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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

High school experiences and parents' commitment to her education

Lane reflects on the ways that high school experiences differed for young men and women during the 1930s. She also marvels at how much her parents valued her education and how that shaped her later life.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-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

PAMELA DEAN:
Let's go on and talk a little bit more about your high school experience. Do you remember what classes you liked, specifically, or teachers that you liked especially?
MARY TURNER LANE:
As I said earlier, girls were expected to do well in school. I'm not sure that boys were expected to do as well as girls, and that seems strange in retrospect, because, they were much more likely, it seems to me, to go away to college. So the focus in high school, for girls, was academically, that you would get good grades, but certainly, the social pressure was such that you really couldn't be too smart, intellectually or academically. So high school was seen much more in a boy-girl context. It was very important that you be socially acceptable, that you be invited to the dances, and if you grew up in the South, you grew up with lots of dances, and lots of parties, and things of that kind. I did well in high school; I particularly liked English, always did well in that—history, French. Math was a problem, but it was for all of us who were female, it seems to me. But I always knew that I would be going away to college, and all of my friends, my girlfriends, went away to college—most of us, as I recall. And that was remarkable, because money was not that available. I've often thought that my father did a remarkable thing, to send me to Salem College, which was more expensive than any other school that we knew of at the time. I went away on money that had been set aside for me at the time I was born, plus a scholarship at Salem. As I recall, Salem cost $750.00 a year, and the scholarship provided $250.00 a year. So that was a significant contribution, and also, I recall that my father even borrowed money to see that I went away to college.
PAMELA DEAN:
He very seriously valued….
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes. And I have often thought what a remarkable thing that was. Both parents valued education, and so I've often thought it remarkable that my brother and I were given such fine college educations as we'd had.
PAMELA DEAN:
Absolutely. What schools did your friends go to, do you recall?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I had two friends who went to Greensboro, to Woman's College—that's what it was known as at the time—two or three friends, maybe more than that. One went to Flora MacDonald, which was a Presbyterian college in Red Springs, North Carolina, which no longer exists. Her family was a staunch Presbyterian family, and her mother had gone to Flora MacDonald, so she went to Flora MacDonald. I was told by my parents that I could go anywhere I wanted to, if I went to Salem the first year. And I had very positive feelings about Salem because I had gone with my mother to Salem on a number of occasions. My mother had been the alumnae president, and the president of Salem had often visited in our home. The alumnae secretary had visited in our home, and had asked me to room with her youngest sister, who was going to Salem. So I went, thinking that it must be a good place, and that I would go, and then if I wanted, to change to Duke—that was the other option that I was interested in. Most of my friends went to schools in North Carolina. One went to Greensboro College; and then one went to Catholic Junior College in Washington, DC.
PAMELA DEAN:
What year did you graduate from high school?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I graduated from high school at age sixteen—we had all of eleven grades at that time—in 1935. And then graduated from Salem College in 1939.