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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Patricia Neal, June 6, 1989. Interview C-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of gender in relationship to career

Neal addresses the issue of gender in relationship to her work with the County Board of Education and the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Board of Education Association. While suggests that education was a "natural" place for women to take a public role, she argues that she did not see her work in association with women's issues, but rather she was motivated by a commitment to public service. Moreover, she insists that she never faced gender discrimination.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Patricia Neal, June 6, 1989. Interview C-0068. 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

This is coming somewhat out of the blue, but I mentioned to you my interest generally in women and politics or women who are activists, and it seemed easy to make the connection - education, children, these are women's issues, these are women's concerns. Do you think along those lines? Is that what motivates you or is there some other, what would be the word, maybe, wellspring, for the kind of work that you're doing now in this very long commitment, twenty years, to education?
Well, you know, I guess I don't see it primarily as a woman's issue, Kathy, I really don't. I see it being motivated by a, really a lifetime of public service, commitment to trying to leave this world a little better than I found it, and one of the things that I feel very strongly about is that I have never felt discriminated against as a woman, and I was elected to a school board and then elected chairman by four men at a time when there were very few women on school boards across this county and in North Carolina in particular. And then to be elected chairman was, you know, there were only three or four of us in North Carolina at that time that were chairman of our respective boards. And then I got into real estate, which when I got into that was, you know, in the mid-70s, was a very much male-dominated profession. Maybe I've just been lucky in the people that I have worked with, just really never thought about discriminating against a woman. But I've found every entry into that arena extraordinarily satisfying and free of any bias and prejudice against women. It's been a very fulfilling experience.
I would think so. And part of the reason I asked the questions that way is that I read just recently that in terms of women either appointed or elected to government positions, whether it be on the local level or nationally, that education has been one avenue into politics for women, meaning the whole service kinds of things, and that women have made the most progress, being highest representation, on school boards, committees. That that's really been a place of advancement for women in politics.
Well, I'm sure you're right. Again, it's kind of a natural because of the early involvement of mothers with the schools and, I think, much broader appreciation of the issues.