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Title: Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Coy, Mildred Price, interviewee
Interview conducted by Frederickson, Mary
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: 228 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2008.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-00-00, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0020)
Author: Mildred Price Coy
Description: 62 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 26, 1976, by Mary Frederickson; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976.
Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Coy, Mildred Price, interviewee


NOTE: Audio for this interview is not available.

Interview Participants

    MILDRED PRICE COY, interviewee
    HAROLD COY, interviewee
    MARY FREDERICKSON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You were born on October 10, 1899 . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
That's right.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
. . . near Madison, North Carolina?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I was born in Wentworth. That's the county seat.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When your father was working . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, my father was working for the county court.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And then did you move back to the family farm when you were [unknown] ?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We left there when my father lost his job. We moved back to the farm home five miles from Madison.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How old were you when you moved back?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I was about seven.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you spent a good bit of time in Wentworth and started school there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You were still in the area where the Price's and the Moore's had lived for a long, long time.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
All in Rockingham County.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And I wondered what you heard as a child about those two families, what you remember coming down about those families, as far back as you can remember, like the influence of the Civil War on both of those families.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
You mean my mother and father's families?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Right. Maybe start with your mother's family. Did you remember either of your grandparents?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I did not. They'd both died. My grandmother died before I was

Page 2
born—my mother's mother—and I think my grandfather died when I was a baby. I remember when I was a little child my mother. . . . Still tears came to her eyes when she spoke of him, because she was so devoted to her father. In fact, she probably had a father complex. [Laughter] I don't know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about on the other side of the family, the Price's? Do you remember either of those grandparents?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I remember my Grandfather Price died when my father was about fourteen, fifteen. And my grandmother lived years and years. And when I lived in Miami, Florida, my grandmother kept house for my uncle, with whom I lived, because his wife had died. And my Grandmother Price was from Alabama. And she was born into a family that had a lot of slaves. And when she was quite young she met her husband, who was a tobacco. . . . He drove down to Alabama from North Carolina in a buggy, selling tobacco. He had a tobacco factory up there, a small one. And he told her that if she would marry him, they would go back to North Carolina and he would buy her a piano; she could play the piano.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
About the time they got to North Carolina, the Civil War broke out, and so he couldn't get her a piano. And
Civil War was over, and he got her a piano, and she sat down to the piano and she played "Weber's Last Waltz." [Laughter] I remember her story. She just sat down; after years she started playing "Weber's Last Waltz."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they hurt by the Civil War? Did they lose property?

Page 3
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They lost all their slaves, of course. And my grandfather had a very ugly attitude towards the freed slaves. He was called over to Greensboro by the Freedmen's Bureau, and I don't know what he had done to the slaves, but one of them reported on him. So when he came out of the courthouse, she was standing right beside the door, and he spit tobacco juice in her face.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
This was a story your grandmother told about him?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know who told me, but it was common knowledge. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think she shared the same feeling about the freed slaves?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She certainly did. She was a very conservative woman. I'm sure she did. She didn't have any social idea. She didn't know what it was all about, although her father sent her to school. She wrote a very nice hand. She did murder the King's English at times, as my father did, too. But no, she didn't have any social ideas.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where had she gone to school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know where she went to school. I never heard that. Harold wrote that family history, and he knows more about my family than I do.
HAROLD COY:
In such a large family they might have had a tutor. I don't know.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Her father had money, and so he might have had a tutor come there. She was very pretty. She had curly hair. She was a very pretty girl.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was she sort of a typical southern lady?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She wasn't. She never put up any pretense of being a lady.

Page 4
We were too poor by the time I knew her; we were terribly poor. She turned over her money to one of her relatives. My grandfather on his death bed said to her, "Minnie, whatever you do, don't let Pete Price have my money." That was his half-brother. And immediately she turned over everything to him. And in one year she lost some children (she had a lot of children); she lost her horses; she had a terrible time. She never was bowed under by it all, but she really had it tough all her life.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So did she have to work very hard herself?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't remember. She was a compulsive woman. I guess she worked. She didn't mind working, but she never got any money for it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
She would work in the house and clean and cook and . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She didn't clean much. She lived with her children. She'd go around; she'd go to California and live with a daughter, and she lived with us, and she lived with a son in Winston-Salem and Leaksville, where he lived for a while.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think she had a lot of influence on her children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I doubt it. I don't think she did. She was too tart; she wasn't kind woman. Although she wasn't mean, she wasn't kind. She lived with my uncle's children to keep house for him in Florida, and oh, she treated them so badly. No love; there didn't seem to be any love there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about your own father? Do you remember hearing stories about his life as a child?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Harold remembers.
HAROLD COY:
[unknown]

Page 5
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Grandma Minnie sent him to the University. And what did he do there, do you remember?
HAROLD COY:
He got sent home, anyway.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Anyway, they sent him home. I don't know that he did. I don't think he had an ounce of meanness in him. He wasn't gentle, but he was incorruptible. Anyway, they sent him home and she beat him. She just beat the liverlights out of him when he came home. And then they took him back. But he couldn't finish; there wasn't enough money.
So he came home, and then he bought the farm from his sister and his brother on mortgage. And the farm wasn't any good; the land was worn out.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
By the time he started farming.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And he farmed, but he wasn't interested in farming. When he went to Wentworth and he got the job as County Cleark or something, he didn't want to go back to the farm. But when he lost his job there, my mother begged him to be a lawyer, to study law, and he wouldn't do it. But he could have, because he did read some pretty good things.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why do you think he didn't study law or . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. My father was quixotic. He never talked to us about his problems or to my mother. At least I'm. . . . He just kept everything to himself. So he wanted to go back to the farm, a very dull life.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who helped him work the farm?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Four of the older five were boys, and they helped him on the farm some. Then he had tenants. He had a thousand acres, and he had tenants work the farm.

Page 6
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember being in contact with the tenant families?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I knew all of them, some black and some white.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
About how many were there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I imagine there were about eight or ten.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Families.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. One of the tenants was our washerwoman. She had a little cabin.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you aware of how your father interacted with his tenants? Was he a kind person to work for or a good person to work for?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He had so little money himself. We felt superior. We never were friendly in a warm way. They were beneath us. We thought that we were above all these people.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember being aware of other families in the area who were having the same sorts of problems, either worn-out soil or difficulty making a living, difficulty getting cash?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody was poor, terribly poor.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did your father, do you think, talk to those people or talk to the other men in the community who were facing the same sorts of things that he was?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know whether he ever got down to earth, but he talked to them all the time. He didn't know really much about farming. He took some farm magazines, but he wasn't really interested in farming. It was dull for him. He had to do it. But he wasn't really a farmer. Every Sunday afternoon he'd like to sit out. We had a big lawn and big trees. He used to say, "This is the prettiest place in Rockingham

Page 7
County." Well, as a matter of fact, it wasn't kept up. It was just some big trees and grass. The sheep ran over the grass, and they kept the grass nice. But his friends would come out from Madison, and they'd sit out on the lawn and talk. He read World's Work and the Literary Digest. So they'd sit out there and talk. But my mother never went out to talk with them. Just the men sitting out there, talking.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What were they talking about, politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
About politics, I guess. They were all Democrats.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was he interested in politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, he was terribly interested in politics.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he ever run for office?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He did in Wentworth. He ran for that County Cleark, but I believe that's the only thing. Oh, he was Superintendent of Roads for a while there in our section of Rockingham County. And he had good roads there; he was a hound for good roads. And it's a good thing he was; they were the worst roads you've ever seen. And so he got everybody out to work for nothing for one day on the roads.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think he wanted to make a career of politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. I don't think my father thought very deeply. He probably did, but he didn't talk to his children or his wife very much. Maybe he talked to her and we didn't know about it, but he was a cold man. I was telling Harold, he never wrote me a letter. I stayed four years in Miami. I came home twice, I think. But he never wrote to me. And the first year after I was down in Miami, they came to Madison to meet me—I came back on the train—in the wagon. Something had happened to the surrey or the buggy. Anyway, they came in the wagon.

