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Title: Oral History Interview with Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987. Interview L-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: O'Connor, Margaret Anne, interviewee
Interview conducted by Dean, Pamela
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: 136 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-09-13, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987. Interview L-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0031)
Author: Pamela Dean
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987. Interview L-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0031)
Author: Margaret Anne O'Connor
Description: 179 Mb
Description: 47 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 1, 1987, by Pamela Dean; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series L. University of North Carolina, 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 Margaret Anne O'Connor, July 1, 1987.
Interview L-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
O'Connor, Margaret Anne, interviewee


Interview Participants

    MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR, interviewee
    PAMELA DEAN, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
[text missing]
PAMELA DEAN:
Let's start again. I'm sorry to put you through this with who you are, where you came from, and how you got into Women's Studies at UNC?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Well, I finished my Ph.D in American Literature with a dissertation on Willa Cather at the University of California at Davis in the summer of 1981. Then three weeks later, I drove into Chapel Hill and virtually immediately began teaching as an instructor in the Department of English. My Chairman was James Gaskin, and at the end of that first semester, he asked me if I would teach a course for Hinton James dormitory, which had recently opened and which, like Carmichael dormitory, apparently was trying to integrate a living and learning situation in this new residence hall. The students had asked specifically for a course in Women in Literature. I'd done a dissertation on a woman writer. I certainly was not familiar with the kinds of questions, the kinds of issues, that come up either in a Women's Studies course or a Women in Literature course today. But nobody else had been trained in that area either, and so I thought, "Well, I might as well." It was really exciting. I had twenty-five students. We met in the evening, two nights a week, and I had my students keep notebooks. It was very personal, but then all of our teaching in the department in composition was also very oriented toward keeping journals and that sort of writing. So it was sort of an extension of the sorts of things we were doing in other classes. But I had perhaps twenty women and five men from Hinton James. There were two or

Page 2
three black students in the class, but predominantly a white class, as most of my classes still are, I suppose, at the University.
PAMELA DEAN:
Most of the campus…
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Most of the campus still is. It was exciting. We did not only American literature, we did European literature, and I learned an awful lot. It was one of those courses where I feel I learned at least as much as the students by going through some of the literature in translation. Some of the material I knew well in my own field and put it together for myself.
PAMELA DEAN:
A little different perspective than if you approached it…
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Certainly. A very different perspective because we were sort of looking at the way that women writers dealt with women characters, and the way that male writers, too, depicted them, and the opportunities and the options. We tried to separate the preconceptions that the authors had for their characters from the way that in reality, perhaps, a woman might respond in the various situations that the literature always found them in. It was exciting, and it was probably the major impetus that I had on an academic level for seeing more women's courses offered at the University.
PAMELA DEAN:
Now about this time, or maybe a little bit later, Katherine Carmichael and the Women's Forum started, at least informally, collecting and disseminating information on courses being taught that focused on women.

Page 3
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes, and I think, probably, I wound up typing up most of those as well as gathering up the material myself. Katherine's office was a clearing house, essentially, in the first five years I was at the University for interest in the growing number of women's courses, particularly in the history department and in the foreign languages and also for faculty women. It was before there was any women's organization. It was a group that was composed of students, faculty, and staff. So it was a very unusual combination, and it was an exciting time. I think that might have been one of the most rewarding activities that Katherine Carmichael was involved in perhaps the last five years that she was at the University.
PAMELA DEAN:
At this time she wasn't Dean of Women anymore. She was Assistant Dean
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I believe she was Assistant Dean of Students. I would have to check on her title.
PAMELA DEAN:
It was something like that.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
The staff had grown so much that her responsibilities and duties had diminished quite a bit so that she had more time to take on these other roles. And I really do think that she became a focal point for an activism among the undergraduate students that was apparent, certainly, in the Association for Women Students and eventually became part of University Women for Affirmative Action in about 1975-1976, and also for the Association for Women Faculty that emerged from that group about two years after the University UWAA officially disbanded. I

Page 4
guess there was no one there to disband them, so maybe they still exist somewhere in an abstract sense.
PAMELA DEAN:
No formal motion to disband. Let's look at Women's Studies. Right from the very beginning you were very much involved in the various bodies that considered and passed on Women's Studies. Tell me about the general tone or the general atmosphere in the University. Was there a widespread demand for this? Where did this idea come from?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
As I suggested with my own class in the English Department, I really do think that the impetus emerged from the students first. This was and still is a very conservative campus. When I joined the English Department, it was about the same size as it is now, about sixty faculty members at the assistant to full professor level in the department. At the time I arrived, they had let their single woman go, the year before I arrived, And they hired one woman, as an assistant professor, the year I came as an instructor. So that was one out of approximately sixty. That's unusual for an English Department because at least one third of all Ph.D.'s given every year in English are given to women, and here at UNC we've been giving women Ph.D.'s. since about 1910. Clearly, hiring women was not a priority. Let me understate it that way. There was no sense at the faculty level that this was necessarily a priority. Of course, the University had traditionally been a men's institution, at the undergraduate level, and that might account very much for the predominantly male faculty. But this was the time that the University opened its eyes, too, to its changing

Page 5
status and the changing group of students that it essentially served. I was aware when I came that there weren't many women, and when I became an assistant professor my second year here, I became involved with groups that were working toward promoting the role of women in all areas on campus. The committee that was put together by the Faculty Council at the recommendation of Ria Stambaugh, I think, was very important. I believe that recommendation came up in 1971 or 1972, and that motion that she submitted to the Faculty Council really sparked an interest among the faculty men and women who were here to look at exactly what our priorities were in hiring and to move toward a broader role for women at the faculty as well as the student level on campus. As a response to her motion that we look at the low numbers of women among full members of the faculty, the Committee on the Role and Status of Women was formed in about 1972. I believe that John Schoppler headed that committee for the first year or so, and then after she came, Catherine Maley took over as chair of that committee. And I was on that committee. I think I was on that committee. I feel like I was on every committee at the University my first five years here. It's such a different world for the women at UNC now. Back then there were so few women that most of them were run ragged by multiple committee assignments. Women would find themselves on two or three University committees and still be saying "no" to serving on a fourth. The fourth committee chair would then say, "Well, we tried to get a woman but we couldn't find one who was willing to serve."

