until TV reception spread in the county
in the 1960s].
The connection was I ended up hiring all these GWER people. So basically what
I needed fast was a dozen people who could go either to white homes or black
homes, rural or city, and be perceived as not threatening on the one hand, and
women who, on the other hand, were willing to do it. [You had to be willing to] get
out by yourself in a car and drive on backwoods country roads like nowhere that are
not on a map. Because I had sampled from a utility list, all we had was some weirdo
address like I said, box something, Route 7, LaCrosse, Florida, and nobody knew
where it was. The utility meter reader would know, but that was about it. I mean,
we really went out into areas, both white and black, so poor that I had never seen
anything like it. All they had in common was they had power. A lot of times they
did not have running water.
L: Was Judy Brown working for you at this time?
F: She did not work for me. When I arrived on this project she was in grad school.
She was a research assistant on some project, working with a psychiatrist. How she
got the job, I do not know.
L: Were you considering yourself a feminist at all at this point?
L: OK. Can we maybe back up and tell me how you started thinking in terms of
equality for women? Did you get involved with any groups?
F: Yes. I think being in GWER sensitized me to it. Because of this heavy involvement
with the Democratic county committee, I did not feel as discriminated against as lots
of other women did. But I was constantly around people like Beverly Jones who felt
that they were being discriminated against in various political activities because of
being women. The men ran them [the activities]. So it is not that I am different,
per se. It is just that the Democratic activity that I happened to stumble into way
back in my life story in order to make friends and connections in Gainesville [was
marked by gender equality].
Like I was explaining to you, this county committee set-up requires that there be one
woman and one man from each [precinct]. I mean, it is the law. See, it does not
work against you to be a woman. It is probably about the only thing I could have
done where there are not like lots of disadvantages to being a female instead of a
male. But the other people were running into it, so when I would go to meetings,
you know how if you belong to any groups or organizations that have regular
meetings, there is always a time when you are there and you are waiting for
everybody else to get there and you chit-chat. By now, it is coming up that so-and-
so has had this or that experience, and instead of the discrimination just being racial,
which is what GWER talked about at first, there was a very subtle transition (I
would not be able to tell you what month or what year or anything) that people were
beginning, for the first time, to mention that they felt that they are left out of this,
that, or the other, because of being women. So I think it is very interesting that
Bev's article [Towards a Female Liberation Movement] was published when it was
. Gainesville and New York (that is really a weird combination) had the first
consciousness-raising movements in the United States.
L: Shirley Conroy told me that she was a member of a nameless consciousness group.
F: Yes. Shirley and I were in the same group.
L: Was this before your husband died?
F: That is a good question. I would say it is really hard to know. See, the problem is,
there is a whole year in between when we learned he had lung cancer and when he
died. Meanwhile, I was still doing all my activities. It would be within twelve
months before or after, but whether it is while Charles was alive and sick or whether
he was dead, I really could not tell you, because the same people keep doing all the
See, from a history point of view, it is important to you. And it would be to me, too,
if I were doing it. Which thing came first? To me, it is just kind of all [together and
hard to remember]. In 1968, 1969, and 1970, running through my mind like on a
four-lane highway are GWER events, county committee events, the peace movement
is beginning, [the National Guard shooting at] Kent State [University in Kent, OH]
is only a couple of years away, the peace movement is getting bigger and bigger on
campus, civil rights [and] desegregation are still happening, and the women's
movement is beginning. So it is really hard to say which thing was happening at
what month. One of the things that I find most interesting as a sociologist is that
these same people keep being in all the same things, which is another thing that
makes them hard to remember.
L: Why do you think it is the same people in all these same things, other than they all
seem to be left of center?
F: Same reasons as I outlined earlier. I cannot speak for the men since I never got to
know any of them well enough. [GWER was composed of] women who all their
lives had felt somewhat different. I can only speak for the white women.
L: Can you tell me anything about these consciousness-raising groups? What sort of
issues specifically did you discuss? How long did they last? Were they of any
F: Oh, yes. [They lasted] two or three hours. People mostly talked about the issues
that are in that pamphlet Bev wrote, that their husbands put them down, tried to
control their activities. Of course, some of the younger people like Judy were not
necessarily talking about husbands. They were talking about lovers and boyfriends
or whatever. But [they were talking about] the men in their lives, we will say.
[Bev's pamphlet was] like all the early feminist stuff written up in the New Yorker
and things like that when consciousness-raising groups were first described in the
early 1970s. People were writing about them. Then this book called The Women's
Room [by Marilyn French] came out [in 1977], and Betty Friedan's stuff came out.
All this happened [around that time].
Women were finding out for the first time that it is not just that they have a problem
feeling like they are the perpetual babysitter and hardly get to go out and do their
politics or whatever at all, but all these other women have the same problem. So
it is sort of a shared social Gestalt: "Wow. I am not the only person with this
problem." That makes you feel better. I assume it is the same principle that AA
or anything else operates on psychologically. "I am not the only person with this
problem. You and I are together in this, except we are together with twelve other
people." So everybody just talked about men, men, men, men [laughter] over and
over and over.
Those were the themes, like, they dominated politics. I had been in politics all this
time, and still no women had ever run for anything. That was the perspective I was
coming from. Other people were coming from the perspective, like Judy, of being
in these student groups, and men were always shoving them off the track from being
officers and spokespersons and all. Feminists were beginning to talk in phrases like
"the personal is political." I am sure you have heard that.
