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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 >>

Growing up with a strict Southern Baptist mother

Ethridge discusses her mother's role within the family and her expectations for her daughter. Ethridge describes her mother as a "strong character" and recalls that she was very strict. In particular, Ethridge explains that her mother's primary desire was for her daughter to grow up to be "a good Baptist girl." She discusses the role of religion in their family life, her mother's thoughts about her college education, and her rules about courting.

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, not to go quite so far in the immediate past, then: what kind of a person was your mother, and what hopes did she have for you? You were her only daughter, right?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Yes, I was the only daughter. She was a very strong, very strong character, and a very strict person. I don't believe she was particularly ambitious for me to ever become anybody special like a writer or evangelist or great singer or anything. She just hoped I would be, you know, a good Baptist girl [laughter] . I had to go to church four and five times every Sunday. I went to Sunday school, and then church, every morning. And I went in the afternoons; from the time I was fifteen or sixteen I used to go out to the Masonic Home and teach little children Sunday school. And then I went to the Baptist young people's meeting at six or six thirty. And then I went to church at night. I went five times every Sunday to church.
LEE KESSLER:
And did your mother go too?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh, my mother, of course she went all the time. She was a great, great Baptist, pillar of the church. But she never was able to whip me into it. I finally joined the church, 'cause I had a beautiful black beaver hat—it really was beaver, and had white plumes on it. And I thought I'd never look better than I did that Sunday [laughter] , so I joined the church. But I never had any great conviction; that's sad, you know. I'd love to believe like she believed. It must be a terrific comfort, to think that somebody's guiding you and telling you what to do and how to do it. I just miss it dreadfully, but I just never have been able to convince myself of it.
LEE KESSLER:
I think some people just don't. 3 * Certainly a question had been omitted here.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
No. She was determined that all of us would go to college.
LEE KESSLER:
You included?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh yes. She never had any idea of my not going to college. None of us went away to college, because my brothers went to Mercer University (in Macon) and I went right across the street. We lived facing the Wesleyan campus, so I didn't get very far [laughter] . 4 ** Also it seems to me L. K. must have asked a question here. And she would sit up for me at night when I started dating; she never let me have a date until near the end of my senior year in in high school until I met Mark, just as I was finishing my junior year—I mean my senior year in high school. And I was never allowed to spend the night out with anybody in my life when I was young because I had to be under that house roof every night; she had to know where I was. And then when I did start dating, she always sat right inside the front door until I got home at night.
LEE KESSLER:
Was she as cautious with your brothers?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
No, not that I know of; I don't remember her being cautious with them. I had my hands full [laughter] with her being cautious with me. The minute I hit the bottom step of the porch (we had five or six steps up to the porch) that door was opened. I never was able to tell a man or boy goodnight alone; she was right there, waiting for me.