Page 6
PAMELA DEAN:
There was one woman--if I recall, it was Women's Studies, but I'm not sure, it may have been one of the other committees--who turned down the request that she serve the committee because she said she was on thirteen others and she thought that that was enough. I also noticed that in the late 60's, Mary Turner Lane was on almost everything.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Mary Turner Lane was on everything.
I could tell you the names of the people: Ria Stambaugh, Mary Turner Lane, Sara Immerwahr in the Art Department. As a matter of fact, I remember one wonderful meeting, I wish you could find the tapes that were recorded then. I'm pretty sure that they tape recorded the meeting. Catherine Maley, when she was putting together her first year's report, and this might have been in the spring of 1973, had a meeting open to the general faculty and asked the question, "What do you think the situation of faculty women is on this campus?" I sat there and I was absolutely amazed. Women who I still tremendously admire, Sara Immerwahr in art and Berthe Marti in classics, very "conservative" women, got up and, one at a time, said what their history had been at the University--how difficult it had been in the earlier years to begin and how slow recognition came. Here I was listening to two women, Sara Immerwahr and Berthe Marti, who are internationally renowned scholars, who had taken three, four times as long as their male counterparts to achieve recognition here. Well, that's Sara Immerwahr. Berthe Marti, as a matter of fact, had been at Bryn Mawr and was recognized as a full professor before she came, but she could still say, "Yes, we have to do something for women." I

Page 7
remember Berthe Marti, of all people, starting a petition around to get the Morehead Program to give Morehead Scholarships to women, and that was quite late in that process. I think that the movement turned a lot of very unlikely women into activists, and that meeting really opened my eyes.
[interruption]
PAMELA DEAN:
Let's continue the general…
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
The general mood on campus in the early 70's.
PAMELA DEAN:
There was clear recognition on the part of women faculty that…
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
A growing recognition, as well as growing numbers. There were incredible strides made in hiring in the first five years of the decade. I came in '71, and by '75 or '76 I would think that the number of women on campus had quadrupled. That was certainly, at least…
PAMELA DEAN:
'72 was the first time that they started admitting women on the same basis, undergraduate women, on the same basis as men, the same academic standards as men. So there was a great increase in the number of women in the student body and an increase in the number of women faculty.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Maybe, again, it's from my own perspective in the English Department, but my department very much defined itself by its very active and prominent graduate program. And as I say, women had always been a major group among our graduate students, but there were few women on the faculty. I'd seen a lot of graduate students, and in our own department there was perhaps much more fervor and interest in feminism, not just sort of the role of women, but very specifically feminism itself among our

Page 8
graduate students, and they were active in it. They too served as teachers in our freshman program, and so they had contact with the undergraduates in their first year here, and I think they made quite an impact. So there was a lot of awakening to issues and to an awareness in those early years of just those sorts of problems that women had.
There were no women in the administration, I can say, except for Lillian Lehman, our registrar. There was initially no one else in administration, and that was another concern that we had. I was very interested in working with women's groups in the faculty, with undergraduate students in the Women's Forum. With Katherine carmichael, we worked very hard as a group on the Forum in making nominations to different committees for honorary degrees. I believe that with her push, several women in those first five years of the 70's received honorary degrees, and no woman had received one since Eleanor Roosevelt. So it had been quite a gap of time. It was something that she really promoted very, very strongly. One of the people that I met on the Women's Forum was one of the most active and important women in the formation of our Women's Studies Program, and that's Joan Scott. She was, at that point, an assistant professor, or maybe an associate professor of history. I'm looking down at a paper that she gave me. She is, today, a member of the regular research staff at the Princeton Center for Studies in the Social Sciences, I believe, and previous to that, she held a chair in Women's Studies at Brown University. So she has become an incredibly well-known scholar in Women's Studies, and she was very active in

Page 9
those mid years with the formation of a Women's Studies Program. The connection with the Faculty Council is very strong.
I think it all begins with Ria Stambaugh's recommendation that we form a committee on the role and status of women in about 1971 and in '72 and '73 with John Schoppler and Catherine Maley's groups. They put together a recommendation that in April of '74 that the Chancellor appoint a committee to look into the possibility of having a Women's Studies program on campus. I was one of the twelve members of that committee, twelve faculty members. I believe that there were several undergraduate students as well.
PAMELA DEAN:
Let me ask you, before we go on and talk about the committee, we talked a little bit about the general sources of support for this idea throughout the University community, coming in part from the graduate students, I mean the undergraduate and graduate students as well as these faculty members.
Were there sources of opposition to the idea in general that surfaced at all in those early discussions?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes. Very, very clearly, but today, after sixteen years of being here, I really feel that the major opposition was one of inertia. I've described this as a conservative institution. I think that some of my colleagues might take umbrage at that. After all, this is a campus that in the 30's was a leader for the South in liberal attitudes and ideas, but really I don't think those values had changed very much since the 1930's. And this campus was open to black students before it was open to women students. In some ways, there was some question

Page 10
about women that really struck at the heart of the institution. You would have to check, but my impression of my first few years here was that a large number of the University administrators, in particular, and the administrators of specific departments were UNC-Chapel Hill graduates. They had a sense of this institution as male. It was a part of their memory as well as their present and their futures. I really felt that they believed that a change in standards, a change in values, would be a lowering and that, inevitably, there was a fear of anything that might disrupt the status quo. It was a time, too, that major universities, including UNC, had just recently gotten through major upheavals and changes in civil rights and the anti-war movement of the late '60's. And they were just beginning to lick their wounds. The last thing that they really wanted to do was to be told that their whole way of looking at one another, as well as the world, was warped. I think that issue so often touched the idea of fairness. You can make some suggestions in the abstract, but this was very concrete. Here were men who, in many cases, were very happily married, the husbands and the fathers and the sons of women. And they felt an implicit criticism of not only their academic and their public role but of their whole personal way of responding to women, which, of course, now sixteen years later, we can see is absolutely true. It really was, and it has…
PAMELA DEAN:
They knew a threat when they saw one.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
They knew a threat when they saw it. I felt, for myself, a kind of freedom that a lot of my male colleagues did not feel in their first five years here, and a kind of a

Page 11
resentment. I've had a chance to talk to them about that since then. When I was first brought into the faculty, it was when the English faculty definitely were trying to cover their asses, really, because they had let the single tenure-track woman go the year before, and they really had to try and look better. There were some people who were trying to make some sincere changes. They were expecting to get criticism from people like me and from Connie Eble, who was the assistant professor hired the year I was hired as an instructor. We really had the kind of freedom to stand up in front of our colleagues to chastise them and shake our fingers at them and say, "Why aren't you doing this?" in a way that any assistant professor or instructor might want to change the world. And a lot of my male colleagues did not have the freedom I had. I mean, they couldn't walk out and be angry at me for saying what they expected me to say. So there was a kind of freedom at the same time that the some of early women…
PAMELA DEAN:
That's very interesting and not what I'd expect at all.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
When I was considered for tenure, I had a very strong vote. And I think a lot of that came from a sense that even colleagues that were reticent about accepting the sorts of changes that I was very anxious to see put in, couldn't begrudge my attempt. I could be very specific and talk about our Chancellor, who was very anxious to avoid the kind of upheavals of the late '60's.
PAMELA DEAN:
Who was Chancellor?

