Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Durr learns about independence

Durr's parents had stressed marriage as the proper future for their daughters, and when she had asked to attend Wellesley, her mother justified the expense by urging her to find a wealthy northern husband. While in college, she learned a very different lesson that prepared her for her future activism.

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

But not only was it that, and now, this is something that I hope Cliff can listen to without getting mad, but I first realized that women could be something. This was also a great liberation, the real liberation that I got at Wellesley, when I realized that you didn't have to marry to be somebody. You see, I had some marvelous teachers at Wellesley, I can't even remember their names. You see, I haven't been back for fifty years, once I stopped by for a few hours just to see the place, but I haven't been back for fifty years to Wellesley. I never went to a Wellesley Club even, and I never have been a good alumnae. But at Wellesley, I really got my first idea that women could amount to something in the world. They didn't just have to marry. I remember the woman that taught us Shakespeare. I think that her name was Miss Bennett or Benedict. She was an old lady with white hair and she was one of the happiest creatures that I have ever seen in my life. She had never had a husband, she taught Shakespeare, I think, all of her life. She adored Shakespeare, she read Shakespeare and it was the only time in my life that I ever liked Shakespeare. She read it with such passion and conviction and I just adored Shakespeare. All of a sudden, I was just transported into Shakespeare and I could see that this lady had never married. She was old and had white hair and she was perfectly happy. She didn't have to have a husband and then I realized that people could get so much pleasure out of their minds.