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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Will Alexander's criticisms of Jessie Daniel Ames's professional persona

Raper speaks at greater length about Jessie Daniel Ames's "excessive feminism" (from earlier) and how that affected her working relationship with Will Alexander, the executive director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. As Raper recalls, Alexander thought Ames was difficult to work with because she flaunted her sexuality to get what she wanted. While Raper does not necessarily corroborate Alexander's concerns and insists that neither of them were "anti-woman," his comments in this regard are especially revealing of the kinds of negative stereotypes and challenges professional women dealt with in work settings overwhelming dominated by men during that era.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, let me ask you this, still along the lines of the women's work. It's clear that she and Alexander did not get along from the very beginning. Don't you think that's true?
ARTHUR RAPER:
Yeah, I know that's true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And I tried to deal with that a little bit, but the problem is that I only have her side of that. All the comments about the relationship are from her. Now, from what I know of her, I can well imagine that Will Alexander had a good side, had his own side to tell, but I don't know what it was.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Will Alexander never talked with me about that, but very little. And the things that he said… [Laughter] …he didn't need to say much. He knew that I knew. One time, he came in and he says…I forget exactly how he said it, but I'll try to say it about how he said it, now. But it's sort of nasty Well, nasty-nice. You can say whether that's nice. But he said, "How in the heck do you have a discussion with a woman when she comes into your office and pushes her breasts up so forth and you're standing there talking with her, why she's making herself into a female something or other." He said, "How in the world do you carry on a serious conference in this kind of situation?" Well, I mean, he sort of had her in a…well, in other words, she couldn't do anything, he thought.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she flaunt her femininity, her sexuality? At the same time that she tried to…
ARTHUR RAPER:
Not very much. This was just what he said to me one time after she had been in there and…
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did that ring a bell with you, did you know what he was talking about, a certain way that she…
ARTHUR RAPER:
Oh yeah, I knew what he was talking about.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But what I'm trying to get, was it something about the way she acted, or might you have said that about any woman?
ARTHUR RAPER:
No, no, no, no. He wouldn't. He had very great deference and respect for Mrs. Tilly and a lot of women. No, no, he wasn't anti, he wasn't anti-woman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did she act? That would lead somebody to describe her like that.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, I don't know anymore than I said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But, my image of her is sort of contradictory. That on one hand she would be sort of flaunting and you know, do things that would lead somebody to say something like that about her. On the other hand, it would be for her to not be feminine enough, not acting like a woman.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, I don't know. I could imagine and rationalize it, but these things happened, that I'm stating. And I guess we just have to leave it at that. As far as I'm concerned. I don't think you need to, you can get…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, I'm the one that's on the spot.
ARTHUR RAPER:
You can get some insights and you can use the rest.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. I need to be fairer. I mean, I feel fairly objective about it, but I just don't know…Was it true that he didn't want her to come as director of women's work in the first place? She felt that that was so, but I don't…
ARTHUR RAPER:
She may have felt that that was true, but I think that if he hadn't wanted her, she wouldn't have been there. So far as I know, Alexander wasn't somebody who just accomodated somebody just because they wanted to come to Atlanta.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, why did he keep her on, if he disliked her so much.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, I haven't said that he disliked her so much. This is yours, and I'm not saying that it's incorrect, but I don't think that he disliked her so much. He appreciated the fact that she had gotten these women together within this "women do their thing", however so much he…in other words, it was worth it. It maybe wasn't the way he wished it could have been done.