Page 8
We didn't ride in wagons, you see; we thought we were better, too good to ride in wagons. And so we were riding on home, and he turned around and said, "Why, Mil, you're talking like a Yankee." [Laughter] That's the only thing I ever remember his saying to me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter] Why do you think this happened to him? Why do you think that he had so much trouble supporting his family and finding something for himself to do? Do you think it was things that were inherent in him, or do you think it was the situation after the War that he faced?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was the situation. He wasn't an outgoing man.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was he sad? Was he bitter?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, he wasn't sad or bitter, but he never said very. . . . You know, in that section a long time ago, they used to have a lot of quail. And hunters would come down from the North, and they'd stay at our house. And I was in the room one day with the hunters and my father. No other children were in there. I don't know how I happened to be. And my father said, "My greatest mistake in life," he told the hunters, because he knew he'd never see them again, "I haven't taught my children to love me." We just adored my mother, but the less we saw of him the better. And we had a long table in the dining room. My mother would be at one end, my father at the other. And he would serve the plates. And we had plenty to eat, but it wasn't any variety. He'd ask each one of us, "What do you want?" Well, we could only have ham and gravy. That's all we had.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter]

Page 9
MILDRED PRICE COY:
"Mil, what do you want?" "Ham and gravy." And [Laughter] then he'd serve himself. He served my mother last, and then he took something. But he would eat very fast, and I think that's what finally killed him. He had pernicious anemia. Because he'd just gobble his food as hard as he could and get up and leave the table. Well, the very minute he walked out, we'd start in, because we'd just laugh and tell jokes and everything the very minute he left. We didn't do anything while he was there. But he'd walk out, and then we'd just start out and have a wonderful time. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think that the four older sons were closer to him than you were?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I wouldn't say that. Maybe my oldest brother Tom, because he was so proud of Tom.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Also, when Tom had been growing up, hadn't there been more money in the family? Hadn't things been a little bit more comfortable?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He sent them to a private school, Oak Ridge Institute. But the next one, named after him, we called him Jimmy (James Valentine was my father's name), and he was very smart. He got awfully good grades everywhere, both in the school in Oak Ridge and in Chapel Hill. And one time he didn't get a good grade on something, and when he got home my father said to him, "Valentine, what was the cause of your downfall?" [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So he set high standards for his sons.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that you were much closer to your mother, and I

Page 10
wondered if you remembered her talking about her life as a child, what she faced as a little girl.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Her father was a really wonderful man. Her mother was all right, too, but her mother was one of these Methodists who believed that Methodism should be spread throughout the world, and how lucky the slaves were to have the influence of Methodism. They were lucky. Wouldn't you say that?
HAROLD COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was her mother an evangelist herself?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, but she did read the Bible every year. If you read three chapters every day and five chapters on Sunday, you could read the Bible in a year. She had it all worked out.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was a kind woman. She was a schoolteacher. And she was my grandfather's second wife. His first wife had died of tuberculosis. And she was good. But she was very religious, very much of a Methodist.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What do you think she had planned for your mother?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
People didn't make plans. The southerners didn't make plans. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she see your mother as being what you might call a southern lady?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, she didn't. I don't know what she thought. My grandfather sent my mother to Guilford College for one year, and he wouldn't let her go back. He could have supported her and let her go back and finish, but he said he couldn't give the same education to his other daughters,

Page 11
whose mother had died. So he didn't send my mother back, and so then she married when she was nineteen.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did your mother and father meet?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They lived just seven miles from each other. And when my grandfather's flour mill burned down, my other grandfather, Grandfather Price, sent him a whole wagonload of everything he could find. So they were neighbors, just seven miles.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was your father older than your mother?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
By much? Do you think that made any difference?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I think he was about seven years older than she was. I think he was around twenty-six or twenty-seven when he married; she was nineteen.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said she didn't join in the conversations about politics with the men on the front lawn. Was she interested in politics herself?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was very reactionary. She didn't know anything, you see. And everybody was reactionary, so she didn't feel as though she'd lost anything.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she really run the household? She had ten children, did she?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I should say she did. She worked all the time. And as soon as we girls could, we helped in the housework. But she worked all the time. She was a strong woman. My father used to work in Winston-Salem. I've forgotten what he did there. He worked there for a while, and he got a salary. It was something to have a salary. And he'd bring her books from the Winston-Salem Library. He brought her Mark Twain's books,

Page 12
and she just adored Mark Twain. He'd bring her other books. He brought her Woodrow Wilson's history. My father just loved Woodrow Wilson. [Laughter] And so she tried to read at night. But I don't know how she did it, after working all day long as hard as she did, by lamplight.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did both of them feel about education for their children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, that was the prime thing. Had to have education. When my brother Enoch went off to the University, the thing they had to have to enter the University was matriculation fee. And that was a horrible thing in our house. Where is the matriculation fee coming from? So Enoch drove to Reidsville a set of calves, and he got money for them and then he could enter the University. That was his matriculation fee.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think both of your parents felt the same way about educating the sons and the daughters?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
It was as important for the girls to have an education?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. He wanted his girls to be teachers. And one day he was lying when he was sick, not very long before he died. And my mother and my sister Branson were sitting out on the back porch. And my mother thought we should take a business course. There was no money. So he heard us from his bedroom, and he called my mother. He said, "Patty, no daughter of mine shall be a stenographer." So then we had to give up the idea. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What do you think were the major differences between your parents? They came sort of out of the same background, but they were very, very different people. Why do you think they were so different?

Page 13
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My mother had a big heart. My mother was loving and kind, and she had some sense, too. She was brought up in a kindly home, and she never argued with my father. I never remember their ever having words. I don't think he was particularly harsh with her, but he was with his children, but she never said anything. But she didn't like him. I know she didn't like him, because she'd make fun of him when I was old enough to realize. He'd make such rules around, and we'd laugh about them behind his back. She wasn't very loyal to him behind his back, and you can't blame her.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
She was much closer to the children and took much more delight in her children than he did, do you think?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes. He was proud of his sons, but he didn't think too much of his girls [Laughter] , I'm afraid. But my sister Ruth, he loved her, the oldest girl, you know. She was so beautiful. And she wouldn't study. But he never tried to make her study. And she'd talk back to him. She was the only one in the family who would talk back to him. And he just adored her, but she would not study.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think she was sort of like a pet, then?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He didn't show it too much—he was so cold—but you knew that he loved her. He sent her to Salem College as long as they'd let her go there without paying too much money. And then she got a job teaching.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How do you think your parents felt about having so many children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
God only knows. I don't know. I don't know whether they thought that was a good idea or bad. We never talked about problems.

Page 14
There was no such thing as talking over problems.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
We talked a minute ago about the relationship that you had with the tenants who lived on the farm, and I wondered if you were close to the children of those tenants. Did you play with them?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, they weren't good enough.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So there was a very strict division between?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, they were just beneath us, blacks and whites.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have any kind of close relationship with any of the servants who worked there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
You mean like the servants who worked for us? We never had any except when my mother had babies. We never had any servants.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So there were never any people working in the house who you got to know very well.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. Aunt Patsy always came when my mother had a baby and worked, and she was so good. But then the very minute my mother was able to get up and go about her work, Aunt Patsy would go. They didn't pay her anything much either. Marthey, one of the tenants, a black woman, did our laundry. And you should have seen the laundry we had, and she did it for a dollar a week, wash and iron. A dollar a week. We could have done the laundry. My mother could have taught us to do the laundry. But we were too good to do the laundry. We could do housework, but laundry was beneath us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who were your companions as a child? Who did you play with?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We played with each other. My sister Branson, she and I were always playing together. Part of the house had an old stairs, we called

Page 15
it, upstairs, and we had doll houses up there, and we stayed up there all day long playing. And then we had a friend who didn't live very far away, Elizabeth Dalton, and we'd go up there to see her. And then we had cousins. My mother's sister had a daughter just my age, and we'd go visit them, and they'd come visit us. And then we had friends in Madison. They'd come out and stay, and we'd go to see them. We never stayed in Madison except just to eat a meal, but they'd come out. And the Presbyterians would always have a picnic out at our place every year, the Madison Presbyterians. We knew the Madison people, were friends with them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there any difference between the people who lived in town and the people who lived out in the country? Was there any feeling of town people being more sophisticated or something like that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't believe there were, because the people in Madison didn't believe in education much. I think our family was just about the only one who sent the children off to college.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Maybe some of the rest of them did. I can't remember. But on the whole, I wouldn't say that it was a very intellectual community. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why do you think your parents had this drive to send their children to school, to educate their children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know, but my father was just a fiend about educating his children.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think it was possibly because he hadn't been able to

Page 16
complete his?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Probably. He had some good traits. I think he thought it out that his children could never get anywhere living there on the farm; they must have an education.
[interruption]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Your brothers and your sisters ended up in very different places, politically and economically and in a lot of different ways. I wondered if you had any ideas about why that happened.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I had one younger brother. My brothers were southerners. They had
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My brothers were very sweet to me. I felt very close to them. So I'll just go a little bit ahead. When I found out about things, when I began to find out about race and war and everything, I thought they'd be interested, but they were terribly distressed and called me a nigger-lover. And we lived in Greensboro then. And one of my brothers came and he said, "Now, Mil, the best thing for you to do is to get married. That's the best thing for you to do." Well, I didn't have anybody to marry [Laughter] , and I wasn't particularly interested right then either. But recently I wish I had saved my sister Branson's letter and Mary's letter. Both of them wrote to me—I don't know how they happened to at just this particular time—and told me that they appreciated the fact that I learned about these things and then I told them. So therefore they praised me for . . .

