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Title: Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Winston, Ellen Black, interviewee
Interview conducted by Smith, Annette
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 156 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
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:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-15, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0064)
Author: Annette Smith
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0064)
Author: Ellen Black Winston
Description: 209 Mb
Description: 45 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 2, 1974, by Annette Smith; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
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 Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974.
Interview G-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Winston, Ellen Black, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ELLEN BLACK WINSTON, interviewee
    ANNETTE SMITH, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ANNETTE SMITH:
You've had a very distinguished career as Commissioner of Welfare in North Carolina and as U.S. Commissioner of Welfare. I guess that one of the first things that people would like to know is how you came to this career. I know that you were a school teacher here in Raleigh in the 20's, after you graduated from college. What made you decide to go back to graduate school?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I had decided, actually, that I would go to graduate school. If I was going to stay in teaching, I wanted to be able to move up. I suppose that's the correct term for it. Meanwhile, I had met the man who was to become my husband. He was very much interested in my learning more about sociology, of which I had had a very little when I attended Converse College. So, it just really evolved over a year or more, in which I was doing a good deal of reading, that instead of going into English, which was the field in which I had specialized at Converse, I should go into graduate school and pursue sociology as a field. I also had good guidance from my future husband. The University of Chicago at that time was really foremost among universities in its department and the faculty who were teaching there then. So that choice seemed pretty easy. I had the good fortune to have an uncle

Page 2
and aunt who lived in Chicago, so that I always had a very pleasant place to visit on the weekends and the rare evenings that I found I could take off from my really very intensive graduate study. I think you know that I was through in eight quarters, with the dissertation completed. Obviously, there wasn't a great deal of time for anything except pursuit of learning. I must say that my parents were very supportive in all of this too. Certainly during the first period I was at Chicago, because I was back and forth several times, my father was definitely helping to underwrite my further education. I was never quite sure what happened to my bank balances. I had saved some money, but somehow there was always money in the bank when I needed it. And that was useful too.
ANNETTE SMITH:
I know that your father was the banker in Bryson City, is that right?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
My father was an attorney and practiced law for most of his life, particularly civil law. He didn't like criminal law. But then he became president of the Bryson City Bank and increasingly that took his time and effort. When we were growing up, though, he had an active legal practice and one of the great things was his frequent trips to Raleigh to handle cases before the State Supreme Court. So, we felt that we knew something about the capital city, at least as children. That was the time of the old Royster Candy Store, too, which was one of the landmarks in earlier Raleigh. And he always brought back Royster Candy. I don't regret most of the changes in Raleigh, but I do regret the closing of that store. [laughter]
ANNETTE SMITH:
Your mother, I know that she was active in library work later on. What other kinds of things did she do?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
My mother was really quite a remarkable woman. She was a

Page 3
great reader all of her life. She particularly liked biographies, biographies of people of achievement. She was a devoted wife and mother and never let her outside activities impinge on those responsibilities. But she was the founder of the PTA in our community, she started the woman's club, she was very active in church work. And then, when she had more leisure, she founded the Marianna Black Library and gave a great deal of time to that throughout the rest of her life. I really think that my parents, in many ways, were ahead of their time, certainly ahead of the community in which they lived, although they were both expert in adapting to the overall environment in which they lived. They were both almost without prejudice, I would say. My mother even more so than my father. Mother was always very concerned about any group which had criteria that barred people from becoming members if they wished to do so. She had many very interesting small charities. I remember one year when I had to take an apple to school every day because there was some poor child that Mother was helping and trying to persuade to remain in school and the apple was the reward, you see, for coming to school each day. I think that perhaps I told you about Mother's efforts to see that the little Negro school, because those were the days of separate schools, had play equipment for the children and had books for the children, so that they would not be too discriminated against in these areas. So, it was indeed a very liberal, democratic attitude which prevailed in our home. And always, the children were encouraged to do everything that they could. We were expected to have good grades in school. We were expected to be concerned about less fortunate people. That sort of thing. And of course this does have a tremendous influence on one as you move along in the later years.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did any of your other sisters pursue careers?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I had one sister and she was a graduate also of Converse Collge.

Page 4
She went to New York. She studied at the Katherine Gibbs school and then became a stylist for one of the fashionable New York stores. During that period, she met her husband and she did not work very long after she was married. She had a couple of children. She had a very active life, because soon after he moved to Washington and they became involved in governmental affairs, in all sorts of things. He drafted the first Lend-Lease Bill and that brought them into contact with representatives from Western European countries and that type of thing
ANNETTE SMITH:
This was Oscar Cox?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Right.
What about Converse College? You went there from around 1920 to 1924.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
The reason that I went to Converse College was because my mother selected it. This was in the day when that still happened. And I think that Mother had high hopes of Converse making me into a traditional southern girl. I know that she hoped I would pick up a southern accent, which I never did very successfully. [laughter] But of course Converse had good academic standards, no question about that. It was an A-grade college, which was very important in Mother's eyes, and increasingly so in mine. We had interesting faculty. I never felt, as some people do, that my college years were the high point of my life. Other things have far surpassed it as time went on. But, I have in general a very friendly feeling in regard to Converse. I majored in English and minored in French. I had originally planned to major in mathematics, but I found that it was not sufficiently challenging once you had learned the basic formulas and so on. So, I changed over to English, which was somewhat more challenging.

Page 5
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you always want to be a school teacher?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I don't think that there was ever any question. Young ladies from the setting I came out of became school teachers. We had a couple of courses in education when I went to Converse. I thought they were rather stupid and from the days that I took them until the present time, the only thing that I ever felt I learned from those courses, was somebody's statement, "Let knowledge come from a smiling face." I know that in one of the classes, we always had to quote something at the opening of the class when the role was called, and I used that. And it really stood me in good stead later on.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Was there much interest in woman's suffrage at Converse? You were there right after all the . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, I had a couple of courses in sociology, but they were, I think, pretty run of the mill. I had a little work in history with Dr. Penelope McDuffey. And she really was interested in what was happening to women and she did try to expand the ambitions and ideas, I would say, of the students. But other than that, I really don't remember any real efforts. At least they didn't draw me in. And I think that I was the kind of student who would have been attracted by such movements. I was active in student organizations, the YWCA and some other little clubs of one sort or another that make no difference now. The one thing that I have always been concerned about, I think I had . . . I know I had the highest grade average of anyone in my class.
ANNETTE SMITH:
I remember your report card, it was always very good.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I know that I had a letter some years later when I was applying for credit at the University of North Carolina with regard to my academic

Page 6
record. To my knowledge, no one at Converse ever suggested to me that I go on for graduate work. That just seems almost impossible in this day and time. But if anybody suggested it to me, it made no impression whatsoever. My concern about graduate work all came after my Converse days.
I just went back this spring to the fiftieth reunion of my class, by the way. I made the address at the luncheon meeting, in which I was encouraging the young women to get out and get going, as you can well understand. It took a little courage to go back, but as I have told several people when I reported on it, at the least the ones who came back were all very well preserved. [laughter] And it really was a very interesting small group of women after fifty years. One of the things that I've always regretted was that Converse did not have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, because that has meant that here was a connection that might have been interesting over the years and it was denied to those of us who are graduates of Converse. They still don't have one. I've inquired recently.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, when you went up to the University of Chicago, did you find yourself sort of lost, or did your training at Converse had . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I had had a few extension courses before I went to the University of Chicago. Dr. Howard Odum came over and taught, I think, on Saturday mornings. And I had a couple of courses with him which were very helpful. But I always felt when I hit the University of Chicago that despite the fact that I had always been a good student and so on, I was about as well prepared as if I had had two years of college at a really major university. So, it took an awful lot of catching up and hard work in order to handle the competition in the classroom.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, you were at the University of Chicago at a time when Dr. Robert Park was . . .