L: Do you recall any black women in any of these?
F: No. None.
L: Why not? I am sure that the black women that were in GWER were invited to
feminist-type things. [Do you have] any idea why they perhaps did not seem
interested in these issues?
F: I really would not know. Barbara Bryant or Rosa [Williams] or somebody would
have to tell you. I do not know whether you have noticed that the black women who
were the most active over all the years, [like] Savannah Williams and Rosa and
Barbara Bryant, were all single. The white women were all married.
F: I am not saying that that is significant, but you cannot help but notice it if you think
about it. The black women were having to do like triple or quadruple duty in the
sense they had jobs to earn a living. They did not have any husband to support
them, see. They were running around all these civic and political things, being the
only black people who are civic [minded] and enlightened for civil rights and for
integration. I mean, they were spread thin. My early memories of the first black
people I got to know in CAA were that a black person comes to a meeting, gets
there late, [offers] all these jokes about colored people's time and all, then they say:
"Oh, my gosh. It is 8:00. I have to be at this other meeting," and then they rush out.
This went on throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s.
I would say they are simply in a different space, and whether the different space is
social, political, or personal, I really could not tell you. I have read eight million
novels by the black women authors who began writing since all this happened. I can
only presume that where they are at [is a different space to be in socially]. I mean,
if you are talking about husbands and men and sexual intercourse and stuff, [this]
is really personal. Like all really personal things, I think at this point people tend
to get together with other people who are most like themselves. They are married
or have a main man relationship and they are middle class and their kids are middle
class. Rosa and Barbara and Savannah were not living like that. They lived in poor
sections of town. They did not have very good jobs. [They] did not have college
degrees. I do not know if they did not come because they thought they would not
feel comfortable or if they thought the whole thing was stupid and silly. I have
known some black people well enough to know that they think lots of things that
white people do are really pretty bizarre, like they cannot figure out why they do it.
So I never asked anybody.
L: Do you recall any nonfaculty wives in these feminist groups, these consciousness-
raising groups? [Were there] any possibly lower-class white women?
L: That is also important if there are any middle-class white women that had nothing
to do with the University that are acting in progressive, liberal ways for social
F: Not that I remember.
L: Other than the informal consciousness group, did you join any formal feminist
F: I was a founding member of NOW [National Organization for Women].
L: Gainesville NOW?
L: What can you tell me about that experience?
F: Just like GWER, someone asked me to come to it. I mean, I was still on my big
Democratic trip at this point, even though Charles had died. I was still vice-chair.
In other words, my kids were in grammar school, so I did not have to look after
them all the time. But, see, I was working. So again, I still tend to have only one
activity, and it is the one I had until I left Gainesville. So the year I moved away,
I got a plaque that covered fifteen years of Democratic party service, which is a lot
of years. That is basically the story of my life in Gainesville.
L: From 1962 to 1977.
F: Right. See, it covers all these other movements.
L: Would you happen to remember any other women who were very active, founding
members of Gainesville NOW?
F: I should think Shirley would be better for that. I would imagine that she would
remember some. Like I said, I left so long ago. I have lived a whole other adult
life since I left Gainesville. That was a long time ago. It is the year I moved away.
Ruth McQuown was, I think, a founding member. [She was] a political science
faculty member. But she is dead.
L: Did you know [GWER member] Carol Giardina?
F: Yes, slightly. There were a couple of women faculty people. Again, it is one of
these things where I go to a couple of meetings [but never become a central figure].
See, the way the whole political scene was ... I really cannot put it into words very
well. But I think it is the same with men. Whenever you start anything, a way to
legitimize it is to have people who are already active in something respectable come
to your thing, and then it does not seem so far out. So I am forever going to other
people's things, and [thus] the vice-chair from the Democratic committee is there.
I think it is supposed to make it seem not like just a bunch of left-wing people. Jean
Chalmers also performed this legitimizing function for lots of groups.
L: Did you know [GWER member] Ginny Albury?
L: I am having a very difficult time getting in touch with her.
F: She is in Atlanta, I assume.
L: She is the national secretary of NOW in Washington, DC.
L: But she is hard to get hold of in Washington. I will put it that way.
F: Yes. I would suppose.
L: Roberta Malavina is in Atlanta.
F: Where was Ginny when this list was printed?
L: That I do not know.
F: I am just talking to myself. Like I say, last I knew she was in Atlanta. Strangely
enough, she was here getting a degree in urban planning when I came here. See,
I left Gainesville that year  to come here [Tallahassee] to get a doctorate in
sociology and to teach at a community college here. [I left for] the same reason that
you want to get your next degree from some other place.
L: To keep from getting inbred, I think is what they say.
F: Yes. That is the intellectual reason. But the other reason, especially if (like me and
not like you) you have been married into a faculty, is simply to have connections
of some other university. In other words, it is not just intellectual training but simply
to be exposed to another set of people.
L: I can check on her.
F: Right. As we are talking, I am going to look through this list [of GWER members
that Jean Chalmers compiled for the GWER reunion].
L: So you left Gainesville in 1977. When did you remarry?