Page 12
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
N. Farabee Taylor. As gentlemanly as he was, my visual memories of Chancellor Taylor are going to be seeing him chain smoking in front of the Faculty Council. I bet he must have smoked three or four packs of cigarettes a day. He fell very much under fire, and when I heard of his subsequent heart attack, and happily his recovery, and now he's in the law school, it occurred to me that a lot of the pressures that were being put on him as an administrator of those years were very visible at just those sorts of meetings between the faculty and the Chancellor. But at the same time that I can now empathize with him, at the time I just thought, "I don't know who he's looking after, but he's not looking after the women at this campus." I felt very, very embattled, and I'm sure that, from his point of view, that was a very warped perspective, mine. On a different level, I felt that Jim Gaskin, who went from the chair of the English Department to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences the year after I came, was very anxious to get as many qualified women on the faculty as he possibly could and encouraged all sorts of departments. And that's where I saw amazing gains. I felt that he approached it with good will, with compassion, and tried to make the very best of a difficult situation.
PAMELA DEAN:
So you wouldn't make any blanket statements that men were the enemy in this situation?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Men were in charge, and the people in charge were the enemy. What can I say? There were no women. I'll be happy to share the blame, but you'd have to go back and revise your statement. And I think it's absolutely true that many of the men

Page 13
woke up and looked around themselves and saw a lot of people just like them who agreed with them one hundred percent. There really weren't many ways that new faces, male or female, could break into that system. I still feel that very few women, very few women, have broken into that ring.
PAMELA DEAN:
Let's go on and talk some more about the actual committees that were involved when you got Women's Studies going.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Great, it's kind of nice just looking down at this report. I see some names, and I just wanted to remind people of these folks. The twelve faculty members are the people who stand in my mind, I guess, for the ad hoc Committee on Women's Studies that made its final report on April 18, 1975. I remember that well because we joked about the Longfellow kinds of connections. We made our report, and it was accepted unanimously, much to the surprise and shock and perhaps even the chagrin of many members of the faculty. I look and the first name that I see, our chairman was Richard Simpson from sociology, who was also chairing the Soc. Department. So it was an overload, without a doubt, for him to be put in charge of this committee to look into the possibility of maybe, perhaps, possibly putting together a Women's Studies Program if utterly, absolutely necessary.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
So Dick Simpson was the chair. I would say that on this committee I felt very much an assistant professor. Jackie Hall, I believe, was also an assistant professor, and it's my impression--and Anne Woodward, from music, might have been an assistant professor at that time. Our committee report, the final report, doesn't list what our rank was, but I think it would be sort of important for people to be aware of that Mary Turner Lane and Dell Johansen in economics and Catherine Maley were associate professors and tenured. Tenure does mean something. I have to commend the way that Dick Simpson ran the committee, because I think that he tried to encourage the young turks as Jackie Hall and Anne Woodward and myself would like to have thought of ourselves as being. And we were very encouraged to speak. Maynard Adams was a Kenan professor, and so was Duncan MacRay, and there were several full professors on that committee who were male, and there were no women who were full professors in this group. The women were far more likely to be interested in the topic [of creating a Women's Studies Program] in general. The only man on the committee going into it who was enthusiastic was Peter Filene, who at that point, was an associate professor, I think. His research was already moving in the direction of gender issues, and he taught a course in Women in American History and was very successful in the History Department. But I remember some wonderful times. We talked about what this could possibly be, what kind of classes, what would you talk about in the Women's Studies course. I remember

Page 15
Maynard Adams, one day, I'll pick on Maynard because he's a Kenan professor, and because there's very little that my mosquito prick could inflict on such a strong arm. I think I'll think of it that way. I remember him talking about the fact that if we had a Women's Studies course, it might increase the amount of anomie. I hate to admit it, but that was the first time that I'd really heard this term, which Sociology and Psychology Departments have been batting around, apparently, for years. He talked about male anomie, this sense of being left out, isolated, and I just sat there and looked at the other powerless women in this group and thought this is insane! This is ridiculous! [Laughter] We were just increasing male anomie, and some women might want to major in this. Now what does a major in Women's Studies do? How can we have an undergraduate major in Women's Studies? It's incredible. There would be nothing that they could do, and how many would that involve? Can we really put all of this together for such a small number of students, and I said, "Professor Adams, do you have any idea how many undergraduate majors your department, the Philosophy Department, has?" And he said, "No, I'll check." I have to give him credit because the next meeting, he came in and said, "I have an announcement to make. The undergraduate Philosophy Department has nine majors." We all laughed because we thought, "Well, the thought of a major university not having a Philosophy Department is pretty ridiculous." And he laughed too, and so we said, "Right. O.K. We won't judge the relative merits of the departments on the number of undergraduate majors that they're likely to attract."

Page 16
PAMELA DEAN:
By '81-82, there were seven Women's Studies majors.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Oh, I see.
PAMELA DEAN:
So it was not long before Women's Studies majors moved up to philosophy.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Moved right up there to philosophy.
PAMELA DEAN:
Now if we asked how many majors there are in Business Administration, we'd get a slightly different answer.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
That's true, but…
PAMELA DEAN:
You cannot judge the merits of an academic discipline on the number of its undergraduate majors.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right, and I look down at this list of members of the ad hoc committee, and I see Bob Mann in the Department of Mathematics. His complaint was that there was simply no course that a woman could offer in mathematics that had anything to do with Women's Studies, and frankly, I couldn't think of one either. Sometimes, the levels of our discussions would just sort of get down to, "Well, you could count the number of women at the University, or you could count this and that and divide something." As it turned out, I believe that mathematics has had some lecturers who are coming in and talking about, have lectured in the last fifteen years or so on the fear of mathematics and the way, perhaps, that this might be gender-oriented, in a way that in the mid 70's Bob Mann was not aware, that none of us were really that conscious of. I look down, and I see a lot of names. I felt that this was one of the most important committees I had been on at the University, and I'm sure that at the beginning, certainly, the full professors and many of the men on the

Page 17
committee certainly did not have the commitment, and it was a lot of time. They thought it was sort of a fad; it probably was more work for them to be on this committee than it was for me. It was really a labor of love for me, and I have to say that at the end of this group, we took a vote, and the vote to put together a program was unanimous, and I have great respect for the senior members of this committee who took the time and energy to equal the time of those who were real devotees. I think it worked out to be a very good committee.
PAMELA DEAN:
That's impressive. Were undergraduates on this committee as well?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes, that's been a hallmark.
PAMELA DEAN:
Do you recall the nature of their commitment?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
They really did not carry the ball, certainly. We were being paid, and they were paying for the privilege of doing this, so I think that I'm not surprised, and I don't hold it against them. I do know that in Women's Studies, there has been a long tradition of undergraduate and graduate students serving on virtually all committees, and I think that for the most part, the written work is left in the hands of the faculty. I would like to think that if the undergraduate students felt that they had the time and the inclination that they could take a larger role than they do, but as it is, I think that their role is just to keep us honest.
So the committee report, and let me again put in, I think one of the most important part of this whole committee report is "A Women's Studies Program at UNC? A

