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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Teaching one of the few professions open to women in the early 1900s

Tolbert saw education as one of the few professions open to women when she was growing up in the early 1900s, and she is glad she decided at an early age that she wanted to be a teacher. She also needed a career because she was an unmarried woman helping to care for her sibling's children.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Marguerite Tolbert, June 14, 1974. Interview G-0062. 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

CONSTANCE MYERS:
Miss Tolbert, I'm told that you've been extremely active in the field of education in our state. Can you tell me a little bit about your own education?
MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
Yes. I've been active in education all my life. When I was in the second grade I decided to be a teacher. I had a lovely teacher and I remarked, When I grow up I wish to be a teacher. And you know in that day and time no doors were open to women except nursing and teaching. Being an old maid aunt, I'm the spinster in my family who helped to take care of my niece and nephew, but fortunately I chose a door that was open and that door was education. At that time, Winthrop College was the center that prepared teachers. It's president was none other than Dr. D.B. [David Bancroft] Johnson who founded Winthrop College through a grant from the Peabody Foundation and who was assisted by the governor, Benjamin Ryan Tillman, 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillman, who said that every farmer's daughter and every family should be able, whether they were rich or poor, to educate their children. So, Winthrop evolved and that's a story in itself that is recorded in Distinguished Women from South Carolina that will help answer your question. I grew up in Laurens, where I attended the public school.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
What community did you live in?
MARGUERITE TOLBERT:
Right there in Laurens. I was born in Great Court, our ancestral home. My family came to Laurens when I was two years old. We love Laurens and Gray Court; it's the center of interest of the Gray clan. And I was graduated from the Laurens High School as salutatorian in 1910.