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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Durr becomes increasingly interested in the New Deal

Some of the most important catalysts Durr encountered while living in Washington that pushed her into activism were the people surrounding her. Through Clifford and the Landises, Durr met a group of educated liberals who pushed her to become more socially aware.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. 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

Oh, I thought the New Deal was the most marvelous thing in the world. And I had met Aubrey Williams and Anita. You see, they lived in Arlington not very far from us. And I had met them, and we used to go over there on Sundays. [Now what did he do in the New Deal at that point?] Harry Hopkins was head of the WPA, and he was the assistant administrator of the WPA and he also got to be head of the NYA. The Williams had all these boys, you know; they had 4 boys, and they lived in Arlington County which was several miles from where we lived, but on the Virginia side. They had an old house. And they'd have these parties on Sunday. Oh, all kinds of people would come out. Anita was a wonderful cook, and a beautiful woman. I don't know if you've ever seen her or not. She's one of the prettiest women I ever say. She was a real beauty, too, if you know what I mean, had perfect bone structure. And Aburey was very gracious and funny and hospitable. His boys were attractive, and they'd have a bright fire, delicious food and drink. People would love to gather at the Williams' on Sunday afternoon. I met a lot of the New Dealers through that. And then I remember meeting Helen Gahagan Douglas there for the first time. She was another of the great beauties. She looked like a Greek goddess; she was just gorgeous. She was a sweet person, too, and very nice. Cliff wasvery admiring of her; h [Was she married to Melvin Douglas at the time?] Uh-huh, yes. Then Pete Seegar I remember meeting there. Well, I'd met Pete first at the Highlander Folk School when he was a boy out of Harvard. Alan Lomax was there. You see the Seeger family lived in Washington. [Alan Lomax was where? at the Williams or at Highlander Folk School?] Well, I met him at the Williams. I met Pete first at Highlander. But they would bring their guitars there, and that was the beginning of the great folk music.. You see Alan Lomax' father was head of the folk music division of the Library of Congress, and Pete Seeger's father was head of the whole music division of the Library of Congress, I believe, I'm sure he was. Anyway, Pete and Alan were the founders of the folk music revival. Taping hadn't come in then; I don't think they even had electronic taping then. But they would go all over the country. When I first saw Pete, he had acne and a dirty sweatshirt on and a pair of dirty jeans and he'd left Harvard and he was going all over the country with a guitar collecting folk music. I just adored him from the very start. He's another pure character that I never had anything but praise and love for. I think he's a wonderful person. But they would come out to the Williams and play folk music. And then there was another place we got to go. Some beautiful girls rented a house next to us on Seminary Hill, and one of them married Tom Eliot. [She married Tom Eliot?] Congressman, he was a Congressman from Massachusetts. He was the grandson of the president of Harvard. Her name was Lois, heavens she was one of my best friends and I can't remember what her name was before she married. But anyway, there were 7 or 8 of them that rented this house for the summer, and they were very attractive, very pretty girls. They all had jobs in the New Deal in one way or the other. Through them we got to know a lot of the younger kind of New Dealers, like Jim Rowe and Jerry Reilly -and he married one of these girls. There were just all sorts of young men that were coming out to visit these girls. And they would have square dances. There was lots of music there. And then another place that was a sort of center was Tom Corchran, you know who he was. They had what they called the "little red house" where a lot of the young bachelors lived, and they'd have parties. So we began to sort of make friends in the New Deal crowd, if you know what I mean, the ones what were doing things. So I got just absolutely to be a great New Dealer. I thought what they were doing was marvelous.