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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 >>

Time at Salem College.

During her time at Salem, Lane loved the stimulation she found within the community and the encouragement she received from her professors.

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:
Well, tell me about Salem.
MARY TURNER LANE:
I thought Salem was wonderful. I don't know how to describe it, except that it was so beautiful. Do you know Salem College?
PAMELA DEAN:
No, I haven't seen it.
MARY TURNER LANE:
It is an eighteenth-century village school. And the setting was just exquisite to me. The town of Winston- Salem was the first city that I had ever been in or been a part of and that was exciting to me. To be in a city, to be introduced to what we take for granted now, symphony concerts, theater, opera, the cultural attributes of Winston Salem were very exciting to me as well as the cultural aspects of Salem College. The speakers who came to campus that we got to know. The professors, both male and female, that we got to know in very warm and intimate ways were both dear friends and role models as I look back on that. The close friendship of girls was something that just made it a very happy experience for me. I liked everything about it. Someone said at the end of his college that he wanted somebody to say to him, "don't go." I sort of felt the same way. But the learning was exciting too. I do think that there was something very positive about being in classrooms with all females, where you were never competing or never being concerned about asking too bright a question or probing for an answer on something. There was a good deal of intellectual freedom there because the classes were all female, or at least I thought there was. In retrospect, as we're trying to weigh the advantages of coeducational and non-coeducational schools, there has certainly been enough research to support the notion that females students behave differently when they're in all female classes than they do when they're in coeducational classes.
PAMELA DEAN:
And you saw at the time…
MARY TURNER LANE:
I felt that. I don't know that I compared it with what I had done or had not done in high school. But I did feel a true intellectual awakening in the pursuit of subject matter that I just don't believe I had experienced before. I'm not sure that I felt that the setting was that safe, because I was still concerned about grades. It was a new intellectual enquiry that I had not been caught up in before.
PAMELA DEAN:
Wonderful. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARY TURNER LANE:
You asked about Salem, what I thought about Salem, what I found at Salem. I found wonderful friendships. I found teachers that were exciting. Teachers that were kind. I found a lot of stretching and growing that I felt good about and seemed to thrive on.
PAMELA DEAN:
Tell me about some of the teachers. You said that they were both male and female teachers.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes. Our English teachers, as I recall, were all female. I hadn't realized that, but they were— Elizabeth Lily and Jesse Byrd, who were both unmarried at the time. Elizabeth Lily did marry later. They were fully committed to introducing us to the beauty of poetry and literature in a way that I had just never known. The French teacher was—I guess I knew less well—his classes were challenging. I felt less adequate there than I did in other classes simply because my oral use of French was very limited. That was true of most of us.
PAMELA DEAN:
You had had French in high school?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I had had two years of French in high school, and I then had two years of French in college, and was quite good at writing and reading it, but very bad, very poor at speaking it. But that was a problem with all of us.
PAMELA DEAN:
I just wondered, do you happen to know what your French teacher in high school, what sort of—was it a woman?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes.
PAMELA DEAN:
Do you know what sort of training she had had?
MARY TURNER LANE:
No. I think she had been trained at Woman's College in Greensboro, and had probably never heard a true French—anyone from France speak. And suddenly I was with a professor who had studied in France and was speaking gibberish as far as I could tell. We had a physical education teacher, who was female, who was a great human being that had favorites among us. She was a great tease. Taught us a lot about being "good sports."
PAMELA DEAN:
What sort of things did you do for physical education?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Oh, funny. We played field hockey. Raced up and down a field hockey court. Played basketball, tennis. There was horse-back riding. You would pay extra for that. I did not take that. But I was very active in basketball every year and in field hockey. There was swimming, tennis. I enjoyed all of that. Other teachers? I can't think—I have faces but I don't have names, really, to go with some of them.