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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 >>

Memories of life as a single career woman

After graduation, Lane became an elementary school teacher, and she loved her job. She also remembers what life was like for young single women during the early 1940s.

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

They said that after four years you have to leave it. You had to graduate, and you had to major in something. As I look back on it, most of my friends did exactly what I did and majored in elementary education. A number of my friends were in music, and so they either graduated in voice or graduated in piano. Salem had a strong music program, and they went on to choral work or concert work. Several people majored in home economics. That was a strong major at Salem. Some of them went into work in that field. I can't remember exactly what they did. But the rest of us majored—well, when I say major, Salem didn't have a major in education. You majored in a discipline. I majored in English and then took the courses necessary for a primary teacher's certificate. In your senior year, you took those courses as well as did practice teaching in local classrooms. That was a very good year. I enjoyed that, and I liked to work with children. I had excellent teachers. I was successful in that. So I felt good about being a teacher. I was going to be a teacher as all of my friends were until we married. That was all you were going to do. You could work until you married. And then after you married it was full-time wife. So a friend and I both got jobs in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she was to be the music teacher, and I was to teach the second grade. So she and I went to Fayetteville, and we got a room in a lovely, private home. Many teachers did that at that time. We were served our breakfast and dinner. There were two other teachers who lived there. We had no car. Neither one of us owned a car. Of course, nobody did. The teachers that lived at the home got us to school. We worked it out some way. So I became a teacher.
PAMELA DEAN:
And how did you like teaching second grade?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I liked it. I had a wonderful old teacher across the hall who told me everything that Salem had not told me. I liked it.
PAMELA DEAN:
Practice as opposed to theory.
MARY TURNER LANE:
I liked it. I thought it was wonderful. The children were responsive. So the teaching part was fine. I earned, I think, $99.00 a month for the first nine months. That's the salary we got. On that salary we paid our room and board, which I think was $30.00 a month. I bought a $1,000 insurance policy and a fur coat in the first year. I don't think I've ever had so much money. And my darling father sent me $10.00 occasionally as just extra. So we lived well. We did well—when I say we, I'm speaking of my friend, Edie McClain Barton. And we had a wonderful social life because Fort Bragg was there. Young men were just beginning to be drafted, and everybody we had known in college began showing up in Fayetteville. So we really did have a very good time. We were successful teachers and our social life was very satisfactory. I taught there for two years. Then my father had gone with the national guard. He was commander of the 113th Field Artillery. The guard had been called out and was to be stationed in Columbia, South Carolina. So he and mother had gone there. After a year or two, she went back to New Bern, and I joined her in New Bern for a year. Taught school there, also.
PAMELA DEAN:
What year did you teach then?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Third grade.