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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriette Arnow, April, 1976. Interview G-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Southern woman describes her marriage by a justice of the peace

In this excerpt, Arnow discusses her decision to marry at the age of 31. Arnow met her husband, Harold Arnow, in Cincinnati where he was also working as a writer. The two met during the Great Depression and shared a dream of sustaining themselves through farming and writing. In 1939, they bought a farm together and were married by a justice of the peace. Here Arnow revisits her earlier statement that she believes her mother never wanted her to get married, and she explains that her decision not have a church wedding was an embarrassment to her mother.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriette Arnow, April, 1976. Interview G-0006. 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

MIMI CONWAY:
You were telling me about meeting Harold.
HARRIETTE ARROW:
Harold came to Cincinnati hoping to get a job on the Times-Star, I believe is the paper. He'd worked for three or four years in Chicago.It was the Depression, and he was out. Before that he'd spent three years in Alaska, which intrigued me. Alaska then was not what it is now.
MIMI CONWAY:
Where in Alaska had he been?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
He was on the I want to say Susitna Peninsula, but that wasn't the name of the place.
MIMI CONWAY:
Was he writing up there, is that what he was doing?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
Yes, he had done quite a bit of writing. He was working on a novel about Alaska, a trapper there, but he never did finish it. That's one thing that drew us together: he was working on a novel, and I was thinking about writing another one. It wasn't but about a year after Mountain Path was published. But he never finished that book. Harold and I married, and we were both fired with this stupid idea. There were a good many books written about getting away from it all. I remember one called The Egg and I and another one called We Took to the Woods. And we thought it would be a great thing to do subsistence farming and write, so we bought an abandoned farm-it was owned by a bank-about a hundred fifty or sixty acres, a most beautiful place with an old, old log house in it, well made. It was on Little Indian Creek, up Big South Fork, of Cumberland River.
MIMI CONWAY:
This was in 1939.
HARRIETTE ARROW:
Yes. That's right. We married in early March.
MIMI CONWAY:
Was your mother there, or your sister?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
No, we just went off and got married. After all, it was Depression, and we felt we should save all our money for this farm we were talking about.
MIMI CONWAY:
Did you get married in a church?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
No, we were married, I'm sorry to say, by a justice of the peace.
MIMI CONWAY:
Why "sorry to say"?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
Well, I didn't like the idea at all, the things to go through with. It embarrassed our mother because there was no announcement in the county paper that So-and-so was going to marry So-and-so, you know and this and that. But...
MIMI CONWAY:
But was your mother pleased that you married?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
No, she was not.
MIMI CONWAY:
Why?
HARRIETTE ARROW:
Well, she was never pleased when any of us married. I don't know why. And none of us married at home.