F: 1980. See, here she is. Roberta, in care of Ginny, Atlanta. See, this is two years
ago at the GWER reunion.
L: So this is a recent change.
F: Yes. I did not know a thing about it. Last I knew she was living in Atlanta. So I
assume that this must have happened since NOW got its new president, Patricia
Ireland, who is from Miami. So maybe she and Ginny knew each other.
L: Are you still a member of NOW?
L: Did you become active when you got to Tallahassee?
L: [You] just stayed on the membership roll for [Gainesville]?
L: So you finished your master's degree in sociology at the University of Florida.
F: Yes. See, a master's is an entirely different trip than getting a doctorate because you
can pursue a master's [part-time]. [You can] take one course at a time while
working or something. But part of the requirements for Ph.D. are to do at least one
full year in full-time residency. I got an assistantship to FSU, and for the
assistantship [I] taught a class and was a research assistant for a professor. I moved
into a whole other world: (1) I did not know anyone here, and (2) [I was] totally into
the role of graduate student. I did not belong to any organization. Well, I paid my
dues to things, in the sense of mailing a check, but [I was] not paying dues in the
sense of doing anything about it.
L: You sat and read books for eight hours a day.
F: You got it.
L: I know how that is. One more thing about Gainesville. What is your connection to
Neil Butler's campaign?
F: Besides Byron [Winn] and Tom Coward, Neil Butler's campaign would be among the
first, again, where we are trying out this whole idea of precinct organization, of
knocking on every door, using precinct maps, having a captain for every precinct, and
all. Mostly in all these political campaigns, like later when I was hiring people for
this National Institutes of Health study, white people went in both white and black
neighborhoods, but black people only went in black areas. This was a current
decision based on the people that are doing it, what they think would politically work
So Gainesville is integrated, but that does not mean that in the 1970s a black person
can walk in a white neighborhood and not bother anybody, bother in the sense of
upset them. Since the name of the game in political campaigns is you are trying to
get people be for you, it is the same as the work I was doing. You are trying to go
to people's homes and be nonthreatening. So, in both aspects of my life, I keep
making decisions that, in effect, put people in segregated roles in segregated places.
In the work role, I kept doing the same as in Neil Butler's campaign, which [meant]
the volunteers got segregated by neighborhood. Of all the twelve people I hired,
only Savannah Williams was black. Again, it connects with the women's movement
in that I asked other black people to come interview, but they were not interested
in the job because of its temporary, low-paying nature. They were looking for
something with a future, [which was] understandable. But Savannah did actually
work on the project. Did you interview Savannah yet?
L: I have not yet.
F: That should be interesting.
L: Did you complete a Ph.D. at FSU?
F: No. Back to your question before, I met the guy I am married to now. I finished
my residency, all my coursework, and my exams. I was supposed to be writing a
dissertation, and Joan Henry, who had remained one of my two closest friends, got
cancer, and I went to Gainesville that summer. Her husband had been home a lot
with her and did not feel that he should ever go away very much because she was
having chemotherapy, and it was pretty intense. So on that particular month I had
gone back to Gainesville for that reason. I was supposed to be beginning a
dissertation, but I was not doing anything about it. The guy I was going with (that
I would marry, it turned out) lived in Gainesville. He was a graduate student there.
I was on this big kick of trying to get [Joan's husband] Selden to go out to supper,
get out of the house, or do something. He finally did. I was sitting with Joan one
evening when she died. While sitting by the bed and waiting for the doctor to come,
I decided I was going to marry my husband. I cannot even tell you why. It was just
one of those things. Things come together. I had known him four or five years; it
was not like we had just met or anything. He was at a juncture where he was
finishing a master's degree and was going to get a job. He went to work for AID
[Agency for International Development], and it was a question of you either get
married then or you do not. This person was leaving the country. It is one thing to
maintain a relationship with somebody in Tallahassee and somebody in Gainesville.
That is doable. You could drive up here and see a woman every weekend if you
wanted to. But Africa is another question.
There was something about the whole experience of Joan and Selden and her death,
grafted with the women's movement, which often takes a pretty hard view of
marriage. [There was] something about Joan's being sick and Selden's being there
and my being in her house that summer that made me decide to get married there.
L: Oh, you lived there.
F: No. I was just staying for a couple of weeks.
L: So you were married in 1979.
F: No. Joan died in 1979, and I made the decision then, but we did not actually carry
it out until the following May. So I got married in May of 1980.
L: To whom?
F: Don Berger.
L: What was he studying?
L: So you get married. How long after that do you end up in Africa?
F: Six weeks.
L: Tell me a little bit about Africa.
F: It is extremely interesting. There are thirty-seven countries, and the people in
different countries are fairly different from each other, so I do not know a whole lot
except about the one country we were in, which was Cameroon, which is in west
Africa as the west African bulge comes in south on the coast of Nigeria.
L: What exactly was he doing?
F: Don got a job that was grant funded [from the] University of Hawaii agricultural
research to do research on types of soils for growing corn. The project was in west
Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hawaii. He simply saw an ad in a
professional magazine, applied for a job, and got it. So, having done not one thing
about my dissertation except get a topic, I had now gone off to west Africa.
