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Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Beginning with her family background and early childhood, Mary Price Adamson traces the dynamics that led her to adopt her radical stance later in life. Because both of her parents had attended college, Adamson and her siblings were encouraged to pursue higher education. Though her father's death placed the family in serious financial difficulties, Adamson's older brothers paid for her to attend college. She enrolled first in the North Carolina College for Women and then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her degree in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression. For a time, she worked in Greensboro, starting at the Greensboro Daily News and then the Vick Chemical Company, where she learned secretarial skills. Shortly thereafter, she joined her sister Mildred and brother-in-law Harold Coy in New York City, where she moved through a series of secretarial positions. She describes how young professionals lived and socialized during the Great Depression. In the late 1930s, she accompanied her sister and brother-in-law on a trip to the Soviet Union, and when she returned, she went to work for Walter Lippmann. After several years with him, she took a job as an assistant reporter for Business Week. In 1945, she left New York and returned to North Carolina to open the state office of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. When Henry Wallace ran for governor in 1948, Adamson organized his campaign tour through the South, and eventually the members of the Progressive Party convinced her to run for North Carolina's governorship. That summer, Elizabeth Bentley—an acquaintance from New York City—accused Adamson of being a Soviet spy. For the next decade, Adamson battled McCarthyism and accusations of Communism. In 1950, she had a serious accident and went to Europe to recuperate. While abroad, she met and married Charles Adamson. When she returned, she found that the FBI still considered her a person of interest, a fact that made it hard for her to keep jobs. Eventually, however, she went to work for the National Council of Churches, a position she enjoyed greatly. However, a second serious accident forced her to retire early and move to California to recuperate.

    NOTE: Audio for this interview is not available.

    Excerpts
  • Life on a tobacco farm
  • Life on a tobacco farm during the early 1900s
  • Economic motivations for absentee land ownership
  • The importance of education and how Adamson's family made that possible
  • Effects of a mother's education
  • Adamson's aunt runs her family
  • Death of Adamson's father and the move to Chapel Hill
  • Adamson's family and their interaction with other races
  • Relationship between Adamson's parents
  • How Adamson's family put the children through school
  • How class determined religious activities
  • The childhood acquaintances who influenced Adamson
  • Social structures in Chapel Hill
  • Adamson attends the North Carolina College for Women
  • Transferring from NCCW to UNC-CH
  • Class structures of small southern towns
  • Sorority life at UNC-CH
  • Adamson struggles to find work during the Great Depression
  • Adamson moves to NYC to find work
  • Life in Greenwich Village during the Great Depression
  • Discovering the office workers' union
  • Adamson visits the Soviet Union
  • Adamson takes a job as secretary to Walter Lippmann
  • Adamson's political allegiances during the late New Deal era
  • Balancing career and femininity
  • Working for Business Week
  • Launching an office of the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in North Carolina
  • As she launches the SCHW office, Adamson looks for allies in North Carolina
  • More information on who allied themselves with the SCHW in North Carolina
  • How Adamson negotiated the class and racial divisions in North Carolina
  • The SCHW tries to keep friends despite the growing Red Scare
  • Adamson's role in Henry Wallace's 1948 campaign for the presidency
  • Adamson's close bond with the rest of her siblings despite differing political views
  • Why Adamson ran for the North Carolina governorship in 1948
  • Adamson accused of being a Soviet spy
  • Adamson's reponse to the charges that she had spied for the Soviets
  • Adamson's motivations
  • Mary Price meets and marries Charles Adamson
  • Fallout after Bentley's accusations
  • Adamson's work with the National Council of Churches
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Women social reformers--North Carolina
  • Women in politics--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.