Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, Spring 1993. Interview G-0188. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gender discrimination in the workplace

Cannon describes one of the jobs she held while living in Washington, D.C., while her husband worked abroad in India during the mid-1940s. Cannon had been hired by the Russian Purchasing Commission as a statistician; however, she describes how she was often tasked with clerical work because she was a woman. Angered by this gender discrimination, Cannon only stayed in this short time before leaving for a job that allowed her to implement her training and skills.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, Spring 1993. Interview G-0188. 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

Off we went to Washington. I'm a healthy individual, but I had had an operation and I was recovering from that, so my first few months in Washington were a time of exploring Washington. For about six months I did nothing but ride the buses, go to the museums, go to the historic places. I got to know Washington deeply, as well as I had known Raleigh. However, instead of sending my husband overseas, they stationed us in Washington for about a year; then finally, they sent him to India, and later to China. They would not let me go along because he was going into war zones, and wives could not go. I had to stay in the United States. My decision was to stay in Washington, and again I looked for jobs. The very specific thing that I decided was that I wanted a job I could not do in Raleigh. I was adamant I would not do anything that I could do in Raleigh. The first job I got was with the Russian Purchasing Commission. I hated it there. I hated their discipline. I was supposed to be doing work in statistics, but they asked me "Would I please help them do some typing, some emergency thing?" So I said, "All right. I'll do that for a week or so." At the end of the first two weeks they said, "We need you again for this typing." So I said, "Look, I'm not interested in a typing job." In fact, I was not being paid as a typist, but as a statistician. I said, "Ok, I will do it, but this is the last time." When I went in at the end of the following two weeks, they started to say, "Now we need you again in typing." I said, "I'm leaving. I'm not working as a typist when I'm supposed to be doing statistical work."