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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Division of labor at cornshuckings

Nannie Pharis describes community cornshuckings around the turn of the twentieth century. In particular, Pharis focuses on the gendered division of labor that characterized such social gatherings, explaining how women were responsible for food preparation and a shared meal, whereas the men shucked the corn. According to Pharis's description, cornshuckings functioned as both communal work and as socialization.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
Would there be special kinds of events, cornshuckings?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, we'd have cornshuckings and the whole shabang would get drunk.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How would you go about having one of those?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Well, they'd invite the farmers in and my mother would prepare the supper. Sometimes they'd get so boozed that they couldn't even shuck the corn. And they'd quit.
JAMES PHARIS:
I was invited to a cornshucking one night, and the old man was as tight as he could be. He said we'd shuck corn to the liquor, shuck corn down until we got to the liquor. He put that liquor right in the bottom of that cornpile. We had all the corn shucked before we got any liquor at all.
NANNIE PHARIS:
Then if they got boozed they went home, cause they drinked it all up right away when they got down that low, because they worked hard for it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What time of day would that start?
NANNIE PHARIS:
In the morning, sometimes. I don't really know. Anyway, they'd have dinner. And if they was late getting through they'd have supper.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Your mother would have to cook for all these people?
NANNIE PHARIS:
All of us would help fix it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would any of the neighbor women help?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Sometimes we'd go all in together for those cornshuckings and wheat thrashings.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did the men just shuck the corn, or the women too?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I know women didn't shuck the corn. Only the fresh corn, the green corn. The men would shuck the dry corn.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And the women would be making the meal?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, that's right. And they'd have the wheat thrashings, and we'd fix dinner then.
JAMES PHARIS:
You didn't have a dance until it was all over. Until it got dark.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When would a wheat thrashing take place? What time of year?
NANNIE PHARIS:
When the wheat got ripe, about July or August. You know we had to raise everything like that, wheat and corn and oats to feed the stock.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would a wheat thrashing be like?
NANNIE PHARIS:
I really couldn't hardly tell you. Thrash your grain and get it clean. Then you could have it ground. There was a . That's a good question about that wheat thrashing machine.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What would you have been doing while the wheat thrashing was going on?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Oh just looking and watching around. I wasn't large enough to be interested in things like that.