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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Grace Jemison Rohrer, March 16, 1989. Interview C-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Expectations for education and marriage

Rohrer explains that her parents expected her to go on to college while she was growing up during the 1930s and 1940s. Rohrer explains that education was something that her parents emphasized as important, although her mother wanted her to go to college not necessarily so that she could pursue a career, but because she needed something to "fall back on" in case something ever happened to her husband. In this regard, Rohrer notes that marriage (in addition to college) was another family expectation of her. She did indeed attend college at Western Maryland College where she studied education. Interestingly (given her mother's expectations), she only taught briefly before starting a family and explains that she never worked full-time until her husband's death in the early 1960s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Grace Jemison Rohrer, March 16, 1989. Interview C-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I had two brothers, one's older and one's younger. My mother was not highly educated, degree-wise, in fact, did not graduate from high school. When she was in ninth grade, she went to work. But she was an avid reader, and came from a family that had a high level of culture. I guess that's how I want to put it. So she had attitudes and approaches to education that were very progressive. My father did finish high school and went on to Lane Technical School, which was sort of a vocational school, like our technical colleges here in North Carolina. But they both had a very strong desire for their children to go on to college. And my mother and father expected me to go just like my brothers did, which, you know, [since] I grew up in the '30s and '40s, that wasn't always the case. But the reason, as my mother said often, [was] so I would have something to fall back on if something should happen to my husband, because it was assumed that I'd get married. And I remember a little boy in her Sunday School class, I got married a week after graduation from college, and this little boy said to my mother, "Oh, Mrs. Jemison, what a shame. Now, she'll never be able to pay you back." [Laughter] Meaning they'd sent me to college and I needed to work to pay my parents back. And maybe he was ten or eleven years old. But it was unusual. In fact, the pack that I ran around with, the pack of girls, there were two of us that went away to college. One went to New York. She did not board away at college. I was the only one that went away to college. The others went to secretarial school.
KATHY NASSTROM:
What year was it that you entered college?
GRACE JEMISON ROHRER:
1942.
KATHY NASSTROM:
And where did you go, what school?
GRACE JEMISON ROHRER:
I went to Western Maryland College in Westminster, Maryland. My father gave me four colleges to choose from, all Methodist colleges, and I chose Western Maryland just because reading the catalogue it felt good. And that's how we chose the college. My brothers went to Ohio Wesleyan which is another Methodist college, although one brother did not stay there. He transferred to Georgetown.
KATHY NASSTROM:
Somewhat related to that, when you graduated from college then, what did you think you would do with your life? You say you got married a week later. What kind of plans did you have at that stage?
GRACE JEMISON ROHRER:
No real plans as far as a career was concerned. I didn't expect to have a career. I did teach for a couple of years until I got pregnant. But it never occurred to me that I would continue to teach. I had a child. I stayed home and took care of the child, which I never regretted. In fact, I never went back to work, expect for a couple of months when I filled in for a teacher, until my youngest child entered kindergarten. I went with him (the youngest) and taught in pre-school.
KATHY NASSTROM:
Oh, at the school.
GRACE JEMISON ROHRER:
At the school where he was at. So we went and came home together. And it wasn't until after my husband died that I worked full time. Because that pre-school was just mornings from eight to one.