The experience in Cameroon was very interesting. It was very disappointing, because
when we had called the state department and AID in this country they had said I
should not have any problem getting a job as a teacher. All this time that I have
been in Tallhassee, these three years, I was teaching full time at a community
college--besides being a graduate student--because I had two children in college at
this point. I was helping support them. So by now my son is in school in south
Florida [Florida Atlantic University], my daughter is at Yale, and they are both
getting ready to graduate. Lee finished Yale in 1978, and Chuck was to finish in
1980. One reason I thought I could marry is both kids were out of college. I could
marry and leave the country, since they had now finished their education. I did not
have to keep teaching at TCC [Tallahassee Community College].
So back to where I was. I resigned that job [and was] assured by men in coats over
the telephone that I could get a job teaching in Cameroon. Don and I flew halfway
around the world only to find out they had more teachers than they knew what to
do with, and they were not about to hire a foreigner. I do not think it particularly
had anything to do with race. There were unemployed Cameroonian teachers. We
found [this] out when we got there.
The Cameroonians that I got to know very well (which were only a few people) I
liked a lot. It is very hard for a white foreigner to fit into Cameroonian life. Again,
it did not seem to have much to do with race. This goes way back in our interview
to when we were talking about consciousness raising. African families still live on
an extended family basis, so it is not unusual in any given household of people for
three generations to be living together. Basically, life is intense--it is work, it is
social. The lines are not drawn where you go to work at eight and come home at
five. It is a whole different way of living. People get out, and they are all earning
their living from farming. Different people do different functions throughout the day.
It would be hard to say when a person went to work or when they were not at work.
You have a house; you have an acre. You are growing your food for your family.
Women do most of the agriculture, and men clear the land. Women are the people
who actually hoe it and plant the seed and harvest it. So you grow food for your
family, and then you grow food to sell at the area market once a week, which earns
you cash for buying things made in the West like flashlights or batteries or whatever.
Nobody has cars, basically, so everybody walks about. You get to know people and
The point is, there is this twelve-person family living in this one-bedroom house,
basically. They are all pretty busy. Having a lot of kids keeps you busy, plus you
are growing the food for the family. You do not go to the supermarket. There is
not a supermarket for fifty miles until a big city. We are out in the country. So it
was hard for either Don or me to get to know any of these people real well because
we simply did not fit into their family's space or life. I mean, we are there like from
another planet doing research.
L: How long were you in Cameroon?
F: Don's contract was for three years. He was there for three years; I was there for a
little over one year. I stayed all through one academic year and went to all the sorts
of schools, private and public, that I could learn about--I did not have a car or
anything--where it was feasible for me to try to get a job, and I could not get a job.
I then left [and] came back to Tallahassee. I am still in the graduate program,
allegedly, at FSU all this time. Fortunately for me, the person that I had
recommended to take my job teaching at a community college (teaching sociology
full time) had not worked out, so I was able to get my job back.
L: That is fortunate.
F: Yes. Bad for them; good for me.
L: You were teaching sociology?
F: Right. I did that for eight years, minus the year I was gone.
L: So you did not make any effort to start on a dissertation again?
L: I understand now that you are a librarian.
F: At the First District Court of Appeal in downtown Tallahassee.
L: Why the job change somewhere in the late 1980s?
F: It was actually a career change. I got back here in 1981 or 1982 and went back to
teaching sociology. Of the twelve people that I had been in the doctoral program
with, only one person ever finished their Ph.D. There were departmental politics
and lots of other reasons why people did not [finish]. The person that was my major
professor had moved elsewhere. Like I said, I was mostly pretty busy earning a
living and supporting two kids through college.
Anyhow, I could have pursued my dissertation, but I did not for a couple of major
reasons. I was getting disenchanted with sociology as a field that really explained
the things I was interested in. I think from that job I had gotten back when my first
husband died, I had been interested in [the question,] "What are the things that
cause people to believe the things that they believe?"
L: Sounds like anthropology.
F: Sort of, except sociology is the study of groups. So I was interested, basically at the
dissertation level and as far as major and minor fields, in the sociology of groups,
which is called sociology, and then the subfield is social psychology, where the two
things overlap. So I was interested in small groups. My research was not getting
much of anyplace, and I was losing faith, as I said, in sociology as having the power
to explain what is happening.
When I had gone into sociology, the 1970s were beginning, and I got drafted to teach
the first semester I was a graduate student, even though I had never taken a
sociology class at UF. It was pretty weird. In every class that one taught in the early
1970s, young people were extremely interested in social change. They were not
themselves all necessarily out demonstrating, but it made for lively teaching of a
social science, and it stayed that way throughout the 1970s.
Then I exited the U.S., so to speak. [I] went away and came back, and I returned
to a United States which had elected [President Ronald] Reagan. See, I left the
country, and things went downhill very rapidly. [laughter] I got back and went back
to TCC in the classroom, and instead of kids being interested in social change, like
how to make America better or fairer or extend rights to blacks or reform prisoners
or make it so that black males will ever do anything besides end up getting busted
and going to jail, I come back, and all of a sudden--to me it is like all of a sudden--
and there are kids who want to know what they can major in so they will make big
bucks and become rich and successful. I think, Whoa!