Page 7
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. This was in the heyday of Park and Burgess. They had developed a whole series of courses and were training a great number of sociologists. But, I had the good fortune to be there when William Ogburn was teaching, because, he had come to the University of Chicago and he brought in some newer ideas. He was, of course, working actively during that period with Odum in Washington. And so one got a great deal of stimulation through those contacts. And he sort of took me under his wing. He was teaching statistics and I happened to be pretty good, at least in the introductory course.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You were a former math major.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
That was all helpful.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were there other women at the University of Chicago?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. There were other women at the University of Chicago. In fact, we had several women in the general group at the time I was there. Some were ahead of me, some came at the same time and some came a little later, before I left the University. I don't remember any difference between the men and women students. Actually, that was the period when women made up a higher proportion of those getting advanced degrees than has been true for the last couple of decades. That was sort of the heyday for women students, really, certainly in the fieldsin which I was interested. I was very lucky, too, because at that time they had very strong faculty in cultural anthropology and that was one of my related interests. I also was living in Green Hall during the first period, which was really four and a half quarters when I was there.
I went in the summer and stayed through the three winter quarters and then stayed through the middle of the second summer, when I went back home to get married. But I lived in Green Hall during that period, which was the graduate

Page 8
women's dormitory.
ANNETTE SMITH:
This was in the late 1920's?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. I went to Chicago in the summer of 1927 and this was from the summer of '27 until the middle of the following summer. Sophronisba Breckinridge was the head of Green Hall. And of course, Sophonisba Breckinridge was great on women's rights and pushing back the horizons, and that sort of thing. And the Abbott sisters . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
Grace Abbott and . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
. . . were there at the time. So, there was a nice climate, as it were. Besides, this residence hall was a very good thing for someone coming up from the South, who hadn't had too much experience. We had a marvelous group of women, women in all fields, who were living in the hall. The dinner table conversation was really quite challenging. The first quarter, or maybe two quarters, I don't remember, I sat at Miss Breckinridge's table. because she always presided over the dining room hall for dinner at night. And of course that conversation was always interesting. She more or less, I think, picked the people at her table. Then after that I headed up a table myself and I could more or less control some of the directions of the conversation. But you know, I remember friends in education, in home economics, in biology, in chemistry. We had a great mixture and it really was great fun.
ANNETTE SMITH:
These were sort of formal sessions?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, the dinners were quite formal. You started with soup and whoever was head of the table served, you know, and we were really quite precise in our manners.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You were expected, when you were head of the table, to bring up

Page 9
certain topics of conversation?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. And then, you know, we celebrated birthdays and that sort of thing, so it was really a very good experience. I did a little tape for the University of Chicago a couple of years ago. The man who came down to do it was somewhat surprised that I didn't do more running around in terms of meals. But we had three meals a day at Green Hall, you know, so, you automatically went back there normally instead of going out with the other students, even at lunch time.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You ate with the other women students, then, most of the time?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, who were normally not in my field. After all, there were not too many of us and I was the only one who was living in Green Hall during that period.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you talk much about women's roles, women's rights at these? Were women as a conscious group much of a topic of conversation?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Not as I remember it. But you see, these women weren't having any real problems. [laughter] You have to remember that. They were in school in a period when there really weren't as many problems for women as have developed since then. And these were all graduate students, they were women who had good jobs or would be getting good jobs. They didn't have to worry about some of the things that disturb women today. Although, even today, I think that when women have the proper qualifications, they are not having so much trouble. My concern is with the women who want the opportunities but haven't been willing to put themselves through the mill of experience and academic training. There is quite a difference.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Yes, I can imagine. I think that how you got your jobs in Washington during the Depression, working with the WPA and so forth, was

Page 10
through your contacts in graduate school and the fact that you had this training at the University of Chicago.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, of course, I was well trained. It was good training, hard training.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You published several articles.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, yes. I already knew, you know, that you publish or perish. Very early. Let me think back . . . I guess that the first publication was the one that Ogburn and I put out on the frequency and probability of mental disease. It's still correct, too. But one got that emphasis, of course, at the University of Chicago. So, I was writing for publication very early. I came back to a teaching position because I had been on leave. And then, you see, after teaching a year, I went back for a summer and a fall quarter. I only took one other quarter at the University, really, which was the following summer. I did something that more of you graduate students ought to do. As soon as I had the master's degree, I selected the topic for my dissertation and I wrote all my term papers, practically, in that field. It was broad enough so that one could be doing the research and developing the chapters as one went along. This meant that by the time I took my prelims, the dissertation was practically finished.
ANNETTE SMITH:
That's a pretty smart idea.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I recommend it to more people. I think my husband really put the idea in my head because after all his role in all of this was quite tremendous.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You got married while you were in graduate school and went back to Chicago after you were married?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, oh yes. I was married in '28. And actually, my husband

Page 11
supported me during those last quarters in graduate school.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did people think that was unusual for you to get married and then go back to school and live in a dorm in Chicago?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I didn't live in a dormitory after we were married. At that point, I had rooms in houses of faculty members that were close to the campus. And in the summertime, my husband and I had an apartment. That worked out pretty well. I don't think that anybody in Chicago felt that was strange.
ANNETTE SMITH:
In Raleigh?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
My parents thought that it was all right. They were devoted to their son-in-law and thought that if he and I decided on this, it must be quite all right. I never had any question about it here in Raleigh. I just don't think that people were as focused, as they have been in recent years, on that kind of thing. And I remember very well while I was in Chicago, that Dorothy Fahs Beck, who has been for many years now the director of research for the Family Service Association of America, got married and went off to South Carolina to teach and her husband was still in graduate school. We didn't think anything of that, certainly, at the University. So, there was some of that type of separation going on. It was only when I went to Washington, I think, as Commissioner of Welfare in the '60's, that I got questions about my being in Washington and my husband being here. When I was in Washington earlier, I don't remember any questions from anybody. Of course that was in the Depression period and all kinds of people were running off in all directions, [unknown], trying to help in one way or the other. But, no, I think that has been more of an issue in later years, Maybe because there were more people doing it and they just thought I was a