Page 17
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Influencing them.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. Because I found out about it, and I thought they'd be interested. And I was so excited about it all; here was a whole world I knew nothing about. But my brothers never did change. They never did get a world view of things. They were all smart; they made money. But they never did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think by the time you were making all of these discoveries they had already acquired too many vested interests to . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They're just like most of the southerners. They're not interested. Southerners are just like the American colony here in Mexico. Do you think they really care about the Mexican people? I wouldn't want that to get out here. [Laughter] But it's sort of a United States pattern.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Your brother Tom, at least, certainly left the South, didn't he, and travelled?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
All of them except my brother Paul left.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So it wasn't just that they were very provincial southerners.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, they were provincial southerners. My brother Tom was always terribly nice to me. He did try to talk to me once when he lived in California and Harold and I stopped by there to see them. He told me a little bit about his life. And I never did have any arguments with them, but they never changed. They never got a world view. Never did. Even though my brother Jimmy lived in Bolivia, he never understood it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think that the reason your sisters and you could move in very different directions was perhaps because you were closer to your

Page 18
mother and she had a kinder view toward all people?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My mother was a conservative. She once told me when she lived in Greensboro, "Mildred, you can bring your black friends here if you want to, but I will not shake hands with them." This was the black YWCA secretary I worked with in Chicago, and she was coming to North Carolina. But my mother did shake hands with her [Laughter] , and she was very nice when she came.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But it didn't change her mind?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My mother was always conservative in her political views.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did she feel about the changes that you went through politically and socially?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't argue with her much about it. There wasn't any point in it. When I went back to Chapel Hill when I raced to tell everybody about it, the professors there weren't interested and urged me to give up the idea. So I rather kept my trap shut. I thought everybody would be as interested as I was when I was at Asheville, you know. I thought they'd all, "Why, isn't that interesting? Why, I never thought of that." But they didn't. They just argued with me about it, so I didn't run around talking.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So most of the support that you had in the earliest years came from your sisters?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, only it took them a long time. They went to New York. They'd met up with other people. Lois MacDonald was a great influence.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask a few more things about when you were a child. I wondered if the church was an important part of your life when you were growing up?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, we didn't have a church. We lived out in the country. We'd go to Madison some Sun. . . . My father would drive over there

Page 19
in the surrey, and we'd go to the Presbyterian Church. But you can imagine what sort of preachers they had. And then we'd go to the Primitive Baptist Church up there close to us once a month. We didn't go every time. But they were ignorant farmers who preached. The Primitive Baptist didn't have trained preachers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you spend much time in your family on religion? Did you have family prayers or anything like that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Only when the preacher came.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
The preacher came, and then we'd all get down on our knees.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did religion mean anything to you as a child, or church was something interesting that you did every once in a while?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't really question anything, but I was glad to have the beautiful Sunday school cards that we'd get. And I read the New Testament. I won a New Testament when we lived in Leaksville-Spray, and so I read that. And Ruth, my oldest sister, and Branson and I slept upstairs in a room together, and every night I read a chapter in the New Testament. I doubt that I knew what I was reading. But it had my name on it; I still have it here. And I read that every night. Ruth didn't say anything; Brans didn't say anything. I just read it, and then I went to sleep. I couldn't possibly tell you why I read it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You weren't made to read this or anything like . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, nobody read the Bible in the house.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had your mother sort of rejected religion because her mother was so religious?

Page 20
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, she didn't ever reject it. But she wasn't religious, really. She wasn't a fanatic.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
It was just sort of something she did socially every once in a while?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She didn't do much socially. If my father wanted to go to church on Sunday, she'd fix herself up and fix as many children as they could crowd into the surrey and drive over there to Madison, five miles away.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that your family was different from the people around you because they were so interested in education. Were there any other ways in which they were different that you remember? Was that the main difference, that they were determined to send their children to school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
To tell you the truth, I don't put much stock in this, but my family had a better background. My grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side were respected people in their own community. And my Grandfather Price had a factory. And I wouldn't want the people around there to say it, but they did have a more enlightened background. Other people were just poor whites from the South, and you know that type. They were poor whites; that's all. We never associated with them socially.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You only associated with your relatives or the friends of your father's.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there any feeling of real distinction between those people who were able to hold onto their land even if it was mortgaged, who owned their own land, and those who worked as tenants? Was that

Page 21
the major distinction?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
That was one distinction; I don't know whether it was the major one. They just didn't have any education. No education. And of course we thought the blacks were so inferior, it didn't matter to us one way or another whether they had any or not. We always had friendly relations with the blacks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Friendlier than with the poor whites?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
[unknown] just the same. They didn't visit us. The whites might make a visit to us sometimes. We never had anything to do socially with the blacks except to. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were the social distinctions made in religion as well? Were the Presbyterians "better than" the Primitive Baptists?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
The Primitive Baptists were mostly backward people. The Presbyterians were supposed to be better.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why did your family go to the Primitive Baptist Church?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
So they could see everybody. My brother Valentine had a little trunk, and my mother would empty his trunk and make cakes and fried chicken and good ham, and then everybody would have an outdoor meal up there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So it was a community sort of thing.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. We didn't go very often.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you think about your family background, as you said you were doing last night, did you come to any conclusions about where your own values and ideas that eventually led you off into all sorts of progressive causes came from in that family background? Or was it a

Page 22
background that you had to break from completely?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It didn't come from my background. I was trying to think it out last night with Harold. I think I was kind. I think I was brought up. . . . I don't want you to ever think I'm bragging on myself, but I was kind. I couldn't bear to hurt anybody. I didn't ever want to put anybody in his place. So when I found out about blacks, I really realized that I'd always felt superior; why should I feel superior? It took me a long time to think this through; it took me several years to get it straight in my mind. But when I first found out, I was so moved to think that I had been a party to treating them the way we did. And I don't think I told you in that letter, but this Mr. Eleazer said to the group, "Now you don't have to eat with these people. You don't have to eat with blacks. They're just good, kind people, just want to be friends." And some of the southerners there—they were mostly little women southern workers in factories—left. They wouldn't stay in that atmosphere. But that was an eye-opener to me, and I was so excited. My face turned red, and I was just so excited about it, that "Here's something I can do." Because I've always had more or less an inferiority complex. I thought, "Why, I can be worth something. I can do something. I can tell people that we've been wrong."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered if you had any feeling about your position in the family influencing your childhood, at least?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I didn't.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You weren't the youngest or the oldest, so it really didn't matter. [Laughter]

Page 23
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. And I wasn't dull, but I wasn't a very deep thinker. I read, but I didn't read good books very often.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you about your schools. You started to school when your family was living in Wentworth?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember that school that you went to, the first one?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes, Miss Berry was the teacher. And I was her pet. And she came from a family in Reidsville. And Miss Berry would teach me to read. She'd take me up on her lap and teach me to read. And then every summer I would go to Miss Berry's house and stay a month, and Miss Berry had her sister and some brothers, and they called me "Little Mil." And they were always very sweet to me, but they were very reactionary people. But I didn't know they were reactionary, because I was myself, I guess. [Laughter] Anyway, they were very kind to me when we lived in Wentworth.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How old was this teacher?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I guess she was in her twenties. I don't know.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
She was a young woman, then.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And she had a boyfriend there in Reidsville, Mr. Hutchinson. And she had to sneak around and go out with Mr. Hutchinson, because her family didn't like him [unknown] I'm not sure. And one day I was out with her and Mr. Hutchinson. Then she said, "Now, Mil, when we go back, if they ask you if I was with Mr. Hutchinson, you say no." So they did. They got hold of me right away. They said, "Was Mary with Mr. Hutchinson?" I said, "No, she wasn't." And it didn't hurt me at all [Laughter] to tell the lie, because Miss Berry was so good to me. I'd do anything for her. She had a Bible,

