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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 >>

Publicizing the existence of women's studies

One of Lane's primary objectives was to publicize the existence, purpose and achievements of the new women's studies program. To do this, she organized conferences, supervised the design of publicity materials, met with department chairs and lobbied the administration.

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

It was absolutely essential that I be in that part of the campus because the first year was spent simply getting to know chairs of the departments. I telephoned them, asked if I might come and talk to them about Women's Studies, introduce myself, and try to explain what we meant by Women's Studies, what our hopes were, and what our goals were. The whole first year had to be a year in which we could create an identity and let people know that we were on campus. We weren't completely successful, believe me, because it was a very difficult task. We had to come up with stationary, some kind of logo that could be identified as Women's Studies. When we began to write people and have programs, we had to have a kind of visibility. So the first year was really spent with a great deal of one on one contact on my part with students but primarily with faculty. With people in the library, we began to talk about what our holdings were in these different areas of Women's Studies and what we might do. And I began then to make the contacts that would enable us, eventually, to begin to co-sponsor speakers and programs with other departments. As I look through the six years of reports on the Women's Studies Program, I think that was one of the strongest things that we did. We eventually arrived at the point where I felt every issue was a women's issue. So we co-sponsored programs with the Peace, War, and Defense curriculum and with ten or fifteen different academic departments on campus. So that was a way of gaining visibility, a way of getting to be known on campus. Also the first year we were fortunate in that Joan Scott had helped a young woman in St. Anthony's fraternity, which was the only coeducational fraternity on this campus at the time, write a grant proposal for money for a conference to be used by a Women's Studies Program if we got one. So we began with a bank account, I believe, of either three or five thousand dollars that we could use for a program plan. So this was planned in a interdisciplinary way. In the spring of that first year, we were able to present a major lecture series on, not on Women's Studies and not on women, but on the family. That was another way approach who we were and what we were about and to elicit cooperation. The beauty of that program or that lecture series was that we brought in a woman who was a specialist in women's history, a woman who was a psychiatrist, a man who was a specialist in child growth and development, and Margaret Meade who was addressing the status of women throughout history as well as women today. So we capped off that first year with a lecture by Margaret Meade.
PAMELA DEAN:
That's pretty impressive. That ought to give you a little bit visibility and credibility.
MARY TURNER LANE:
That was a high moment for many reasons but that night in April, I guess it was, there were three women on the platform at Memorial Hall to present a program, and I don't believe that had ever happened before. It may have but usually the Chancellor is up to introduce somebody and usually the speaker is male. But that night I was able to stand up and say, "We're here tonight to welcome a new program to the University of North Carolina, the Women's Studies Program." And we had great cheers, and then "to welcome a very special guest, Margaret Meade." She ended her remarks with a wonderful description of what Women's Studies was all about and why it should be on a university campus. She had made those same remarks at the news conference that morning in the airport at Durham. I had chaired that press conference, and we had, oh, twenty-five people there, I suppose. And so riding back in the car with her that morning, I said, "Professor Meade, please, in your remarks tonight, say what you said about Women's Studies again, because it was so perfect." So that night after she gave her lecture and walked back to her seat, she turned to me said, "Was that what you wanted?" I thought how wonderful to be asked by Margaret Meade, to be asked if that was what I wanted. [laughter]
PAMELA DEAN:
Oh yes, yes, that must have been a very satisfying evening.
MARY TURNER LANE:
It was very exciting. I was the director. Joan Scott introduced Professor Meade, and then there was Margaret Meade. I felt that we were off to a good start with a kind of visibility that only that three thousand dollars could have given us. But that was good. In that first year we did the usual things of assessing what the courses were. We began to see to it, through the kinds of materials that we sent out, we began to develop our own brochure. I had a very good friend, a colleague who was a graphics artist, so he took on all production and designed the materials. So we looked good on paper. And I think that's important—that what goes out from an office and what represents a program is done with style and a level of class that I think is essential. So that was sort of the first year. We were focusing on being known, and I guess the other thing we did that year was to begin the research on a major three-screen production on women in the university.
PAMELA DEAN:
Yes, I wanted to ask about that.
MARY TURNER LANE:
This same colleague, Professor Wildman, teaches this process in a graduate course every spring. The graduate students design and produce the three-screen show, for a minimum amount of money. I think we had to get together three or four hundred dollars to buy the slides and different things. It proved to be a wonderfully consciousness raising experience for the graduate students who had to read all the literature that we could get to them. It also meant that all the faculty who were interested in women's studies began to work together to design the outline of the ideas. What we had to do was to come up with the ideas to be represented. Then the graduate students rendered the ideas in a variety of ways. So we ended the following year, I believe it was, with this production. But there was almost a semester of research on it before we actually got into the production of it. And it was presented that second year. We used it in a variety of ways. We used it in the Women's Studies 50 class. We used it at orientation with students. We had a number of programs with it. The Pan-hellenic Council sponsored it with us. We took it into a number of dormitories. So it was an unusual way to begin to think about Women's Studies. Because we had it that second year, we also organized a state conference on Women in Higher Education, and invited representatives from all of the public and private universities and colleges to send anybody who taught a course that related to women to this conference. That proved to be a very successful thing. That was our way of saying, "We're in this business now."
PAMELA DEAN:
And making yourself a resource, not only to Chapel Hill, but to the state as well.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, these faculty members who came were also invited, we sent them our lecture series information, calendars, the following year. And at different times we spoke on their campuses. So that was a form of outreach that was important. We saw to it that, I saw to it that Chancellor Taylor and President Friday received copies of the conference, and a number of the people who attended wrote to the Chancellor to indicate that this had been a very productive thing—one of the first times they had been invited to a conference on campus.