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Title: Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Tillett, Gladys Avery , interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 200 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
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The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-03-14, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0061)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0061)
Author: Gladys Avery Tillett
Description: 228 Mb
Description: 61 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 20, 1974, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Gladys Avery Tillet, March 20, 1974.
Interview G-0061. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Tillett, Gladys Avery , interviewee


Interview Participants

    GLADYS AVERY TILLET, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina, talking with Gladys Tillett for the Southern Oral History Project.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I've just come from the telephone to hear the good news that we will have again the Status of Women Commission in North Carolina. It existed under Terry Sanford and it was exceedingly effective in informing people on what was being done about the status of women and how we stood on human rights and what needed to be done.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was responsible for getting that committee in the first place?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I think probably many people, but Governor Terry Sanford established it and appointed women on it. When Governor Sanford appointed the Commission it was made clear that the focus was on legal, political, human rights for women. Dr. Anne Scott of Chapel Hill made excellent reports on North Carolina progress. (These reports may be available.) Governor Moore followed Sanford and changed the focus of the committee to "Employment and Education." Voit Gilmore (Southern Pines) was appointed chairman and said such a change limited the report and the focus of the committee. He held a broad view, speaking in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment even though the ERA was not included in the committee's study—just "employment and education." And as far as Voit Gilmore could go, he was exceedingly effective. In recent months, at a meeting of the Charlotte Caucus for Women, I made the motion that the chairman of the Political Caucus in Mecklinburg County take up with the present Governor the possibility of changing the name of this Commission to the original name. And so we have been waiting for some weeks, to find out results of the request. And it was reported to the Caucus that the name would be changed and that we would probably have the full area

Page 2
in which to work and report on human rights for women. So this seemed an important step from our point of view because we hoped it would give a greater opportunity to reach the general public on the Equal Rights Amendment for women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have someone in mind that you want to be appointed?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I just heard it so I haven't had a chance to think about that. But I think that we would hope to have a number of exceedingly qualified and interested women; hopefully a qualified woman will be appointed. I don't know how soon that will be done; no one can say.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, let's go back and start with you from the beginning. Tell me about where you grew up, your family, etc.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I grew up in a small town—fifteen or more thousand population—Morganton, North Carolina. It's approximately seventy miles from Charlotte. I was reared in a family which had an interest in public affairs. My father was a lawyer and then a Supreme Court Justice. And my mother had an interest in politics. She was a graduate of Asheville Female College, which was a Methodist college, and both parents believed women should be educated. Not everybody emphasized education of women but I knew from early life that girls should have education. My father took me to hear a man speak on women's education in our town. Afterwards, he said to me (I was quite young) that he believed girls ought to be educated and he hoped that I would sometime go to Women's College at Greensboro. At that time, he wouldn't have suggested the University, because no women were allowed except those who lived in Chapel Hill, and were daughters of UNC faculty … maybe some teachers, but it wasn't open to young women generally.

Page 3
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was your mother related to the Spencer Loves by any chance? Her maiden name was Love.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, her maiden name was Thomas. She was Sarah Love Thomas. She was called Sally by friends. I think I have heard her say that her great-grandfather named Love founded the town of Waynesville, N.C. in Western North Carolina. Her father was William H. Thomas who served in the N.C. State Senate a number of years. He was interested in getting across the mountains by railroad to Western North Carolina and he was a friend of the Indians.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did they live?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
The Thomas family lived in Sylva, N.C. out beyond Asheville and Waynesville. I think Duke University has a thesis written about him, William H. Thomas. My mother spoke of his being tutored by an educated German who came to that part of North Carolina and his mother was able to get that tutor's services.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did her father do for a living?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I know he owned land and was a man of some means and owned fine trading stores. He did much to arouse interest in good roads, and spent a number of terms in the North Carolina Senate. His mother was a daughter of Lord Baltimore's brother.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A farmer?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, he was a businessman, and was successful. A woman in the Duke University Library wrote a dissertation on him when getting her Ph.D. The Library at Duke has the professor's thesis. He owned a good deal of land in that part of Western North Carolina, and was progressive—very much interested in the founding of a railroad across the mountains, a forward-looking idea in those days. And those who opposed it, I have heard, called

Page 4
"Thomas' road to the moon." He was, I guess, far ahead of his time, but eventually it came about. I think he had the idea that it would connect up with Cincinnati and make North Carolina more connected with the rest of the country—which I think later proved true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was this?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh, way back. He really should have been my great grandfather. He was much older than his wife, my grandmother. But he was a very interesting personality. His mother was a Calvert and niece of Lord Baltimore. He did much for mountain action and was interested in good roads, as I have read in Western North Carolina history.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did he do for the Indians?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, when they were being driven west, you know, he did all he could to save them. There is a play written about it, Unto These Hills. It is put on during the summer months in Western North Carolina. In it, he's the man who went to Washington in support of the Indians. His mother was related to one of the presidents—Zachary Taylor, I think. I think maybe that gave him contact that was helpful to him in trying to do what he thought should be done for the Indians.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So your mother was interested in public life, probably because of him.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Possibly. I have heard her say her ancestor, Robert Love, founded Waynesville and as a political leader gave Andrew Jackson every vote in Haywood County when Jackson ran for President. So political interest was in her background. And my father was in public life. So that makes a difference. The first time I remember as a child anything of a political nature happening, I recall that my father was holding court or was at court

Page 5
when a state political leader arrived in our town and my father gave me the responsibility of delivering his mail to him. And I was impressed with my assignment. [Laughter] But you can see that there was interest. And my father was always interested in public education and was a leader in the movement looking forward to establishing public schools. I started school in a private school because there was no public school in Morganton at that time where I lived. But my father was interested in the public education movement and betterment of educational opportunities for all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now when did he become a Supreme COurt Justice?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Before I was born or can remember. I just don't happen to know the date off hand. And he practiced law. It was a family in which public affairs were discussed. My father married my mother after the death of his first wife who was the sister of Stonewall Jackson's wife, and the daughter of the President of Davidson College. In the second group of children, there were three of us, a brother and two sisters; I'm the only one living. My father was quite a public spirited person who participated in North Carolina public and political life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were Democrats?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. The South was mostly Democrat at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember them talking about the issues of Reconstruction?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
They discussed the hardships of the Civil War, the sadness of the death of his brothers who were shot by Kirk's raiders near Morganton or fell at Gettysburg or were captured and imprisoned. I learned early the horrors and sorrows of war. Albert Coates of Chapel Hill wrote an article on my father's brother, Colonel Isaac Avery, who fell at Gettysburg leading

Page 6
his forces. He left a bloodstained message: "Major, tell my father I fell with my face to the foe." This is preserved in Raleigh. And it was an example of the kind of courage we were taught to remember.
I went off to Greensboro after attending public schools. I was sent to the preparatory department at Women's College (State Normal at that time).
JACQUELYN HALL:
So in the high school grades you went to Greensboro.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you'd been in private school?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I went to kindergarten, one of the early ones in North Carolina, then to private school, and then to public school. I had two years of prep and then three at Women's College. Then I went to Chapel Hill after teaching a year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So there was never really any question about whether you would go on to college? You were always supposed to do that.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have other brothers and sisters who went to college?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
My sister was graduated from Women's College and my brother was graduated from the University of North Carolina. College was a way of life in the families of both parents.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you went to Women's College, did you finish your degree there or at Chapel Hill?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I got an A.B. at Chapel Hill, after first teaching a year in Winston-Salem. I taught high school English and Latin.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you plan to do? What were you studying?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
History was my major. I was always interested in history and political science. I was interested as well in Sociology and Philosophy. My

Page 7
Philosophy teacher at Chapel Hill was Professor Horace Williams. It was said of him that he taught his students to think for themselves. I had a marvelous teacher in political science at Women's College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was that?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Harriet Elliott. Dr. Harriet Elliott. She was a close friend and an outstanding teacher who made an impact on all her students. She had a dynamic personality—got her Master's Degree from Columbia University in New York. There she met national suffrage leaders. She was deeply interested in political rights for women and, just as importantly, political participation. I was always very close to her through life. She was always so interested in everything I did in public life and in political life; she kept in touch, encouraging me to give leadership.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she actively involved in the suffrage movement?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh, yes. She was a friend of the leaders of it. And she brought that spirit of interest in suffrage to her classes. It was as progressive as any college in the country on suffrage.
Dr. Jackson, my history teacher, was another progressive thinker. I think he and Dr. Elliott were two of the very able teachers at Women's College and in North Carolina. As I look back, there were others, in many departments. Several of the faculty were Quakers—my Chemistry and Math teachers, and the College Librarian, Miss Annie Petty, who was also the first trained librarian in North Carolina. Dr. W.C. Jackson later became President of Women's College, and Dr. Elliott will be in the Biographical Dictionary coming out this year by Dr. Powell in the UNC Library.
Both Jackson and Elliot gave their students a broad outlook. For example, in one of her courses, I was given the task of writing a paper. The two

