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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Educating rural women in infant care

Herring describes some of her efforts as a community worker in the Pomona Mills area near Greensboro. She conducted workshops for women, who learned about caring for their newborn children but also used the opportunity to socialize in a new way.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have an active program? Did you have a lot of people eager to work with you? Was it hard to get close to the workers at Pomona?
HARRIET HERRING:
No, no. Well now, there were a few that I never did get to come, women who didn't work that I never could get. One, for example. . . . I got the county nurse to come out once a month, and I'd try to get all the mothers. I had a women's meeting some afternoon in the week, and had it about once every week, but about once a month I would make it specially for mothers with small babies. A lot of them didn't know that it was important to weigh the baby; the baby could fall off pounds and they wouldn't know it, you know. And I got the county nurse (I wasn't going to tell them how to raise their babies—I was the last person to do that) to come out and meet with them. And they came, except the one woman that I never did get; she had about ten children already and had another while this nurse was coming out there. And they didn't come during the pregnancy nor after: couldn't get her to come. Went to see her two or three times.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, on the eleventh one. . . . [laughter]
HARRIET HERRING:
Thought she already knew something; I think she did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you do at the women's meetings the other weeks?
HARRIET HERRING:
Well, sometimes I had somebody come and speak about something I thought they'd be interested in or something like that. But most of it was largely socializing, because they didn't do much visiting except to the person next door.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were these women not working in the mill?
HARRIET HERRING:
No, they were housewives, you see, that particular group were. Then I had young children from about ten or twelve to fourteen or fifteen; and the other hours and parts of the day I had boys and girls courting age, and that sort of thing. And I even had a boys' group; just boys came one evening. Everybody said I'd have trouble with them, that they'd get into fights, so I was watching out for that. When I began to see any kind of roughness I just sent both the boys downstairs (it was in a big hall upstairs). So I didn't have any trouble with discipline—didn't have half as much as I did in high school at Scotland Neck!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[laughter] I'm curious about these women who were housewives. How was their family well enough off that they didn't have to work?
HARRIET HERRING:
Probably had children too small, babies too small.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did most of the women in the mill village work, though?
HARRIET HERRING:
No, not nearly all. I had quite a group: oh, I would say I had thirty or forty that came, and then not nearly all of those that stayed home to keep their babies came.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was the family wage not in effect at that time, or did the men make enough to support a family? Or did someone else like an older boy or an older girl work?
HARRIET HERRING:
Well, it might have been that. Of course wages were low; they were lower in the South than they were any other place. But prices also weren't what they are now. Especially if they had two working (and you could tell by the furniture and their dress and everything), they seemed to. . . .