Page 18
Positive Reply," that Professor Joan Scott submitted as Appendix D.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes, I've got a copy of that, and it is superb and leads right in, if I recall the content of it, to the question I was going to ask you. What did the committee see as the purpose of a Women's Studies Program, the justification? What argument was Joan Scott making to the University community as a whole?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
There's always the "everybody's doing it," which works when you're four years old and works when you're thirty as well. "Everybody else has one. Why can't we have one?" I think that there were two major rationales. One was remediation, to offer a course that would give information and a perspective that was simply unavailable in any other part of the University. A second major reason was research and movement into a new area, that UNC had not just gone along with the crowd in the past, that we'd always been an innovator and that we, as much as the University was behind in this area, that it also offered the kind of spirit that could, with a feeling of good will, just move toward change and make some very positive changes and really become a leader. We had the capacity after the hirings of women and their interests. Women's Studies was burgeoning all over the United States. Now, for the first time, you could have faculty members who had actually had a women's course at another institution, and that was utterly, I would guess, virtually impossible until about '73 or '74, particularly at the graduate level. So those were the two major reasons. It was also offered as a service course to the entire University community, the way that the English

Page 19
Department offers freshman composition. It's a tool that we hope that a student will master and then be able to use to their advantage all over the University, and so we might have three thousand freshman students in our English Department for a year, and maybe our number of majors is quite a bit less than that ultimately. That's what we thought would happen with Women's Studies. We wanted to offer a broad course that would give students a set of questions that they could bring to other classes where the instructor might not have thought of the role of women yet, and take this role of "remediation" quite a bit further, not only just for the individual students involved, but use those students from that class to disseminate interest in women's issues and ideas all over the campus.
PAMELA DEAN:
So that was the purpose of and remains, I believe, the purpose of Women's Studies 50.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
That is our major course, and I believe it's organized, essentially, as Joan Scott first set it up. It is the question of sex roles as it adapts to various separate fields, and it's the same format that she put together ten years ago. She taught that course for the first two or three years. That's an incredible heritage, given, again, her prominence today.
PAMELA DEAN:
Initially, she taught it as overload. She did not, the first year or two, get grace time to do that from the History Department. She taught it out of dedication, out of belief, above and beyond the call of duty.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I noticed, too, that Mary Turner Lane was listed on this list, and I should mention her because, of course, she

Page 20
played a very important role on this committee. She was the person, as I remember, who actually put together the most important, the most time-consuming part of the report, and that was to look at other campuses and gathering up materials. Eventually, she published that in a journal, as a separate, a broader consideration of Women's Studies. But she spent a great deal of time and energy on this, and as a result, of course, of this recommendation, I was on another committee to look for a Chair of Women's Studies, and we were very fortunate to get Mary Turner to agree to serve with us. We did not have to look outside the University, so it was just going to be a search on campus and …
PAMELA DEAN:
What were the specifications? What was the job description? What were you looking for in a director?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I think that's an important issue because things have really changed now. I remember that we were using as a guide to the job description the way that American Studies, one of the more recent curricula at the University, the way that it was organized. We, the committee, would describe it to potential candidates as, "Well, this will be similar to the American Studies Program, and this is the way it works." And so we used some overviews that had been put together, I believe, as a matter of fact, for affirmative action and for our affirmative action report, or just sort of how it's structured and material like that. They have a director. At that time, Joy Kasson, was full time, and she didn't have another appointment in a department,

Page 21
but we saw it as half-time in Women's Studies and half-time in a department.
PAMELA DEAN:
Just as a matter of funding or did you see this as an advantage, to be grounded and connected with a department?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I remember these are all issues that we went over so often, and I had just finished looking at my own possible directions for the expansion of the proposed course that I put in, as Appendix E of that report, and I said that the position should be budgeted as full time in Women's Studies and if departmental affiliation is desired by the board and the director, that department should receive the services of the director with no loss of funds from the departmental budget. I saw it that way so that it would be a gift rather than subtracting half-time from a faculty member. The University does not handle the appointment that way, and I'm not sure if that's even a possibility, but I think it's kind of a pity. I would like to see the directors, as a matter of fact, have the freedom to decide to affiliate or not to affiliate. There are advantages for someone who is trained in a discipline since there are very few ways that one can get a Ph.D in Women's Studies. I believe, as a matter of fact, Sarah Lawrence might do that for you in Women's History, and there might be a couple of places, but it's very unusual and very hard to establish yourself with that kind of, with a degree that isn't recognized all over. So we knew we probably were going to get somebody with a degree that was terminal in their own area, but we felt that they would feel

Page 22
stronger if they were accepted by a department as well, that they would feel this kind of strength.
PAMELA DEAN:
So that someone would maintain their involvement with their major field as a career matter.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
As well as Women's Studies. It is becoming more of a problem, I think. I do think that perhaps I've been at meetings where people have been asked, "Are you going to see yourself as someone in English and also Women's Studies, or Women's Studies and also English?" A battle back and forth, and I think that is a problem, but I would like those problems to be resolved at the point of hiring, not at another level, so that someone doesn't find themselves in an untenable position after they've come. I think it's fair for us to bring them out into the open earlier. When Mary Turner was appointed, I was under the impression--I was on the search committee--that we were looking for a half-time director who would teach the Women's Studies 50 course. When Mary Turner accepted the position, it was on the premise that she not have teaching responsibilities. She taught her regular course load, virtually, in the School of Education, and Joan Scott taught the course. I was disappointed, and that, I must say, is the only way I really felt disappointed in Mary Turner's commitment. She did quite a bit of the groundwork and administrative work that was absolutely vital to the course, so again, now when I can revise my feelings, I think that perhaps I was disappointed unfairly. There was no clear description that said, "This person shall teach this number of courses. This person shall have office hours." Today we have those, and I do