I hung in there teaching at TCC for three or four more years, but a problem with
a job in a community college is, unlike history where several courses will be taught,
in something like sociology, which is an elective and not required, there is only the
one introductory course taught. I am now teaching it, I figured out, for the 120th
time, literally, because I teach four sections at a time. Here are all these kids that
want to be rich. I think, Give me a break. One day I was standing in the library at
FSU, and I think, What else could I do besides teach these kids that would pay okay
and that, since my husband is getting ready to come back from west Africa, would
be portable? Teaching is somewhat portable for a woman to do. I think, I could
be a social science reference librarian when I grow up. It is my fiftieth birthday, and
that is probably why I am thinking of these things, like the Big Five-Oh.
Because of having been in graduate school and because of being a teacher, I have
worn a regular path to the reference desk in the library here. This is now 1983. So
I go over to some reference librarian that I know and say, "What do you do to be
a reference librarian?" She says, "Well, the only library school in the state of Florida
is right here on this campus." I say, "Where?" and she says, "That way." I said,
"What does it involve?" It turns out it is a nonthesis degree, and all you have to do
is take thirty-six hours of coursework. So for an old perpetual student here, that is
nothing. [There is] no research, no thesis, no nothing. I mean, you just take some
courses. Until the last ten or twenty years, librarians did not always have to have
a master's to have a job. So, just like education, library science is very oriented to
offer courses to people who are employed full time so they can upgrade into getting
a master's, since it is now a required credential for most jobs.
The point of that is that, more than arts and science things like history, there are lots
of night classes and summer classes. So I keep teaching at TCC, simultaneously
enter library school, and pop out in 1984 with a master's in library science instead
of ever finishing my dissertation.
[I did this] for three reasons. [One,] it seemed easy to do. The dissertation seemed
hard to do. My professor had moved away. I am not really that close to any other
faculty. Two, the bottom had fallen out of the social science academic market.
Besides my twelve cohorts who never finished degrees, the one person of the twelve
that did cannot find a job teaching. Things look very bad in academic social science.
So people are telling me, "You should go and finish your dissertation in sociology
anyhow, because in the 1990s things will get better." I am fifty, okay, and I am
thinking, I do not know. I mean, I had been married into academia. So naturally,
I am thinking (unlike, say, you would think), Begin a job search when I am sixty
with a new Ph.D.? I mean, look for a job, and then try to get tenure? So getting
a master's in library science seemed easy, it seemed doable, and it seemed like
something that when my husband got back from west Africa--just like this community
college stuff, like I already said--wherever he got a job, I would probably [be
employable]. One thinks of libraries as being sort of everywhere. So I was thinking
I would be able to find a job.
You have to remember I got pretty badly burned going to Cameroon and not being
able to find a job, and I did not want to be in that situation again. So, like I say, [I
did it] for three or four major reasons: it seems portable, it seems doable, it seems
practical, and I like to read books. So I thought I would be a reference librarian.
The courses were simple, not like sociology or history. [They were] straightforward.
How do you catalog a book? What are the best reference tools? What do you look
things up in if you are a reference librarian? It was pretty kind of straight-ahead
factual information. It is not real intellectual.
I finished in 1984. Don was back. He got a job at LSU [Louisiana State University
in Baton Rouge]. I was still here in school finishing. [I] drove over to LSU and
went to see the director of the LSU library and said: "I am getting ready to get an
M.L.S. What are the prospects of getting a job?" This woman says: "No problem.
We might not have anything the month you get here, but we have enough turnover
in our entry-level reference positions. It is a big library and a big school." [It is] like
Gainesville, basically. [She said:] "Something will certainly come up in a few months.
FSU's library school has a real good reputation."
Anyhow, this was fall. I finished in December and moved there in January. The
most recent oil crisis then proceeds to happen, and the Louisiana-Texas economy
goes through the floor, so instead of hiring people at the library at LSU, they begin
to lay people off. First the state institutions got hit, and then within the year that
I was there, by summer, the public library was laying people off. So I have
applications in all the known libraries in Baton Rouge. I mean, my timing was not
very good on all these job fronts. You are not going to believe this. This is about
driving me crazy at this point. I mean, this is the second time I have left a job, gone
someplace, looked for a job, and then it has not worked out.
Like in any field, there are professional magazines that you take as a member of [a
professional association], like American Librarian, American Historical, American
Political Science or whatever association. I saw a job ad in Mobile--which was about
a two-hour drive away--for a reference librarian. I interviewed for the job. It was
a faculty position [that] paid well. [I] got hired and moved to Mobile. My husband
was on a grant contract at LSU. The economy went from bad to worse. The grant
contract ended and did not get renewed.
In the few months that that was becoming clear, someone he had known at UF told
him there was a job at the ag station outside of Tallahassee. See, all agricultural
research in Florida is under the University of Florida because it was initially a land
grant, men's ag school. So although we live here, Don actually works for the
University of Florida at something called the Quincy Ag Experiment Station,
eighteen miles west of here. He is an agronomist there. I resigned my job in Mobile
(is this getting repetitive or what?), came back to Tallahassee, [and] could not find
a job as a librarian initially. [I] went back to teaching sociology at the community
college. The chairperson...
L: [They are] very tolerant over there at the community college.
F: Right. The chairperson is a nice person, I have to say. [I went to him and said,] "I
am back again," so he hired me again. Anyhow, it worked out real well for the third
go-around. First I came here to Tallahassee and got a job there. Then I went to
Africa, came back, and got a job there. Now, the third time, I am back in
Tallahassee getting a job there. That enabled me to have a job or a position where
I was out and about, earning money on a payroll. I continued to apply for library
jobs. There were a few. There is not a lot of turnover at the library jobs here.
