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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The social gospel and the YWCA

Lumpkin explains how she first became involved in the social gospel movement in the 1910s and 1920s via her work with the Young Women's Christian Association. Lumpkin first became involved in the YWCA while a college student and a teaching assistant at Brenau College. In 1920, she became the national student secretary for the southern region of the YWCA. Lumpkin explains how the social gospel was evident in her work with the YWCA and she says that the emphasis of the social gospel on helping others was exciting for young people such as herself.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. 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

I thought it was very interesting that that's where you were exposed to the social gospel.
Is that the case?
Only I happened to be there when I was exposed. I graduated from there, and then stayed on two years as a kind of a little handyman assistant in history, which was my first love and I always wish I'd stayed in it. And this was the time at which the so-called social creed of the churches was appearing. By pure chance … we had a visit from one of these ranging national secretaries of the YWCA, who came in, saw us as a fruitful field - hopefully fruitful field - there, and I … this was the great wide world that they were bringing in. They were far-thinking women. They were professional-minded women, too: in this period, you see, in that they [Y.W.C.A.] were able to draw to themselves some very remarkable women. One of them was a southern woman, another was a northern woman who visited us often, and then there was still another one on the national staff who was one of their prize kind of people, who went around for a series of meetings, talks, this kind of thing, what we might call today … oh, I forget what they call them in the colleges, now. the kind of religious weekends, this kind of thing, that the local YWCA organized. And then there were, you see, the ten-day student conferences at Blue Ridge and places of that kind. And there you would just hear the whole run of exciting people, who were talking about the "problems" that we were feeling ourselves bumping up against all the time. Well, this whole thing burst for me about my last year in college, then I stayed on there two more years. And I was part time assistant in history, but, also, I was called local YWCA secretary, because I'd been president of the Y my last year. And so I was just dumped into or propelled or something - or drawn is probably the best word - into this whole fascinating world outside. And I could… I could depict for you … I mean, I don't mean I will do so, but what the elements were at this period. Now, bear in mind, World War 1 broke out in 1914. I graduated in 1915. I was on there [at BEENAU] the two succeeding years. Immediately following World War 1, the whole peace movement burst with full force, you see, on American society. Especially the student world. The whole reaction against what, up to that time, had been the foreign missions business. There was a tremendous reaction against it, right at this time. And I was at conventions of … what was then called the Student Volunteer Movement, and went to state [meetings] over these next years, where this sense [emerged] that we had no right to foist on these other countries this missionary type of action, which didn't take account of their social conditions, you see, because then it was "Save the world for Christ." And it was not, "Help these people out of their poverty and out of their need and out of their … these terrible conditions in which they are living." So that you'd go to one of these great student volunteer conventions and you would have these rising student groups getting up and saying, "We want to hear about the bad industrial conditions of this country. We want to hear about the ending of war. We want to hear about the starving in these countries, et cetera." This kind of social gospel thing. And it was just the … the atmosphere was ripe with it. We were just awash with it, and it was a very exciting time for young people.