Page 8
professors discussed it and the topic which I was to develop myself—a report based on visits to the schools for the blacks in Greensboro and Guilford Counties. You see, this catapulted a student into the future and what the problems, politically speaking, would be. And I saw, of course, in the black schools the need for improvement. I hope sometime I'll run across some of my mother's things and that paper I submitted. I would like to see what I said at that time. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it in college that you were exposed to the ideas of the women's rights movement for the first time?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
The ideas weren't new. Both my parents were great book and newspaper readers; many people in public life were friends; I was accustomed to discussion of public issues. So there was certainly nothing very shocking about it; it had been a part of my life and understanding. I had not been reared to think anything other than what I was learning in college in courses from Elliott and Jackson.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when you went home and talked about the things you were learning in your classes your parents were very sympathetic …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Nobody was shocked. They were interested in my own interest in public issues and history.
Since Women's College was a state college and the only state college for women at that time, legislators and governors, etc. often visited. I'm sure they were encouraged by the President of the college to come because they decided on the appropriations of course. So frequently we had them. And some of them who came seemed very old-fashioned from our youthful viewpoint. And I think that made us much more interested and rebellious when they would come and, as they said, "look into your beautiful faces."

Page 9
JACQUELYN HALL:
And make speeches about the proper place of women.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, and always with the full understanding you could see in their words and expression that we were not interested. You can imagine that that aroused in the group some resentment. I remember one came and he was so vigorous in his protest against women voting that when he left we just had a parade on campus. I don't think he's still living. We just burned him in effigy. [Laughter] We had a little thing up on the …
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was this?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I don't know exactly the year right now. But it was before 1917, of course. There was quite an interest in voting among the students.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Among your schoolmates, most of your friends were sympathetic towards the suffrage movement …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh, yes. You see, we'd had exceptional teaching. I don't know whether there were very many other colleges in the South that had a faculty with as broad an outlook. We had a political science teacher, young and from Columbia University and fresh from acquaintance with people who were members of the women's movement. We also had a woman college physician, Dr. Anna Gove. When she came south to Greensboro there were only three or more women physicians in the country at girls' colleges. We were told that the wife of the President of Women's College, Mrs. McIver, had been eager to study medicine. Dr. Cora Strong, Mathematics teacher, gives credit to Mrs. McIver for the fact that the then State Normal was one of several women's colleges that had a woman physician at that time. (Vassar also had one, and a few others in the whole country.)
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for Greensboro being such a good women's college in that way, such a progressive college?

Page 10
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
The teachers, the teachers. There were many outstanding faculty members in all areas—Science, English, Latin. For example, Dr. Jackson had done summer settlement work in New York when he was a young man coming along. It may have been in vacations, I don't know. But he wasn't just a local person in his outlook. In my junior year, he decided that during summer vacation, three girls would be sent up to New York to participate in a form of settlement work called Daily Vacation Bible Schools, and report to the student body on the experience. I happened to be one of the three. This was the beginning of a movement to have day care centers in churches. He took the president of student government at Greensboro, the president of the YWCA, and the young woman who was to be president of student government after I finished, you see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were president of the student government?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. I was elected by the student body, the first president of student government; I organized it. It came just before my senior year, and so my senior year was the organization of it. And of course student government during its development took all the blame everytime somebody walked on the grass. The conservative faculty would say, "Well, I knew this would happen when we got student government." But many, many of the faculty did praise our progress and responsibility and encouraged us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was student government an unusual thing in colleges in general at that time?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Not at Chapel Hill. Not at boys' colleges. I suppose they were expected to be good at it. I think it was unusual at southern girls' colleges.

Page 11
Some of our leaders went north later on to see developments in student government. And again we had Dr. Jackson, Miss Elliot and many other able members of the faculty cooperating in the organization of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But some of the faculty opposed it.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, a few of the older members were dubious. I don't know to what extent. I didn't go to the faculty. I don't know the extent to which they wondered if we could succeed. But it was a help to have many of the faculty expressing confidence. There were a number who were very enthusiastic about it. There were many who very much wished to see us succeed. But you always have a few conservatives, you know, in any progressive movement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there issues within the college that the … that the student government was in opposition to the faculty or to the administration about?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I think we tried to bring about more freedom for the girls, but I don't think any faculty thought us in opposition to the faculty itself.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In social …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
In that day social life of girls was more carefully guarded at home and college… I recall that going to the city, I guess Greensboro wasn't a city then… going to town, I guess you might say… But at that time we went under certain rules and regulations. I think one of the most amusing, as I look back, was that we could … the girls could "speak to a young man" but not "engage in conversation." And I never quite understood how we could speak to them but not [Laughter] engage in conversation. I think long conversations raised objections.

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(It was an age of chaperoning girls.)
JACQUELYN HALL:
No conversations with any young men? Or only on certain occasions?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, young men could come and call. And we always had a chaperone near the reception room where the callers came … I don't know what you'd call it, maybe parlor in that day … Miss Kirkland was in charge of that part of our lives, or social lives. She was sympathetic. I was very fond of her. But I guess to a certain extent old school, and quite proper, and with great dignity. But we, we could have callers. And then we had, we had special occasions and then some, maybe … But you could invite a young man to these special occasions and the atmosphere was friendly to social life and, of course, chaperoned.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What changes did you want to make?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, we really had as our aim … to give the girls more responsibility. We thought students would understand better than elderly faculty the problems and discipline of students. We thought it would help to visit northern colleges. The next year the college sent the girl who followed me north to see how girls conducted student government where it had existed a longer period. Later, girls got copies of the rulings at northern colleges and other colleges, and they tried to follow their progress and study their rules and move forward as rapidly as the faculty agreed. Take a broader view and assume responsibility …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there specific changes that you … ?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, the… see we had a committee of officers from the student government who considered whatever was done by girls. And they began to be the legal body. Some things were discussed with the

Page 13
faculty, but the elected officers of student government were considered the legislative body. And it began right off with that and then it gradually was strengthened. I recall that the girl who went north to visit women's colleges said that when she went up and read the rules … of course we would have been expelled if we had smoked a cigarette. Very rigid in behavior of that kind. And she said she read the rules and when she read the rules about drinking … I don't know exactly what they were, but she was astonished that anybody would have to have a rule about taking a drink. [Laughter] But the students and many faculty had deep interest and pride in self government for the students.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You started to talk about going north to work in the day care program of children.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh we did.1
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, had you been out of the south before?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I'd been to Washington but … I'd never been to New York—none of the three of us had.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was that experience like?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
It was an interesting experience for us. And Dr. Jackson called us in. I suppose we had certain characteristics of southerners, particularly trained in manners and courtesy. And he said, "Girls … " He said "You're going up north and they may be more assertive than you are, but whatever you are asked to do, show them how well you can do it. You are all good executives." And so we arrived… no matter what they asked us to do, we did it. All ready to push forward.

Page 14
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did you find yourself being very aware of yourself as a southerner?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, not at all. Of course, our accent was cause for comment, but we decided it was as good as what we heard and forgot the matter. We weren't aware of anything, except that we were there to do a job and capable of doing it. And we did it. Our school was one of the very best and well-attended through our efforts. We had our vacation school in an Episcopal church up near 100th St… We would go out—cover a number of blocks in the general neighborhood of the school—and we'd find little children out on the streets. And you had to build the school yourself. We'd go out and just see the children playing on the streets and say, "We're having a summer school here. We are going to weave baskets; we are going to make hammocks." I'd taken lessons in some of these things before we went. "And we're going to mold things," … etc., etc., you know, the children were very responsive and we had quite a large attendance.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they white children? Or black?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I don't think there were blacks in that area to any great extent. The ones we had were, as I recall… I would say practically all white because of the locality it was in. They were of various religious backgrounds, many foreign family backgrounds.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the women you went to college with go on to have careers and be involved in public life?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Practically all of Woman's College graduates taught in public schools.2 North Carolina had many public spirited women. It

