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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 17, 1974. Interview G-0029-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Balancing work and family

Johnson addresses the challenges of balancing career and family during the early twentieth century. Having given birth to her first child in 1928 while she was working for the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina, Johnson explains how she was able to manage having both children and a career after establishing a strictly scheduled routine, employing a maid to help with childcare and household chores, and working for relatively sympathetic employers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 17, 1974. Interview G-0029-2. 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:
Well, how did you work caring for your children and having such an active career.
GUION JOHNSON:
Someone asked me soon after our first son was born, first child was born, how it was that I managed to work and take care of the baby. I said, "He's a very good child, a very well child. I could not afford to have a sick baby."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He had to be strong. (laughter)
GUION JOHNSON:
And this statement was received with shock. "What would you do if your baby was sick. What a horrible statement!" Especially "for an educated woman like you to make, that you 'can't afford to have a sick child.'" I said, "Well, you have no sense of humor, do you?" I had competent black maids whom I chose carefully and I insisted upon, I was working only half time, although the job amounted to almost full time work. You know, there is no such thing as a half time job . . . I would bathe the baby and feed the baby and go to the office and work until noon. Come home for lunch, feed the baby and go back to the office and by the time that the baby woke up around four, I would come back home and feed the baby and then bring home work from the office and work until after dinner until eight or nine or ten o'clock, feed the baby. Sometimes work until one or two o'clock. I was in the Institute for Research in Social Science and both Dr. Odum and . . . I started to say Dr. Jocher who sometimes did supervisory work, but never any of my work, at least she was there checking the hours that you come. They were very understanding and so long as I produced research and chapters, they did not seem to object.