Page 24
and it had this verse in it: "Holy Bible, book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine.* [Laughter] I remember that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she read the Bible in school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes. Everybody read the Bible. They were Methodists.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you like the school that you went to in Wentworth?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was a one-room school. And after Miss Berry left we had a teacher, and we had to sing "The Old North State." You know that song "The Old North State"?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We had to sing that every morning. It's "Carolina, Carolina, Heaven's blessings attend thee." And I was just a little thing, and I didn't know the words. So Miss Crossen said, "Mildred, you'll have to sing." And I was a timid little beggar. I said, "I don't know the words." She said, "Well, you open your mouth. Just keep your mouth open then." So then I went home and told my mother, and so [Laughter] everybody had a big to-do over it, that I should have to stand there with my mouth open. I don't know what ever happened.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were any of your sisters or brothers in school with you at that school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
All of them were. My father sent Ruth to the Reidsville Seminary. And my brother Tom, my oldest one, I think he sent him to Oakridge very early.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But the others were in this school with you.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody was in the same room, just one room.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But you were still timid, even though your sisters and brothers

Page 25
were there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I was timid. I'd just cry at the drop of a hat. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
That's hard to imagine. [Laughter] You went to school there, and then did you finish grade school when you went back to the farm? Or did you finish grade school in Wentworth?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I didn't finish it in Wentworth. We went back to the farm. We didn't have a school to go to. Miss Berry came and taught us, and we had a little office building out in the yard, and she taught us for a while.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And your father arranged this, that she would come back with you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. She'd already gone back to Reidsville, but she did come down there and live with us, I think maybe for a year, and taught us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So it was like having a tutor.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. One thing I learned there, she taught us this; all of us would say it together. "The night has a thousand eyes, and the day but one, Yet the light of a whole life dies, when day is done." [Laughter] I remember that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You'd learned these lessons well.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever keep up with her? Do you know what happened to her?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. I got a letter from her; I wish I had kept it. She's dead. But she did write me the sweetest letter not so terribly long ago. She taught in Roxboro, North Carolina. And our school didn't begin until long after other schools began. And so she let me come to

Page 26
her room, and I'd sit there while she was teaching. And in this last letter I ever got from her, she said, "Mil, you were the sweetest little girl." And so many people have told me that. [Laughter] "You were such a sweet little girl." And I don't believe I ever answered Miss Berry's letter.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did she have the same kind of influence on you perhaps that your mother did? Was she a kind person?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was very kind, and she didn't have any children of her own. No, she didn't know anything. But she was sweet.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was she ever interested in hearing about what you went on to do?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. I never would tell them. I never told any of them. I never said anything to them about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When it came time for you to go to high school, arrangements were made for you to go to Miami?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, because there was no place for me to go. My brother Enoch, who is a year and a half older than I am, rode the horse to Madison; that was five miles. But I couldn't ride the horse. We didn't have a horse, anyway, for me to ride. But that was when my father and mother decided that I should go to Miami and live with my uncle.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you react to that decision?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
You never reacted; you just did what they told you to do. There wasn't any reaction on my part. [Laughter] I went.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had you ever met the uncle before?

Page 27
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. He came up there in a Ford. He had a Model T Ford, I think. And I went back with him and his son Dick, who was about my age. And it was a very bad thing to send me down there, because he had tuberculosis then. And my mother let me go down there and live in this small house in Miami with my uncle, who had tuberculosis. He was just spitting like nobody's business. Finally it got so bad in my third year—I guess my next to last year—I wrote my mother and I told her, I said, "Uncle Ashby spits around everywhere around the house." And I knew he had TB. And so I went to live with a neighbor who was awfully nice. I lived with her for a year. And then he died, and then I went back and lived with the children and tried to help the aunt with the house. That was where I lived for the last year.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Your uncle's wife?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My uncle's wife had died years before. She died before I ever went down there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was the school like that you went to in Miami?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was a typical high school.
[interruption]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered what the experience of going to Miami was like for you personally as far as leaving home and going farther away than you'd ever been before, right?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I had some friends down there. I immediately became chummy with them, because one of them knew my cousin Albert Price who lived in Winston-Salem. And her mother and she used to go to Winston-Salem and she knew him, so she immediately became my friend. And then she

Page 28
had a group of friends, so I always had some very good friends in Miami. And then I studied so hard, and my Latin teacher was my brother's classmate at Chapel Hill. And so when I went into the Latin class, he said, "Is Tom Price your brother?" He said it right out before, and I said, "Yes." So he was always so sweet to me, and he'd come around at examination time and he'd say, "Now, Mildred, I want you to make a hundred. Don't be in a hurry; I want you to make a hundred." [Laughter] I don't think I ever did. I didn't mind it. I tell you, we were so poor that no one ever complained about anything. You took what you had to.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why had your uncle moved to Miami in the first place?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't really know. He was married to a woman from Reidsville, McGee, and they were educated people. But my uncle, I think he did well to marry her, but she died and left him with these little children. He wasn't so terribly smart, Uncle Ashby.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you close to his children?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, we lived right there in this little house, but I was very good friends with the two little girls. They were younger than I; I think the next one was four years younger than I was. But the boys (I just hope they'll never read this. Maybe they're dead now; I don't know what's happened to them) weren't very prepossessing. You just didn't feel that they were like their sisters. He had three boys.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So then you graduated from high school [unknown] ?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, and then I went to the Women's College the next year. Brans and I went together. She hadn't finished, but they let her in anyway. And the tuition was so cheap. You could go there for almost

Page 29
nothing.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In the meantime your father had died, and your mother had moved to Chapel Hill.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My father didn't die until I'd been in the Women's College two or three years.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So your family was still on the farm when you came back to go to school.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why did you go to the Women's College?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Because there wasn't any other place cheap enough. And so that was the only place for us to go. We didn't want to go to any of these little religious schools that might have let us in. He wanted us to go to the Women's College.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you came back and your father said you were talking like a Yankee, what had the view been that you had gotten about the North or the rest of the country other than the South as you were growing up?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't get any different view, because people in Miami are the most reactionary people, I believe, in the United States. And everybody was reactionary. I didn't get anything any different. And they're still that way. I went back down there with Harold in 1947. I thought I'd go back to Miami. I was working for China Aid then. But we went down there for a little vacation, and I saw my friends of high school days. And one of the first things they said to me was, "Mildred, you wouldn't know Miami now. It's just full (they meant of

Page 30
Jews) of them."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had you had any contact with Jewish people when you were in Miami?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
There were some in school, but I thought everybody was just alike. I didn't pay any attention to it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you basically didn't have any different experience than you had had in North Carolina.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Except people had more money, and I didn't have any money. And my uncle was very poor. But they were always nice to me, and I'd go to their house and stay, especially if they didn't have any companion for their daughter. I'd go there and stay a week or two. They were always sweet, and I loved them. I just cried when I finally left. I went home once or twice when I was there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Didn't it upset you to be away from your mother for that long?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. I wrote to her, and she wrote to me. Nothing upset me if I couldn't do anything about it, you see. There was nothing I could do about it, so I just accepted it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said you cried when you left Miami. Were you sort of apprehensive about going to Greensboro to school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I didn't know I was going to Greensboro. I wanted to go to Vassar. I used to write "Vassar" all the time I was in high school; I'd write "Vassar" on my pieces of paper. I wanted to go there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where did you get the idea of going to Vassar?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. I just saw about it in some magazine or something. I wanted to go to Vassar. But I never applied there or

Page 31
anything like that, because I knew it would cost money. I cried because to leave my friends. I loved my friends there. And for four years, you see; that's a long time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you came back, did you have trouble getting back into your family or friends in North Carolina?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't have any friends in North Carolina then. So Brans and I went off to the Women's College the next fall. And we loved it there. Oh, we just thought it was great. You know, the first night we were there, they were trying to break in the new girls. So we went over and sat on the hockey field, and there were some benches there. And they taught us this song [sings] : "Ain't it great tonight to be in Carolina, Where the pine trees and the nigger cabins stand, And the finest thing in all of Carolina, N. C. College is the finest in the land." I remember that. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you easily broken in? Was it easy to adjust to living there and going to school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes. We just loved it. We just adored it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What did you like best about it?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We made some friends right away that were from Wilmington. And Brans has a wonderful sense of humor. And she had a trunk. And nobody had trunks, but she had a trunk. And so they would come over to our room and listen to Brans talk about the trunk. [Laughter] And, you know, some of our poverty stories when we were growing up. Oh, we just had a wonderful time. They had big sisters then, and my big sister was so nice to me. I just loved the Women's College. I was there three years, and then I went to Chapel Hill.