I had never intended to live in Tallahassee when I went to get an M.L.S. I mean,
not in my wildest imagination did I think I was ever going to return here. Once
again, I was following Don, who UF had hired, [and he was working at the ag
station] eighteen miles away. The serious problem with being in Tallahassee, where
the only library school in the state is, is there are umpteen other people here looking
for library jobs. So I stayed at TCC for the whole year. [I] could not find anything.
I answered more than three dozen applications all around the area, like to colleges
in Georgia that one could theoretically drive to on weekends or commute or do
something. Georgia state colleges have a real different system from Florida's. There
are like four of them within about twenty miles of the Florida-Georgia state line,
which, of course, you are very near right now. Basically, I was looking at things
within fifty miles, but I was not offered any of the jobs. I interviewed for them, but
did not get offered [any].
Finally, there was an ad in the local newspaper for a job at something called Fort
Lauderdale College as a librarian. It turned out to be a private voc-tech school. It
is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges [and Schools]. Essentially,
what you study [at Fort Lauderdale College] is how to be a computer person or how
to be a bookkeeper or an accountant or whatever. You do not study sociology and
history and all. Anyhow, they had a library, and I became the librarian. This is now
L: Were you commuting from Fort Lauderdale to Tallahassee on the weekends?
F: Oh, I am sorry. It is called Fort Lauderdale College, but it is here in Tallahassee.
F: It is real confusing. So I am reading the local newspaper, like I say, and here is this
thing that says, Fort Lauderdale College. I thought, Say what? It is part of a private
chain of schools. The headquarters were in Lauderdale, but they had colleges all
over the South. So all of a sudden, here I am being a librarian in Tallahassee, and
it is a voc-tech school, so who are most of the students? Black. There are only two
white students out of a hundred and seventy or eighty students. And I am the
librarian, helping black kids learn how to write term papers or do homework or
L: Was that better than teaching sociology?
F: Not really. It was interesting, but my major goal a couple years ago was to get a job
as a librarian. It had gotten to the point at [the age of] fifty-six that I was more
interested in getting a job as a librarian than I was in where it was. I mean, when
there would be an opening within this fifty-mile radius that I had set up, we are
talking about over a hundred applications for these things. Because librarianship was
going through this transition of people who used to have bachelor's but now have
to have master's, with the one school in the state being here, people who are, say,
public librarians in St. Pete come up here to get their master's. Then they stay here
and look for a job. So the problem with my competing with them is they have, say,
like twenty years of experience in the St. Pete system. [Do you] see what I am
F: But now you cannot move ahead in the library field, like move up in it, unless you
get this master's degree. So then they come here and initially, at least, look for a
job here. A lot of people burn out on it, and if [they] are not married to somebody
here, they move away and take jobs elsewhere. Anyhow, I was simply glad to get
a job anyplace. So I am there working, and I joined a librarians organization. I am
not politically active. I still belonged to NOW, but I did not go to anything. My
whole spare-time occupation had become looking for a job as a librarian. I am
majoring in looking for a job.
The only thing that working at this Fort Lauderdale College had to commend was
[that I was] a librarian. I was a one-person operation, so I got to do all of it. At the
University of South Alabama in Mobile I was a reference librarian, like I went to
school to be. Here I was spending most of my time ordering books, stamping them
in, putting little cards in them so you can check them out, [and] signing them in and
out. I mean, I am the circulation person [and] the cataloging person. I am it.
Mainly, I used that year, my first library employment here in town, to join a local
librarian association in an effort to network. Then someone told me of a job as a
law librarian at this First District Court of Appeal, so I applied for that job and got
it. That is why I am working there.
L: OK. I guess the last question would be, how do you feel about how blacks stand in
America today, since all of this social change in the 1960s and early 1970s happened?
How do you think we are doing today? And also women, I think. [How are they
doing] after all of the changes?
F: Unlike probably most people, I feel like I have seen enormous change in my lifetime.
So when Jean had her GWER reunion, hardly any black people came. Rosa came
only briefly. What I basically got out of a five-minute (not more) tete-a-tate with
Rosa was [that] she felt embittered about the gulf that had sprung up between whites
and blacks. So if I think about the country as a whole and the L.A. riots and black
male opportunities and all, I feel very discouraged about the future of race relations
in our country.
But when I think of it on another perspective, which is pretty peculiarly mine, from
out of all the members of GWER, unlike Jean, I am American, and, unlike all the
other people who were on the board, I am a Southerner and white. I lived to see
from when a black person could not get a Coke in my grandfather's drugstore to not
only can a black person go there, but they might be the person standing behind the
counter. They actually have jobs. I spent the first thirty years of my life in a
situation where no black person was employed in a public--public not meaning
government; public meaning where you could see them--[situation]. I mean, when
you went in a store, there were no black cashiers, no black clerks, no black
librarians, no black anybodies. They were invisible across the South. The women
were in people's homes dusting the furniture. The men were invisible in somebody's
backyard doing yardwork. It is a pretty strange way to live.