Page 12
little different in those earlier days. As I say, I came back and I taught school. And then Tom McCormack had gone to Washington. I had been in Washington a good many summers or had worked here for one reason or another. Very early, I had those projects that Frank Lorimer got me involved in, when I was working with the Myrdal study and we were developing materials for Foundations of American Population Policy. And I was working with Sterner on The Negro's Share, so I had been away during the summers some of the time. But then when Tom McCormack came to Washington, he asked that I come up and help work on some of the projects in the old FERA days. I remember that it took me quite a while to make up my mind, but after they kept asking me to come, my husband and I decided that I should go and at least try it, and of course it lasted for quite a while.
ANNETTE SMITH:
This was mostly in the 1930's, when you were in Washington?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
This was in the 1930's. I went up in 1934. I had taught several years here in Raleigh after I completed my degree.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Was that in high school?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
High school, yes. And both my husband and I were busy with research. He was publishing a good deal at that time and I was getting out articles based on my dissertation because it didn't seem appropriate to publish it in book form. We were both doing things with the American Sociological Society at the time, and so on. It's the same kind of life that young professional couples have today, really I don't see that it was very different.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You weren't very much involved with local duties here in Raleigh during the 30's? Most of your energy was focused on your career and your job in Washington.

Page 13
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, of course, this was the very early '30's, after I got my degree in 1930. I was busy teaching; we were working on our research. I was active in the PTA because I regarded that as part of my duties in connection with the school system. And I have friends still that I made in those days. I used to do programs for them, and a variety of things. I was not really active in otherkinds of community affairs. Then, I went to Washington, and that was a fairly long period. I was commuting, but that didn't give the opportunity to be active here. While I was in Washington, I used to go to the local meetings of the American Sociological Society. I was there at the time the Population Association was formed. some, one went to some of those things. On the other hand, we were working very hard and the amount of productivity was such that one worked long hours in the office.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Then Dr. T.J. Woofter, Jr.came from Chapel Hill to head up the research program. He and I worked very closely during those years, both in the development of the research program and then in the publications that we wrote together.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You came back in 1940 then, to teach at Meredith?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Actually, during the last year that I was associated with the WPA research program, I was really working here in Raleigh. I came home. I reversed the arrangement. I came home and worked in Raleigh because I was doing editing primarily at that time and some writing which I could do at home. And then I would go up to Washington for a couple of days and deliver the manuscripts and get new materials. And then I was asked to work in the training program of the WPA here in the state. I had been in

Page 14
Washington enough. My husband and I didn't want to have a longer separation. So, for six months I headed up the training program for the WPA. Mrs. May Campbell was the head of the program on a state basis and was a delightful woman. That was when I first became acquainted with her. I knew her later when she was connected with the State Commission for the Blind. But I went over the state, helping with training for women whom we were preparing for jobs. It was the period when WPA had all kinds of projects going on in communities. And that was interesting and useful. You never know how much benefit you get from all these experiences. And then, Dr. Carlyle Campbell asked me to come out to Meredith College to become head of the department of sociology and economics. So, I went there in the fall of 1940. Meanwhile, as a result of my associations in Washington, I was doing all sorts of other things. I spent a couple of summers working in the Office of Education with Dr. Bess Goodykountz. We still exchange Christmas cards although that was a long, long time ago. I was also working during this period on the National Resources Planning Board's study of long range work and relief. That's when I got to know Dr. Evaline Burns, who is another person with whom I have kept contact over the years. It's a very interesting thing, by the way, that while you work with a great many men and have very interesting and productive professional relationships with them, professional women tend to keep their contacts with each other. After all, there aren't too many of us, really.
What you find is that women professional friends are tremendously scattered, because they have gone off in other directions, just as you have. But the tendency is to keep in touch with them, as time goes on . . . so, I was doing those things, too, which of course, were extremely useful and

Page 15
helpful in relation to my teaching. It meant that I had broadened out and had more things to bring to the students. During the period that I was at Meredith, I was active in the State Federation of Women's Clubs. I chaired their state legislative committee. During this time, too, I became more active in AAUW, particularly in legislative and the status of women activities. I was also active along in here, and you know the dates sort of overlap each other, in the State Legislative Council, which of course was taking leadership with regard to social legislation in the state. I also was working on committees and programs for the North Carolina Conference of Social Service. There was quite a pattern of activity, all of which was very useful, I must say, when I became State Commissioner of Welfare. It might be interesting to go back to the fact that when Dr. Campbell invited me to come to Meredith, the Campbells were living across the street from us, so he knew my husband and me quite well and the kinds of things in which both of us were interested.
ANNETTE SMITH:
I presume that many of these people you met in the AAUW and in the State Legislative Council and in the North Carolina Conference for Social Service, these were people interested in kinds of issues like welfare and . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, and in getting good social legislation here in the state. After all, many of the early bills, in the general field of social welfare, broadly defined, were pushed by these organizations. It was extremely useful because one could promote one's interestsin several organizations and this tended to give increased support.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Who were some of the important leaders in Raleigh during the 40's, in these kinds of groups, other women?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Mrs. Palmer Jerman was still active when I first came to Raleigh. She had taken great leadership during the suffrage movement. Mrs. J. Henry Highsmith was one of the important women leaders at that time. Mrs. Chas

Page 16
Doak was also very active. These are the women that I knew best, and was more likely to be associated with in that older group of women. Of course, Mrs. McKee, from Sylva, was in the legislature at this time, in the Senate, which was even more of a breakthrough, of course, than being in the House. It wasn't long before Mrs. Cover, from Murphy, came to the House of Representatives. The State Federation of Women's Clubs was very active at this point in time. There were a number of women around the state who gave great leadership to it.
ANNETTE SMITH:
What sort of issues were they interested in?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
They were interested in improving the welfare program, for example. They were, of course, interested in schools. They were interested in some of the aspects of child labor because we had not yet brought our laws up to snuff.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Not even in the '40's?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, I'm back a little earlier than that, not all of that was well worked out. But you know, I would have to go and check dates on all of this, and I'm not going to because you historians can do that. [laughter]
ANNETTE SMITH:
I'll do that.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
All right. Of course, the PTA had many of these same interests and I must say that I was always impressed with the interest in child welfare generally in the PTA. Not just in education, strictly defined. Then we had some wonderful women who were state presidents of the PTA. I got to know Mrs. Ernest Hunter of Charlotte in that connection. But we had excellent women from various cities in the state who headed up the PTA and have continued to head up the PTA in the intervening years. There were quite a number of women, actually, who were active, who were socially minded, who were trying

