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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 >>

Ames as a feminist

Raper responds to Hall's question regarding why he labeled Ames a "feminist." According to Raper, Ames was a self-espoused feminist, citing her assertion that women worked differently than men and her outspoken disposition. As elsewhere, Raper's comments here are revealing of contemporary views and stereotypes about feminist and professional women.

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:
Why did you call her "feminist" tin the beginning? Did she call herself that?
ARTHUR RAPER:
Yeah. She just said, now…she hadn't been in Atlanta, whenever it was when she came…she hadn't been in Atlanta any length of time at all until she sort of let it be known that she was the person who was heading up the women and that we didn't know how to work with women and that kind of thing, you know. Well, it worked with some of the women, and it didn't. Some didn't say it that way, they didn't think that way and they were very effective. Mrs. Albright in the Southern Methodist Missionary Society, she was a little before this. But, she had been a very stable and sound woman leader in the work of the Interracial Commission. And she didn't have this "this has to be done that way." She (Mrs. Ames) came up from Texas, she knew how to work with women and women worked differently from men, and I mean, well, she just sort of said that and said it in that tone of voice. Of course, we all heard it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Well, one thing that puzzles me, I have it…she was a feminist clearly, but she also said very critical things about women. I don't know how much real solidarity she felt with other women. She seemed to admire men and male qualities, agressiveness and efficiency and be critical of other women for being sentimental and you know, those kind of things.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, that was the very thing that Alexander and Eleazer, particularly Eleazer, sort of turned them off on her. They felt that women should be delicate, they shouldn't be bossy and loud and coarse. And every now and then, she'd exhibit all those qualities.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Coarse? Did she curse and use bad language?
ARTHUR RAPER:
No, she'd sort of stomp around.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who do you know that's like her. How can I get a picture of what she was like? Did you ever know anybody else that was like that?
ARTHUR RAPER:
No, Mrs. Ames was one of her own.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you see her in some ways as being like contemporary, very hard line feminist, you know, in the Women's Liberation Movement. The spokesmen? Do you think she would have felt sympathetic toward that?
ARTHUR RAPER:
She would have towards women having their own thing. She had a feeling that there was a mystique about the female species, that was something transcendent and that you had to know that and be part of that, or you couldn't do this thing. She had that, and that flattered some women and they liked it to some extent. But, she didn't do it in this loving indirect way, she sort of came at you with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did she choose, I know the obvious things, it's just what we were talking about earlier, that she was successful in this and this was where she could make her mark. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [interruption]
ARTHUR RAPER:
…by the men, rationalize pretty much, particularly at the political level, that this was necessary to protect white women. O.K. now, she's a white woman.
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is a way that her feminism could come into the racial issue.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Right, right. And it's very much more difficult to work with interracial relations and affect anything than it is to take one segment and a very raw and vibrant aspect of it.