14a page
was one of the earliest states to get 50-50 representation in party organization, taking the whole country into account. North Carolina and Florida had equal representation in their party set-up before many other northern states. I think North Carolina was the most progressive, in my opinion, as I think back on it, of the southern states. Our legislature had been slow in supporting votes for women, but when it came under Woodrow Wilson, North Carolina moved right along in the 50-50 plan of party organization. The governor appointed a national committee woman and we had state vice-chairmen—which are the two top officers. We did not go immediately into the 50-50 political party set up. But we started early working on it. In 1932 North Carolina had four women delgates to the Democratic National Convention (they voted for Roosevelt). The League of Women Voters had an early national meeting in Baltimore. Mrs. Catt and national party women leaders were there. Lady Astor was speaker. She had a high post in the government of her country, England. My husband suggested that with all my interest and background I ought to go up and attend this. This was the National League of Women Voters. It was very stimulating and he was very sympathetic to my interests. And I went. And it was really very exciting, as you can imagine. All these women and oh $a tremendous crowd. Even women who might not have been all for voting, etc. Every seat taken and of course Lady Astor was of great interest, a woman in high office, few at that time. And then the women leaders of the two political parties—Emily Newell Blair represented the Democrats. At the moment I can't think of the name of the Republican women's leader, but both party leaders were there and were jointly interested in getting women to participate in political parties. There was a large sign over the

Page 15
platform—I can still see it—big letters: "GET INTO THE POLITICAL PARTY OF YOUR CHOICE AND WORK FOR THE THINGS THAT YOU BELIEVE IN." I thought that was quite interesting and exciting. And I came back and went to work finding out how to get into party organizations.3
JACQUELYN HALL:
This was about 1920 or 21, right after suffrage?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, right after suffrage won. I can't remember the precise year. It took a little while I'm sure to organize this meeting and get it going… It was the early twenties. As soon as it could get going, I'm sure. Get it organized and set up. And then they had a stimulating program and speakers and people who had participated. Many of the names that you know in the womens movement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So that was really your first contact with the national leaders of the women's movement.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, though I consider Dr. Harriet Elliott a national leader.4 We'd read about them and knew about their stand and achievements and Miss Elliott talked about them and our families knew about them. But this was seeing politics for women getting under way, you see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That was such an exciting time. Let me go back a little bit … What was your first public involvement? Were you publicly involved in the suffrage movement besides just reading about it?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I was at Woman's College and I was involved, we were all

Page 16
involved on the campus, deeply interested. I had an inspiring political science teacher. I think one might compare it to the interest of young college women today in the ERA and political science courses.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you petition the legislature?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, but the legislators were visitors at the college and spoke to us in College Chapel, usually assuming that we were not for votes for women, but the sentiment of the student body was in favor of votes for women. It was very strong due to our political science professor, Harriet Elliott, and our U.S. history professor Dr. W.C. Jackson. Age of maturity I guess was a little farther along. But it was an excellent meeting. Later on in years I was to hear Mrs. Catt, you know, a skillful organizer, and after suffrage won, when she presided in a meeting such as the Baltimore meeting, it was well organized and presented to an interested audience… there was wide interest in it … well, the history of the long years of the women's movement was presented by those who had worked to bring it about and all were urged to join the League of Women Voters to become informed and then to participate in the party of their choice and stand for things they believed in… I think what most people don't realize, which I realized at the time (women were not in the political party set up) the first step in getting into the political party of your choice was to get in, and men leaders must decide to appoint youths to any office of leadership. You see, most people don't realize that all women had was the right to vote, period. And that's pretty well on the outside looking in. I got my county Democratic chairman to appoint about 15 women as precinct members of their respective precincts. Later I organized the first county League of Women Voters in North Carolina.

Page 17
I served as president in my county and later I was state president.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where were you living at this time?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Charlotte, N.C.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you had gotten married right after college? During college?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, I graduated, taught a year, and then went to Chapel Hill where I received my A.B.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you teach?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I taught in Winston Salem, in the high school. Latin and English.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Then you went to Chapel Hill.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. There were about thirty young women attending UNC.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that where you met your husband?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, I met him … when I was visiting in Charlotte… I was at Woman's College… I went to visit friends in Charlotte and he asked my hostess if he might meet me. He had heard of me through friends.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You met him through Frank Porter Graham, then.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, Frank and my husband's brother came on a mountain trip one summer. I don't believe I mentioned that. Two friends and I taught in the mountains of North Carolina. Mrs. Louis Graves—you may know her from Chapel Hill—and Senator Sam Ervin's sister, Catherine Ervin, the three of us took on a mountain school at Plumtree, North Carolina. Somebody else was scheduled to go and Dr. Ben Lacy was head of the whole southern Presbyterian church organization in Richmond, and the school was supported by the Presbyterian church. We heard he was trying to find someone to take the place of a girl who had planned to go but found she couldn't. And we happened to hear of it because we had known her at Woman's College. And so we decided we would offer to go. And it was in Western North Carolina, and 14 miles from a railway. We got off the train and spent the night at a mountain hotel and then went by horse and carriage to Plumtree School.

Page 18
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now were you going to teach for a year or just for the summer?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Summer. Summer school. Three sections. Primary, the intermediate and the high school. And Mrs. Graves taught the primary and I taught the intermediate and Miss Ervin taught high school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you live?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We lived in the school. Yes, it was a Presbyterian school where boys were sent. You see it was a boarding school—boys from cities and other states—some of the boys were sent by churches in big cities—some from North Carolina… but there were also mountain boys whom the school served… The church was interested in teaching and training them… You see it was so isolated in the mountains. And so we taught six days a week and Sunday school on Sunday. We had a full schedule but we were young. So that was an interesting experience in contrast with what I had done before. This was before I'd finished college, and before my later experience in New York. I was the only girl who had both experiences, in the mountains and in New York. It gave me two close ups you might say to the problems of people who needed help in a big city and also people in isolated areas.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, growing up in Morganton, did you not realize how much poverty there was in the mountains. Did you identify yourself with …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Morganton was not in the mountains. And there were many old families—people of position and education. We had had public schools from early grades up. And that was a little different. Prior to public schools, excellent private schools in Morganton. Also Morganton had the N.C. School for the Deaf and N.C. State Hospital, which added

Page 19
to the professional population. The public schools were a number of years getting under way, as I recall. Usually church schools were established through the mountains at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you were probably oriented more toward Greensboro and Raleigh. Your father … you didn't have a sense of yourself as a moun-… somebody from the mountains.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No. Morganton is in the foothills. It's not in the mountains. It's about 65 or 70 miles from Charlotte and it was an old town, and families had been there as early settlers… My great grandfather Waightstill Avery settled there. He came down from New England. He was a graduate of Princeton. Graduated at the head of his class. And I used to hear my family say that when he married a woman I think in New Bern in Eastern North Carolina … I think they first lived there. Anyhow, they moved. They liked … they saw the rolling country there. And my folks used to laugh and say the Waightstill Averys had to leave some of their family possessions behind, but they brought all their books.5 And my aunt used to say that people came often to their home to read papers and books, I suppose, because there were no libraries, you see. I know my father was sent to prep school in eastern Carolina (Bingham Preparatory School) and then on to the university. And I think all of his brothers attended U.N.C… Their grandfather had been one of those interested in founding UNC… a number of them were killed in the war between the states. They are on the Civil War memorial

Page 20
walls at Chapel Hill. Now, they were all people who went, who were sent to college. And I'm sure that it stemmed from their grandfather—Waightstill Avery—having been interested in its establishment … He served I think a short time—a year or two—as attorney general of North Carolina … I think under the king and after the revolutionary war. All my ancestors fought in the war. My uncle, Isaac Avery, died at Gettysburg. My father was in the Civil War. There was great reverence for their courage and bravery.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Well, so you met your husband then when he came up to visit …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, I met him when I visited in Charlotte, N.C.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had heard of you from friends.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
When I came down on the visit, he called up before I got there and asked my hostess who was conntected with my family—not quite a relative but was really like it—if he could take me to a play. He came to see me. So that was the beginning of our acquaintence.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well you had not had a chance to be courted by very many boys, had you.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, you live in a small town, you know everybody. There is social life, and you visit college friends, etc., etc.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, yeah, yeah.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I never thought of myself as courted, anyhow. [Laughter] I had a brother, and it just was normal and natural and that was it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when did you marry?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We were married in 1917.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After you had graduated from college?

