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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 >>

Sexual harrassment in Congress during the 1930s

In an era before sexual harassment lawsuits, female activists and lobbyists faced a variety of advances as they negotiated the halls of Congress.

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

And I was younger in those days, considerably younger, you can imagine. Let's see, this was 1938, so I was about 35. I was a good deal better looking than I am now, too. So I was subjected for the first time to the Senators and the Congressmen. You know,,. well, we won't get into that. You know to be a Senator or Congressman you had to have a rather large ego because it takes an awful lot of work and strength and vitality and insult and vigor. [Well now let's do get into that. What would happen when you'd go to their offices?] Well, frequently they'd chase you around the desk. [Literally?] No, sometimes just literally. You'd see this large mountain of a man rise up, coming towards you, and you'd back toward the door. They were all men of strong sexual urges I would say. But you know you really couldn't take it personally because it was rather universal. And you didn't feel like you were being particularly distinguished for any unusual charms or beauty. It was just that, you know, you were female. But that was something that you had to get used to. And fair game, absolutely. Well, I was protected in a way, more so than some of the other girls who had rather more disastrous experiences because you see I was Hugo Black's sister-in-law and Clifford Durr's wife. Well Clifford Durr you see was on the RFC and on the FCC in both of which positions he could refuse or give a radio station or a TV grant or a loan of money. So that was considerable restraint. And I don't say that every single Congressman and Senator's office you went into, you know, began chasing you around the office, but this is just one of the hazard's of working on the Hill. So some of our young ladies that we would send out to lobby would come back considerably disheveled. It was such a joke though, because some of the biggest Senators-McKellar of Tennessee was one of the worst and he must have been 88 or 89. Anyway, boy, Senator McKellar he was like an old bird dog. He'd just see a woman come in the room and he was right after her. And he must have been 87. I swear I believe he was. But anyway we began to lobby on the Hill and do all the things you have to do to get a bill through. And I still kept my connections with, you know, Mrs. Roosevelt and with the Democratic Women's Committee.