Page 23
think these have been responses and changes to the whole idea of affirmative action, whether the job is filled by a male or a female. We've all profited from a kind of accountability that the government has pushed on us at one level, and writing down the job descriptions made us think about the requirements in a way that, I think, provides more fairness. When we first did this, no, it was not that clear cut.
PAMELA DEAN:
It's very difficult when you're developing a program, and you don't know quite what you're going to get.
How many people were considered? How many people applied for this? Was there a widespread interest?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
For the directorship?
PAMELA DEAN:
For the directorship, yes, initially, the first search.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Some of the criteria, or the main criterion was that it be a tenured person because we didn't want the role of Director of Women's Studies to jeopardize someone's career. As I say, there was still a tremendous amount of intertia in the University, and it would be possible for somebody to find themselves in a difficult situation.
PAMELA DEAN:
So that limited your pool right there.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I, myself, was not tenured, and Jackie Hall wasn't tenured, and a lot of people who had been active in it from the very beginning. Joan Scott was not interested in the directorship, though she did serve as the director of the Advisory Board, which in the first few years, because, I think, of her strength, her own personal commitment to it, played a greater role than it does today. As she describes it here [in

Page 24
Appendix D of the April 18, 1975 Committee Report], as a matter of fact, the director was going to be appointed from among the members of the board, and in keeping, essentially, with a very feminist ideal of shared leadership, of stepping down after five years. It went against the entire spirit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where our appointments all are made from above.
PAMELA DEAN:
Committees recommend, the Chancellor appoints.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right, so everything comes down, and Joan Scott was relatively new here at the University, and her picture of it would be that there would be a board of very active and committed teachers and scholars in Women's Studies who would meet regularly and do the major work and as an added responsibility as part of their commitment, would agree to serve for several years in organizing the program. But there's no way to budget that, apparently. There's no way to deal with it in our system, so what we wound up with was a gerrymandered system of trying to superimpose the University's system on what we hoped would be a brand new world. Mary Turner agreed to serve in this capacity. I really do not remember any other active candidate, and our only worry was that Mary Turner would not want to do it. She was established in her field, and that could have been a problem, but she agreed to do it. I think that took a tremendous amount of courage. She also, at her own expense, went to a program the summer before she began as Director of Women's Studies, a Women's Leadership Program, and I think that was another thing that I

Page 25
admired very much, that she really saw the directorship of Women's Studies as something that she was being retooled for.
PAMELA DEAN:
She suggested to me--this was when we first began talking, and I have not brought this up before--the implication was that one of the reasons the administration accepted her as the Director of Women's Studies Program was because she was Southern, and she was safe. They did not see her as some firebrand Yankee coming in here and advocating radical change. They felt that if they must have a Women's Studies Program, she'd be safe. Do you think there's any merit in that?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes, I think that, as I say, this is a conservative institution. That's three times now that I've pointed out UNCCH's conservatism. Indeed, Mary Turner had all of the credentials that would add up to Southern womanhood. As a young widow, she had reared her daughter after going back and getting her Master's and Ph.D degrees locally and taught here for several years while she was finishing her Ph.D at Duke. She worked as Katherine Carmichael's assistant for several years in addition to her work in the School of Education in the early 50's. They knew her very well, but as I say, the early 70's were making all of us open our eyes, and I think that by 1975, they knew a very different Mary Turner Lane. I don't know if she mentioned this to you, but she got into a pay dispute at the School of Education, pointing out that her salary was incredibly behind the salary of comparably qualified male members of the faculty, and this had gone through several levels of the University. She had a dispute with the School of Education that, I think, had become

Page 26
quite acrimonious, and I think that was one of the reasons we were lucky enough to get her to come to Women's Studies. It was outside the School of Education. It was a big problem for, then, Sam Williamson, who is our Dean, because he had a faculty member--it was like hiring somebody from a different campus if it's from a different college within the University. But I think she had made herself just obnoxious enough that the School of Education thought, "Well, she won't be around half the time. Whew! We'll never get rid of her otherwise." I think that Mary Turner is underestimating her strength. She is the epitome of the Southern woman, and I say that with a great deal of respect. She can slice right through the garbage and get right down to issues with a very big smile on her face. I saw Katherine Carmichael, from Birmingham, Alabama, do the same thing quite often, and I think it's an acquired quality, perhaps, that they might get from older women that they have known. I think the administration knew Mary Turner; I think they knew what they were getting, but they preferred the known quantity to the firebrands that they might bring in from someplace else.
PAMELA DEAN:
That makes a lot of sense. In addition to that quality of cutting through, as you say, what would say her strengths were in this position? What were her greatest achievements, her greatest contributions, her strengths?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Her greatest strength, I'm sure, is perseverance, first of all. She must have moved about three or four times, and sometimes her office looked like a stall in the Women's Room. It was incredible, the sort of confusion she put up with; I think

Page 27
her major accomplishment, perhaps, is the perseverance to present an image that became Women's Studies at UNC. She gave a wonderful interview to President Friday on his "North Carolina People," for instance, in the very first years of her role as director. She spoke all over campus, not just to feminist-oriented groups like AWS; she was very active with the Association for Women Faculty. She was the first President, as a matter of fact. She made Women's Studies multi-dimensional, serving graduate students as well, in her selection of her work toward getting the TA's who would teach in the course with Joan, and eventually, of course, she did teach that class. She was, with all the many things she wanted to do, she explained to me later, she had no experience in teaching this kind of class. It was Joan's class; she had put together the course syllabus and everything. It made perfect sense for Joan to do it.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I was proclaiming the glories of Mary Turner Lane, which I mean sincerely. I really admire her tremendously, and I think, as a matter of fact, that this career move was awfully good for Women's Studies, and it did not help Mary Turner Lane a bit in her own career at the University. I'm disappointed that she decided to retire last year as an Associate Professor. She deserved promotion to full professor. I'm sure that her publications and her work in Women's Studies could not have been taken into consideration adequately by a University committee; Women's Studies just falls in the gaps. The people who considered her for promotion whenever she came up were all in the School of Education, and the time and energy she put in outside the School of Education would have worked to her detriment. That's something that I wish the University were more cognizant of.
PAMELA DEAN:
She mentioned, when we were talking about the committees she served on in the late 60's, dealing with rule changes in relation to women. She figured out the number of hours that she and the other committee people would spend, and she was sure that it was the equivalent of writing a book.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right. But it was not writing a book.
PAMELA DEAN:
It does not contribute to your record as a scholar.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Let me just remark on one other person here, Dell Johansen, of the Department of Economics. I remember she retired early, in about 1977-78. She was an Associate Professor in the School of Economics, and she retired after she was passed over

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for promotion. That was before we had our exit interviews that the Dean now holds with departing faculty members, but she said that she wished she could talk to the dean because she felt, as a woman, that--and this is someone who wasn't a firebrand brought in--this is somebody who'd been here since the 50's, and I think that she felt, again, that her value to the University had not been recognized, and I think that's an incredible oversight. That is the University's failure, and the University is one that is suffering.
PAMELA DEAN:
I think that it's, in part, as you say, you're only judged on those very narrow achievements within your major field. It's a male definition of success and accomplishment.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
But I'd like to point out that now that our younger and newer women faculty members are not being asked to be on so many committees and are not carrying the load, that they are meeting those standards very easily. I think if that's what the University wants, that's fine. I do sort of think, though, that the University runs the risk of losing some of the best people, because one of the things that serving on six committees does is make young faculty know their colleagues all over the University, makes them feel very much a part of the community, and makes a decision to leave to go to a different institution a very different kind of decision. I would like to suggest that a lot of the younger people, male and female, who are just being judged on their teaching evaluations and the strength of their publications might leave. In a way some of the other members of