I feel like enormous changes for the better were made. Laws were changed that
enabled black people to do all the things that had been my goals to help bring about:
to vote, to hold jobs, to attend integrated schools or belong to integrated groups if
they should desire.
I have some fairly good ideas about why things have begun to go backwards, from
my point of view, instead of forwards. Naturally, coming from me, they have to do
with which party is in power and with the economic situation that we got into as the
budget deficit mounted and mounted and mounted under Reagan. So as a dyed-
in-the-wool, liberal Democrat, when it became not fashionable to be one ... See,
I started off in the South as a liberal Democrat. It was not fashionable then, so it
was nothing new in my life. It has never been fashionable in the Deep South to be
a liberal Democrat. As a liberal Democrat, I feel that many of these social problems
could not be solved (I do not believe that anymore) but simply ameliorated if
funding were spent differently by our federal and state governments. I think the
same things that I thought when I was campaign chair for north Florida for Lyndon
Johnson in 1964. I have never changed much. I would prefer funds to go into social
programs instead of into defense, obviously. I mean, that goes without saying.
L: So it is a mixed legacy, then, [that] all this period of change has left us.
F: Well, to me, as a person with sociological training, I do not really view it as mixed.
Before people can participate in anything, if there are laws keeping them from doing
it, you have to change the laws. That much got done. I view it as a trip that
America needs to set out on from having brought blacks here as slaves. Political
change will remove the barriers that remain to be removed, [those that] are
economic and social, which are much harder to change than legal barriers are. I
happen to believe that with good will and a lot of money and a lot of well-thought-
out and well-tested programs like, for instance, Head Start and job training of
various sorts, the barriers could be slowly broken down.
I feel, living in the South, that I see enormous progress, and I feel that I see it
almost every day of my life. When I grew up and the first several years I lived in
Gainesville, there were no blacks who lived in middle-class areas such as the one
that I live at in Tallahassee or where I still have a home in Gainesville. There is
now not any all-white, middle-class area that I know of. There are no white areas
in either city that do not have black residents. There are no occupations or
professions that do not have black members.
So to me it is not really mixed. I feel that in the 1950s in Alabama I began a long,
long road that was aimed at various political goals. Among them was racial
integration at a legal level. Like I said, that has largely been achieved. I think social
and economic integration have been somewhat achieved with blacks being able to
enter all occupations and professions. About one-quarter of the attorneys here in
Tallahassee, for instance, are black. I feel that further social and economic
integration can happen if public funds were spent in the way that I prefer they be
I think that the country is racist [and] has always been racist. That is nothing new.
[I think] that the majority of people will--certainly within my lifetime--remain
somewhat racist. Interestingly enough, of my two children, my daughter went into
political science at Yale and specialized in African affairs and went on to graduate
school. [She] runs an anti-apartheid group in Boston, so she is interviewed on TV
a lot. She practically always is asked the same question: "How did you get into it?"
She always has the same answer (I have lots of videotapes of her): "Because of my
I view myself as fairly uniquely situated from out of the whole set of GWER people
that you are going to interview. I grew up in the South. My kids grew up in the
South, and one is now earning her living working on integrating another country
legally. [She is working on] changing the laws. Lee is single, so she still comes
home to Florida, like at Christmas. When she comes home, it is a very interesting
perspective, because she finds it much less racist in the South than in Boston. That
makes me feel good.
L: Does she say that (we move into hearsay) because blacks and whites interact a lot
less in Boston?
F: I do not know whether she is right or wrong when she says that, of course. But my
official political involvement was in Gainesville in the South and in Tuscaloosa in
the South. Lee's adult official political involvement has been [in the North]. She
wrote [some of] the first South African divestment laws in the United States. One
of them [was] a law that eventually the United States adopted. [It was adopted] first
[in] Boston, then Massachusetts, then many other states, then the United States. Her
work is all in the North, and much of what she does, besides lobbying with officials,
is based on working actively with the ANC [African National Congress], so lots of
South Africans come over--mostly black. One part of her job is showing them
The public schools were integrated by the time my kids got to middle school, so they
have lived in both worlds--all white and integrated--as kids. Both in Gainesville and
Boston, Lee has gone around with black men and women. It is part of her job now,
like I was saying, to do it. She still comes home to Florida every year. The reason
Lee has such an interesting perspective is she says that when she walks down the
street with a black person in Boston (which is usually an African person instead of
an American), more vicious, cruel things are said about sex by white men. She has
some black friends in Gainesville and goes around about in Gainesville, and people
do not say cruel things to her. The thing that is really pretty absurd is that the
Africans themselves--both men and women--practically always observe that they find
the United States, as they visit about it in the North, to be more racist than their
experience in South Africa. I have met a lot of them from visiting her in Boston.
[It] makes you feel kind of strange when you hear that. Then she has brought
various people to Gainesville, and they have a pretty good experience.
On the whole, she feels proud of my work in the South towards integration. I feel
not pleased with how it turned out, but [I am] glad that I was able to do a little,
small part towards removing legal barriers to voting, education, occupation, and
office holding. I feel that some other generation will have to carry on the work to
take it through the next logical steps of social and economic integration. Like I say,
it is much harder, and I think that people that were interested in civil rights in
Alabama in the 1950s--when I got interested--pretty generally felt that you were
talking about a process of forty or fifty years minimum--perhaps much longer. No
one knew. Unlike people from the North or the Midwest that I was to work with
later, the initial set of people that I was concerned with civil rights with in
Tuscaloosa were mostly Southerners. They mostly thought that you were working
to change laws that probably would not even all be finished in this century. Nobody
foresaw the speed at which they would change.