Page 17
to help get the state moving forward. I think this was really before we became so concerned with the arts. Now the arts tend to syphon off some of this interest, and take the attention of some of the women who otherwise might have been leaders in the educational-social welfare efforts. This is part of the state's growing sophistication, I suppose. But it is interesting that these were the channels that were predominant in terms of women. Of course you always had church groups, and many of our women's organizations within the churches were active too, within this period. The Methodist women for many years have had a very strong social welfare program of great variety or diversity. There are some women's church organizations that are very active in social welfare areas and others, hardly at all. But, it gave you your whole range of liberal-conservative, which we still have today.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were many of these women interested in race relations, in improving race relations? Or can you identify some of those who . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Not really. I don't remember when women's organizations became directly concerned with race relations. These were, in many cases, special organizations, that grew up with this particular interest rather than being the old line women's organization. When I went into the State Department of Public Welfare, we had a professional Negro on the staff. They had had one prior to that time, too. I do know that when I did the WPA training job, we had training groups for whites and training groups for blacks. One of the first things I did when I got into the state office was to say, "Well, now, we are not going to continue to have separate meetings and training and informational sessions on the basis of race. It's too time consuming, it's inefficient, it's wasteful." I wasn't really being any activ

Page 18
champion of racial equality at that time It's just that I didn't recognize that there were any particular reasons for not going ahead and having everybody meet together. And we had no problems. That's the interesting thing. In the 40's, we had no objections. We were always meeting with people in terms of professional programs, but there was never any question or any problem. And we were, from the beginning, encouraging counties to have more black workers on their staffs and that sort of thing. When it comes to the whole question of racial strife and attitudes and so on, it just wasn't part of the public welfare that I administered.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were a good many people that were on welfare in North Carolina black?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Of course they were. And our big concern was that they had their needs met, that we wouldn't have problems about discrimination in the receipt of benefits
ANNETTE SMITH:
One thing I wanted to ask you, was how you got your job in 1944, as Commissioner of Welfare? Was this through contacts with women?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Mrs. Bost was Commissioner of Public Welfare, and she announced her resignation. The position had traditionally gone to women. Mrs. Kate Burr Johnson was the second Commissioner of Public Welfare and was succeeded by Mrs. Bost. What really happened was that Mrs. Highsmith called me up and said, "Ellen, that's the job for you."
ANNETTE SMITH:
Who was she?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Mrs. Highsmith, at that time, was very active in the Federation of Women's Clubs. And I referred to her earlier as one of the women with whom I had worked, and I had been her legislative chairman when she was president of the Federation. Then other people became interested. Governor Broughton, when he was approached by Mrs. Highsmith and some other women, said, "Well, if you can bring me the name

Page 19
of a woman who is qualified, I will be receptive." And the Commissioner of Welfare at that point was appointed by the State Board of Welfare, by and with the consent of the governor. So, contacts were made with some of the members on the State Board of Public Welfare . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
This was by women in the Federation of Women's Clubs?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I don't know who made all those contacts. I never quite knew. But Dr. Odum, Miss Harriet Herring, Dr. Jocher, over at the University, were all interested and were very helpful in many ways. My friends really worked on it and so, it just happened. [laughter] Let's put it that way.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were there other jobs then, in state government, that were identified as women's jobs?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Up to that time, the head of the state library had always been a woman and was for sometime thereafter. That was a woman's job. There was a period of time when Mrs. O'Berry had headed up the Emergency Relief Program. At least half of the county directors of public welfare were women, some of them splendid administrators, by the way. We still, in that period in time, had women principals of schools. Really, there were a good many women in one position or another although this, of course, was the highest position in state government which was held by a woman. You know you really began to see men taking over the top positions in various fields, not just social welfare, when the salaries went up. Just a few years ago, I was at the UN for some kind of expert group meeting, and we had a woman, I think from the Philippines, who said, "You know, social welfare in my country is dominated by women. We really need some more men in the program in order to have some balance." And we told her with practically one voice, "Get your salaries up and you won't have any difficulty."
ANNETTE SMITH:
You worked a great deal with the AAUW in the 1940's and 1950's, here in North

Page 20
Carolina, and on national committees on the status of women?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes.
ANNETTE SMITH:
What were the reasons behind those committees in the 40's and 50's? What was the AAUW concerned about then concerning women?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
The AAUW was early concerned with regard to opportunities for women. After all, it focused on educated women and whether or not they had job opportunities, professional opportunities, commensurate with their training. It was headed by well qualified women. I think that the Committee on the Status of Women was a very useful committee in those days because we had the Social Security Act with which many women in other fields were not familiar, but which had all the potentials of course, for economic security for women. We had quite an active Women's Bureau at that period in time, which led later to the various state Commissions on the Status of Women, and the national meeting in that general area. So the AAUW was laying the groundwork. Those were very interesting meetings to attend. We met in the old AAUW building. During the period that I was active in the AAUW, they built their new building in Washington. They had some very good women on the staff. One excellent woman, a histori an by the way, was the staff person for our committee. And then they had another excellent woman who was in charge of their legislative program. I don't remember too many other women who came to those meetings. But they were all well trained. They were all active in their own communities and professions. We had one charming woman, I remember, from Oregon. It was really quite interesting, and since I was the only one professionally in social welfare, I really had the opportunity to make a good deal of input.

Page 21
in that general field.
ANNETTE SMITH:
The AAUW wasn't interested in things like the Equal Rights Amendment in the 50's, it was more concerned with social welfare kinds of issues?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well you were having the debate being joined back in the 50's and you had a number of women's organizations, if you will remember, in those days which were not particularly supportive of the Equal Rights Amendment. They thought that the ways to approach the situation was through getting specific laws changed, that sort of thing. And of course, AAUW was, I think, one of the later organizations to give active support to ERA. Actually, I found myself in that period of time, because I was also in that period a member of the Business and Professional Women's Organization, attending some meetings where they were very pro and some where they were really con; perhaps not quite as actively con as they were pro at the others. But there was a long period of debate and wide differences of opinion with regard to ERA on the part of national women's organizations.
ANNETTE SMITH:
What were your views during those years?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I think that at that period in time I didn't think it was necessary, that I was really so concerned with specific pieces of legislation that affected the welfare of women and children, of families, that this didn't seem to me to be as major a goal as many felt. I wanted to see specific changes which would bring about immediate improvements in situations for people. I think that I did try to keep an open mind in regard to both sides of the question, but certainly I was not an ardent supporter of ERA. Of course, the other thing is that the doors

Page 22
were always open for me; I think that besides one's philosophical approach, one's own experience does have some effect upon one's point of view.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you have any connection with the North Carolina Governor's Commission on the status of women in the early 60's?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, yes. I was a member of it. Anne Scott was the chairman. I was a member while I was in Washington and I came down to Chapel Hill a time or two, at least, for meetings. I also did some things by correspondence. And then later, I was a member of the inter-departmental committee . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
Of HEW?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. It wasn't just HEW. Actually, it was headed up in Labor and the Secretary of Labor at least opened our meetings. This is when I really worked very closely with Esther Peterson and Mary Keyserling. And we had representatives from within government and some representatives from outside of government. I remember particularly a man from Federated Department Stores. Then, after I resigned in Washington, I was still asked to represent the Department of HEW on this particular committee.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, to go back to the North Carolina Commission in the early 60's, what was the purpose behind that? Who got that commission going?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I think that it was stimulated out of Washington.
ANNETTE SMITH:
By the national committee.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Because we had the National Commission. I went to their meetings, but they had gotten geared up just before I went to Washington. The National Commission in turn stimulated state commissions.
ANNETTE SMITH:
What section were you involved in? Were you involved in the Social Welfare . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, in the social welfare aspects. Then, of course, when we had

