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Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Mary Turner Lane was the first director of the women's studies program at the University of North Carolina. In this interview, she discusses the events that shaped her career, including the importance her parents placed on education, and her experience at Salem College. After graduation, Lane became an elementary school teacher. During this time she met and married Tom Lane, whose death in World War II left her devastated. After a period of mourning and appraisal of her life, she returned to school to renew her teacher's license. Lane discovered that she loved higher education and eventually entered the Ph.D. program at Duke. Though she had support from the families around her, relatively few other women of her generation had made choices similar to hers. Once she graduated, she joined the faculty at UNC. One of the first committee responsibilities Lane had involved changing the curfew rules for women. When the chancellor formed a committee to examine the feasibility of launching a women's studies department, Lane recalls, the appointed male and female faculty were divided by age, experience, and passion. She discusses how the women overcame those barriers. Though Lane did not actively seek the position as the first director of women's studies, she accepted it when the dean offered her the position. One of Lane's primary objectives was to publicize the existence, purpose and achievements of the new program. Lane does not remember having any steady male support during this time, though a few faculty and administrators were generally friendly. She also recalls the resistance that she encountered from the female students and speculates about what caused them to feel as they did. Lane believes much has changed since then but that much more needs to be done for female students and faculty at UNC. She discusses what she believes to be the key issues for both groups.
  • Communual responsibility to care for the impoverished
  • Changes in education as community schools have disappeared
  • High school experiences and parents' commitment to her education
  • Time at Salem College.
  • Structure of curricula at Salem College
  • Extracurricular life at Salem College
  • Regulations on social life at Salem College
  • Young women at Salem College struggled to figure out who they would be once they graduated
  • Memories of life as a single career woman
  • Effects of war and the memory of war on childhood
  • Influence of the movies on early worldview
  • Courtship and marriage
  • Tom and Mary Turner Lane's marriage and the birth of their daughter
  • Working through husband's sudden death and finding a new life direction
  • Return to school to pursue M.Ed.
  • Challenges faced as a single mother in graduate school
  • Support from young families in the community
  • Perspective on the social changes that came to UNC during the 1960s
  • Students take a more proactive role in campus policy
  • Mary Ellen Lane's time at UNC
  • Katherine Carmichael's adaptation to the changing position of women on campus
  • The committee that proposed the women's studies program
  • Finding a pattern to follow for the women's studies coursework
  • Faculty apathy for the new women's studies program
  • Carving a spot for women's studies within the university
  • Publicizing the existence of women's studies
  • Raising awareness of feminist issues among students through Women's Studies 50
  • Publicizing women's studies
  • Continued difficulties for female faculty and staff
  • Resistance to feminism by female students
  • Growth of the Christian Right
  • Lane reflects on her accomplishments
  • Challenges yet facing women faculty and students
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Resources for Educators
  • Southern Women Trailblazers Learning Object
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.