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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Anne Queen, April 30, 1976. Interview G-0049-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Leadership of southern women

Queen discusses the impact of southern women leaders such as Dorothy Tillman and Jessie Daniel Ames. In relating a specific incident in which Tillman worked to assuage tensions during an event at University of Georgia, Queen expresses her admiration for southern women who worked to advocate for social justice. In addition, she reflects on the work of Ames as another example of southern women's leadership during the twentieth century.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Anne Queen, April 30, 1976. Interview G-0049-1. 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

There is one other experience that I had at Georgia that I failed to comment on and I would like to do so just briefly because it is related to some people who have made a great contribution to change in the South. It was an experience that I had with Morris Abrams and Mrs. Tilley, Mrs. M.E. Tilley. That was back in the days when we had a kind of Celebration of Brotherhood Sunday or Brotherhood Week. The University of Georgia Religious Association had a program on brotherhood. We invited to the campus Mrs. Tilley, Morris Abrams, who was, you know, who challenged the county unit system. He was a graduate of the University of Georgia and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar from Georgia. He was from Fayetteville, Georgia, a very provincial area. You know, he was on television with Eli Evans about a year ago, and he talked about his life as a Jew, coming from this small town in south Georgia. Well, he had really become one of the shining lights in Atlanta and all over Georgia, as a matter of fact. We had Morris Abrams, Mrs. Tilley and a Catholic lawyer, a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew. This created a kind of stir in Athens and the KA's again, if you can believe it, they were more conservative than the KA's here and their high priest was really Robert E. Lee, the flag flying . They raised quite a fuss about this. It was Mrs. Tilley that really touched something in them and they referred to her as "that damned old civil rights woman," and said that they were going to throw rotten eggs at her. But they didn't do this. I remember that I had a little gathering for the three speakers and some students at my apartment that night and I'll never forget the great tribute that Morris Abrams paid to Mrs. Tilley. She reminded him of a woman in one of Faulkner's novels. You remember the woman who sat at the door of the jail and knitted and kept the angry mob from getting a Negro that was there and hanging him. So, I remember that and then of course, it brings back memories of not only Mrs. Tilley, but Mrs. Ames and the fellowship of the concerned women throughout the South who did an enormous amount of work to prevent lynching in the South.
Was Mrs. Tilley …the woman in the Faulkner novel, Intruder in the Dust was a frail …
She was a very frail woman and very petite, looked Old South in many ways, just a lovely woman. She had many of the qualities that Mrs. Roosevelt had. I remember saying to her, "Oh, Mrs. Tilley, your husband must be very proud of you." She said, "Oh no, it's the other way around. I am very proud of my husband." Well, those were great women. Now, since Jackie Hall did her dissertation on Mrs. Ames, I'll tell you a nice story that George Mitchell, who was head of the Southern Regional Council, told me. Once, there was an angry mob in Mississippi going to get a black and take him out and lynch him and Mrs. Ames organized a group of women in the county. They circulated a petition, having women sign a petition which stated, "We do not wish any angry mob to protect our womanhood," because she had gone to the county sheriff and said, "Why do you allow this to happen?" and he had said, "Oh, Mrs. Ames, you don't understand. We are doing this to protect Southern white womanhood." So, she drew up a petition and had every woman that she could find sign it, saying "we want no one to protect our womanhood but duly elected officials. We won't no angry mob." Those were great, daring women and I look forward to reading Jackie's dissertation on Mrs. Ames. As a Southern woman, I'm very fond of these women.