Page 30
the faculty who were brought in under a whole different age had a different sense of reality.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes, I think you're right. I think the University is losing some of these requirements but maintaining that emphasis.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right.
PAMELA DEAN:
It's a cliche, but true. We talked about Mary Turner's strengths and how much she contributed. Do you see any weaknesses, any things you would have liked to have seen differently?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I served on the Women's Studies Advisory Board for, I believe, every year. I was away for one year. I Fulbrighted in Germany in '78-79, but the rest of the time, I served on that Women's Studies Board. I was occasionally impatient. I wanted more changes; I wanted more interest in course development in the different departments. Mary Turner put her emphasis in image-building, in presenting a view of Women's Studies that showed first of all that it was respectable, and sometimes, I guess I got distracted by her Southernness and sort of assumed that this was some kind of power play in one sense rather than a sincere effort to improve Women's Studies. I would ask, "Who cares whether people think well of the program or not?" Well, it matters a great deal, of course. I've come to believe that everything that Mary Turner did do, meeting with sororities and going to women's groups on campus and working with the Chancellor and being sent to alumni meetings and that sort of thing. All of this image-building was important. She did an awful lot of that, and it was quite valuable. It made a difference. It brought

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Women's Studies into a realm that would still be untouched. There are still members of the University who feel that whatever good feelings they have about Women's Studies simply come because one of their good friends who is the president of the Chapel Hill Historical Association, who's a leader in her church community, who's been a Chapel Hillian for thirty years because she put time and energy into it, and she, in their minds, is so closely aligned with it that they have a sense of Women's Studies that separates it, perhaps, from the bra burning, early 70's vision that would be perfectly fine with me. If that's who the national antecedents are, O.K. I think that Women's Studies has a very different heritage in Chapel Hill on our campus.
PAMELA DEAN:
So you're basically saying that her major contribution to the program was to give it a degree of respectability and legitimacy?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Visibility.
PAMELA DEAN:
Visibility that perhaps a radical, hard-hitting approach might not have achieved.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I have to say this, that Mary Turner was much more radical and hard-hitting in what she wanted to do with the Association for Women Faculty, and there were other ways that she was working for improving the role of women on campus beyond what she got paid for and the hours that she might have felt were her responsibility in holding office hours or something like that. There was quite a bit of work for women being done. I think that, I also have to give her credit. She was the major person

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on our campus who worked toward the development of the Duke-UNC--they've just changed their name--at that time it was…
PAMELA DEAN:
Women's Studies Research Center.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
The Women's Studies Research Center. It's now the Duke-UNC Center for Research on Women, and that, in her last year, that's really what she helped put together. I remember, too, I'm going to put this in because I'm on that board now. I've been on it for about three years, and Anne Firor Scott from Duke, who chairs their History Department, who did chair it, is also on the board, and I remember we interviewed her when we wanted to put together this curriculum in Women's Studies. She was against it. She came from Duke, and she said, "No, I don't want to see you ghetto-ize the study of women. I think it would be a mistake." Her book on the Southern lady is absolutely standard reading for Women's History, and yet, she could say, in 1974, that it would be a mistake. But, a few years later, when the opportunity arose to put together this center, she and Bill Chaffe decided that they would team up with Jean O'Barr at Duke and put together a Women's Studies Program. It was done almost by executive fiat at that point because there was so much feeling from the newer people who had been wanting it for years but meeting the kind of resistance of someone that they respected so tremendously like Anne Scott. They couldn't do anything, but as soon as she said, "Well, O.K. I can see if we're going to have this research program, maybe there would be an advantage of having a Women's Program at Duke." As soon as she agreed to it,

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Duke agreed. It looked from this side of Chapel Hill Boulevard as if it was her decision, really.
PAMELA DEAN:
That would have been hard to go against someone of her stature. It's not like saying it's just a reactionary male.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
No, not at all. It's sort of hard to align all of these issues by male and female really.
PAMELA DEAN:
Why did Mary Turner Lane leave the position of Director of Women's Studies?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I think that there was a lot of feeling then that we now could get a Director of Women's Studies who was trained in Women's Studies who had a national reputation in Women's Studies, and that this was a good time to do that. As I say, when the program began, it was Joan Scott and Mary Turner, and we knew we had someone who had a strong teaching commitment to the area as well as a good administrator of the program. When Joan left, that really did leave a void, so
PAMELA DEAN:
That would leave at least one year that Mary Turner supervised at least, but she didn't actually teach the course. It was the TA's that handled the bulk of it.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right. That's virtually all that is done now as far as I can tell. The original syllabus is still used. It's sort of like a cafeteria approach in one sense. There are lots of speakers, and the director invites people in. Joan Scott did that herself. That's how she was able to teach Women's Studies 50 on top of her regular course load. Part of the new job description was going to be that someone would actually teach that class and any other courses that we wanted to develop. We

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had not developed any other courses in Women's Studies because, as I say, it wasn't a direction that Mary Turner felt confident in going in herself, and so there was no question about her willingness to pass the responsibilities to someone else. It was a five year position, and I think that she felt, as she certainly should have, that she had done a good job and was ready to pass it on to someone else. The Dean gave us the money to look for a person at virtually any level that we could find the person. He wanted someone tenured, again, to avoid problems that we might have in considering this person for tenure.
PAMELA DEAN:
And that was Williamson?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Sam Williamson, right, said, "O.K. I'm going to put together a committee that will look for a new director." I think he was interested, now, in seeing this turn into a nationally recognized program. I was on that committee too, and that committee eventually made the job offer to Jane Mathews, now Jane De Hart Mathews, and she, as matter of fact, was one of the people who was quoted in this original report. She had put together the Women's Studies Program at Greensboro, and again, a committee of faculty and students, this time graduate and undergraduate students, served as a search committee with Beverly Long in charge of that committee. We were told we could organize the search in any way we wanted to, and we decided that we would go for a half-time position in a department and the other half in Women's Studies. We wanted someone with a real teaching commitment. We wanted someone, preferably at the full professor level if we could get her, and the way we decided to handle that

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was that we would put out a general call for applications addressed to Beverly Long as chair of the committee. She would group them by discipline into departments that they would probably have a home in as well as Women's Studies, and then send them to that department where a committee appointed by the chair of each of those departments involved would look over the applications and give their ideas, sort of a straw vote, on "Yes, this person would be an acceptable full professor. This person would probably be offered an Assistant Professorship or an Associate Professorship." Then, we would just look at those people who had a viable chance to be accepted into departments. I think that we ultimately decided that was not the way we should have done it because all of that inertia was not gone. In my own department, and I will speak very frankly, my chairman, who was not opposed to the idea of a woman in English directing Women's Studies. This was going to be an added half-time position so he wanted our department to find a candidate. So winning this extra position should have been something that the departments wanted to work for, but in our case, Joe Flora, our chair, decided that he would appoint a committee that would have on it representatives of the most conservative elements of our department, so there was only one woman on the committee. The husband of the woman who is in charge of the "Anti-ERA for North Carolina" was also on the committee.
PAMELA DEAN:
People who had no interest in having someone interested in Women's Studies join?

