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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Married women forced to leave paid positions during the Depression

Because she was a married woman, Johnson was forced to give up her academic position at Baylor College to help the school save money during the Depression, but she continued to work in her office everyday.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Why don't you give us a kind of overview. . . you came in 1924, and the dates that you published you first book. Did you stay in the Institute then?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, until the Depression came.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your position there?
GUION JOHNSON:
A research associate, which was associate professor.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, you were teaching?
GUION JOHNSON:
No, no. A woman wasn't allowed to teach. Do you know that one of the board members of the Institute, Dr. L.R. Wilson, who was the librarian, said that no woman (I think that the matter came up as to - I'm quite sure that it came up with the board-about what I was being paid. They were talking about maybe paying Guy more and someone said, "Well, you can't pay her husband more without also increasing her salary, she'll raise hell.") And Dr. L.R. Wilson said, "No woman is worth more than $125 a month." But when we took our PhDs and were invited to stay. We were both invited to stay as research associates. . . [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GUION JOHNSON:
. . . When the Depression came, everyone was starving to death. There was a movement to cut the salaries of everyone in the Institute. And there were two of us that were married. Julia Spruill, Mrs. Corydon Spruill, who did the colonial thing, was also working on her book and I was completing the rest of Ante-Bellum North Carolina. And so in 1934, the board met and said that all married women would be dropped and the Institute salaries would be cut, since these were largely foundation funds, only by 10%. Which was wonderful for the Institute staff, whereas the faculty and [administrative] staff were cut by 33/1/3%. So that's when both Julia and I (Julia had a master's degree. She did not have her doctorate) were dropped. Let's see, my first seminar paper in Hispanic-American history was published. So, that was the first thing of mine that was published here. Of course, I had a lot of news articles and feature stories published in Texas before I came up here, but of course, this is just newspaper stuff and you don't keep records. But this paper was on the Panama Congress and the Monroe Doctrine, published in James Sprunt Historical Monographs in 19 - before I took my doctorate - '25 or '26. Probably '26. And then I had an essay published in Social Forces, published in '25, on the feminist movement and I guess that was published first and then the Panama Congress and Monroe Doctrine in the James Sprunt Historical Monograph. Then, three or four of my essays were published in the North Carolina Historical Review before 1930 and then in 1930 it was the Sea Island book. '37 was Ante-Bellum North Carolina and '39, we went to work on the Myrdal study and my. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, between '34 and '39, you wrote and were not working?
GUION JOHNSON:
I was working, going to my office everyday, finishing Ante-Bellum North Carolina without being paid a cent. No. This is true.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So, they did let you keep your office?
GUION JOHNSON:
I had given my husband an office at Baylor College, permitted him to move into my office. I had two offices. I was public relations director for the college and head of the department of journalism. He had no office, so I said, "You just come right in and here's your desk." So, when Julia and I were hustled out of the Institute because we were married women and our husbands were making quite enough to maintain us and our salaries were needed to help men make a living for their families, I continued to occupy the same desk that I had always used. Guy and I had always, from the time we first came here, shared an office. So, I just continued to go back to my desk and my files were still there and I finished. You see, I had to stop the work on Ante-Bellum North Carolina to do the St. Helena work. And I hadn't written anything else.