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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

How Adamson's family put the children through school

In a family as large as the Price family, some children were closer than others, but all of them were expected to participate in the family by providing emotional and financial support for their siblings when it was needed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
As the youngest of ten children, who were your closest companions on the farm? Were they your brothers and sisters or . . .
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
My sister, Teeny, who was two and a half years older than I was the person I was closest to. And then my brother, Wright, who was five years older than I; I saw quite a bit of him. Then in a large family-I understand it's a general custom-we sort of divided up into cliques. The first five children were boys, with one girl, and the last five were girls, with one boy. So the boys in the upper bracket sort of adopted one of the girls in the lower bracket, and to these days, my brother Paul, who was my-I don't know what you would call him, but anyhow-I'm going to see him for his eightieth birthday in Greensboro on the second of May. That's really one of the objects of going to see him, although Paul and I have very little in common. He is a shrewd businessman and very conservative as far as political and social As far as race relations are concerned, I can only say that he's deplorable, and I'm well known as being one who has worked and felt that the rights of the black people are something that's very important to me personally and to the society. So, despite these things, Paul and I have never had any disagreement at all, even when I was active in politics in North Carolina on the opposite side of the Democratic party's affairs than he was. We never had any disagreements. So that was just the way it went. My brother, Enoch, was the patron of my sister Teeny, as she may have told you. So it went. Each of the girls had a special brother, and Mildred will tell you perhaps about Tom being her patron.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I was very interested in looking at what most of the boys went on to do and the kinds of things the women in your family went into. It's almost like you and your brother Paul, it's almost diametrically opposed in a way. Do you have any hints about why that happened? Did it have to do with them being older, or the women coming along at a different time?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I have speculated about that quite a bit over the years and have never come to any answers that satisfied me. The only thing that would be a comment that I would make about it was that the boys, being the first five children, came along when the family had more social pretensions. The economic status was not as hard as it was for the last five. Although Wright one of the last five, takes after the boys, and my sister Ruth, who was the girlamid the four boys, was completely apolitical but a wonderfully human and sensitive, tolerant kind of person.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Could it have had anything to do with the relationship that you had with your parents, the girls perhaps being closer to your mother or the boys being closer to your father?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I never, never thought that that was true. Of course, the boys worked in the fields, and it was strictly forbidden for the girls to work in the fields, no matter how hard up our family was. The girls did not work in the fields because that would have been below our social status to do it. We worked in the garden, yes, but not in the fields. But then to get back to your question, my brothers were more associated with my father since they were working in the fields and running the farm and doing the things there. The girls were more associated with the house.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you closer to one parent more than the other?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes, I was very much closer to my mother because she was my first teacher in school. Then my father died when I was eleven, I think it was, twelve, I suppose it was-in 1921; I was born in 1909, so I must have been twelve years old. My mother had very difficult years with trying to get along on the farm and finding she couldn't do it, and moving to Chapel Hill to run a rooming house so that the children could go to school there. There again, she maintained the drive. So that it was only as a grown person that I looked back on my father and our relation, and I'm very critical of myself for not having understood him better. I think he must have been quite a person. He was irritable and a very stern parent. He didn't permit nonsense from the children. But he was very good and always encouraging about reading and helpful about information, and just trying to guide us in the way that we should go. And I think that if I had known him later on, I would have liked him very much. As a child, I was very disapproving of him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Because he was so stern?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Because he was so stern, and because he was difficult to get along with, and he was very unhappy about his not being able to "provide."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Earn a living?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Provide. He was brought up, you know, the head of the family and it was his job to "provide." I can see it was just a terrible assignment that he gave himself.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he feel as strongly that the girls in the family should have as much education as the boys?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Definitely. Both of the parents felt very much that the girls should have an education. Mildred may tell you abouthow when the time came for her to go to highschool, there was no high school within our area where she could go. He got my Uncle Ashby, his brother who lived in Miami, Florida, to take Mildred to live with them so that she could go to high school in Miami. Uncle Ashby died of TB, and my mother apparently knew that he was a very sick man. She was alarmed about Mildred's going to live in the house with someone who was sick like that. Ruth has told me the story about how my mother tried every way she could to get my father to agree that Mildred should not go to live with Uncle Ashby and his family. The night before they were to leave, my mother cried all night, Ruth said. She was just heartbroken that Mildred should be sent. But still she had to give in; that this was the only way that Mildred could get a high school education. Now, my sister Branson was sent to live with our Uncle John in Leaksville, which is in Rockingham County also. That was a different matter, I think, because Uncle John was a fairly successful businessman. He lived not too very far from us, and that was a different experience. It wasn't just Branson's and Mildred's leaving home; it was a question of whether they should have an education, and that was the only way that my father could figure that they could get an education.