Page 36
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right. But I shouldn't just refer him by a label. He's a very fair man. I'm talking about Richard Rust. He is Mormon, and his wife Patricia was in charge of the "North Carolina Anti-ERA," and I think at every turn, he has to fight down his own personal reaction to the woman's issue, and I found him incredibly fair in most cases. But in this case, and I'm sure he put in the time because it was required, but again, his heart was not in it--far from it. There were other members of the committee whose honesty and fairness I have a lot more doubts about than Dick Rust who were there as well. The vast majority of applications were in History and English. The History Department gave us a list of nine people that they would accept at the full level and a couple at the Associate level, I believe. The English Department came up with only four people that they would possibly accept. One at the full professor level, but she had already asked that her name be withdrawn, but they were embarrassed, so they gave us her name anyway because that meant that there were no people at the full professor level that they were interested in having as a gift. Now this is my department, and I talked to Anne Hall, who was the woman on that departmental committee. Weldon Thornton chaired it. Townsend Luddington was on it, and Mark Reed as well. At any rate, I asked Anne, "How did this happen? How did someone as talented as Annette Kolodny, for instance, get zapped?" She wasn't even accepted as a non-tenured faculty member. I can't believe this. She would have been a shoe-in. There would have no question about it." And Anne said, "Well, I have never seen anybody work as hard as Mark

Page 37
Reed did to punch holes in her book, which was published by the UNC Press--The Lay of the Land. He had gone through, and he made a two hour presentation, line for line. What he disagreed with was the whole idea of a connection between psychology and literature. He couldn't accept her methodology, and Anne Hall said it was just so apparent that he would never, never have voted to permit her in the department, under any circumstances, even as a gift. This was the level of discussion, so it was inevitable that our new Director of Women's Studies was probably going to be one of the historians on that list. There were nine possibilities, and there were a couple of people in Speech and a couple from the outside, but the people with the real reputations were in history, and we wound up not even going with them. Again, sort of doing everything by committee, we really just, it was a major disappointment. Beverly Long and I now get together and lean back and think such things as "You know what we really should have done was…" We were told by the Dean that any way we wanted to do it, we were to give him three names of people who were acceptable as Director of Women's Studies. Once we gave him the list of three, he would make the decision. He wanted these in alphabetical order; he didn't want us to decide which, and that's what we did. Unfortunately, I guess we didn't believe him. You might be interested, as a matter of fact, in looking at a student newspaper that came out right after. You might have seen it. Is it in the archives?
PAMELA DEAN:
They have it in microfilm. I've got it.

Page 38
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
That's interesting because one of the student members of the board gave an interview in the Daily Tar Heel that protested the final choice of director. She accused other committee members of unfairness. You see, we gave the Dean our short list of three people, one of whom was totally unacceptable after they came, just absolutely unacceptable. Then, the other two were possibilities, and the committee very clearly favored a candidate in Speech, the twelve of us, very clearly. Maybe there was one person who favored Jane Mathews, but, you see, we had turned in our list of three finalists before we'd even met them and talked to them. We just sort of thought, of course, the Dean would say, "Hey, I've thought it over, and I want you to take that one person off the list and put on a better name now."
PAMELA DEAN:
Why was the process that way? Why did you give him the names before you'd…
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Because he only offered enough money to bring three or four people to campus, and Jane Mathews, at the time, was in Finland. Ninety-nine percent of the time, she was in Greensboro, but this particular semester, she and her husband were sharing a Fulbright Chair or something like that in Finland, and that just ate up all of the money. I think it's really unfair to think, though, that her appointment was a shoe-in, that John Kasson, for instance, who was the history member of the department, was biased in favor of Jane Mathews because she was married to John Kasson's colleague, Donald Mathews.
PAMELA DEAN:
That's one of the charges that was made in this case.

Page 39
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Right, and I think that Emily really messed up. The unmentioned source was Emily Seelbinder. I could shoot her most of the time. I have told her this, by the way. We have discussed this often.
PAMELA DEAN:
She was a TA for Women's Studies 50 for quite a while.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
For quite a while, and she really had the feeling that she was it, she was Women's Studies, and she just shot down the best candidate that we had in the English Department, Wendy Martin because Wendy had been asked to teach that course one of those years between Joan Scott's absence and the hiring of Jane Mathews. Wendy who, in her early forties, had just had her first baby in December, started teaching this course in January, and she was there to keep things going, not to change, not to do anything, and Emily Seelbinder was not impressed. I pointed out to Emily that, frankly, Wendy Martin had a lot of things on her mind, including a one month old baby. At any rate, you can say, "Well, O.K. That wasn't very smart of Wendy Martin." But still, at any rate, that's just one small thing, but I think Emily got really carried away. Without consulting anyone else on the committee, she gave this interview that accused, essentially, I think she even used his name, John Kasson, of this set up deal. That's not incredible. John did his job, and he did it very well. His job was to come up with people from the History Department and get the best people we possibly could. He did it much better than anybody else, and Jane Mathews could well have been his personal favorite. That's true, of the group that was there, but I'll tell you. Sam Williamson has never gotten along

Page 40
with Don Mathews, and I think that if Sam felt he had to appoint Jane, it would have been just against his [Laughter] , against the spirit. It's really true. He and Don Mathews have sort of been opponents in the History Department for years, and he probably just thought, "Well, I'm just going to put all of my personal feelings behind me and look at these three people and try and find the best person." So the Women's Studies Committee that I was on, we all wrote him separate letters, and I'm sure all of them said, "Let's open this up some more." He thought, "We've got all of this money invested in it. Are we going to do this or not? We brought this woman in from Finland, and nobody said that she'd be a disaster. Let's do it."
PAMELA DEAN:
She'd already been running Women's Studies in Greensboro. She'd done a credible job there.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes, she had begun the program. We found out more after the appointment. I've discovered that this is [Laughter] often the case, that people are franker after a decision is made about their colleagues and their capacities than they are earlier. We did hear before the appointment that because this was a commuting situation, she and her husband, Don, lived here in Chapel Hill, that she wasn't in Greensboro very much, and she was kind of distant from her students. That was something that the committee took into consideration, and we assumed that that was sort of thing that would change after she arrived. Do you have another question?
PAMELA DEAN:
Certainly. You left the board shortly, a year or so after Jane took over?