Page 23
the inter-departmental committee, we were still pretty well oriented toward social welfare aspects, because the leadership in the Department of Labor was also very concerned with this. And if you go back to those records, you'll find the various topics that were dealt with.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, one sort of final question, I gather from all that you said today that you really never considered yourself a feminist.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
No. I sometimes said that it was only after I read Anne Scott's Southern Lady that I realized that I had done anything that might be defined as trail-blazing or different, because it just all seemed natural and one thing followed another. No doors were closed that I wanted to go through.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did other people ever consider you a feminist?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I think that when other people reacted to me it was not as a feminist but rather in terms of the fact that I had ideas about social welfare that were a little too advanced for some of them to follow.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, o.k.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ANNETTE SMITH:
You became Commissioner of Public Welfare in 1944, in North Carolina. What was the situation like then? What was the welfare program like then, in North Carolina?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I was sworn in on June 1, in Governor Broughton's office. My parents came, my husband was there and Mrs. Bost was there, my brother and niece came from Charlotte. And we had several members from the State Board of Public Welfare and some of the staff from the Department. I even remember what I wore. It was very nice, with a hat, and I'm sure that I carried gloves. [laughter]
ANNETTE SMITH:
You were a proper Southern lady.

Page 24
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Indeed I was a proper Southern lady. And I still remember the shock when I came back from Washington one time to make a speech at a public welfare meeting and the county people saw me for the first time making a speech without a hat. When I went into the Welfare Department, I was really very fortunate in terms of the fact that the program had been soundly organized and developed. In other words, I had a good structure on which to build. We had good state legislation because it made it possible to take advantages of any changes in the Social Security Act that would be helpful to the state. I learned a great deal from the people that were in the office. Mr. Stewart was the auditor, I think that was the title. Now, we would call him the business manager or something of that sort. He was very sound in handling the already quite large finances of the department. Miss Lilly Mitchell was still active at the time and Miss Mitchell was a stickler for doing things in the right way. And she taught me many lessons about the details of administration. Mrs. W.B. Aycock, whom I had known before as a great leader in PTA work and in educational advancement, was our director of personnel and a joy to work with. There were many members of the staff who were sound and good and helpful, so that it made a fine base on which to start. Of course the grants were disgracefully low. We did not have a great variety of programs which were administered by the Department. In other words, the stand-bys were the public assistance programs and the child welfare programs. We did have legislation in regard to the licensing of charitable solicitations in the state. We had responsibility for the inspection of jails and setting various kinds of standards there. We had licensing authority with regard to child caring institutions except that church related institutions of a certain size were exempt. So, there was quite a lot of legislation, very good legislation, on the books. It was the kind of legislation that I liked because

Page 25
it was broad and provided an opportunity for flexibility, for imaginative program planning. There were not too many details written into the law. One of the things that people have to learn is that you don't write specifics into legislation in terms of program operations, but rather that you try to get general enabling legislation. The way that you operate the program will change from time to time and you don't want to have to go back and get your basic law changed. Well, we began to move out in a great many directions. We were concerned about improving qualifications for personnel, and we were able to do a great deal about that, to write in more qualifications for people in our county Departments of Public Welfare and, indeed, on the state staff. This meant improving the compensation plan and as I look back over those years, we were always trying to improve the compensation and classification plans so that we would have better staff, better renumerated staff. We began very early to develop a program in services for the aging. This was new in those days because in the last half of the 1940's, people had not yet waked up generally to the fact that we were going to have a large number and percentage of people in the older age brackets. That got under way. There were many parallels in the kinds of services that we were beginning to develop for older people and for children. We began to experiment with foster homes for older people. We developed a program of homes for the aged, some of which gradually became nursing homes. We developed a marvelous program, and people came from all over the country to look at it, of helping people leave state hospitals. At that time, people were committed to state hopsitals and stayed there the rest of their lives. We had a fine program going. Mrs. Annie Mae Pemberton headed up these various activities for the aged, in helping people return to their own families or at least to

Page 26
their own communities. That has been written up in various places. We were moving as fast and as well as we could, and I soon brought in Myrtle Wolff to head up our child welfare program, to expand child welfare services. We were vitally concerned, even at that early stage, in helping children remain in their own homes, or if they did go out into foster care, at least to see that the homes met standards. We had some state money that we could use for foster care. We had very good standards for foster homes. We had some counties that wanted to use the state money to pay for the care of children in homes that met standards and operate some other homes that didn't meet standards, paying for the care of children out of county funds. We just made a little policy that if they used any homes that didn't meet standards, they weren't eligible for state funds. This had a great effect on improving the standards of care.
ANNETTE SMITH:
In Doblestein's dissertation on your years as Welfare Commissioner, it seems to be one of the major thrusts of your years, is raising standards . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Right, and assisting . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
And particularly on the county level.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
And it is still one of my great concerns, because we have been so derelict in terms of standards for the various types of services for vulnerable people.
ANNETTE SMITH:
And the state has continued to put pressure on county boards . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I assume so. Unfortunately, I don't really know very much about what has happened in public welfare since I left the federal program I did not think that it was smart to come back and get involved in a program which one had left. I think, after a period of time, one can probably do that. There are some things that I am active in in relation to the

Page 27
federal program now. But, of course, I happen to be a Democrat, too, and at this period of time most of the advice and direction for the program comes from the other political party.
ANNETTE SMITH:
You had trouble with political parties several times. Doblestein points to Davidson County and Rockingham County as two places where you and the State Welfare Board had to keep them from appointing political hacks.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Of course we insisted on the merit system being followed. I might say, too, that during my earlier years, Dr. Frank T. Devyver from Duke was the director of the merit system and was a great help in getting standards up. Yes, we wouldn't permit the employment of people who didn't meet the qualifications. We followed the law.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Now, what were the problems with the state legislature? Was it mostly just getting more money from them?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, I never viewed them as problems. I enjoyed working with the legislature. Only very nice people get elected, you know. They have to have good personalities or they can't corral the votes. [laughter] The big problem was always getting more money. We did get more money. We never got enough money. We were able not only to increase the grants, which was a constant struggle, but also to get some new programs going which took special funding. I was very fortunate in much of this work because Dave Coltrane was the head of the budget office during many of those years. He himself was a great liberal and really was a tower of strength in helping me work out many of the problems. After all, there were times when one had to make transfers of funds There were many situations between sessions of the legislature when one could make adjustments if necessary. In the earlier days the federal government would give us our money in advance in fairly large sums

Page 28
and we would draw interest on it and that sometimes gave us a little cushion to help put on an additional staff person or try out something new. Later on, the federal officials became smarter about this and they doled out the money so that one did not have that particular advantage.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Who were some of the other liberal leaders in the legislature? You mentioned Coltrane in the budget office.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, when I first became Commissioner of Public Welfare, Tom O'Berry from Goldsboro was a great leader in the Senate. And he was of tremendous help to me. His first wife had headed up the emergency relief program. That was back in the days, too, when leadership was less divided in the legislature. And if you had some strong member of either the senate or the house who would help you with legislation and appropriations, life was certainly easier. I got to know Irving Carlyle through his leadership in the Senate and eventually asked to have him come on the State Board of Public Welfare. There really was a period in time when one could suggest to the governor whom one would like to have on the state board and that helped to account for some of the very strong members of the state board with whom we had worked in other capacities. Mr. Taylor, in the house of representatives, from Goldsboro, was another strong friend. I would say that, on balance, he probably was somewhat less liberal in his social philosophy than Senator O'Berry or Senator Carlyle, but tremendously helpful in terms of my legislative program and getting things through. We always had a legislative program. It was my theory that you always movedahead wherever there was the possibility of improving the social legislation base for the program.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were there outside liberal groups that were helpful?

