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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 >>

Description of husband's level of support for her career

Ethridge discusses the role of her husband's support in her success as a writer. According to Ethridge, her husband was generally apathetic about her work. While he did not discourage her from working, he also did not necessarily encourage it. Her comments here reveal one way in which a woman's career could affect her family's life in the South.

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:
Well, during your writing career, has your husband been very supportive of what you tried to do?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Well, he doesn't interfere with it in any way [laughter] . He never helps me in any way.
LEE KESSLER:
Does he read what you write?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
After I've finished. And this is a true story. I'm always embarrassed for him to see what I've written, and so often I don't even show it to him at all. But after I'd written the novel on James Oglethorpe I was very nervous about it, because it's not, as I said, it's not really what I enjoy doing most is writing novels. And I do have a limited imagination; this I recognize. But anyway I gave it to him to read one Sunday morning; it was ready to go off to the publisher. And he sat downstairs and read it in the library, and I locked myself upstairs in the bedroom. I was completely unnerved and didn't come out all day long. And finally I heard him about nine or ten o'clock that night coming upstairs, and I just shook with apprehension over what he was going to say. And he walked in and he said, "There's a page missing." And that's all he ever did say! So you can see what he thought of it, I'm afraid. [Interruption]
LEE KESSLER:
You were telling me about Mark's approval or non-approval of your writing.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh, well that's the only thing I ever knew. He never reads anything I write until after I've finished it. I don't want him to, because if he disliked it it might stop me from going on; it would be really a block.
LEE KESSLER:
You figure by the time you've finished it it's too late [laughter].
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
It's too late; it's too late. And he usually just says, you know, "It's all right." And sometimes he'll say it's good [laughter]. But he doesn't suggest anything, unfortunately; I wish he would, because he's so good.
LEE KESSLER:
Well, if you don't write for a while does he ever say, "Willie, why don't you write something?"
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
No, no, no, no. He's perfectly happy if I don't write [laughter]. Men like to be first always, you know, and like to just be
LEE KESSLER:
Did you have to be, do you have to be very supportive of what he does?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh, I always tried to be very supportive of what he did, and very enthusiastic about what he did, yes. And he never seemed to mind my writing except if things went wrong. Like one time he said to me when the house got to getting darker and darker, he said, "Now if I were you tomorrow," he said, "I would not write on my book. I would have ‘change light bulbs day’." [laughter] It's because I just… If things go wrong in the house he, you know, always would blame it on the fact that I was involved in a book. But he's really quite lenient about my shortcomings as a housekeeper and a cook, and puts up with all that. And I'm sure he feels all right about my writing; he never has disheartened me [laughter] in any way.
LEE KESSLER:
He hasn't taken a special pride in it? It's just something you do?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Yes, it's just something I do, yes [laughter] . As far as I know he has never taken any pride in it [laughter] ; it's not noticeable [laughter]