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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Grace Jemison Rohrer, March 16, 1989. Interview C-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gender discrimination in university hiring practices

Rorher explains how despite having earned her master's degree in history at Wake Forest University in 1969, she was unable to get a job teaching college. At Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Rorher was told explicitly by the history department that they were unlikely to hire her because she was a woman and that they rarely hired women faculty. Rorher found a similar gender disparity at Wake Forest University and decided not to seek employment there.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Grace Jemison Rohrer, March 16, 1989. Interview C-0069. 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

If you don't mind saying, what impact did your husband's death have on you in terms of what you pictured would happen next in your life and your plans at that stage?
Well, what I did was go back to school and get my Masters in history. I decided I wanted to go back to teaching even though in growing up, women's role was very narrow, perceived very narrow. You could be a teacher, a nurse, or a home economist. Those were usually the three things. I was a natural teacher. So that was what I probably would have been regardless of what would have been open. But at that time I had taught third grade and fourth garde and pre-school. I decided I would like to teach at the college level. I have a strong interest in history, and I went back and got my Masters in history. However, in trying to find a job in that, I was not very fortunate. I went to one college - I've never revealed the name of this college, but it was Guilford College, a Quaker college in Greensboro - to explore the possibilities of getting work there, and they said they'd never hired a woman in their history department and probably I wouldn't stand much of a chance.
What year was this?
That was '69. I graduated right after that, and I went home and told my father this. And he was flabbergasted. He may have, you know, at one time felt that women's roles should be limited, I don't know. But I was very special to my father, and to think that somebody would turn down his daughter because she was a woman just had never, you know, it just floored him. He said, "Well, maybe you'll have a better chance at Wake Forest." That's where I went and got my Masters at Wake Forest. But on graduation, we looked at the faculty sitting out there, and probably not even a third of the faculty were women, and he said afterwards, "I guess you wouldn't do any better there."