Page 32
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How had Branson gone to high school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She lived with my uncle in Leaksville, and so she went to high school there. My father had to farm us out to get to high school.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you and Branson . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered if you would describe the atmosphere at the Women's College when you were there. Was it restrictive or was it open? Were you able to go where you wanted to?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, it was restrictive. They let us go to the First Presbyterian Sunday school on Sunday. Dr. Faust was the President, and one time—I've forgotten the issue—he got up in the main assembly. He said, "Young ladies, I will tolerate no radicalism." And I don't know what it was we did. [Laughter] I haven't the faintest idea. So he didn't tolerate it anymore, whatever it was. I wasn't there with Lois [MacDonald]; I'd already left. She was there my last year, my first year at Chapel Hill and last. But oh, they just adored Lois, Brans and all the people in our group. And I tell you who else was a big influence, Mr. Edward Lindeman.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He was on the faculty when you were there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, he was on the faculty. Did Mary tell you about the hams?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Mr. Lindeman was teaching a class, and he talked about the Cone Cotton Mills. He says, "Instead of giving good wages, they give

Page 33
them hams at Christmas." Well, that just set everybody wild, to criticize the Cone mill. They let him out; he didn't last.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember anything about the reputation that he had in Greensboro or the school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Everybody that knew him just loved him. He was great. The first breath of fresh air we'd ever had there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he have a reputation as an eccentric or anything like that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. I remember his telling us once that Dr. Faust just nearly drove him crazy trying to get him to come down there to teach. He wouldn't let him alone for a day till he got him there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he say anything about what his impression of the school was once he got there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, but he talked to us. He was circumspect. But he did like to make us think, except, of course, Lindeman was never very much of a left-winger himself. He was an awfully sweet person. Did Mary tell you that the Ku Klux Klan ran him out?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
The year I was at Chapel Hill the Ku Klux Klan ran him out of Greensboro. And so I was so horrified that I wrote him a letter, and I said I never heard the like in all my life. And I remember he wrote back to me, but I don't know what he said.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember the reaction of the people on the campus when he left?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I don't remember any of that. Brans could tell you more about that. I don't really know, because I wasn't there.

Page 34
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were there any other people on the faculty who particularly influenced you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't believe there was another soul. Miss Galanda was our history teacher, and I sat at her table. And she had us trace the Roman Catholic Church through the hundreds of years. [Laughter] That was one of her examination questions. I'm a chronic worrier, and one day I was sitting at her table and I was worrying about it. So she said, "Now look here. Ten years from now you won't remember this. It won't mean a thing to you. Why worry about it now?" Ten years, and I never did forget that. [Laughter] I tried not to worry so much. I thought about "In ten years from now, I won't know." But Harold can tell you I'm a chronic worrier; I still am.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wondered if you were exposed to new kinds of materials or new kinds of literature when you were at Women's College. Did you start reading any particular authors who influenced you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I had a course in modern American literature. I remember Robert Frost. The teacher taught us "Death of the Hired Man." I was very much impressed with that. I almost memorized it, I liked it so well.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What were the main student activities that people were involved in there? Was there a student government?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. My very good friend who was one year ahead of me, Lena Kernodle was her name. She was from Washington, D.C. She married a druggist there in Greensboro. She's dead now. She was awfully nice. She was the most popular person in school, and I certainly did like her. And when she left, I remember that I loved her so. Oh, I was just crazy

Page 35
about her. And I went out on the lawn by myself, and I just couldn't control the tears. I thought, "Well, she's gone." She was the best friend. I never did have a friend like her. And later on, after she married, I told her about that, and we both doped it out that that epitomized the end of my childhood, my young days, you know. From now on everything was different. In Chapel Hill I didn't know anybody and didn't know how to get along with so many boys and no girls particularly.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was there a YWCA there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, there was a YWCA, but I don't think anybody paid any attention to it. No, I don't believe there was a. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did the students at Women's College ever discuss social issues or political issues? Was there a debating society?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No such thing as discussing race. You wouldn't do that. The school would have been run out of the state. No, we never discussed social issues.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about any feeling about women's suffrage?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We were all for that. Anna Howard Shaw came there, and we were just crazy about her. She told us we should take part in things. She was a great woman in her time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever do any work for suffrage or get petitions signed?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I was just for it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were most of the women at the school for it?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Most of them didn't care.

Page 36
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But there was a group that did care and was sort of involved in what was going on around them?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. Maybe there was. We had a sort of a clinque there that we went around with, and we discussed everything, but I can't remember if we ever discussed anything worthwhile.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
This was right after World War I. Was there any feeling about the United States' participation in the War?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, we were all for it. Anything the government did was just dandy. We never discussed anything the government did. It was more or less like things are now. I know that government's come in for more criticism, especially since Nixon, but still. . . . We never did really get into any deep questions.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Then your last year you went to Chapel Hill. Why did you transfer?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
My father had died, and my mother moved to Chapel Hill. And my younger brother and Mary went to school there, and Teeny, and so that's the reason I left. Brans stayed on in Greensboro and finished, because she didn't have as good a background in various subjects they wanted at Chapel Hill, so they wouldn't let her in at Chapel Hill. So she went back to the Women's College and finished.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you lived with your mother in Chapel Hill?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, she had a house there, and she took in some of the students for roomers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember the way she felt about making the move, moving off the farm and coming to Chapel Hill? Was it a really

Page 37
difficult time for her?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was anxious to do anything to get something to eat. And I remember as we drove off in the old Ford—she and my brother Enoch and I, and maybe Wright was with us—she cried when she looked back. I didn't cry, but she did when she looked back at the house where she'd lived. But she made the best of it. She was glad to leave the farm.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had you gone home very much during the years you were at Greensboro?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We didn't go home very much. It wasn't very far, but we didn't go home much. We had to spend the summer there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you came to Chapel Hill to school, you said it was sort of difficult after having been at the Women's College. How were women regarded at Chapel Hill then?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
To tell you the truth, I was so innocent of how to get along with men. I had never been with men to that extent. And it looked to me as if all the pills in Chapel Hill liked me, but the ones that were smart and all the girls liked, they didn't pay much attention to me because I was just a country gal. But all these pills. . . . And then the boys we had rooming in the house, they teased me and they told me about these boys. They'd say they were on track, and they always guided their track running "so they'd run by this house just to see you." [Laughter] I remember that. But I didn't have a very good time there. I went to some of the dances and things like that, but I wasn't used to a lot of boys. I didn't have a very good time. And I didn't have any money; And I didn't have decent clothes.