Page 29
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
The State Legislative Council. We always tried, when we had these major items, to get them adopted by the State Legislative Council and of course, I worked closely with it during those years. The State Conference for Social Service was a help, although it was not really a strong lobbying group in any sense of the word. I would always go to the meetings of the State Federation of Women's Clubs to try and get endorsement for the programs in which we were interested. And I remember once that . . . I've forgotten what the issue was now, they had begun the discussion before I got there and were just about to turn down one of the things that we were hopeful of getting in the next legislature. So, I got there and got the floor and was able to explain it so that we got their support. We worked with a great many groups in the state. For example, we always had an active group among the Superintendents of Child Caring Institutions. While they, of course, were particularly interested in and even protective of their own programs, they were of tremendous support in terms of improved child welfare legislation and programs generally for children. We had an active Association of County Directors of Public Welfare. In those days, we called them Superintendents of Public Welfare. We worked very closely with them. We had committees in all of our major areas and they came into Raleigh regularly to meet with us, as we tried out new policies. We had a committee on Public Assistance and we always went over proposed policy changes and developments with the Committee of Superintendents. It was during this period that we had what we called "Dear Superintendent of Public Welfare Letters," which were the channel for sending out program developments and new policy areas. The Committee on Personnel usually was represented when we met with the Merit System Council to help in our push for more emphasis on education, on training, on raising salaries, that kind of thing. They were a

Page 30
useful force there. And of course, the great thing about the County Superintendents of Welfare was that most of them were close to their own delegations in the legislature and so they could be extremely helpful in interpretation at that level. So, you know, you use the channels that you have. But it is always important that anybody who might be involved has a thorough understanding, if possible, of the programs. One of the issues that I think affected the way we worked with the legislature is that here in North Carolina the committee membership changes session by session. In many state legislatures, you have the same chairman for session after session, so he becomes very knowledgeable about an area sort of like the Congress, but in this state, where you always had a new group, one of the first things that had to be done was to have sort of a general information session. During the legislature, we worked on bills every day. Very often, we had not only the Appropriations Committees in both the house and the senate, which after all are your most important committees, but we also had legislation in a number of other committees. We had the Public Welfare Committee itself in each house. Sometimes, our bills were sent to one of the judiciary committees. Each morning you had to check which committees were meeting; we had to keep constantly in touch with where our bills were; who needed to be contacted; what member of the legislature perhaps needed a little note to be alert to a special interest and so on. I always had somebody to help me. When I first went into the Department, all of the legal advice came through the Attorney General's office. And we really didn't have a position for an attorney, but we soon were able to employ an attorney, because we had other responsibilities under the law that made it very appropriate to have an attorney on the staff.
He was always tremendously helpful in working with the legislature

Page 31
because I really couldn't begin to do it all without some help. Then, Mr. R. Eugene Brown, who had been with the Department for years, was very savvy about legislature matters and had known many of the legislators over a long period of time. So, there were always several of us who were working in this general area.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, it all sounds like an incredible master plan that worked fairly well.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, of course, the thing is that you had to be well informed in two areas: well informed in the area in which you were trying to get legislation and well informed in the legislative process itself. I have referred many times to the friend of mine who came to see me one day. She had been promoting something or other in the way of adoption legislation, which we supported but had not taken the initiative in getting introduced. She came to my office and said, "Well, the bill went into the house this morning. Now I'm going on vacation." We nursed that bill through all the committees and through the house and through the senate and actually got it enacted into law. But, those are some of the things that you have to know. I think there were some advantages in those days because all the legislators, practically, stayed at the Sir Walter. So, it was easy to know where they were in the evenings and where the caucuses were being held. Later on, when they got spread around in their living arrangements, that was more difficult. Now, the committees all meet in the legislative building or nearby. We always provided the meeting places for the public welfare committees. They met in our library.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you personally coordinate a lot of the lobbying that went on, like the County Superintendents . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Oh, yes. We had to know what was going on and who was seeing

Page 32
whom and the chairmen of our legislative committees. The legislative committee was very important committee among the county superintendents. Contacts were centered in my office, and we would ask the members to come when we needed support in hearings and related matters. Somebody has to really be on top of these things because otherwise you can get too divided and you don't know who is doing what. I think the legislators themselves would get a little concerned if different people were coming to them with different approaches.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did the North Carolina Conference for Social Service, would you characterize that as probably the most liberal of the groups lobbying for welfare and social welfare legislation?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
As I said, it was not such a lobbying group in itself, although it would take positions and our county departments were active in it, much more active, by the way, in my day than they have been in recent years. It was a question of having supportive groups, but with the actual work being handled very largely through the Department itself, the county directors, and the State Legislative Council. We would always give a great deal of help to the State Legislative Council. It operated on a shoestring. They were promoting many of our bills There were things that we could do, like mimeographing letters for them and so on, that helped to pull this whole thing together.
ANNETTE SMITH:
And I would also imagine that the Institute for . . . Chapel Hill . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
The Institute of Government. We were always closely in touch with those people and Roddey Ligon particularly of that staff. He was their specialist in public welfare and he knew public welfare laws as well as I did. And he was very helpful to me many times in terms of the drafting of legislation and the interpretation of legislation, and their Legislative Bulletin was must reading for us each day. We had to know about other legislation that affected our interestsand that we might not have even though it helped to

Page 33
promote our objectives.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were you closely connected with the sociology people at Chapel Hill, Howard Odum and . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, Dr. Odum was one of my great friends. And I saw quite a lot of him in various ways. And other members over there were always good friends, Dr. Jocher, of course, and Dr. Jocher was active in the state conference. Hunt Hobbs, who was not in sociology, but was in social and economic areas and published a newsletter for many years, was a fine friend and supporter in many ways. That's when I got to know the Guy Johnsons and Rupert Vance and that whole group. And we had many contacts with them and I always felt free to go for advice. When I first came into the Department, the Public Welfare Institute, which was held each fall, was a joint venture of theSchool of Public Welfare and Social Work and the State Department. I soon found that this really didn't work well, because again somebody had to be in charge of it and you couldn't go back and forth on whom we would invite and how we set up the program for the nine o'clock meeting on Friday morning, and that sort of thing. We very quickly took the Institute over and ran it ourselves. Actually, we had many, many meetings because I believed in keeping people up to date with the national as well as the state scene. We were very active in the Department in the State Conference for Social Service. I was president for two terms Mr. Brown was president for a term. We provided office space in those days for the executive. It was in my term that we actually brought in a paid executive. Before that time we had had a volunteer secretary, practically.
We brought in people from outside for the State Conference. These were literally in-service training meetings as far as we were concerned and we had a very large attendance.

