Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Durr goes to Wellesley

Though her education was of little value to her family, Durr managed to convince her parents to send her to Wellesley for two years. While there, she began to question many of the assumptions that had governed her relationships and behavior while in Alabama. She explores this idea further later in the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

But anyway, that summer, after Sister got married, I had gone to the Cathedral School and came back that summer and I was just dying to go to college. I had passed most of my college boards. I think that I had to take Latin again, never was very good in Latin and although I had a splendid teacher that year, Miss Webster, who was really wonderful and I did get interested in Latin at that point, because she used Latin as a sort of a history thing, the whole Roman Empire. Anyway, Daddy finally consented but I think that my mother came around to be willing to spend the money. Now, the tuition and board at Wellesley in those days was $800 for the whole year. You know, that's just ridiculous for these days, I think that it is something like four or five thousand right now, but of course, I had to have my railroad fare back and forth and my clothes and my allowance of $25 a month and it all added up, I reckon, to about $1500 a year, which was a lot of money for my family. But Daddy agreed to my going and I really think that my mother thought, "Well, Virginia has gotten better looking and her rough edges have been smoothed off some and maybe she'll catch a rich beau up there." She never said it, but I'm sure that we were getting steadily poorer in those days and I think that she just in the back of her mind, like most southern mothers that were hard up,hoped that I would bring home a Yankee millionaire, maybe. She never said it, but Hugo was doing very well then and I think that he encouraged them to send me off to college. Now whether he helped with the fees or not, I don't know. I know that he helped the family out a lot, but that was always a matter of mystery, what he did. I know what Cliff did and my mother and father finally had to be totally supported by Hugo and my brother and Cliff.
Now, what about your brother? Was he off?
Well, my brother was in the war, too. He was a naval aviator and he came back and he went up to Kentucky and worked in the coal mines. They were the Laniers, neighbors and friends of ours who owned them. He was going up to Kentucky and learn to . . . .
He was going to be a coal operator.
Yes, a coal operator, not a coal miner but he first had to learn the business. I don't know whether he ever dug coal or not, I doubt that. But the Laniers were friends and neighbors of ours and they had big mines up in Kentucky and he went up there and began to work for them. He wasn't at home. My brother had been an SAE at the University with Cliff and all the SAEs were sort of the top dogs in Birmingham society then and they were all the big drunks. (laughter) My brother never let me go with any of his fraternity brothers. I had a few of them that would ask me for dates, but he said, "No. Jinksie can't go out with that boy." He was his best friend but he knew that he was an old drunk and also that he made passes. So, I was protected by my brother from suchbehavior. Well, anyway, they finally agreed to send me off to Wellesley. Well, that was a great event because Mother immediately went down and had some very fine ball dresses made. (laughter) To go off to Wellesley. And she bought me a squirrel coat, that was a great thing in those days, a squirrel coat. I was so proud of it, a fur coat, the first one that I ever had and I just thought that it was the most gorgeous thing in the world. Have you ever seen a squirrel coat? Well, they are grey and very pale. So, my best friend in Birmingham at that time was a girl named Virginia Jemison and she was a sophomore. So, I went off to Wellesley.