Page 21
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. I graduated in June from UNC at Chapel Hill and was married in July. And he went in to take officer's training for the First World War in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Ah, he went right into the army.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, we lived in a number of army camp areas. So I had a view of the country which in itself was an education. We were stationed at Chattanooga, Tenn., Plattsburgh, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Md. And all of that… really, for a short time we were stationed in Charlotte, which was quite … accidental that it happened so. Names were drawn for location.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you did not teach then, or work…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I taught one year before I went to Chapel Hill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But after you were married?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No. Couldn't have, moving from army camp to army camp. I had to be able and ready to move according to my husband's military orders, on short notice, and we assumed we would have only a brief time together if he were sent to the European front, in European war locations.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you settle down?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I don't remember the exact date.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He had already graduated from law school.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh yes, he was already practicing. He was practicing when he met me. Yes, he was practicing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was a bit older…

Page 22
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
At that time… everybody was very patriotic in regard to World War I and he left his office and went on to war. We went to Chattanooga, where he was trained. And then he was sent to various camps… He was a first lieutenant and then promoted to a captain. He was assigned to the training of young officers. He did not go abroad, but he was in the army several years. I came home before he did… The epidemic—many expectant mothers died. It was safer for me not to risk exposure. So I returned to Charlotte in advance of the birth of our baby.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, When he returned to Charlotte he went back to his law practice…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We were married and he had closed his office, then we went to Chattanooga to the officers training camp… one of the early war marriages… People thought it was taking chances to marry a man headed for the European War. Think of getting married in war time! Just really a chance for a girl to take.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You should have waited until the war was over, according to some people?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But people… before World War II there was a great rash of marriages.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, later on in World War I there were, but ours was quite early and I'm sure that a lot of older people were dubious about the wisdom of the step. But he did survive,

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and although there was strain and uncertainty about the future, it was very stimulating… I'm sure it broadened our outlook, living in various parts of the country.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm just wondering whether you were thinking of having a career after you were married or did you just… what did you think you were going to do with your life…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
In wartime, life is a day at a time, moving from place to place and never knowing one night what was going to happen, or whether my husband would be sent overseas. Life was very uncertain and unpredictable. I learned to hope for the best but take what came. I came back before he got out of the war. And my child was born
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm thinking about after the war was… you came back… you had your first baby, then, before…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, he got back before the baby was born. We lived near his parents until we could get settled and get started again. Then I had another baby. They were about sixteen months apart, which was a great asset when I got into politics because nobody could say that I didn't have a family. I had two…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Very important, that's right. So you had already had two children before you started getting involved in…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I guess you'd say so, although I was already interested in public affairs.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You went to the meeting in Baltimore and came back to work in the League of Women Voters.

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GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. My training at college was a natural forerunner of interest in the League of Women Voters. And the League offered, of course, an opportunity and we began the League of Women Voters… I had the first candidates meeting in North Carolina, for example, where opposing candidates told what they stood for. More than one candidate—the mayor's race was non-partisan. But—the mayor's race. But I knew, I'd learned, you see, at the National League of Women Voters meeting about candidates meetings, which were planned for women coming and hearing them and having an opportunity to know and evaluate their stand on public issues and make a decision on whom to vote for. Which would seem normal now but which was new then. So the first candidates meeting that I put on, the first candidates meeting in North Carolina, was for the mayor of Charlotte—a race between two men for the office.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you the first state president or the first …
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, I was not the state president… I was the state president later, but I began as local president in Charlotte.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was the first state president?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
It was Gertrude Weil. She gave financial support to the League and meant a great deal to its devlopment and was a wonderful leader in North Carolina. (It was a great privilege for a young woman to be associated with Gertrude Weil, Dr. Elliott and Mrs. Palmer German.)

Page 25
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you knew Gertrude Weil. Did you work with her?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. She was a wonderful woman, educated in one of the northern colleges, I think. And I've wondered where her papers are. Have you ever tried to get any from her sister? She…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where is her sister?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Wilmington, and I can't at the moment think of her married name… she was Janet Weil. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, tell me some of the issues that the League of Women Voters worked on.6 What were some of the…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, the mayor's race was just two men running for public office and each campaigning on who was best qualified. And so I decided that we would try to have a candidates meeting, and after the women had heard them they would be better equipped to vote for them, and I decided that I would go to the various leaders of the community. (I talked it over with my husband.) And got them, the political men leaders, interested in it. And so I did. And I talked to the party leaders and I told them we would like to have this meeting to give the women an opportunity to see and hear the candidates and increase interest in registration. And they thought it was an excellent idea and all of them agreed to it. So we planned the meeting in a public meeting hall, had it reserved and got all set. And then the campaign got tense and feeling ran high. And the political leaders decided that we better not have the meeting. So… they didn't come to see me. They went to see my hus|band.

Page 26
He said, "Well, I'll take your message home. I'll talk to her. And I'll let you know what she says." So he came home and said… he mentioned the names of the political leaders… They went to your husband and he brought the message… And said that they had become concerned and that they had asked him to ask me if I would be willing not to have the meeting. And of course there was silence. He didn't say anything else. He just brought me the message. I thought about it a little while and I said, "Well, I am not willing, because I went to every one of them, talked it over with them and told them I wanted the women to have the opportunity to hear the people they were going to be called on to vote for. And I won't stop it." And he said, "Congratulations." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well he was really supportive of you, then.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh very, very.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was he so willing to have you involved…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, he… I think he was probably the most, one of the most public spirited people I've ever known.
He ran for the school board early and he, his committee, their project was the first Negro school, black school which was built of brick, so it was not a fire hazard. It was the first brick school building for blacks—most of the black schools were wooden and my husband felt all school buildings should be brick, black and white. He was elected and that was his project. They wanted to name the school for him but he felt it was not appropriate for a person who was on the board to have a school named for him… And I was always sort of sorry that he didn't since it was the first black school built for safety. Going

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back to the meeting, we held the meeting and there was great excitement. The wife of one newspaper man told me that she just thought blood would be shed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many women were in your local league? Was it the county or what?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We called it Mecklenburg County League of Women Voters, and I put much time into getting women who were respected leaders, and genuinely interested.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many women?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I'd have to go back… I couldn't say… but it was a creditable number and members from other organizations attended meetings… we… I worked hard. I got women to serve as officers on the board—many of them outstanding in their own right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
50 women?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
On yes, I feel reasonably sure there were 50 women. I might be able to find you this. But I had… there was the president and then the vice president, secretary, treasurer. We had, you know, the usual set up. And then I tried to get women of other organizations—women of influence and standing in the community, who shared our views on women's civic responsibility. And therefore, they themselves were leaders and they gave an added support to the movement.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of women would be considered women of influence and standing?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, they were women who had stood for women voting and had taken part in such things as the YWCA, AAUW,

Page 28
Woman's Club, Business and Professional Women's Clubs, or church work. Or patriotic societies and whatever opportunity there was for leadership. I spoke to some of the organizations of women and invited them to join the League. And those were, to some extent limited, though there were women secretaries and…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Would you say it would be more women's positions in women's organizations than their position as say the wives of prominent men?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I don't think the husbands played a part… most of them were married, but many had responsible positions or were leaders in other groups or organizations… one of the first secretaries… Miss Carrie McLean, a lawyer, was active in the community. A woman who had had a very interesting life. She'd graduated from a Baptist college. Grown up without great means in life. And as a young girl had written letters to a missionary and told her about how she longed to have an education. And the missionary would write back and she'd write and they wrote for some years. And she was a very very able young woman. And she, when she got old enough to go off to school the missionary told her that she was going to send her to the Baptist college. So she had gone and made a splendid record and then taken secretarial training. And she was one of my allies in public work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And she was a secretary?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
At first she worked as a business secretary but then she studied law at night and passed bar exams. Later she

Page 29
ran for the legislature and was elected. I managed her campaign. She made an outstanding record… So there were women and there were… one woman was from another part of the country with a very broad… she'd lived numbers of places. And then one was the wife of a dentist, a woman with qualities of leadership. There were college graduates and some teachers. They were people of, often, professional standing. And many had supported woman's suffrage. And there were some very ardent supporters, you know, among the women. When we … these were the group that were backing me in what I was doing. Well, the meeting came and we had it and it was magnificently attended because of the wide interest in the contest.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the politicians afraid of? What were they afraid would happen if they had the meeting?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I… they were false fears. It was something new in political meetings. They were dealing with an unfamiliar political meeting and they were fearful of the unknown. It was most successful—very well attended and both sides thought it a success.7 It contributed to getting out the vote. But we had it and it had excellent publicity. We were pleased we had established the fact that candidates meetings could be held and the voters could hear them discuss issues. It had been a success. And we were assured we could move on and have other meetings in the future. You see, later

Page 30
we had—in 1928, we had a speaker for Al Smith and a speaker for Hoover. So, we kept up the interest in candidates, you see. And it was quite a contribution because it had never been done in North Carolina or Charlotte before. Two party—both parties speaking—each for their party candidate.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were trying to educate women about the issues and increase interest in voting.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Sure, the same political issue education the League does now. I mean, this is the thing the League succeeded in doing. We were working for the things we believed in and we wanted the women to know what these candidates stood for and then women would hopefully make their own decisions.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you work on any issues like the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, the city manager form of government or women's work, wages. Did you take a stance on those kinds of issues and work on them?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, we did. A very conservative local businessman reacted adversely to our interest in wages for women's work. And there was a debate at the time on the election of city council. We took a stand. See, we had at that time Mrs. Palmer German who was active in Woman's Club and also politics. Women's organizations lobbied at the legislature. Mrs. German was a leader in Raleigh. She was really a very able person. She'd been state president of the women's clubs and she was a leader on issues and all the women's club and other organizations had a legislative program… one thing, dormitories for women at UNC, raising the age of consent from 14 to 16, admitting girls to UNC before their junior year. We had women who were quite

