Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A strong woman adapts to domestic life

Turner describes her independent streak, a frame of mind she learned from her father. This characteristic made her an unconventional woman, but she tried to adapt herself to the traditional demands of married life.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. 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

KAREN SINDELAR:
You say you left him once. Sounds like you have been a pretty strong or independent woman for a long time. Did you get along with him?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, it's called women's lib. I've been that a long time. I don't know, I've just never been able to… I can take criticism, and I can take people telling me what to do. But I can't stand people demanding, or telling me what I better do. I have a saying: there's not but two things I'd better do, and I can't help that, is stay black and die. Those two things I can't help. But now you ask me to do something…
KAREN SINDELAR:
Is that your own saying?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, that's my saying. You know, I've heard it somewhere, but… They come along and say, "You better do something." I say, "Now wait a minute; back up. You ask me to do it, but don't tell me what I'd better do. There's two things I'd better do, and that's stay black and die. I can't help those two things. But anything else, you can ask me to do it, and I'll try to.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Did you and your husband get along on that issue all right?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Well, I'll tell you: after I grew older… When I was younger, by being raised around a lot of boys in the community I had to learn to fight. I'll never forget one time I got in a fight, and a boy tore my clothes off of me. And my father was definite about clothes, because in those times, you know, clothes was hard to come by. And my father gave me a good whupping and said, "If you ever come in this house with your clothes torn off or anybody hits you and you don't take up for yourself you'll get another one." And I remember that whupping, you know, because in those days there weren't such things like now when they put you in jail for whupping a child. We got whuppings then. And from then on if one hit me, if he climbed a tree I was in that three behind him. If he went under the house I was under the house behind him; you know, this is the thing it was. So it was kind of hard for me to accept him telling me what to do, and I always… But after I grew older and my mother told me the things that was expected of a woman that was married, then I tried to make myself a little bit … what would you say…
KAREN SINDELAR:
More conventional?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes; you know, kind of give in and things like that. So I accepted that; as I say, let him think he was the boss of the house and things of this nature until he passed. He died very young, at thirty-six, of a heart attack. I went to work, and came back and found him dead in the bed.