So, like I say, I do not really feel mixed about it. I feel that I played a small part
in getting it to happen. It was the easiest part because laws are written down, and
if you can change how politicians vote, you can change laws. To change people's
general underlying social attitudes is a much harder question. I feel that residential
integration and integration in occupations at work places [will make a big difference].
I mean, you can go all over Tallahassee or Gainesville now and go in a restaurant
or a movie and see not lots, but some mixed couples [and] tons of mixed groups,
like three fellows out for a hamburger at Wendy's [of whom] two are white and one
is black. It happens because of being together in classrooms and being on sports
teams together. [This is] my observation from the community college and from
being at FSU. [There are] lots of things for people [to participate in] together. It
is not at all uncommon to go in a restaurant and see three young women out for
dinner [of whom] two are black and one white or two are white and one black. It
is very difficult to go into a place to eat in Tallahassee and not see some table where
the races are mixed. See, for me, this is something that I did not necessarily think
I would ever see when I was eighteen years old. So it has been a big change. I
think that will take with it attitudinal changes.
I think the problem that is left is that the black people most able to take advantage
of the laws that were changed have now done so. The data is there. They have
moved into the middle class all over the United States. So we are left with lots of
poor black people living basically in ghettos in Tallahassee or Gainesville. I think
that has moved out of the range of white people to really be able to help the
situation in any direct involvement sense. I think the role of white people would still
be to try to elect politicians to office who would spend money on programs that will
help poor black or poor white people acquire the skills to enable them to get jobs
and to buy houses.
L: And then move up themselves.
F: Yes. That is the nature of capitalism. That is just what keeps happening. Whether
you are Italian or Afro-American or whatever, the history of America is that there
are groups of people, and they slowly move up.
Then one of the problems to deal with is that the suburban movement happened at
the same time the civil rights movement happened. As people get affluent, they tend
to leave downtown city areas and move out to suburbs. So living towards downtown
Tallahassee now are mostly just poor blacks. I lived right on the edge of that area
all the time that I was a graduate student at FSU. It was safe, it was okay, and it
did not have a bad reputation, and white people did not hesitate to go there. By the
time I returned in 1987 from Mobile, the reputation of the area had changed, and
it is still the same now in 1992. Drugs are sold there. It is adjacent to FSU. The
customers are mostly white university students. Black men hang out and sell drugs
a lot. They have taken to carrying guns. Now a lot of white people will not drive
through the area anymore. So it is like getting a mentally-cordoned off [area].
White people drive around it because they perceive it to be a dangerous area. The
police reports in the local newspapers add to that impression, because concomitant
with the drugs the crime rate has gone up in the general area around the university.
[It includes] stuff like people's apartments or cars getting broken into for money,
tape decks, VCRs, [or] whatever.
I do not presently feel real discouraged about the racial situation. I just wish they
never had two Republican presidents, naturally. I wish the spending priorities of
the country were different. I had never thought of myself as an antidrug person, but
I am real concerned with [the drug problem]. You can get money into public
programs to teach people skills like the black people I worked with at Fort
Lauderdale [College], who were able to get jobs when they graduated in data
processing or accounting or whatever. These were mostly poor blacks. So I
personally have seen it done, and I believe it can happen. We began programs in
Gainesville that did that. Twenty years later I was working in a place that made
money from educating poor blacks and then helping place them in jobs so they could
pay back their loans to the private vo-tech school they had gone to.
What I am mostly concerned about is how to break into this growing connection
between young black males and drug selling that I see here in Tallahassee. They are
revolving in and out of jail here, and it makes it very hard for them to get any other
legitimate employment. It is giving white people a good excuse to be racist.
L: The media feed on it.
F: Like, "Two gangs had a shootout last night in Frenchtown." (That is what the section
is called next to FSU that is black.) So when you use the word "mixed" [with regard
to my feelings], all I really feel mixed about is not the racial progress or the
prognosis, per se, but how to cope with this connection that has been made for lots
of reasons between (at least in the two Southern towns that I know about,
Gainesville and Tallahassee) black people as the people who sell drugs and the fact
that they then end up in a lifestyle like all people, whether they are Italians, Irish,
or whoever, who make a choice to go into an illegal way to make money. It is not
something I know much about, as you can tell, but it would seem to me that it would
be much harder to lead a straight life, because most of the job opportunities for
which you could train or educate someone in Tallahassee are not going to begin to
pay what drug dealing can pay.
F: So I am beginning to wish that marijuana was legalized. I mean, I had never thought
of myself as antidrug, but as I now see the effect it is having on racial relations and
opportunities because of this intervening link of crime and gangs, I am just real
concerned about it. I do not really have any very unique ideas on what to do about
L: Well, since we have been at it for a long time, is there anything else you would like
to add about your Gainesville experience? Is there anything we have overlooked?
F: No. I wish I could be more helpful to you, but, like I say, my main memory track
runs on Democratic committee politics.
L: That is critical formation information for what I am after. I would really like to
thank you again.
F: I am really glad you came.