Page 31
capable of leading and to a great extent—they had gotten their experience in the women's club and other women's organizations and had—it was broad in its outlook, one of the women's groups at that time. Of course they had educational things and they had teachers' organizations. A number of the early officers in the party were women who had been state presidents in women's organizations and knew the state. Would be the natural thing, you know. And here, of course, the League contributed to the interest of people for participation in politics. But of course as far as being integrated into the party, that was a closed book.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well tell me the story of how that integration came about. What kind of obstacles you ran into. When you first organized the League of Women Voters were you intending to get inside party politics?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I had every intention of doing this. The men were not aware of just what steps or course women would take in the League… they didn't exactly know what the League of Women Voters wanted and they were very respectful… people running for… because some of the women were from influential families and were influential in their own right, and they had their families behind them. My father-in-law, my husband, were lawyers of standing in the state and in the community and we … though we proceeded tactfully, we felt self-assurance. We gave thoughtful consideration to issues and our stand on them. And the more I thought about it, realized that

Page 32
women must have some standing in the political party organization. It helped to have had some political science along the way. And so—of course the family knew everybody in the community, all the lawyers and so forth, and I decided that the thing to do was for me to go as the president of the League of Women Voters and talk—it was a one party system in the state, but the registration was for all women, each choosing her party—and talk to the chairman of the party about the matter and get his reaction. And I had talked to some of my League officers and members. Would they serve on precinct committees, if they were permitted to do so, and work on registering women? And I had about 15 or so who wished to serve and would welcome the experience, you see. So I went to see the chairman and he was a lawyer and of course knew my family and they knew him. Name's Hamilton Jones. And I said, "Hamilton, I came over to talk to you about the registration of women." I said, "I know you're interested in getting them registered and getting them registered possibly in the democratic party." And he said "Yes." I said "It seems to me that it would be very important for you to have some women who are within the party organization to serve on a registration committee. Some vice-chairmen of precincts." He looked at me in great astonishment and said, "But Gladys, you wouldn't be vice-chairman of a precinct. Why your father was a judge and so forth. You wouldn't be…" I said "I'm eager to be useful in the registration of women. And I know about 15 more women who are just as eager as I am and I think you ought to look at

Page 33
this very seriously. For example," I said, "how are you going to get the women registered?" I said "I know you have precinct workers, but do you think those men are going to be able to go and knock on a lady's door?" And I said "lady's" with purpose. And I think it hit home. Anyhow he decided to appoint about 15 women so we could conduct a registration campaign. You see, you had to take the step. And women registered in the party of their choice.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right, what did you do about the poll tax?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
My recollection is that women did not pay poll tax. The poll tax was abolished earlier in North Carolina than in some other southern states. I recall hearing a political leader say that the candidates running for sheriffs opposed it. It interfered with their races. I'll try to check this data. It interests me. Later the question came up in other southern states when I was national Vice Chairman. I was always opposed to it… I don't ever remember any problem with the poll tax. They must have let us off. But I'll look that up and find… But I remember no, there was no hurdle to take in that. That was…
JACQUELYN HALL:
The poll tax … you weren't aware… or you didn't discuss that as a discriminatory…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
The poll tax was discussed and was considered discriminatory by the League of Women Voters… Well I was so glad to get in. If you can get in then you can talk about what you want to get done. But the first thing to do is to get

Page 34
in. The County Chairman did not raise the question of the poll tax when we women were appointed on precinct committees… I got one of the jewelry stores to present a silver loving cup to be awarded to the woman who got the most women to register in the campaign. I really would like to know where that cup is now. The name of the woman who won it was Mrs. Hamilton.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So your first registration campaign was successful?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Very successful. And we had very good publicity… And it, and some women wouldn't. One woman was really against registering. She said, "Oh, I couldn't register. Oh, I couldn't register." And then in a year or two more her son ran for public office and the whole family registered. [Laughter] She was willing to register because her family was involved.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you really didn't feel much opposition from women, then, or men either for what you were doing?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
To get voters to register? No. There was public interest but not opposition. Some of the men contributed to the League of Women Voters and were interested and cooperative. Candidates running for office were tremendously interested in getting voters registered. It didn't seem wrong at all to most people. As voters our requests to public officials were given respectful consideration. They did not have enough collections of garbage in Charlotte at one period. Charlotte women decided that it would help matters to go to city hall and appear in a body. And so we requested to see the city officials and a large group of women visited the city hall

Page 35
and requested better service. The women thought it was not sanitary and not healthy for their families and they… These officials all had to be elected, so they responded to the demands of women who were now voters… [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me a bit…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
You've been asking for much in detail.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I know… when you became state president of the league of women voters and other things that you can think of in the twenties…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
In the early days we had a state legislative council… she served a short … led by Mrs. Palmer German, the woman I said was an able leader with high principles and understanding. She was chairman of a legislative committee in Raleigh. The League of Women Voters joined with other state organizations of women in support of legislation of special interest to women. She had a young lawyer there who kept up with the lagislature and lobbied for the women's legislature. And one of the measures women supported and secured passage was on raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. This was of special concern to those interested in young black girls. During each legislative session women's organizations pushed for passage by the legislature… A dormitory for women students at UNC is another example of the attainment of women's rights. I was active in the 1928 campaign. My husband and his family were opposed to religious prejudice in voting

Page 36
and they were for Al Smith, which was quite different from some parts of the south at that time…
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had probably never been a member of the WCTU.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No… I had spoken to WCTU as president of the League of Women Voters, because they were always interested in responsible citizenship and women's participation in voting, but I had not joined. I spoke to many women's organizations on matters of concern in the League of Women Voters' programs … in the area of human rights… and women's responsibility as voting citizens. My father-in-law and my husband were liberal in their thinking and the family approved… to hold people's religion against them was just very much against… the whole family became involved in upholding religious freedom. I was vice chairman of the precinct in which all the Tillett family lived. And I worked very hard. Of course, I felt… at that time everything you did was a test of women's taking responsibility in politics. So I just… nobody suggested that I go from door to door in our precinct but it seemed the best plan of checking and I did go door to door.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean women had to prove themselves?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, oh absolutely. So I just went from door to door and talked to them. You know, did my best. And the only precinct in Mecklenburg County that went for Al Smith was my precinct.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right? [Laughter] That was a real triumph!
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh, it put our precinct on the map, and the whole

Page 37
family connection was pleased. I think it was a revelation to the political leaders, that a woman could get out and do this. Of course, it just happened and I didn't know that it would be the only one. So it wasn't long before they put me on the state executive committee. It came as a surprise, I didn't know I was going to be on. Picked up the paper, we did, and found that I… The state Democratic executive committee had met and acted without my knowledge or that of my family.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was this? 1932?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Before 1932, because I was … it was after 1928.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any other women on the state executive committee?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
There had been a woman who preceded me but I think I was the only one from Mecklenburg County when appointed… I'm not sure about predecessers… As time went by the number of women on the state committee increased.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you were the first active, independent woman.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I think I was one of the first active independent women from Mecklenburg County and I think it helped the cause of women to have me appointed. I think there were token appointments of women when women's suffrage first came… In 1932 my husband and I went to Raleigh for the state convention. I was going to learn about political state conventions and my husband … we were sitting in the auditorium and this

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same Mr. Jones, our county chairman, that made me precinct member got up when they were having nominations. And all unknown to me the state party had decided to have four women serve as delegates to the '32 convention when Roosevelt was nominated. Presently nominations for delegates to the National Convention got under way … I thought Mr. Hamilton Jones came to the platform during nominations … I asked my husband, "Who is he nominating?" and about that time Mr. Jones said "She was born in Burke County and reared in Burke County and now is a citizen of Charlotte. Mrs. Gladys Tillett." Well, it was a complete surprise to me… and my husband, too, because we didn't know anything about it. And they nominated Mrs. Palmer German and Miss Elliott, Professor Harriett Elliott, and a woman from western North Carolina. She was active. And four women were nominated for delegates to the National Convention in Chicago. It was a great experience. We felt all women elected should go, and we went, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated as candidate for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket. Both men and women were moved, sometimes to tears, as he came forward on crutches to address the convention.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you a strong Roosevelt supporter all through the period?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Oh yes, I served as Reporter Chairman for N.C., an organization plan to acquaint state and local party leaders with the Roosevelt program, the New Deal. Molly Dewson, head

