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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Cornelia Spencer Love, January 26, 1975. Interview G-0032. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Cornelia Phillips Spencer wielded the power of her pen

Cornelia Spencer Love recalls her grandmother Cornelia Phillips Spencer as a great writer and advocate for women's education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Cornelia Spencer Love, January 26, 1975. Interview G-0032. 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:
When your grandmother was living with you, did she tell you a lot of stories about Chapel Hill?
CORNELIA SPENCER LOVE:
Yes. Well, she and my mother. You see, my mother lived there from the time that she was four years old. Her father died of spinal meningitis when she was just a little girl, at the outbreak of the Civil War. And her mother, who was beginning to be deaf, and later on was very deaf, picked up her little daughter and brought her back to her father, James Phillips, in Chapel Hill. And life just seemed almost over, here was the war and all the sadness and my grandmother and James Monroe Spencer, it was a very devoted marriage. She was rather late in life getting married.
LEE KESSLER:
She was close to thirty, was she not?
CORNELIA SPENCER LOVE:
I think she was. She was a little older, he was a student that came up from Alabama. And from all I can gather, he was a very, very fine person. His nickname was Magnus and she was just desolated. If you have ever read . . . I think that it's in Mrs. Chamberlin's Old Days in Chapel Hill, from my grandmother's diary right at the time of his death, I can't read it now without weeping.
LEE KESSLER:
She seemed very devoted to him.
CORNELIA SPENCER LOVE:
She was just . . . life was over. I don't mean that she ever said anything like that, but imagine coming back with the Civil War breaking out and the University closing.
LEE KESSLER:
I know that she always remembered the anniversary of their marriage.
CORNELIA SPENCER LOVE:
Yes. I ought to elaborate on . . . since I brought in women's lib and this may surprise you, she was so keen for women's education and she did a great deal to bring it about. Otherwise, that dormitory wouldn't have been named for her at Greensboro and the one at Chapel Hill. She knew the leaders, the McIvers, Vances, the Venables and so on, Well, Venable, he was later. But she knew those men that started the women's education. She wrote letters. That was her power, the power of her pen. And she would to this and that person and she would write in the newspapers. She had this column in the Presbyterian Standard for young girls. So, in that way, she did wield a lot of power. But she did not believe that women should have the vote. Of course, nowdays, I guess that she would accept it. Well, I guess that her reasons have been justified.