Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Experiences as a wartime bride

Tillett briefly discusses her experiences as a wartime bride. Having met her husband through acquaintances in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tillett was married in 1917. Prior to her marriage, Tillett had been working a as a teacher; however, she had to quit her job because she and her husband were constantly on the move and the uncertainties of war necessitated that she stay with him. The pending birth of their first child finally brought Tillett back to Charlotte, where her husband joined her shortly thereafter.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Well, so you met your husband then when he came up to visit …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, I met him when I visited in Charlotte, N.C.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had heard of you from friends.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
When I came down on the visit, he called up before I got there and asked my hostess who was conntected with my family—not quite a relative but was really like it—if he could take me to a play. He came to see me. So that was the beginning of our acquaintence.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well you had not had a chance to be courted by very many boys, had you.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, you live in a small town, you know everybody. There is social life, and you visit college friends, etc., etc.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, yeah, yeah.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I never thought of myself as courted, anyhow. [Laughter] I had a brother, and it just was normal and natural and that was it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when did you marry?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We were married in 1917.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After you had graduated from college?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. I graduated in June from UNC at Chapel Hill and was married in July. And he went in to take officer's training for the First World War in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ah, he went right into the army.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, we lived in a number of army camp areas. So I had a view of the country which in itself was an education. We were stationed at Chattanooga, Tenn., Plattsburgh, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md. And all of that… really, for a short time we were stationed in Charlotte, which was quite … accidental that it happened so. Names were drawn for location.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you did not teach then, or work…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I taught one year before I went to Chapel Hill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But after you were married?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No. Couldn't have, moving from army camp to army camp. I had to be able and ready to move according to my husband's military orders, on short notice, and we assumed we would have only a brief time together if he were sent to the European front, in European war locations.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you settle down?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I don't remember the exact date.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had already graduated from law school.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh yes, he was already practicing. He was practicing when he met me. Yes, he was practicing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was a bit older…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
At that time… everybody was very patriotic in regard to World War I and he left his office and went on to war. We went to Chattanooga, where he was trained. And then he was sent to various camps… He was a first lieutenant and then promoted to a captain. He was assigned to the training of young officers. He did not go abroad, but he was in the army several years. I came home before he did… The epidemic—many expectant mothers died. It was safer for me not to risk exposure. So I returned to Charlotte in advance of the birth of our baby.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, When he returned to Charlotte he went back to his law practice…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We were married and he had closed his office, then we went to Chattanooga to the officers training camp… one of the early war marriages… People thought it was taking chances to marry a man headed for the European War. Think of getting married in war time! Just really a chance for a girl to take.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You should have waited until the war was over, according to some people?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But people… before World War II there was a great rash of marriages.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, later on in World War I there were, but ours was quite early and I'm sure that a lot of older people were dubious about the wisdom of the step. But he did survive, and although there was strain and uncertainty about the future, it was very stimulating… I'm sure it broadened our outlook, living in various parts of the country.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm just wondering whether you were thinking of having a career after you were married or did you just… what did you think you were going to do with your life…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
In wartime, life is a day at a time, moving from place to place and never knowing one night what was going to happen, or whether my husband would be sent overseas. Life was very uncertain and unpredictable. I learned to hope for the best but take what came. I came back before he got out of the war. And my child was born