Page 34
And then every fall, we would have the Public Welfare Institute and we really brought the top names in welfare, broadly, and in social welfare work particularly to these institutes and they were tremendously useful for our people. And of course, one of the things that I early did was to strengthen the staff development program, because I knew that we had to constantly upgrade the people that were already in the program as well as bringing in new people. Another thing that we had before the legislative sessions, once the legislative program was pretty well worked out, was to have meetings around the state, regional meetings where we would interpret and explain and answer questions. This was very useful. Another thing that we did in my day that was helpful was to promote, and the Institute of Government gave us a good deal of help on this, a strong Association of County Boards of Public Welfare. Some of the very finest people in North Carolina, leaders not only in their counties but statewide, served on the County Boards of Public Welfare. One of the reasons that we were close to the State Federation of Women's Clubs was because so many of the leaders in the Federation were members of the County Boards of Public Welfare.
ANNETTE SMITH:
That was probably very smart to get those people on the Boards.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
It was smart It's always smart to have strong boards. I know that there are some administrators who would prefer to have weak boards and then they run the programs, but it has always been my theory that you have a strong board and then you and the board can push the program much farther than either one separately. While we are speaking about legislation, let's not get too far away from it for a moment . . . [phone ringing] . . . what is so important is the implementation of the legislation. I had tremendous support over the years from the Attorney General's office. Harry McMullen was the Attorney General when I came in and he, too, was a very socially minded individual, extremely helpful to me. Ralph Moody was on the

Page 35
staff and he was extremely useful. Of course, we had other people. There were other Attorney Generals. You sort of think of the ones when you start talking about these things. I would like to emphasize the fact that the interpretation of legislation, the development of policy are just as significant as law. You can have a good program based on a poor law, but you can have a fine law and a poor program. Later on, the Attorney General's office took the position that any attorney on the staff should be on their staff and assigned to the agency. This worked out pretty well for me, not quite as well as when the attorney was actually directly on our payroll instead of our paying for him through the Attorney General's office.
ANNETTE SMITH:
O.K., I think that this side is about over.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ANNETTE SMITH:
Andrew Doblestein started a dissertation on your years as Welfare Commissioner, at Duke. He says that your success as Welfare Commissioner was based on your ability to build political support on all levels of government, local, state and federal. Do you agree with that assessment of your . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I would say this, that in administering public welfare in North Carolina you must work with all three levels. You must work with the federal government because they control a great deal of the money They are responsible for many of the controlling policies with which one has to cope. There is no question about the momentous role of the federal government in social welfare. Of course the program was a federal-state partnership so that meant that one had to work closely with those areas of state government that could have some impact on the program the legislature, the Bureau of the Budget, the Governor's office, the Attorney General's office, your colleagues in other departments in government. The end result was services to people, in the community where our county government carries the

Page 36
responsibility. Actually, here in North Carolina we expected the counties to have a larger share in the welfare picture than was true in many other states. The majority of the states today are state administered programs. What we had, I thought, was perhaps the best of two worlds. Under the law, we had county administered, state supervised programs. The way to handle that is to give strong leadership at the state level so that working with the counties, you move the program ahead. I had, on the other hand, a friend who operated a program that was state administered but the counties had so much responsibility in the way he carried out the program that it really wasn't very different from the one in North Carolina. It's how you manage, really, in terms of whether or not the program is really guided at the state level. And when you get to that point, you don't have too much difference in state administration and state supervision. A lot depends on the administrator, frankly, the administrator and the other people at the state level who have the potential for giving leadership. If they exercise it, you are in fine shape, I think, with local administration. If you don't, then you are bound to have all kinds of troubles, because counties vary so much in their social philosophy and their abilities to move ahead.
ANNETTE SMITH:
That's true, especially in North Carolina with some very poor counties and then larger ones.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
That's right.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Some of the governors, you were saying awhile ago, were particularly helpful to you. I think that you mentioned Broughton.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well he was responsible for my appointment. He had to follow the state board. He could have said to the state board, "Go out and find somebody else."
ANNETTE SMITH:
You also were able to help choose the people for the State Board

Page 37
of Welfare . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
In the earlier years.
ANNETTE SMITH:
When did that stop?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I think that Scott, the first Scott, gave us some state board members whom we did not know and who turned out to be fine members, by the way. And we had one or two before that. It didn't mean that your suggestions were always taken, but at least you had the opportunity to make suggestions and that was a great help. There were a lot of governors in there . . . Broughton, and then we had Cherry and Scott and I would say that in both of those administrations, we had perhaps less direct attention given by the governor to public welfare. They had other programs they were pushing and they pretty well left it to the State Board and the State Commissioner to run the programs. Then . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
Umstead.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
We had Umstead for a very short period of time before his death. I remember going over to the Mansion after his attack to talk with him about social welfare matters, but really, I didn't work with him for very long.
Governor Hodges was in the office for a good many years and made marvelous contributions to the state. He was somewhat concerned about the growing cost of public welfare though, and this sometimes created some difficulties in terms of moving ahead when and as one would like to.
And Terry Sanford was certainly one of our more liberal governors in history and was always helpful, as well as the men around him. It's not always a question of working with the governor, but working with his associates, who are the people who are directly within the governor's office. And they can be extremely helpful to you. I remember many a huddle with the governor's legislative assistants in the little back office when the governor was in the old capitol.

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ANNETTE SMITH:
Did Hodges allow you imput on who would be on the state board during his years?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I don't remember all the people who served on the state board over a period of time and just how they came to be appointed. And I would have to go back and check the records as to who appointed whom. I think that sometimes we would just send a letter over and say that there was a vacancy and we hoped that so-and-so would be considered.
ANNETTE SMITH:
How about Howard Manning, who was chairman for . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Howard Manning was chairman of the board for a good long time and was chairman at the time that I left to go to Washington.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Mr. McAllister had been . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, yes . . . Mr. McAllister never came to a board meeting after I was sworn in. He was already quite old. But Colonel Blair presided over the early board meetings and we had Mr. Hairston on that first board, who had been a long time board members and was very supportive. Mrs. Latham from Asheville,