Page 39
of the National Democratic Division, set up the Reporter Plan to inform county and precinct leaders about the New Deal. I headed each unit in party organization as vice-chairman, and through the process I was aware that a woman's holding office would demonstrate a woman could serve as head of each unit in party organization. It would be less difficult to get women into positions of political leadership. So I had gained a broad experience. Not every state had given women the recognition that came to North Carolina women in 1932 by including them in the various units of party organization. But I did not think that it was hard to do and it was a great advantage to come up from the ranks. That is to take each step and see what is being done. I resigned as President of the League when I got into state politics but but kept my interest and stayed in the League program. And then I, of course, was active in that campaign after Roosevelt was nominated. Later on I became N.C. state vice-chairman of the Democratic Party. I resigned as vice chairman of the Democratic Committee in 1926 to run the National Speakers Bureau. It was an interesting experience. I learned about prejudice in a campaign and worked hard over the religious issue. This gave me a background of experience in dealing with prejudice, then going to the national convention in 1932 was very stimulating and built a wider experience. Because, of course, it was very exciting and interesting, and then of course Prof. Elliot being there, you see, my teacher, and others, older women. It was an interesting and very exciting

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experience. The high spot was when Roosevelt was nominated and came to the Convention to accept the nomination. It was a first for the nominee to accept in person. And of course he captivated the country and captivated the delegates. And then, later on… being a delegate … I got acquainted with some of the national leaders. And …
JACQUELYN HALL:
National women?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, national women leaders. Molly Dewson was a woman who was commander of the forces of women for Roosevelt, national vice chairman. She was a graduate of Wellesley College and a leader in public movements and she became vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. So, as state vice chairman I got acquainted with her. And Dewson asked me to serve as N.C. Chairman of the Reporter Plan. She was trying to have a program called the Reporter Plan. And it aimed to get women interested and informed on the New Deal. So that sort of fit into my League of Women Voters background of studying issues—the focus was on the Democratic Party program. So I went … after I was elected, I went in many counties in North Carolina, and I remember that my local county chairman, a man, went all the way to Raleigh to nominate me when I ran as candidate for N.C. State Chairman of the Democratic Party, which indicates the sort of interest and respect that he had for the women's movement, and the leadership of women in the party setup. And he said that you can take into account the experience of your women candidates for vice-chairman, but he said "But

Page 41
I have a woman that's carried her precinct in Mecklenburg Co. for Al Smith in 1928. And I thought I ought to offer her for state vice chairman." That was a recommendation electing a woman to organize N.C. I'd done it in a precinct and shown I could do it, and "elections are won in the precinct" became my motto, and later the motto of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee. I did get elected, and then I became acquainted, you see, with the national people. And I suggested having regional conferences for the women. And … of course I'd taken the idea to the national committee. And they did. They had a regional conference in Virginia and later in Alabama and in Mississippi. And I, of course, was interested in reaching women in other states and helping in any thing possible. I remember one thing we were worried about in Virginia was how we could endorse social security and not offend Senator Byrd! There was an uncertainty about the … from the standpoint of his state women leaders very carefully approached…
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you had regional meetings…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, and I was chairman of the Southern region and cooperated in planning the first regional meetings in Richmond, Va., and then in the deep South. The regional meetings were very, very helpful, you see. You learned what the problems were in many states. And then I took a trip through some southern states with Molly Dewson. She suggested I go, but it was after I had helped plan the Southern regional meeting held in Richmond, Va., and we held meetings in Virginia and Georgia.

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And I got to know her. So in 1936 when Roosevelt ran again, she asked me to run the speakers bureau—national.
JACQUELYN HALL:
By then some opposition to Roosevelt was developing in the South, so you had that to contend with.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes, opposition to his progressive programs. It was important to know each state and its leaders. And I was asked by Miss Dewson to organize the women's speakers bureau in 1936 and she said organizing meetings and getting speakers there was a difficult job. She said that she wanted somebody that can take it and do it and be poised and get it done. I don't know that I met the requirements but she did request my appointment. It was an inspiring experience—there are always tense moments but we had it well organized and no meeting fell through.
JACQUELYN HALL:
For the country or for the South?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
For the country. So I went to New York then. That was a big move in the family, even though it was in the summer. They started organizing early for that (before then?) and I had to see what to do with all my children and my mother was a great help to me in keeping things going at home.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you were going to stay in New York for several months?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. My husband, of course, could come to see me and I could come home every now and then… So I was pretty regularly in touch with my family and my home. And that summer I sent my little girl, youngest girl, to camp

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and my son worked in his father's office and learned typing. And then the other daughter was getting into the early teen years and so I told Miss Dewson that I felt I could not leave her at home, that a teenager and particularly a girl, had to be with her mother. She said, "Just bring her up there and we'll just give her something to do." Of course that excited my daughter tremendously. And then I ran the speakers bureau and things went well—no meetings fell down but went off smoothly. It was well set up and the men as well as women were impressed with our success in organizing meetings. And I became acquainted with party leaders who were calling for speakers and I had an opportunity to learn political situations in the various states … successfully and I continued to be active and interested … I resigned as state vice chairman because I felt that there should be a state vice chairman to handle the governor's race, you see, and all that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After that did you, would you say that your activities really shifted more toward the national Democratic party and you became less involved in state…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I was in close touch with my state but my outlook broadened… you've got to stay involved in your state… have your contacts understanding of state politics. I had traveled to all areas of the state. And I visited just about every county when I promoted the Reporter Plan, and I knew the N. C. county leaders and went to all sections in the state. And then the regional meetings. And I'd set up the

Page 44
reporter plan which aimed at understanding the Roosevelt New Deal. I got to know the leaders over the whole state and could interest men leaders in the advantages of having women leaders in the party organization. See I'd gotten women in, scattered around precincts. Some of them put them in. My contribution in the N. C. Democratic Party Organization was to support for having the chairman and vice chairman of opposite sex. This was passed, first by the N. C. State executive committee and then the Democratic state chairman, Mr. Wallace Winborne, had me take it to the whole state convention and it was established state-wide that the chairman and vice chairman should be of opposite sex. I advised with my husband on how to establish it. He said "Simple, simple. Just put that the chairman and vice chairman should be of opposite sex." So we did that, and then—the chairman, Mr. Wallace Winburn, was a very … sympathetic to my beliefs and believed in women because he saw what we did. So he said "Gladys, I think you have to do more than get it to executive committee. We're going to have this big state convention here. And somebody is going to rise up and say ‘But the whole party didn't speak. You just got it over there in executive committee."’ And he said "I want you to go out and take the gavel in your hand and preside. They won't boo at you, but they'd boo at me." You see. So I stepped out to gavel and put the motion and I did put the motion. And always, of course, when you're in charge or have the chairman with you… he said "Come down quick, ‘the ayes have it."’ And

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so I did "the ayes have it." It did pass and then we really had it, you see. And we couldn't … it was a very wise thing that he did and advised and saw me through. Because then it was the whole body politic voting. And that became law and has remained.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What has kept you so consistently interested in women's rights and opportunities do you think? During that period, during the twenties, there was a very lively women's movement that died out to some extent in the twenties and thirties. There was not…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, it didn't die out. It was … when you say out… it depended on your leadership, how well it went. And what you could get women to do. And North Carolina women were interested. And they stayed interested.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the women's position has always been really the major theme that you have worked on all during…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I worked on education. I worked to get a women's dormitory at Chapel Hill after I went there. And there wasn't any dormitory. I stayed at a boarding house. Sat at a table with about a dozen men. You just had to go where you could go, you see. And it, well, it happened. There were many things that interested me, you see. I was interested in… I was in a family that was public spirited and broad in their outlook. You discussed what was going on. And as I said, I think my husband was just more interested in public affairs and taking a stand and that sort of thing. And he respected it in a woman

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as much as he did in a man—standing for what you believed in. So that it was not… then you… I moved along and there was always something intriguing and very interesting, you see. The next step was something new and fresh and you learned enough to feel like you could do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think of yourself as a feminist?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
One of my great interests has been and is human rights for women and I believe in human rights for all people. I was on the committee in the YWCA on human rights for a number of years for blacks, for everybody. And my husband, all of his family, they were interested, don't you see. And then Frank Graham spent a lot of time with us before he was married. He'd come and take trips with us, going to the mountains with the family and things of that sort. I had all around me always people interested in public affairs, and education. And my husband was quite interested in and did a great deal to lead the movement in many public issues … who was the man in Tennessee?
JACQUELYN HALL:
The evolution… I know what you're talking about.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes. I'm trying to think of the man who was … in the evolution trial…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Scopes.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Scopes. I was trying to think of Scopes. Hadn't thought of it in so long. And that developed to quite great lengths in North Carolina. And my husband was certainly a leader in that. And Frank Graham, of course, was at Chapel

