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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Willie Snow Ethridge, December 15, 1975. Interview G-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Raising a family while forging a successful writing career

Ethridge describes how she balanced raising her family, taking care of household chores, and forging a successful career as a writer while her children were growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. According to Ethridge, women should be able to have both family and a career, although she suggests that having a career as a writer, which allowed her flexibility of hours, contributed to her success with balancing the two. Overall, her comments offer the suggestion that despite having a career, maintaining the household remained the primary responsibility of women.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Willie Snow Ethridge, December 15, 1975. Interview G-0024. 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

LEE KESSLER:
I think from looking at your books that you really have been happy, not only as a writer but as a wife and mother.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Yes, yes; it works out just fine. I didn't start writing, fortunately for my peace of mind, until the first set of children (the first three children) were born and were in school. I wrote columns for the paper, but that just didn't take very much time—I mean [laughter] , in the afternoons or mornings when they were in school. But then when I really settled down to writing they had all started to school, so I had plenty of time. And when they came home from school I always put away everything, because otherwise you get irritated if you're trying to write and they're around and under your feet and asking you questions. You find that either the writing suffers or the children suffer; you get abrupt and cross. So I've always put away—I mean, I've continued to do this always. The minute the children came home or the minute Mark came home I would really hide my writing. [laughter] I would try to put it under the mattress, because if anything went wrong with the house they always thought it was due to the fact that I was writing a book or working on something, and that was the reason I let the, you know, rice give out [laughter] , or there was no butter, no sugar. So I always hid it and tried to act like I hadn't been doing anything except, you know, housework all morning. And it worked out just fine for me. I mean, because that's one wonderful thing about being able to write, is that you can write and give it up, you know, when family obligations come on. You don't have any hours. And so many young people don't realize that you can write, say, two hours a day and get a great deal accomplished, or three hours a day. I would just start writing in the mornings the minute the children all got out of the house.
LEE KESSLER:
You didn't do your housework first?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
I didn't do my housework first. I could sit down in a bedroom with the beds unmade and the clothes all over the floor and write without any, you know, compunction or feeling the least bit guilty. Because in the afternoon the children usually came home about 2:30 or 3:00 from school; you have plenty of time to make up the beds then.
LEE KESSLER:
That was before Mark came home.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh he wouldn't come home until late. He's a newspaper man; he'd come home 6:00, 6:30, 7:00. And I'd have all afternoon. And you could do your grocery shopping with the children; they could be a part of the cleaning up of the house if they wanted to. Mine always didn't [laughter] ; they always stayed outside usually. But I never tried to write after school hours or after work hours, so I didn't have any of that conflict of so many women I hear now. They have guilty consciences about whether they should work, whether they should look after the children. No reason you can't do both if you have a little gift like writing.