Page 41
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes. I agreed to serve one year after Jane Mathews began as Director of Women's Studies. As I say, I was away for a year, and then, the next year, I was on the search committee that offered her the job. So 1981-82, I believe, was my last year on the Women's Studies Board. That was after. I had been on it, except for that one year's absence, since its inception, and I was the only one. So I offered lots of continuity. I was very willing to do that, and I met some very new people in Women's Studies. That was the year I first met Judith Bennett. I think she is absolutely superb, and Rachel Rosenberg in Sociology, also someone with a real commitment and a great knowledge of Women's Studies. Also, Dot Howze-Brown. She has been married for years but has only recently started using her husband's last name, in Public Health. That was the year Dot Howze-Brown was on the board, and she did a wonderful job. She virtually put the internship program together herself. It came up at an early meeting. It was something that Jane had mentioned in her interviews with us that she was interested in seeing, and Dot said that she wasn't sure if she was going to be able to make it to meetings very regularly since she was over on the other side of campus and that she had different demands on her time, but that if it would be all right, she would like to take over that responsibility and that would be her contribution to Women's Studies that year. So she is the one who sent out letters all over the country, to all faculty to get the names and coordinated things, and got a list of places that were willing to take

Page 42
interns, and Dot did an incredible job that first year of just setting that whole thing up. I have tremendous respect for her.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
I must say, though, I was very happy to get off the Women's Studies Board at the end of that year. I really felt that it was time for a change. We had a new director. I had, I hope, helped with the continuity, but there's also this feeling that I had my own expectations about what Women's Studies should be, and I felt it was really good for Jane Mathews to have a chance to work with a new group of people.
PAMELA DEAN:
Have you continued to watch the program?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Yes, I have.
PAMELA DEAN:
What's your assessment of how it's gone?
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
It's hard to talk about the program separate from personalities still. Again, the way the whole spirit of Women's Studies, as it started on this campus and as I assume it is elsewhere, certainly the way that the National Women's Studies Association, is set up is one of shared leadership. And yet the University demands, requires, a kind of a star system. With only one appointment in Women's Studies, it becomes an assessment of the single person who has that position. And from the outside, I've been less happy with the program now than I was five or six years ago. And yet, I look and I see that since Jane De Hart Mathews's time, the physical facilities that Women's Studies has, the number of people, the positions that they have in administrative roles and staffing, the number of TA's--it's grown tremendously. I think there's really a strong interest in Women's Studies that has nothing to do with the director of Women's Studies promoting it. I think that comes from word of

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mouth. It comes from a kind of a closeness that the TA's maintain with students in Women's Studies 50, and there are now, I believe, three Teaching Assistants. When Joan Scott taught this course, she would teach a section; they meet in this large group, and then they break up into sections, and Joan Scott took one of those sections and so did Wendy Martin. Jane Mathews directs the course, but she doesn't really have that contact. Her way of dealing with the tremendous responsibilities of administration, as well as teaching as a half-time position, has been to try to cut down on teaching. So her three Teaching Assistants essentially write up the mid-term and final exams alone, grade those exams, write up the papers, grade the papers, and there is very little paper work beyond scheduling that Jane Mathews has to do, beyond several lectures in the class. It's a very different role. I think that Women's Studies has a strong position on campus right now, despite the fact that, occasionally, there have been no majors. There might be one or two now, I'm not sure, but that's not been the way that we've defined ourselves. I think there's a lot of interest in Women's Studies among the graduate students, and that is one strength of the program as it's set up right now. The TA's and the graduate teaching possibilities in Women's Studies are just wonderful, and I think that that should be a direction that Women's Studies moves into. There still are very few departments that offer any courses at the graduate level, even, on women's issues and women's ideas and none in the English Department. There are several in the History Department, as I remember, and in Health

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and health related fields, but it's still kind of sporadic, and that's a direction that we have to go in.
PAMELA DEAN:
That's seems to pretty much cover the basic questions that I had on Women's Studies.
MARGARET ANNE O'CONNOR:
Let me just make one more comment about Shirley Weiss.
One semester, Shirley Weiss was asked to direct Women's Studies. It was a semester when the Women's Studies 50 course was not being offered, but Shirley, who is one of those old time women like Mary Turner and Berthe Marti that I mentioned earlier. She teaches in City and Regional Planning, which doesn't have a lot of options for teaching and research interest on women's issues. And yet, as a president of AAUP, she's had a lot of responsibilities, university-wide, and wanted to see the program succeed, so she agreed to direct Women's Studies that fall semester. I just wanted to put in a good word for her because while she was the director, as a matter of fact, they considered a project that was a favorite of mine--a book collection for a small North Carolina library that is called the Martha E. Chue Collection in Women's Health and Culture. This is the Clarkton Library. Martha Chue was a North Carolinian who died of breast cancer in 1984, I believe, and she had worked here in Chapel Hill. She got all of her degrees outside of the state, but she spent one year, I believe, in John Reed's NEH seminar on Southern Culture. While she was here, she worked for the state of North Carolina in doing a pamphlet on Women's Health for them, and she made a lot of friends here. And while she was here, she's also made a point of saying that she wished--she was from such a small

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town--she wished that her library had even a semblance of the sorts of materials that we had at the University. It just seemed to be a pilot program and a place for us to start. So with Shirley Weiss's cooperation, the board considered setting up this little fund, which really isn't money. It's more just sort of moral support and collecting books that faculty women, for the most part, have donated. Trudier Harris, who was a member of the board then and is a member of my department, has been overseeing the Chue Collection. I still think that there is an incredible commitment by women on this campus to Women's Studies, not in terms of individual personalities, but as it is taught by women all over campus--like Beverly Long, Shirley Weiss, Judith Bennett, and people that I've mentioned earlier, Marilyn Scott in the German Department and Connie Eble in my department as well and Thad Davis. Gosh, I want to get them all in. There is a real feeling that Women's Studies serves a very valuable function on this campus. The students, male and female, are very excited about Women's Studies classes, and it's true that if a faculty member just has an issues-oriented class, they put more time and energy into it. They have to redo it, even if it's material they know very well. They look at it from a different perspective, and that's one of the strengths that the Women's Studies Program has always had to offer the undergraduate population here, a kind of a vitality. And that vitality is still here. The commitment is still here, and I have a lot of confidence in the future of Women's Studies at UNC.
PAMELA DEAN:
Thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW