Pretensions and delusions of the wealthy classes in the New South
Though Durr came from a wealthy southern family, she discovered that not everyone saw her as belonging in the best set. In this illustration, she describes how wealthy northern girls in her finishing school abused another wealthy southern belle.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. 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
Oh, well, I was brought up as a southerner, completely as a southerner. I had never been North until I went up to New York. Well, the crazy thing about the school was that all these Yankee girls were there and there was only one other southerner and she was from Montgomery, Alabama. I won't give you her name because somebody might recognize it. She was a very beautiful girl and we had to take these Mesendieck Exercises which were these floating, graceful, learning to walk in and sit down and lie down and always be graceful. You were supposed to take a shower beforehand
and put on your leotard and then take your exercises and then take a shower afterwards. The water was usually pretty cold, so it was rather disagreeable. Well, this girl from Montgomery, she would arrive in her leotard. She was a boarder, I was a day pupil. She had a room in the school, Miss Finch's finishing school. So, she would arrive at class in her leotard and say that she had taken a shower before she came and then she would insist on going back to take a shower in her own private room. Well, one day, whether the girls were jealous of her or they thought she was cheating or whether they thought she was taking a hot shower and we were getting a cold shower, I never knew what started it, but I do remember going into the shower room and this girl was being surrounded by all these others saying, "You are just a dirty southerner, you don't want to take baths anyway. You don't want to take baths because you are just a dirty southerner. I am surprised that you even wear shoes." Just direct insults. I was absolutely furious and as shocked as I could be. And the girl was crying and mad and she had a wet towel and began to hit at these girls, who were really persecuting her terribly and telling her that she was a dirty southerner and never took baths and probably didn't even have a bathroom in her house at home. Just direct, personal, vicious insults. So, I took up a wet towel and began to defend the southern girl against the Yankee girls. It was the most absurd, ridiculous thing that you could imagine. (laughter) But we were furious. I wasn't being directly insulted because I always took my showers but she was being directly insulted on the basis that she was a southerner. And I realized in New York that the South was looked down upon, it was a poor section of the country and we were looked down on. Now, Aunt Mamie's pretensions, I could see how hollow they were, because how she lived, I don't know, on what little money she had. Poor Mr. W. . . .. . . .. must have had some
little job, because he went off and came back, but I never did know what it was. I don't know whether he was still selling shoes or what, but it wasn't much. But you see, Aunt Mamie was keeping up all this pretense of the southern aristocracy and these girls were her guests and all that.