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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 >>

Return to school to pursue M.Ed.

Lane stumbled into her career. After returning to work on her teacher's license, she found reasons to continue taking classes at UNC. Soon, she was working as an instructor in the education department, a job she found very intimidating.

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

My mother had good friends in Chapel Hill who used to visit us every summer at the beach. And she began saying to me why don't you come to Chapel Hill? Why don't you come to Chapel Hill? There are bound to be some nice men there that you can marry. Well, that wasn't all bad. I didn't know what else to do. That seemed entirely appropriate that I should marry again. Also it seemed very appropriate that I should have more children. To have only one child did not seem right. I'm not sure what the forces were that mitigated that, but an only child was not a good thing to have. So this child must have brothers and sisters, and I must, in order to fulfill myself, have more children. Well, anyway, I came to Chapel Hill, moved into a very wonderful, small neighborhood again, again with people coming back from service, back into jobs in academia. And did not marry in my years at Chapel Hill, but began a interesting progression of study and jobs that led me into a career. I really think I backed into a career. I knew nothing about career planning. The word career was not even part of my vocabulary.
PAMELA DEAN:
Women had jobs, not careers.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Women absolutely had jobs. I had a little bit of financial assistance from social security and from a pension that came because of the federal security agency. So I was very fortunate in that respect. But I began taking courses at Carolina, and over a two-year period, I had the courses necessary for a Master's in education.
PAMELA DEAN:
Going well beyond simply renewing a teaching certificate.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Oh yes. I got interested in the work. I didn't start with education courses. I started with English and drama courses. Something that would be intellectually stimulating after having been in New Bern for three years. I really, I guess, wanted to see if my mind could still function on some ideas. So I had that degree. Then I was asked by a professor at the university to stay on in an experimental reading program that we had started. And I found that very interesting for a year or two. Then I was asked by my major professor in elementary education to become an instructor in the teacher education program. So I sort of backed into those two jobs. So I began the sort of the full-time work when my daughter was in the third grade, I believe it was. And I was frightened to death. I was frightened because I was leaving this child. I wasn't going to be home every afternoon. For so many years, that was my abiding sense of guilt. It was the afternoons. My mother had been home every afternoon or a wonderful cook or housekeeper had always been there, mostly mother. Our home had always been open to friends that I could bring home, my brother could bring home. We had a wonderful downstairs room that was called the nursery for years. But that's where toys were. So suddenly I was going to take a full-time job, and I wouldn't be home in the afternoons. I found that the greatest source of guilt was just the afternoons. It wasn't so bad in the mornings because she was going to school. But to come home in the afternoons—for her to have to come home in the afternoon—I found that difficult. I was also very much afraid of entering an academic institution as a teacher. That had never entered my head.
PAMELA DEAN:
You had done well as a student.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Oh, absolutely. And had had female professors at Salem College. I had not had any female professors at Carolina. But it was the idea that I could become or was being forced or was being asked to become more than a classroom teacher of ten-year-olds. That was forbidding.
PAMELA DEAN:
And you were being asked to do it in an institution where there weren't a lot of women as students or teachers at that time.
MARY TURNER LANE:
There certainly—well, the few women professors that were at that time—I guess would be in education. There weren't—and the students, the female students, were all clustered in education. Because that's when students were really coming here as junior transfers. And they were still the young women who were going to teach until they married. They were transferring from—they were coming from Salem, and they were coming from St. Mary's, Peace, and Converse, and Meredith.