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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 >>

Explaining opposition to the feminist movement and the sexual revolution

Ethridge offers her thoughts on the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In general, Ethridge was against the feminist movement, particularly as it was related to the sexual revolution. Here, she explains why she believed marriage was an institution that benefited women and delineates what she understood as the risks of women and men living together and having sex outside of marriage.

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 wanted to ask your opinion about some things, in view of the fact that you've been such a successful wife and mother, and there are a lot of changes among young women now. What do you think of the current rebellion among young women against marriage?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh, I think it's the most foolish thing, because I don't see why women want to be liberated. The nicest thing that can ever happen to you is to have a man kind of looking out for you, or caring about what happens to you, and being deferential. It's the best thing we have going for us [laughter]. Oh, it's unbelievable to me that a woman wants to give up that. I don't know how men ever got hoaxed into being so [laughter] , you know, chivalrous. And why women want to abandon that I don't see.
LEE KESSLER:
You really see marriage as an institution that works for women?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Yes, I certainly do; don't you?
LEE KESSLER:
Well, I do, in a lot of ways.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Well, I don't see how women can gain anything by trial marriage, for instance. I just think this is unbelievable.
LEE KESSLER:
Don't you think that sexual relations between caring but unmarried young people can be of value?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Well, I think the woman has everything to lose, and I don't see how she can have anything to gain, myself. I think that trial marriage or sexual relations before marriage, the man, I'm sure, takes it rather casually (or he might at the time be completely devoted to the idea and sin- cere). But if the least little quarrel or disagreement or hard times comes up there's nothing to hold him. And I think if you're married and have to go through a divorce to leave one another and that stigma (which I think still holds, to some degree), I think that makes people try much harder to make the relationship work. If you don't have anything holding you or binding you, I don't care whether you marry in church or marry before a judge, I just think the fact that you are married and it's legal makes you really both try harder to keep things going. I think it could be very easy, when you're young and so much happens to upset you and irritate you, for one or the other to walk out if there are no strings attached. But I think you think a good long time about it if you're married. And the girl is the one who's always left, a single woman—and especially if there's a child. And all these devices which I don't understand yet [laughter] —they came along too late for me—don't always work, and if you have a child and then are left, think of having to start all over, making life anew and making a living for yourself. I think it's all just so sad and tragic. I think women ought to think a long time before they agree to live with men before marriage.