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who really represented the women's clubs of the state . . .
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you always have a representative of the women's clubs on the board?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
The law provided that there must be at least one woman on the board.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Oh, I didn't realize that.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, it was an early law. But when I came in, we had two women and I think that we always had two women on the board. There was no problem about that. Then, during the period when I was in the state office, we asked to have a black member on the board and I guess that we were one of the first state boards to have black representation.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Do you recall the year that that first started?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I would have to look it up. But it certainly must have been by the early 50's. And we were very fortunate. We had the president of Livingston College in Salisbury, who made an excellent board member. We had professional people and housewives, farmers, a run of the mill of interests in North Carolina.
ANNETTE SMITH:
I would imagine that the farmers were appointed by Governor Scott.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes. [laughter] And very good members, too, that he appointed.
ANNETTE SMITH:
He was well known for his support of the dairy interest. One thing that Doblestein points to was that one of the problems during your years was in 1959 when the state legislature passed a law that local district attorneys should investigate welfare recipients, to see if they were qualified. Do you know where that law came from?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I think that it came out of some of the more conservative counties. Some of the counties with very limited tax revenues were increasingly feeling the pressures. We tried to get grants up and the

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counties were expected to pay half of the non-federal share and we had so little money for equalizing purposes to help them in that respect. It was, after all, part and parcel of the same kind of thing you get today in terms of a conservative reaction to the number of people getting public assistance. I don't think there are too many people today who think that payments are too high, but back in those days there were some who did. But this legislation was inconsistent with federal law so it was just a question of getting it straightened out.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Was there any kind of . . . since this was 1959 and the civil rights movement had started . . . well, Martin Luther King was active at this time in Alabama, was there any racial overtone, you think, to this law?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
You never know. You know there is usually no simple explanation. It's possible, but it certainly isn't something that I would emphasize. After all, we had had our problems all through the years. There were always some people, some legislators, who thought people were getting help who shouldn't, or there was somebody who was getting too much. And my favorite was the legislator who came to me about the old man in his county who had a good farm and certainly didn't need welfare and here he was, he had been getting old age assistance for years. I said, "Well, this sounds dreadful to me and we will have to check it out." And we did and the old man had never received a dollar of welfare assistance. And besides, he was dead. [laughter]
ANNETTE SMITH:
Oh, my goodness. So, you identified most of your opposition to welfare programs from rural, conservative counties of North Carolina?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Well, I wouldn't say rural, conservative counties, because we have many rural counties that are not so conservative. I would say that we had the same kinds of problems that you have generally. There are some

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people who are basically conservative and who for that reason don't like or support financial assistance programs, but I wouldn't locate them in any one place or any one strata of society. And sometimes, you are very surprised in terms of where you find strong support.
ANNETTE SMITH:
O.K. Did you ever feel that . . . well, all through this, I get the sense that you have a definite philosophy about what welfare should be and you believe in professionalization and centralization and control through the state offices . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I wouldn't say it that way; I would say leadership

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through the state office.
ANNETTE SMITH:
I guess that you found it necessary through the years . . . well, you continued to work for these goals, but you would find that you would have to modify your philosophy a great deal and . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
You don't modify your philosophy. But what you do is gauge as realistically as possible what you can hope to achieve and you move as well as you can in terms of the current situation. I've also found this in terms of legislation in particular, that if you have a good deal of interest in it and a number of people making suggestions about it, you often come out with a better piece of legislation than the one with which you started. You have to be a realist in all of this, and it is far better to take half a loaf than to say that if I can't have the whole loaf, I won't play ball. You may get the other half later.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Did you ever have any trouble in North Carolina with people that wanted to move too fast, or as far as the state legislature, were there ever any groups of people that wanted to do more than you felt was possible? I was thinking in terms of welfare rights people, I think . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
They weren't active until after I had left the program.
ANNETTE SMITH:
There was no other group active in the 50's or in the early 60's?
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I don't recall. I think that we were generally . . . we thought that it was our responsibility to be ahead, so we were ahead in terms of what we were looking for, in what we hoped to achieve and hopefully, we were realistic in terms of how much you could do in one legislature. And after all, there was always another one coming back in two years.
ANNETTE SMITH:
That's true. In North Carolina, I know that the things I've read about welfare generally indicate that it's mostly women and children on welfare.

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That's true of North Carolina when you were . . .
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
That's because of the law. The Aid to Dependent Children Program, now called the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program, was set up to provide for families with children when the father was dead, absent from the home, or so disabled that he couldn't work. This state has never been sympathetic to a provision that makes it possible to pay grants when the father is unemployed, and still in the home. So, one of the great criticisms of the Aid to Dependent Children Program over the years has been that it is disruptive of family life. I'll never forget the County Superintendent of Public Welfare who called me one day and said, "I've got a man in my office, he has several children, he lost his job, he has been all over the county and in surrounding counties and he simply cannot find work. Is there any program whereby I can help this family?" And I had to say to her that the only way under the law that you can give help is to encourage him to desert. And we still have that kind of program today and this is one of the problems of the program.
ANNETTE SMITH:
That's kind of a reverse discrimination.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
Yes, it really is. A good many states have taken advantage of the provision whereby they can make payments when there is an unemployed father, but even so, in those states the regulations are quite tight on this. When we had the big study that was made when I was in Washington, we came out with a report called "Having the Power, We Have the Duty.
We had a very fine group of people on that committee. Their recommendation was that financial assistance be given on the basis of just one criterion, need.
ANNETTE SMITH:
How would you rank North Carolina's welfare program in comparison with that of other southern states?

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ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
It depends on the period in time.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, while you were commissioner.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I would say that we certainly saw ourselves second to none. We were making every effort to move the program ahead. There were some states in which some things were a little easier to achieve than they were in North Carolina, and there were other areas in which we could move a little faster. On the whole, I think that certainly in the later years we had a broader program than one found generally in the other states.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, one thing that I've gathered from talking about your success as commissioner, is that you found it very important to be a southern lady at all times.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I wouldn't use the word, "Success", in referring to my efforts. I always felt that there was a certain image to which one had to try to live up to and that image certainly included how one looked. One of the problems of so many young professionals today is that they don't look like professional women and in fact, seem to feel resentful over that approach. I also was careful in a good many areas, because I felt that the Commissioner of Public Welfare had to live up to what I would designate as the accustomed standards.
In the Department in Raleigh, of course, we had women carrying much more responsibility relatively than I think they do today. We had a woman heading up our child welfare program. We had a woman heading up our program for the aging. We had a woman responsible for enforcing the licensing laws. A good part of this time we had a woman directing our research. One of the early people that I brought in, by the way, was a director of research, because I just couldn't see administering the program without more facts. So, I would say that women had a rather good deal.

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My experience has been that it is the women administrators that give the other women the breaks. Certainly, I found this to be true when I was in Washington.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Right. I think that other people have found that to be true in other research they have done on how women get jobs. Many times, it's through other women.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
I had a woman just recently, this is '74, who was really apologizing to me . . . this was at one of the national meetings. She said, "I have a very important position in my agency that I need to fill and I tried to fill it with a woman, but I simply couldn't find one with the special qualifications that we were looking for and so, I had to take a man."
ANNETTE SMITH:
Well, that should be the end of the tape, according to my watch.
ELLEN BLACK WINSTON:
All right. I want you to keep in touch with me.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Oh, I will.
END OF INTERVIEW