Page 38
I just didn't have anything. My mother had no money, so I had to borrow some just to pay my way in the house and things like that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have any girlfriends at Chapel Hill? Were there many women in your classes?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, but I didn't have terribly much to do with them. They all belonged to sororities. I wasn't a member of a sorority. They had a sorority, all the girls. There weren't very many. And I didn't belong to it. They didn't ask me, and I couldn't have belonged to it anyway because it cost money. No, I didn't have any close friends there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about your studying? You were majoring in history?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, Frank Graham was my professor.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did he influence you very much?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, he didn't. He should have, though. He was so sweet. But the only thing he ever did [Laughter] , one day I saw him out on the campus; he says, "Now, Miss Mildred, I want you to get plenty of sleep at night. That's very important, to get plenty of sleep." But, you know, he was all for the South. He taught American history and what a great man Robert E. Lee was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Oh, really?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And he never really taught us the facts of American history.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
He never raised any questions about race or of class?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, Lord, nobody raised any questions about race. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a question about a race in Chapel Hill.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you surprised later when you heard about what Frank

Page 39
Graham was doing?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I wasn't surprised. It was sort of gradual, you know. Frank Graham [unknown] I was so mad when they defeated him for Senator, because he was such a sweet man. But he was a southerner and had the traditional ideas of the South. He was talking about what a great man Lee was one day in class, and he said the funniest thing and everybody laughed. He said, "Lee could hit Grant in the tail" [Laughter] , and oh, we thought that was the funniest thing. See, he didn't try to hit him [unknown] ; he tried to hit him in the tail." [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was he a good sport? Was he a fun teacher?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, he wasn't a fun teacher, but he was nice; he was good. He was so much better than the other people. I had to take education classes, and terrible, terrible classes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the other people in the History Department? Did you run into any of them?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't think so. I don't think I took another course. There were several things I had to take because I moved to a new school. I had a good English teacher—I can't think of his name—poetry and literature. He was very good, but I didn't apply myself.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you take any sociology? Did you have any contact with Howard Odum or the Institute for Research?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I knew Dr. Odum, but I don't think I took any sociology there. I'm pretty sure I didn't, because when I went to Chicago I started taking it and I realized that I had never had any.

Page 40
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you know about Odum's work or any of the people . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes, everybody knew about Odum's work. They were all very proud of Odum. And my mother's cousin was there. He was Dr. Branson, and he did quite a lot about tenant farming.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of those people influence you? Did they start raising any kinds of questions that made you think about different things?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. None of them. Southerners, they're so scared, especially at a state school, they're scared the legislature will cut off the money.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did Odum receive any criticism that you remember for the kind of work he was sponsoring?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't think so. Everybody liked Dr. Odum. I never remember his receiving any; they were all very proud of him.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Back to when you were there in the twenties, I read that you were involved in a group called the Christian Endeavor Society?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We went to the Presbyterian Church; that's the organization. And I played the piano for them.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was the church a big influence at that time in your . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
The pastor—I can't remember his name—he'd go to the philosophy class. I used to go there sometimes. And he was pretty good. But that didn't have any influence on me. I'd just go over there and play the piano. I think Harold made that up about that Christian Endeavor. I just played the piano for it. I played the hymns. I didn't have any interest in it, particularly.

Page 41
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What were your own political views when you finished college?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't have any.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Not at all? You weren't even a "good Democrat"?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I couldn't say that I was. I just didn't take any interest in it. I wanted the Democrats always to win, but I didn't have any.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you hear anything while you were in college about the Women's Trade Union League or the settlement movement?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever read Jane Addams' work?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I knew about her, but I don't think I every read anything about her.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Jacob Reis or Ben Lindsay or any of that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
All those I knew about, but I didn't have any interest in it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you finished college, do you remember having any sense of what you wanted to do or where you wanted to go?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I knew I had to teach school; that was all I knew how to do. I didn't know how to do it, but I mean it was the only thing I was trained for.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So that was as far ahead as you thought. You had an obligation to teach for a couple of years, didn't you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I had to teach to pay back my tuition.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have any plans further than that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I didn't. I didn't get along very well teaching in Wilson. A Mr. Coon was the Superintendent, and oh, was he ghastly. His wife taught, too. But he was so terrible. I didn't know how to teach; it

Page 42
was my first year.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they assign you to a school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, a man came there and recruited teachers. There was a high school student who had a car. I even remember this boy's name, Bugs Cozart. He would wait for me when I got through teaching and take me home in his car. Well, I didn't think anything about it. It didn't occur to me that somebody couldn't take a teacher home in a car. He was a senior. And so I didn't realize that I was doing anything wrong. Nobody told me I was doing anything wrong. He'd just take me home, and I'd get off. And so Mr. Coon brought it up in a teachers' meeting. He didn't call any names. But that just nearly slew me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you talk to him about it?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, no, you never talked to him about anything. He wrote me a letter when I said I'd teach there, and he said, "Now, I don't want any card-playing, dancing people." I taught a history written by Muzzy, and Muzzy taught that the South was in the wrong, too. So I went to a woman's house one night and told her what it was teaching. Oh, she was just horrified that I would teach that the South was in the wrong. She was horrifed. Well, two or three things like that happened, so I didn't go back. I taught in a place called Roland for one year, and then I got recruited for the YW.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where did you live when you taught in Wilson and Roland?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
One of my school friends, Ethel Bynum from Farmville, was there, and she and I lived together, and we lived in two people's houses.

Page 43
Ethel was awfully fussy. She was tactless. So we lived in this woman's house, and Ethel didn't think we had enough heat. So she bawled her out, and so we left, but she was glad for us to leave. And we went to another house, and it was absolutely terrible. The worst child I've ever seen in my life was in that house. So then we moved to another house, so we lived, really, in three houses in Wilson. And we knew some men there, and we played bridge a lot. I really enjoyed the contacts in Wilson.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever get in trouble for playing cards?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I never did. [Laughter] I didn't even think about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you did have some fun when you lived there.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And then I went to Roland. I know what they wanted me to do in Wilson. They wanted me to teach the grammar school grades. They wanted me not to teach in high school anymore. And I didn't want to do that. So then I went to Roland. The Superintendent of Schools in Roland didn't know how to speak the English language. [Laughter]
So I was very happy when Miss Leonard [Mrs. Louise Leonard McLaren] came by, and asked me if I didn't want to work for the YW. I was very glad.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you meet her?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was a friend of Lois MacDonald. Lois told her to try to recruit Brans. And Brans said, "I don't want to do it, but my sister Mildred might." So she sent her to me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So she came up to Roland and talked to you about it?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I think I was at Chapel Hill, and she came by Chapel Hill.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was she like then?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was just the way she always was. She was a typical Vassar

Page 44
graduate, very dignified and kind, and wanted people to get social ideas.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was she enthusiastic about the YWCA per se?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, she loved it. She liked to work for the YW. There were so few organizations like that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you immediately say yes, that you would love to be recruited as an industrial secretary?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She said I should go to New York that summer of '24 and study at the YWCA School, and I said, "Well, I have no money." I think I got a hundred dollars a month in Roland, and the school just lasted nine months. But she said, "Well, maybe you can get along some way or other." I've forgotten how I got along, but I know that ten cents meant a great deal to me at that time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you went to New York during the summer of '24?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that an experience for you, to go to the city?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. I couldn't understand all those foreigners in New York. They all had such big feet; I remember that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Big feet.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, at least [unknown]. [Laughter] I lived on the East Side, and these foreigners looked so different to me. And I thought their feet were the biggest feet. I have big feet myself. But they were poor people, and they had these spread-out shoes. I wasn't exactly afraid of them, but I stayed clear of them. And it was so hot in New York.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Where did you live?

Page 45
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I lived in an apartment house. Some of the YWCA secretaries rented it out. They were away for the summer, and I lived there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What kinds of things did you learn at the YWCA?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, I learned so much. They had a group there in New York—maybe it was the Fellowship of Reconciliation; I can't remember—and they'd take a group around every Saturday to a different group. They took us to the socialists, to the communists, to the Christian Fellowship; they took us around to every kind of thinking group; the pacifists. And every one they'd take me to, I'd think it was right. It just seemed to appeal to me. "We don't want any more war," so they took it to this. And then they'd take you to the socialist group, and I'd say, "Well, that sounds interesting. I'd like to know about that." [Laughter] I don't believe they took us to the communists then; I can't remember. But anyway, every one I went on, I was so impressed, and [Laughter] I thought how nice it would be if I could belong to a group like that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was this sponsored by the YWCA?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Contacts you made through the Y?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. They put a bulletin board up on the wall in the YWCA, and then you'd decide to go. And you'd pay a little something, and they'd take you around.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did they run a school themselves at the Y?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, they did. That was where I studied that summer.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And you attended classes there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, on how to be a YWCA secretary.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter] What were they giving out as how to be a YWCA

Page 46
secretary?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, they told you about programming, and how to recruit girls, and . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was all that sort of practical, very pragmatic sorts of things that you would need to know when you went into a town to set up a program?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Rather than being political or social?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, no, no. They didn't want you to be political. You could be social-minded. And they were all for blacks. And when I got to Lynch . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Louise said, "Now, you go to the YWCA conference in Lake Junaluska, and you can tend to the bookstore there to pay for your way."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
This was right after school ended, your year at Roland?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, when I went back to Chapel Hill I saw Louise. She said, "Now you go to Lake Junaluska and see what the YWCA conference is like." She said, "You can take care of the bookstore," so I did. And that's when I heard that speaker, Dr. Eleazer. See, I was ready for all these organizations in New York, because the seed had been planted in Asheville [Laughter] , of all places. And so then I went up there.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember specifically what Eleazer was saying?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. I thought I told you in the letter. Did I tell you what he said about Livingstone?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No.