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Hill and he was concerned. And Dr. Wilson, did you ever hear of him? Dr. Wilson who was head of the … science department… oh he wrote my husband and an appealing letter, to do everything he could to defeat opposition. He'd been a student of Dr. Wilson and so had I at UNC, you see. I had taken Dr. Wilson's science course. Not to have this thing passed in North Carolina to hamper the great university as he saw it. And so…
JACQUELYN HALL:
So your interest in women's rights is just one aspect of your general…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, it was such a big aspect in those times because women were so far behind. But it was not the only aspect. Religious freedom, you see, with the Al Smith campaign. Each was one phase of human rights for all. Later I was to work unceasingly for the Equal Rights Amentment. The intent of the Amendment is to write women into the Constitution of the United States, to give them the basic protection guaranteed to men in the Constitution of the United States.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, you became head of the women's division of the Democratic Party in 1940?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
1940. See all these… I knew how a state thing was run. And then running this speakers bureau. I had pride in that, that the women should do as well as it could be done
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
come back. In the meantime Dorothy McAllister of Michigan was

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taking over what they called head of the women's division in the 1940 campaign. Molly Dewson was vice chairman of the Democratic Committee but she wanted Dorothy McAllister (very able) to run the 1940 campaign. Molly Dewson asked me to run the speakers bureau again in 1940. I had worked as hard as possible and succeeded in getting to every engagement. I knew 1940 was going to be a tremendously important campaign. So Molly Dewson asked me to come back. She was still vice chairman of the Democratic National Convention. Said "You know how to do it and you've done it. And the people know you." You see that she thought that was tremendously important… I got acquainted, through the speakers campaign, with leaders in the various states when I was arranging their meetings and talking to them and setting it up. And if you got your speaker right they thought you were competent and interested in their success—naturally they wanted to have successful meetings. And I thought about it carefully. And my husband said "They need you. Go on up there and do this." He wanted me to do it because he felt like it was of great interest to me and I could do it. So he was right behind me. And I went and I did run it and it came out very well. And Ed Flynn, from the Bronx, boss of the Bronx, was the chairman and I thought, "He'll wonder about somebody from down here in the South, having the organizing experience and ability." But I did do it and we didn't have any difficulty. And I understood the need of the party leaders for speakers and we had good and friendly relations… In a

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big organization there's negotiating and sometimes I was called onto do it. I got to know the other leaders working. When I left I went around to see Mr. Flynn. He was an interesting person. You might think he would be aloof. He was easy to work with and had many interests. For example, he was a great flower grower. He'd bring in the most beautiful flowers. Always had one on his desk, which impressed me as unusual. That the leader from the Bronx had this sort of interest in beauty and so forth. I got to know him pretty well. So when I left and went around and told him that I had come up there and known that I was going to have the boss of the Bronx there and I was going to run the speakers bureau. And here I found somebody who had fresh flowers on his desk every morning and I was very much impressed. We laughed gaily about it and I told him goodbye and came on back. And then later on he called and told me he'd like to talk over some things with me and would I come up there and see him. And nobody would believe me but I didn't think he was calling me up to ask me me to be vice chairman. I thought he really respected my judgment and wanted to ask me who in New York or Philadelphia or somewhere—not the South—would I advise. But I went up there and when he asked me I said "Why Mr. Flynn, you know I can't do that. I have a family and I have a husband" and I said "I don't know how I could work it out." He said, "Well, you could do some of the work at home." He said "Now remember…"
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had a woman been vice chairman before?

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GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Molly Dewson was one of the early ones in 1932, but not the first. Emily Newell Blair of Missouri had served and I think a woman from Tennessee… You see, people became more interested in women's meetings as they learned the value of them—after two campaigns with women leaders men learned the value of women's leadership and political action and after Pearl Harbor women were needed as men went off to war. And so, and I… all the way along I thought the women should be elected, not appointed. And I had Miss Dewson to stand with me, that if I were I would want the Democratic National Committee to elect me just as they elect the chairman. And that was done. I thought that was an important principle to establish. And so it was… I said, "Well, I'll tell you. I'll go home and if you'll give me about a month on this, I'll tell my family and I'm going to let everybody in the family vote on it. And if I get a hundred percent of the vote—I give everybody twenty-five percent of the vote—why I'll let you know." He said "That's all right." … again, talked about Jim Farley. "Look what he did. Ran the post office and ran the committee. And all you've got to do is just run your home and then you can go out and speak and go back home and do some of your work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Nothing to it. [Laughter]
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
No, no. [Laughter] Nothing to it. Of course my husband was interested in it. And the whole family was. And Gladys had been up. My oldest daughter had been with me

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and she was very interested. She had been with me, you see, the first campaign just in prep school and went up and had her little job. So it was, they were conditioned, interested, and understood what it was all about. And found it fascinating. So I did. This was in '40. And then the convention in '44 of course was a tremendously fascinating one. Interesting.
And I participated, of course, in that and nominated—I've got copies of my speeches. I spoke…
JACQUELYN HALL:
You made the keynote address to the women?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
To the Convention at a night session.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In '44.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
In '44. I've got a copy of that speech and of the one in Philadelphia in '48.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'd love to have that. Do you have all of your papers…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well… I've got a lot of papers and I think I've got a consecutive representation of papers. What the newspapers said about me, you know, and that type of thing. I've never really organized them. I've just never had time. Something just keeps happening, you see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you kept your correspondence all through…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Not all my correspondence. I regret that. But… I do have some. I have many… I have some letters and things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'd love to have a chance to look at your things some time.

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GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, it's not organized enough. It's just dropped in the… you know… I hope to get it organized.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well you should get a student that's working on some aspect of politics to organize it for you.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, if you just… I always… I can get them out. I get things out, of course.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well how long then were you head of the women's division?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well as long as anybody's ever… 10 years … Well, I was head of the women's division… I was vice chairman, yes. Then I had someone to help me. I brought India Edwards in. She had worked on the Chicago Tribune. She was a Democrat. She'd lost a son in the war. And we became close friends. She followed me. I resigned in 1950. See that was the year that Frank Graham ran for the senate and it was a racial issue and it would have been wrong, as I viewed it… a racial issue must be met in one's state—in the South. And India was very gifted. She had not started out in politics but she was an experienced and able newspaper woman and was the first editor of the Democratic Digest, an excellent Democratic publication. We were close as workers together and have long been friends.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you resigned to come back to the state and work for Frank?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I saw a newspaper clipping from I think 1948 saying

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that it was rumored that you were about to resign. Do you remember what that was about?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I don't know. Maybe speculation. Maybe a guess by someone, I don't know.8
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the '48 campaign? That was quite a stormy battle…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Yes it was, but Truman won. India was a splendid executive and had worked closely with me for a number of years and her newspaper background was a great asset… We went on the train with the President and Mrs. Truman several times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you instrumental in… I think the North Carolina delegation was the only support Truman got in the South in 1948. Isn't that right?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Truman was not unpopular in N.C. I know people liked him… one thing, of course, used against him in the South was his appointment of the Civil Rights Commission, you know. Frank Graham served on that. That was one thing that we had to meet in his campaign. Frank Graham had served on the Civil Rights Commission—appointed by Truman. Willis Smith made a big issue of this when Frank Graham ran for U.S. Senate. I had a young man who was writing a paper on him…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Joe Herzenberg.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Herzenberg. He came by and he was doing… of course I was a … Frank Graham's campaign was a racial issue campaign. He almost won the campaign in the first round.

