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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Kennedy Goodwin, September 26, 1997. Interview R-0113. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Career ambitions deemed not "cost effective"

Goodwin again talks about her ambitions and the kinds of career opportunities open to African American women when she was coming of age during the 1930s. Here, she explains that her aspirations to become a doctor proved unrealistic, as explained by Dr. Hollis Eaton, president of Duke University, who explained to her that it was not "cost effective" for medical schools to fund African American women.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Kennedy Goodwin, September 26, 1997. Interview R-0113. 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

ANGELA HORNSBY:
What was, during that time, some of the accepted fields black women particularly were expected to go into? Domestic science for one, were there other fields?
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
Well, if you made it out into the world, nursing was a great one. Nursing, lots of people have come through Lincoln's nursing school. It was one of the only black nursing schools in the country. And as I say, secretarial work. The Mutual work furnished career opportunities and job opportunities for thousands of young women.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Now, sort of, leaving college with that understanding that there were certain niches that black women were expected to fulfill, you —
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
I was a rebel.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Exactly —
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
I was going into —
ANGELA HORNSBY:
You wanted to be a doctor, right?
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
I did. I was going into research chemistry which was unheard of for a woman, but I was going. I had the inside push even though I didn't have the ‘Now I am brash enough to go anywhere I want to, say anything I want to.’ But then, I had just that urge inside my head and heart, there again, to find out what made diseases and what cured diseases. Particularly, what cured diseases. Uh, infantile paralysis was a stumper for a long time. It crippled, many, many people. Polio, smallpox, tubercolosis. Oh, tuberculosis. We always had two rooms in the hospital. And always there was a tuberculosis patient that we were trying to cure. And as fast as one was out, another one was in. These things have been wiped out now, but I wanted to be a part of the agent that found out why it happened and what made it go away. And even when I went to work up there and went into that position, I was still finding out what was inside of people, the fluids, the body fluids and what they did, the organs in the body and how they functioned. How this one different from this one. What made this bone grow this way in some people and another way in some others. Furnishing information to the doctors so they can know how far from standard this person was and what to do to bring him up to standard. How much of this to give a patient to [pause] bring him back to health. My chief goal in life when I went up there [Lincoln] was to see a patient come in sick and go out healthy. I have sat by the bed of patients and dared them to die all night long. And I've had people come up to me since I've retired, and, in the grocery store, in church, in places and say, ‘You don't remember me lady, but I was your patient and you are the only reason I'm alive now, 'cause you kept daring me, you kept saying, You cannot die on me, you cannot die on me, come on now, come on, we're going to make it.’
ANGELA HORNSBY:
So you applied to medical schools?
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
Oh, yes. I wanted to be a doctor and do the real thing. I didn't realize then that what I was doing when I went to work is what the doctor is all about. That without those people the doctor is almost helpless. Unless he knows what is going on inside his patient, he can't help the patient. But, like Dr. Eatons, Dr. Hollis Eatons, who was then the president of Duke told me, they couldn't afford to let me go to medical school. I was not only a woman, I was a black woman.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Um, our time is running short but I was hoping that the next time we talked you could explain and describe more indepth your conversation with Dr. Hollis —
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
His name was Hollis Eatons and he was at that time, in 1938, president of Duke.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
And he basically explained that your education was not cost-efficient?
MARGARET KENNEDY GOODWIN:
He took time to sit down and tell me. Everybody else just tell me, no we don't have any openings. But he was a friend of my father's and he explained to me the practical side of making a doctor.