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 >>

Learning about sex at Wellesley

Though Wellesley was a more liberal environment than Durr's middle-class southern upbringing, certain strictures still governed what women did and did not learn.

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 let me tell you how they taught sex at Wellesley. This is another thing that makes you realize how these inhibitions extended everywhere. When we were freshmen, we had about four hundred girls in the class and my room-mate and I, now, she was extremely popular, but she was just as innocent as I was. She didn't know anything about sex. And she came from Buffalo. Now, she had kissed a few more boys than I had and so, she regarded herself as far more experienced, but she didn't know anything about sex either. She was just as ignorant as I was. So, they had a course for freshmen students and it was supposed to be preparation for marriage, as they called it. So, all the freshman class went to the chapel and we looked at a movie for several nights running. Well, the first night that we got there, this young lady and this young man met each other at a party and they carried on a conversation and then he asked her if he could come to see her and then one of the professors gave us a talk about meeting men and manners and the rules of the college about how you couldn't go into Boston without a chaperone and we were taught the proper way to act as a Wellesley student. So then the second night of the preparation for marriage course, the young man and the young lady had met each other and they were taking a walk in the woods somewhere and they sat down in a hammock and the apple blossoms began to fall on them and he leaned over and kissed her and asked if she would marry him and she said yes. So, that was the second lesson. Well, the lady that gave us the lecture that night, she didn't advise us not to sit in hammocks, but she did make it plain that you didn't sit in hammocks with young gentlemen until you were ready to marry them and you certainly didn't kiss them until you were ready to marry them. That was made very plain. So, the third night,we found that they had the wedding and it made us all just drool with envy, white veils and white satin and long trains and candles and the Minister officiating in the robes and bridesmaids and flowergirls and the handsome groom in full dress and all. They got married in the most beautiful wedding that you've ever seen, just showers of flowers and they threw shoes at them and rice and oh, we just came back from that just drooling with envy and just delighted. Then, the moral was very plain, that if you conducted yourself properly, that if you didn't sit in the hammock with a young man and kiss him until you got ready to marry him, you would get married and have a beautiful wedding and you would live happily ever after. But we had one more course. And that was when they were leaning over the cradle with the baby. But we never knew how the baby got there. (laughter) I know that you will think this is absolutely insane, but there they were married and this was just bliss. They were both so proud and so happy and they were going to live a life of joy and bliss forever afterwards. But how that baby got there, we couldn't figure out. Well, we discussed it at great length and most girls, including me, thought it was the kiss, that scared us. (laughter) We had kissed boys.