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Then came the Supreme Court decision and what the papers said. I made it clear…
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did that 1950 campaign affect you?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
With Frank?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
It was… I directed the women's organization of the Graham Campaign for Senate… oh, I never worked as hard on anything in my life. And I went all through the east of N.C. holding women's meetings. That's where the racial issues gave the greatest trouble. And in addition a crucial point in that was the decision of the Supreme Court which came down between the primary and the runoff election.9 The runoff was between Frank Graham and Willis Smith, which was one of the most bitter racial campaigns I think we've had in the state of North Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well Jesse Helms was his campaign manager, wasn't he? Who was responsible for those tactics do you think?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Both the candidate and the campaign manager appeared responsible.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I thought Helms was Willis Smith's campaign manager.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Helms used his radio station against Frank in what many regarded an irresponsible was.10 The Supreme Court decision in regard to schools came at a critical moment

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in the campaign—just prior to the runoff primary vote…
JACQUELYN HALL:
… one of the school desegregation decisions…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
It was reported that the opposition had people meeting school busses telling the children "Go home and tell your parents Frank Graham is just going to bring the Negroes in."
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did Dr. Graham and his campaign staff decide to meet those smears?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, of course, I went and met with groups of women. They had meetings and I talked about the fact of human rights and talked about the fact of women and what he had meant in North Carolina for their children. What he meant to education. How he had…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you just try to avoid the issue of school desegregation?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Of course not.11 You couldn't avoid it—any more than school desegregation can be avoided in Boston now. The radio played a big part in the campaign, and Smith used radio widely without ceasing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you deal with it?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
We talked about it … that if you were going to have black people and white people you ought to educate all of them and try to make good citizens out of them all. Frank Graham was a man to be trusted… and… I think I felt it was of great importance to go into it. And I felt that the more we met the issue the stronger we would be. And I found

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deep interest among women… women appreciate the greatness of character of Frank Graham and his great contribution as president of a great university… And he had done nothing but give everybody the right to be educated—black and white. And then you, of course, bore down on his contributions to North Carolina, which were indeed great, and… I found no difficulty with women's groups, in a sense, because they all … I had been over the state so much and I had personal contact with many groups. And having been at women's college I knew people really all over the state because that was really our only…
JACQUELYN HALL:
It would be interesting to know how the vote broke down along the lines of sex in that campaign. Have there been…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I think women to a great extent were for Frank, especially those who had sent their children to UNC at Chapel Hill… I've got some things that my husband wrote at the time.12 There were three candidates, the Supreme Court decision came between the first vote and the second primary and the opposition bore down heavily on this and made an effort to frighten people about the future. It was said at the time that money was sent into N.C. to defeat Dr. Graham, but I have no way of knowing what was true and I would not comment on this at all… Dr. Graham was always honest about what he stood for and … I spent much campaign time speaking at meetings

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supporting Graham. I raised money in North Carolina and in other states to pay for radio time, etc.13 I spent much time in Eastern Carolina—driving myself in my own car… There was a big move to win the South. It was widely reported that the opposition forces met school busses and sent word to parents warning them of the racial problems if Graham was elected.14 Willis Smith was elected. It is difficult to pin the blame for vicious race attacks on any one.15… Graham and I gave complete time to the most bitter racial campaign in the history of N.C. … I resigned from the Democratic National Committee in April 1950 to organize for Frank… I was not involved in the party, held no office in the party.16 Later on I was asked to help at Mecklenburg Democratic Headquarters during the McGovern campaign and I worked through that campaign. Yeah. I aided in bringing in speakers, and planning meetings and raising funds—Liz Carpenter and Sissy Farrenhold came to Charlotte with a number of speakers. We held a very successful women's meeting with large attendance. And that was the only big meeting held. And of course you can't help but feel that if you could have done more it would have been… fine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, were you involved in trying to… when the

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question arose… what the state's response was going to be to the Brown decision. Whether massive resistance…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, I've always been on the broad view of the blacks and when I was… I'd forgot about this… when I was, for example, when I was in Washington during the Roosevelt … Truman campaign, not campaign but era. After… It was after the campaigns, I think, when Truman was president. Anyhow, they were going to have a big dinner. Mr. Hannegan, the chairman, the Democratic chairman at the time. And the Democratic Women's Club was to hold a dinner meeting in the Mayflower Hotel. Mr. Hannegan was away. He was en route to Arkansas to make a speech. And a black woman that I knew well and who had run for congress in Michigan came to confer with me, she said "Mrs. Tillett, I know the Democratic Club is going to have this dinner at the Mayflower Hotel." I said "Yes, the club's putting it on and it's going to be held at the Mayflower Hotel." And she said, "I think three women, black women, ought to be invited to that."—all have given leadership in the Democratic Party. There'd never been a black at a dinnermeeting. And the Democratic club was putting it on and it was to be held in the Mayflower Hotel. Which just… you see… it wasn't held at the club. It was being held… Mrs. Truman was coming, I was speaking, and the chairman was speaking. And it was a definite Democratic party affair, although the club had set it up. And so when she came in, I said, "I want to answer you as I would answer

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anbody who came in here. I think that the black women who have worked should be at that meeting. And I can only say to you I'm not on the board of the club. It's separate from the committee. But I will do everything that is humanly possible to get you there. There will be no difference in the request of a white woman and a black woman in this respect. And I think Mrs. Bethune has made a great contribution and I think you and… " there was another one that had an official position in the office, a congressman from Illinois and I knew her. So I went to work and I sat down and I called the president of the club. She was the wife of a man who was head of the War Labor Board. And of course from New York. I said "I've called you about something that I think is a very important matter." And I said "I'm sure you know when the Democratic Club, which is a volunteer organization, has an important meeting and the wife of the President is coming and the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee is speaking. And when Mrs. Truman, in the absence of her husband, is sitting on my right, the Democratic Committee is involved." And I said "These three black women feel, and I concur, that they should be at this dinner." And she said "Gladys, if you weren't from the South I would tell you you didn't understand." And I said "I do understand. And that's the reason I've called you. And I think we should talk very seriously and earnestly about it." I was tactful, but firm that these party leaders should be present. And then she said, the next thing was "What do you

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think I should do about it? And I said "Well, now that you've asked my advice, I'll give it." And I said "If I were the president of the club I would call in my board. I would present the matter to them and I would talk with club leaders of the board ahead of time and ask their support, plan the meeting in advance. And I really believe that committee, that board, will vote with you. If you plan it and if you meet it forthrightly. Get some leaders." And she did have her leaders with her… one was the wife of a cabinet member from Texas and she was insistent on having the three black women attend. And she was a strong supporter. I was told she said she'd resign if they were not invited to attend. It carried almost unanimously by the club board. And the three black women, distinguished in their own right, were honored guests. It was not long before black women were invited to join the National Democratic Women's Club, and I think India Edwards who followed helped greatly in achieving this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just… before… because I want to be sure and do this in case Bobby comes back. Can you suggest other women who were involved in these…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
National Club. India Edwards and her husband and a number of women from our Democratic headquarters were hosts while I sat by Mrs. Truman… I wish Molly Dewson were living. She's died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know any women who were involved late in the suffrage movement who would be interesting to talk to?

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GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I will try to think up some if I can. So many people have passed away and so many… Mrs. Archibald Henderson was quite a leader. She's died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this her daughter that lives in Chapel Hill, or her daughter-in-law? Mary Henderson?
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
I guess it's her daughter-in-law…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember Mary Henderson? She was Archibald Henderson's sister I think. They were both involved in the suffrage movement.
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
There were two sisters…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Sisters-in-law, I think it was. Mrs. Archibald Henderson and Mary Henderson. And I just… I looked in the Chapel Hill phone book and saw that their…
GLADYS AVERY TILLETT:
Well, Mary Henderson, from Salisbury, she was, she ran, she was vice chairman before I was, I think. There were about two people, several people, who… I was not the first state vice chairman is what I'm really saying. Then Mary ran for the national committee but lost. And I really don't know… is she still there?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, there's a Mary Henderson in the phone book and I just haven't had a chance to check yet to see if that's the same Mary Henderson … [interruption]
END OF INTERVIEW
1. The Daily Vacation Bible Schools were the forerunners of day care centers for children. The man who initiated the movement hoped to have day care centers in all churches, I was told. You will find them in most churches today.
2. One of the objects of establishing Woman's College was that of teacher training. A student was given free tuition if she taught two years after graduation. Most of the students taught. The college also trained in the Business Training Department. Some went in business positions. A majority taught school. I taught one year after graduation and I paid my tuition as did all who didn't teach two years.
3. I was precinct vice-chairman in the 1928 election—religious issue—my precinct was the only one in Mecklenburg that carried for Al Smith. This impressed party leaders.
4. There were North Carolina leaders in the women's movement. Mrs. Palmer German was an early North Carolina National Committeewoman. She had built a following, served as president of the North Carolina Women's Clubs.
5. Waightstill Avery's diary is in UNC library. His office was burned in Charlotte by Cornwallis. Many of his books burned. I was told as a child that the article founding UNC was written in Waightstill Avery's handwriting. He was first attorney general, they said.
6. For the issue of the legal status of women, see the attached report of the state meeting of the League.
7. The Mecklenburg League of Women Voters directed the first registration campaign for women and it was very successful.
Raleigh News and Observer
9. Another fact which increased focus on the race issue was that Frank Graham had the contestants take West Point exams (instead of selecting political appointments). A black boy won, and this became an issue in the campaign, although he did not go, as it turned out, to West Point. The reason, I believe, he was third in line (grades on entrance exam) and the two white boys went.
Greensboro Daily NewsBaltimore Sun
11. Possibly you can read some of the material preserved in the UNC library on the campaign.
Raleigh News and Observer
13. See campaign materials.
News and Observer
15. Note the xerox copy of "White People Wake Up Before It's Too Late", signed by the "Know the Truth Committee."
16. See campaign materials.