Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Parents encourage civic engagement

Warren grew interested in politics in her childhood, when her family was involved in local elections. Her parents' civic involvement nurtured important values, and while tenant farming kept them poor, they refused to let their poverty interfere with the duties of citizenship.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. 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

LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, how did you get interested in politics, having spent your career in education?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, I have always been a participant in the process. As an educator, as a classroom teacher, I was involved in legislative issues, was president of the District Classroom Association, I did workshops, I did presentations to other classroom teachers, so was involved in the process of how policy is made. Also had been very involved in the active voting process. It was important in my family. My grandfather was one of the precinct officers, and in those days, election day was referred to as "going to the polls," and he was, as a precinct officer, responsible on election day, with a system, with a voting process. My father, mother, were always very involved in the interest of what was happening. We talked about it and read newspapers. In those days we always had a weekly newspaper. We had magazines that a variety of magazines from Daddy's interest in sports, to farming, mother's interest in the Ladies' Home Journal, Good-Housekeeping-types of magazines, to Life Magazines. And I am sure, as I look back, that it was not easy to provide those things, because we were tenant farmers.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You were tenant farmers? You didn't own your land?
EDITH WARREN:
We did not own the land. My grandfather owned the farm. But as tenant farmers, or sharecropper farmers, those issues were important.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, you were tenant farmers with your grandfather being the owner?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right.
EDITH WARREN:
I'm assuming that that was a little bit easier than if a total stranger had owned the land.
EDITH WARREN:
Well —
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not really?
EDITH WARREN:
Very likely a little bit different, but the amount of income was still —
LEDA HARTMAN:
Lower than it would have been if your family had owned the land?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. We do, my family, the farm is still in family hands now, of course, but those were some very difficult years. But since so many families were in the same situation, we didn't realize that we didn't have much money, because we cared about each other and we had plenty to eat, and somehow or other parents saw that good things were there quality-wise, such as the importance of having newspapers in the home.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, your family does sound unusual, because your folks focused on being literate, even though they were working the fields very, very hard, not even owning their own land.
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely.
LEDA HARTMAN:
They had different priorities.
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely. And it was important that those goals be maintained.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So your family was unusual in that way, it sounds like?
EDITH WARREN:
And it was a very good time also. And those ideals that were instilled, that carried through—the involvement process. I was already married when I reached the age of twenty-one, and when my daddy called me early in the morning to day happy birthday, his next question was, "Have you registered to vote?" And during that period you had to be twenty-one. But that was a way of saying to me again the importance of being involved. And throughout my career as an educator, from a classroom teacher, I was involved in those activities. I came to the general assembly and met with legislators as a principal. I served on legislative committees. I was involved in community affairs, and it just continued to carry forward.