Page 47
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He said, "Blacks are fine people. You don't want to eat with them. You don't have to eat with them. They're fine people. When Livingstone, the missionary in Africa, died in the southern part of Africa, the blacks took his body on their shoulders and walked up to the Mediterranean." Oh, I was so impressed. He said, "They're good people. At the end of the Civil War, do you think they did any harm to their masters? No. Many of them stayed right along there with them." Goodness, I was so excited. My God, what is this? And then the next day, he talked about war. He said, "There isn't a bit of sense in war, spending all that money on armaments. Why, it's terrible, terrible to have war." I was still more excited. My face stayed red all the time. And then the third day, he talked about workers and how poorly paid they were, workers in factories. And I never had known any workers in factories. When we lived in Spray my brothers worked at a cotton mill there, but they just did it in the summer. So those three ideas, Mr. Eleazer planted them, and then when I went to New York these organizations told me about what they were doing. So then when I went to Lynchburg, I was pretty much of a red. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When Eleazer said these things, you described your own reaction as being very immediate.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And yet you said earlier that it took a long time . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It took me a long time to think about the blacks, I mean intermarriage and association with them. It took me years to understand everything in my own mind.

Page 48
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about eating? He mentioned that specifically, "You don't have to eat with them"?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that a particular problem as far as . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Most southerners just couldn't stand the thought of eating with the blacks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was that a problem for you or in your family?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We never tried to. We never even thought about it; it was absolutely out of our culture to eat with blacks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were you able, when you heard him talk, to integrate things that you had seen like the way poor people lived, or the hierarchy in the society that you'd grown up in?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know whether I ever thought those things through.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
It was more like a revelation than any kind of rejection of something else.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And when I went home from the Junaluska conference, my brothers were there—we lived in Greensboro—Brans was there. And so we were all sitting around in this living room in Greensboro, and I said, "We shouldn't spend our money on the armies and on guns." And my oldest sister Ruth says, "Mil, the Lord helps those who help themselves." [Laughter] And so I didn't have any answer for that. And then I told them about the blacks, and it was just as if I were talking to them in a foreign tongue. And that's when my brother Jimmy, who loved me so, said, "Mil, you must get married."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter] Quick, before anything else happens to you.

Page 49
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What had the reaction been of the other people who were at the YWCA conference at Junaluska?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Some of the girls wanted to go home.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that some women were there from the factories?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, all of them. I worked in the Industrial Department of the YW. I'd go to visit factories all the time in Lynchburg.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So some of them actually picked up and went home.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
One or two of them did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the others? Were they open to new ideas? Were they afraid of new ideas?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They just were sort of apathetic. But some of them learned. Now some of the girls at Lynchburg, we became very good friends. They didn't want me to go around telling everybody. They would caution me, but we were always good friends.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about the women like yourself? Was there anyone there who was in training like you were?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody. All the YWCA secretaries. They all agreed; they got Mr. Elezer. Not a one of them was a reactionary. They all were just like Louise.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
They were all in sort of the same frame of mind about . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody. They were all Christian socialists; that's what they were.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they able to integrate the over-all goals or ideas of the Y, which, as I understood them, were sort of. . . . Well, Christian

Page 50
socialists. I mean was there much emphasis on the religious aspect of it?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Not much. Do you know that song "Follow the Gleam"?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They were sort of "Follow the Gleam"-ish. Louise was the leader of it, and she was always very nice.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Politically, at that time, you would describe her as a Christian socialist?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I never did describe her. They all voted Democratic, and they didn't have anything to do with the socialists, any of the left-wing parties.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So then when you went to New York and you were introduced to left-wing parties for the first time by the Fellowship of the Reconciliation, how many other YWCA secretaries were interested in political activity?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't think there were any others. I lived with a woman then from Virginia, Fay. Fay didn't know very much. I don't know what her attitude was. She was goodhearted. She could make the best chocolate cake. And when I got to Lynchburg, I found the YWCA General Secretary, the head of it, and she sort of cautioned me about telling my ideas. Lynchburg was a terribly conservative place; I guess it still is.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you went to New York for the first time, how long did you stay there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I stayed there in the summer about six weeks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And in that time, it seems that you changed pretty quickly.

Page 51
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I began to see things, but I still hadn't got it clear in my mind. But I still began, slowly, to catch on to the intellectual world. And then Louise told me, after I'd been at Lynchburg one or two years, she wanted me to go to that Christian-Jewish conference in Olivet and I did, and I met some Jews there. I never had known any Jews. So I learned a lot at Olivet. Reinhold Neibuhr was there, and they talked. I didn't half the time know what. . . . They were talking about the Jewish situation in Poland then—it was terrible—but I was bored to death with that, because I didn't know any Poles and I didn't know any Jews. And I remember a rabbi. I was getting ready to leave, and he said, "Why are you leaving?" I don't know what I told him. He said, "Why don't you stay around and listen a little bit more?" So I did, and then he was the one that said to me, "Why don't you go to school some more?" And I said, "Well, I finished the University." He said, "Well, my dear, you don't know anything." [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you finished the training in New York and you came back south, was it prearranged that you would be a YWCA secretary in the South, or did you want to come back?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, but they wanted me to go to the South, because they needed secretaries. No body wanted to go to the South.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was so reactionary and so dull.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Louise Leonard, though, was always particularly interested in the South, wasn't she?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, but she was assigned to that region, because she could

Page 52
get along with people, although people didn't like her too well; she was too much of a Yankee. But I think they wanted me to go where I would have felt at home and where they needed an industrial secretary.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was the program like at Lynchburg? Were you setting up the first industrial program there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, they had some people before me. But they left; they didn't stay long. We had classes in trade unionism. I don't know that we had any classes in race. It was sort of to get the industrial workers interested in the world, mostly shoe workers in Lynchburg. And we'd go on hikes, and we had plays so we could raise some money to go to the next conference. And every conceivable activity. We had classes every Thursday night. They'd come there, and we'd have discussions and classes. And to this day I've been afraid of Thursday night, because I was always afraid nobody would come on Thursday night. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How many people usually came?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I guess around fifteen or twenty.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did they react to trade unionism? Did most of them belong to unions?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. Oh, Craddock-Terry owns the whole shoot; at least they did then. Owns the whole business in Lynchburg, and they were scared to death of unions. But we didn't urge them to start trade unions. They were scared to death they'd lose their job. It was a ticklish business. But we just. . . . What they were, you know, and sort of general trade unions.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So it was really very elementary, like "There is this thing

Page 53
called a trade union"?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
"You might think about it [unknown] "?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And of course we didn't have anything to do with blacks. The blacks had their own YWCA.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever do anything together?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. The black secretary used to come over to our staff meetings. Oh, she was so pretty. She was so lovely. And a friend of mine was a Girl Reserve secretary. And I was so afraid, at even that time, that this black secretary would call me by my first name, that I continued to call her "Miss Whatever-her-surname-was." I was so scared she'd call me Mildred. And this secretary, who was a William and Mary graduate, called her by her first name, because she had far less race prejudice than I did. I still had race prejudice, you know. But Anita Rucker, this girl that I lived with. . . . She lives in Westchester County now.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You lived with her in Lynchburg?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And my mother came up and lived with us one year. Anita said, "You know, I like the negroes. The only thing is, I wouldn't want to have a little black baby." I remember she said that. "That's the only thing I wouldn't want to do, is have a little black baby."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you react to that?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I thought she was right. I wouldn't either.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
[Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't say anything, but. . . .

