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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Joining the United Church Women and describing its goals

Dabbs discusses her decision to join the United Church Women sometime during the 1940s. Initially uninterested in joining any organizations during those years, Dabbs explains that she appreciated the aims of the United Church Women towards interdenominational work amongst Christian women. She briefly describes the goals of the organization, her role within it, and its reputation for liberal politics. In addition, she discusses her feelings of guilt for taking time away from her family and how she coped with that.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. 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

ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Were you real active in the church?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes. Our church is small and it uses everybody and everybody, no matter how you behave, if you have wild ideas, you are still needed to carry a load. Brick Church—It was back in about '49, I guess, that I first heard about United Churchwomen. I was invited to become a national board member. That is a curious way to start. [Laughter] There were no United Churchwomen members in Sumter County except one, I believe. That was just sort of freelance, there was no organization in the state. There had been several attempts, but they had never really gotten something going, in either state or local organization. There were a few scattered women in the state who were very much interested in it and there had been a couple of starts. It happened that the executive director of the national United Church Women was a Sumter woman. She had been living in New York for a long time, but she was a Sumter woman, Dorothy Shaw McLeod, a Presbyterian minister's wife. She was an absolutely charming and very capable woman. I told you that she put the glamour in church work for thousands of church women. [Laughter] I got to know her and she wanted me to get involved in the work and so she asked me if I would consider, if I were nominated for a place on the national board, if I would consider it. So, I talked to James about it and we had decided that I didn't have to belong to anything in Sumter. I don't like clubs, I'm not a joiner. He said that he didn't care, he said that the only thing that he knew of in Sumter that he thought it might be nice for me to belong to up to that time had been the AAUW. Then I found out that the AAUW in Sumter had been infiltrated by one or two persons who were determined to control it from the inside and to keep it from doing anything liberal. So, I thought "To heck with it, life is too short for that." We agreed that I would let it alone. So, I didn't belong to anything in Sumter. I never have identified with Sumter particularly… Then, this opportunity came along and he liked the idea. So, I thought, "Well, if you like it enough and think that it is worthwhile, I'll try it and see." I did go to the national convention, the first time that I had ever left home since I had the children and I thought that I would die before I got back here. They got along all right, but I nearly passed out. [Laughter] That was the beginning of about a five-year stretch with the United Church Women. I served as a Board Member and I had to have something to do as a Board Member and I was put on the public relations committee. At that time, we were just starting, even nationally. The whole national committee was just about sixteen members to cover the whole fifty states, you know. We had a radio and a t.v. committee and I worked on both of them and I worked on the Protestant Radio Commission … was that it? There were a million All that kind of thing. I went to workshops down at Emory University, summer sessions in public relations, got particular training in audio-visual, to teach these people to teach with audio-visuals and that sort of thing, and particularly related to religious work, but not just restricted to that. And then there was a marvelous National Communications Institute in New York that lasted for a full week with emphasis on radio for a couple of days, on t.v., on the press, all kinds of things and we met with just the very best instructors and the very best workshop situations that you could possibly get in radio and t.v. And movies. Everyday and every night was filled with some sort of new learning experiences that were really very exciting and most unusual. The press workshops were sponsored by the New York Times. They gave us a tea, I remember, one afternoon for the whole group and I met some exciting people there. Then, various magazine editors were there. I remember in broadcasting, Pauline Frederick. Do you remember her? Her name hasn't been gone so long from the front. She was broadcasting for the United Nations. She was at some of our lunchons and some of the workshops.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And United Church Women was a new organization.
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
It was a new organization and they were training their nucleus of public relations people that way. It was a communications workshop.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
And what was the function of the group? What were you all trying to accomplish?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
We were trying to learn how to handle public relations, to spread the idea of cooperation among the denominations in the women's work. The United Church Women is the united effort of the women of many churches. It included thirty-odd different denominations.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
All Protestant?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
All Protestant, yes. They are just beginning, apparently now, to work somewhat with Catholic and Jewish women and they have always had affiliations with them and worked on local projects within specific towns together, but officially and nationwide, they are Protestant. It is a united Protestant effort. That was one of the bigest learning experiences that I ever had. It was terribly hard because by that time, we had our whole family and they were all big enough to need me here all the time and to miss having me here. Miles away, I would worry because Dottie had braids down almost long enough to sit on, just a little girl in the second grade or first grade … no, she must have been in the second grade, I guess, and Dick was not quite school age. I would go away for several days; it was just almost unbearable and I would promise myself that I would never do it again and that I would get out of that thing right then. I would worry about how her braids would get done and I would arrange for some neighbor to do it and that sort of thing. Oh, that was a real sacrifice for me, because I suffered through that. But, it was a great experience and I suppose that I learned enough that maybe it paid off in other ways. I don't know, I hope so. The children lived through it real nicely.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Now, am I correct in understanding that the United Church Women was a liberal organization?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Oh, yes. Very. So, that put me as much beyond the pale on my own as James was already. I not only reflected his rascality, but I had some of my own. We were very marked there for awhile.