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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The League of Women Voters and advocacy for public schools in Georgia

Pauley describes her role as the state president of the Georgia League of Women Voters in advocating for public schools during the 1950s. Earlier in the interview, Pauley explained her decision to join the League of Women Voters and become politically active after World War II. Pauley describes how in combatting Governor Talmadge's amendment to abolish public schools in order to avoid desegregation, the League lost some of its political allies both within the League and with other organizations. In this paricular anecdote, she describes how she and other League members testified against the amendment and explains the kind of visceral opposition they faced.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. 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

And then within the League we also had a problem because within the League there were people who didn't want us to work on it, too, by that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember any of the people in the League that were really opponents?
FRANCES PAULEY:
A few. After the Brown decision, I visited every league in the state. And the leagues were with us. They weren't with us like they had been on the county unit; they weren't with us to that extent. But we lost. Of course, the thing was thrown out by the courts anyway. But we lost that November. But we didn't lose but by just a very few votes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The League refused to vote to support the . . .
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, they voted to continue to support public education. Yes, we kept on. We fought. And the League stayed together and fought hard.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, you lost in the legislature?
FRANCES PAULEY:
We lost in November in the general election. But we lost by a very small, very small number. We had lots of pressure. For instance, one time all the leaders that were working in the fight against this amendment got telegrams from Governor Talmadge and asked us to meet in the Capitol, and to give our plans for how we could keep segregated schools. That's what the telegram said, so we got together * heads of state-wide organizations, and decided to write one statement, and we all signed it. *Summer 1954 Each president was present to take any questions. And so we sweated and sweated, and we wrote our statement that we were against the amendment and that we were in favor of public education.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were these all women and women's organizations?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Most of them were women. We decided that Margaret MacDougall would give the statement. She worked with Churchwomen United. I guess she and Ida Patterson were both on that committee. Margaret MacDougall was very interested in the schools. We chose her - she's so sweet and such a lady - head of the Churchwomen. She gave the statement, and they called each one of us presidents to answer questions. They did everything they could to frighten us and intimidate us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did they do?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Just asked us nasty questions and were insulting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Talmadge there? And who else?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Talmadge and Talmadge's lawyers. Well, I don't remember - different state officials. I was the last one to be questioned. I was really hot, and I remember I had dressed so carefully - I had on white gloves - and I remember when I stood up I was so hot that I could just feel the perspiration, you know, the perspiriation just running down. And I just thought if I looked down, I'd probably see a puddle down on the floor, I was so hot because the day was so hot and then the questions were so hot. But I was determined; they weren't going to shake me like they had almost everybody that had gotten up. They had shaken them until they just couldn't answer a question. But Art Levin had drilled me real well; he had said, "Now, they're going to ask these different kinds of questions." And he would ask me the questions and say, "How're you going to answer?" And he was a dear. And so I was better prepared than some of them were. They asked everything. You know, "What color is your husband?" and "Do you want your daughter to marry a nigger?" You know, they used the "n-i-g-g-e-r" over and over again, and oh, just everything. And Talmadge was worse; Talmadge had all the rest of them question me first, and then he got up and he took me over. He already knew me and hated me for the county unit fight because he had said that he'd have won the county unit if it hadn't been for that God-damned Frances Pauley.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He said that? Was that in the newspapers?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, it wasn't in the newspapers but he said it and that gave me great pleasure. Greatest compliment of my life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I bet.
FRANCES PAULEY:
So, he took me on last. The PTA was so frightened at that meeting that they dropped out. So we lost PTA support, and we really had counted on having PTA to support public schools.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's right. So who did you have then?
FRANCES PAULEY:
I don't remember. I really don't remember who all we had left because I worked, as I remember, the League worked alone rather than as a wide coalition. We worked mainly in trying to get as good publicity as we could get through the papers, which we didn't get as good as we had before, but we got some. And in trying to keep the League working hard on it.