Page 54
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But she would even think of intermarriage?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We didn't mention intermarriage. She just mentioned that one day. I'm just trying to show you how long it took me to get myself straightened out. It just took months and months and years even.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did your mother react when she lived with you during that year, to what you were doing?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She didn't see any blacks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was it all right for you to be working with factory workers?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, anything to make a living. I was paid fifteen hundred dollars, I think, a year there, and I thought that was a princely salary. Anita and I sold candy and everything to try to raise money for the activities of the YW. And then there was a family there in Lynchburg that liked me, the Woodsons. Mr. Woodson had a candy factory. And they had one daughter who helped with the YW volunteer work. And Mrs. Woodson would say, "I like the negroes"—I don't know whether she said "niggers" or "negroes"—"I like them. I think they're all right. I think we should be very kind to the negroes." People in Lynchburg on the whole were very conservative, but they were a little bit more educated than the people in North Carolina about race.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you think some of that came through the church, maybe? Was it a Christian sort of thing?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, the church absolutely never did anything about race. Never. I hate to say it, but they didn't.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you develope a close relationship with the factory women you were working with?

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MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. Oh, we had a very close relationship.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they about your age?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. There was one much older. All of us called her "Miss Lily." And I had a very bad case of appendicitis my first year at Lynchburg. And I called the girls "the girls," or "my girls" maybe I said. So one day the doctor was there, and Miss Lily, a great big tall woman—she was at least twenty-five or thirty years older than I was—came to see me. I introduced her. I said, "This is one of my girls," and I thought the doctor would die laughing. Miss Lily. [Laughter] Nobody ever called her by her first name. She was always "Miss Lily."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were these women unusual in their community?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, they were just shoe workers.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I mean, were they leaders among the shoe workers, do you think? Why did they come to the YWCA?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, you couldn't be a leader among the shoe workers. There was no organization. They came to the YWCA because they wanted to do something interesting, something different. We had classes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did any of them really change their ideas or get disgruntled with the situation they were working under or become very unhappy about the wages they were making?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, they didn't. I remember Edith McDonald was one of them, and she and I were very good friends. She said, "Craddock-Terry's good to us. I can't say that we need a union. Craddock-Terry's good to us. They are good people." I didn't try to argue with her. But there weren't any unions in Lynchburg.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you talk to them about women in the work force, or was

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there any emphasis on the fact that they were women workers rather than just workers, that they had special problems like . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't know enough to talk to them about that. I did talk to them about race. I did teach them something about race.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did they react?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They saw I was friendly, and I didn't try to take them too far. But I think we did have some talks on race. But we didn't associate, because they had their own YWCA.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that when you first went to Lynchburg you were hot and ready to go in this new work, and some people cautioned you not to move too far too fast.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, the General Secretary did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever receive any criticism for the work that you were doing? Did you have opposition in Lynchburg to the kind of work you were trying to do?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No. I was so benign. Nobody could ever oppose me when I was so benign. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you have any contact with the employers of these women?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They were so nice to me. They told me I could come into the factory—of course this was against me, but I didn't realize it—any time I got ready. Always, just walk right in, go anywhere I want to in the factories.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Why do you think they were so nice to you?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Because they thought I was harmless. I was just coming over there to see the girls and ask them to come to the YW.

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MARY FREDERICKSON:
So the YW was perfectly acceptable?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, they sure were. They gave money for it all the time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Even though you talked about trade unions, or did they not know you talked about trade unions?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't remember what I said, but I was very careful about what I said.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you work with business women?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I did. Industrial women and business women. We had a group of business women.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was that group like?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
They were very much like the other, except they felt superior. And I can't remember just what we talked about.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever try to do anything with the two groups together?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
We might have, but I don't remember it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did you ever have any trouble from the YWCA board? Was there a board of people from the community?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, only one time they didn't like what I said. I had read in some paper about what was going on in Russia, and it seemed terribly interesting to me. It was all so different. I had never read anything about Russia; I hardly knew there was a Russian revolution. And so one night I went to a board meeting, and I told them about Russia. And I was so happy I was able to tell them about this new thing. Oh, they were simply horrified, so I never mentioned it again. [Laughter]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about your own political activity during that time? Had you kept in contact with any of the groups you'd met in New York?

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There wasn't a socialist local or anything like that in Lynchburg, was there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, I wouldn't have gone to it anyway.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you sort of broke off that political contact that you'd had for a while.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't really have any political contact.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I mean when you'd been introduced to political groups in New York, you didn't continue.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I didn't know any of them, and I never heard of them again.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you were working for the YWCA, in addition to Louise Leonard, did you have contact with any other people who were particularly important or interesting to you, any of the other secretaries who you remember? Did you meet Katharine Lumpkin at that time?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was a friend of Louise and Lois; I met Katharine Lumpkin. I don't know whether she was a Trotskyite or not, but she was sort of that persuasion. I can't remember how long ago it was. I knew Katharine, and I liked her. I remember later on when I lived in New York, I think she was with the Trotskyites. Not that I had so much against the Trotskyites—I didn't know too much about them—but I think she was.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So she was never working in the South at the same time you were?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, this is Katharine. Well, I don't know about Katharine. I was thinking about Grace. I met Katharine and I remember how nice she was, but I don't remember anything much about her.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about Lois MacDonald? Did you continue to have contact with her?

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MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. Until they moved out in the country we used to see them. They lived right across the hall from us there when we first went to New York.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about when you were in the South working for the Y? Did you see her then?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She came down and gave a series of lectures on cotton mills at the YWCA conference. Louise asked her to come down, and she gave a series of talks.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember at the time feeling any kind of disillusionment with the YWCA? Did it go far enough? Did you think it was a worthwhile organization?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I did. I never was disillusioned with the YW, and I'm still not.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So you thought that, given the social situation, they did everything that they could?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I think so.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
It seems that you were quite close to Louise Leonard during this period. Do you remember her ever getting disillusioned with the Y?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't remember, but I know Louise grew in political thinking, she and Mac. I don't remember the details, but I remember that when we lived in New York—I don't think she was working for the YW—I think she and Mac both turned to the left somewhat. Mac has a habit of writing long, long letters in longhand, just over pages and pages. I could hardly finish the letters. [Laughter] I must write to him, though. He said, "Why don't I ever hear from you?" He's so good, and he wishes he were back driving a taxi.

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MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember Louise Leonard thinking about doing something other than the Y like setting up a southern summer school?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I remember when she was going to do that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember anything about making the transition from the YWCA organization to this kind of workers' school? Why did she want to create a new organization?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I guess she wanted to teach all kinds of southern workers, men as well as women, and she had some people in New York that were interested. And so I think she thought it would be good to have a school in the summer. She was married to Mac then. I don't know what she did in the winter; I guess trying to get ready for the summer, to raise money and things like that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But you don't remember talking to her and ever having her say something like, "The YWCA, because of its tie to employers within the community and because it gets money from the employers, can never do anything as far as really changing the social situation." Was she ever that explicit about what she was trying to do?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
She was all for trade unions, but I don't know. You knew that Leo Hilberman taught for her.
[interruption]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
. . . the southern summer school. There was one student there named Willie. I can't think of Willie's last name; he was a cotton mill worker.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Helms?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Maybe it was Helms. Did you meet him?

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MARY FREDERICKSON:
No.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Willie talked in the worst southern accent I've ever heard. And Leo Huberman was just crazy about Willie. Here he was, this cotton mill worker, and he just talked so southern you could hardly understand him, but he had the most advanced ideas. One day Leo was carrying on a discussion, and he talked about workers having guns: should they have guns? And so they argued and argued. Some of them thought they should. Finally he said, "Well, Willie, what do you think?" He says, "Leo, the workers should not have guns." Of course, that was what Leo wanted him to say. I never forgot that.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you were working for the Y, did you get an over-all optimistic view about changing people's minds?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said here that after you were exposed to Mr. Eleazer that you had the ambition to change people's minds along social lines. When you left Lynchburg, were you basically optimistic about that happening?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I've always been an optimist. I didn't know what to do in Chicago except go to school and learn something, though I didn't learn much, to tell you the truth. I haven't gone at it with an axe the way I used to, but I always liked. . . . My prime puropose in joining the Unitarians was to see if we couldn't change people's minds. That's why I joined the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut. I didn't have any other organization to work through, and I think it's better to work through organizations. And so that's why I've been working with

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the Unitarians.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you left this conference and the rabbi told you that you should go and get more education, how did you come to going to Chicago? How was that decision made?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He said, "Why don't you go to Chicago?" I said, "Well, I have no money." He said, "If you want to go, you could go." And so I stayed one more year in Lynchburg and saved all the money I could, and then I met at that conference a YWCA secretary named
END OF INTERVIEW