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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 >>

Lack of discrimination as a woman professional

Lumpkin briefly discusses what it was like to be a woman professional during her years working for the national YWCA and as an academic, from the mid-1920s through the mid-1960s. Lumpkin explains that she never felt discriminated against and that had positive experiences with male colleagues; nevertheless, she does contend that other women in her same position very likely did face various forms of discrimination. In this regard, Lumpkin acknowledges that her experience may have been unique.

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

What kind of relationships did you have with your male colleagues?
Very nice ones. We [women colleagues] enjoyed them. In talking with ourselves, you know, we would always feel well maybe they'll catch up someday. Actually some of them were, especially the [YMCA] student secretaries, were right with us on things. They were held back by their elder brothers, so to speak, who were not so… But the men were fine.
What about in the academic world? Department heads…
Oh, splendid. Perfectly splendid. There was never… I have never felt that there was… They'd say "You don't think there's any discrimination against women?" And naturally you'd say "Of course there is." But you know, nothing to be… I mean one doesn't have to be bad tempered about it. Just say "Yeah, sure." This is a part of the climate in which we find ourselves, the situation in which we find ourselves. And you want to change and you work for your change, but… it's there. No. I've never felt unaccepted, so to speak. Of course, partly, if you're teaching in a woman's college it's a different situation from teaching in a men's college… in a university. At Wisconsin there was a wonderful relationship with your fellow candidates for the doctorate - most of whom were men. Wonderful. They were friends and we were colleagues. And with the faculty. And all of them, except the woman who taught social work, they were all men. And certainly on the faculties of the colleges where I taught there was a splendid relationship always. I never… I have never felt any… But you have an advantage when you're teaching in a woman's college. I mean over women who are trying to compete directly in a man's university where they can't get the promotions. They don't hold women back in a women's college when it comes to promotions. There are a few instances, sometimes at salary differences that you might have, but even those were not as conspicuous. I don't mean to down play that these things exist. I know that they do. I'm really speaking of my own feeling. My own experience. My own sense of not feeling that… well perhaps I just didn't feel… I didn't have any sense of a chip on my shoulder. I think I'm not making this up… that I'm misreading… I can conceive of people that might. In the same situation. In fact I can think of people who did.
Other women that you worked with?
Yes. In the same situation. But this could be a combination of things. They were younger, perhaps than I was at this time and there could be a combination of reasons why they were held back. Not necessarily a sex discrimination, but that would have been there. It's easy to favor a young man over a young woman, you know, when apparently their qualifications are the same. Discrimination—sex discrimination especially—can be a very subtle thing. And I recognize it as existing. Don't misunderstand me. It's everywhere.