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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 >>

Continued difficulties for female faculty and staff

Though the women's studies program was moving forward, female faculty and staff still faced difficulties on campus. Lane does not remember having any steady male support, though a few faculty and administrators were generally friendly.

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:
I wanted to ask a kind of general question, a couple of general questions. What were your chief sources of support? What elements within the University community did you feel were most supportive, individuals or aspects of the University in a more general sense?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Well, at the same time I was working to promote Women's Studies, I was also working with about three or four other faculty women on our concerns for women faculty and women students on this campus. It was in the period toward the end of the '70s that the ten junior faculty women who had been brought in in 1972 it was or '73, on a one time affirmative action set of monies. Ten women were hired and by the end of the '70s when they began coming up, let's see in '77, '78, as they began coming up for promotion and tenure, we began encountering the notion, the fact, that not a single one was going to make it. And not a single one did. One did because she contested, and the judgment was overturned. That case went to the Board of Trustees. But I had four or five faculty women, or we had each other I should say, as a core group of support. We came together every other week. This is the group that I mentioned that showed up in the Carolina Inn once, and they were sure we were going to take over the University.
PAMELA DEAN:
[laughter]
MARY TURNER LANE:
So in the context of concern about faculty women, I could share with them about Women's Studies. So that was really a major support group. And it's almost hard to extricate Women's Studies and the status of women….
PAMELA DEAN:
Certainly.
MARY TURNER LANE:
… from our concerns over those two or three years that we were meeting together. These were very difficult years as far as these particular women who were being denied tenure were concerned. I remember that we would come together and discuss, what we really tried to do was to bring together all of the information we had about what was going on on campus. And as we did that, then there were many days that we would say, well, we thought that we had taken one step forward but instead we had taken two steps back. We deliberately decided then that we must seek out men who would support women's concerns. We could name on one hand faculty members that we felt would stand up and speak and give statements of support and raise questions and say to this University or these groups, "Hey, wait a minute. Let's think about this before we do that." Now, that was a very discouraging realization.
PAMELA DEAN:
Would you like to give those, that handful of men credit on this tape and name some of them?
MARY TURNER LANE:
No, I really don't want to because they were not always that consistent. We did really spend a session trying to think of men that could help us, and that was quite an humbling experience. It did something for us in that it made us even angrier, and it roused us to go out and try to seek further support. So I had the contingent of women who were always supportive of Women's' Studies. I had a board, a Women's' Studies Board, and this group was interesting and interested, and that group would be supportive.
PAMELA DEAN:
Were there any men on the board?
MARY TURNER LANE:
We had, yes, there were always men on the board. I saw to it that there were always men on the board. They never took their assignments very seriously and did not come with any regularity, and that was very disappointing. They wanted to offer courses and they did, and the people took the courses. But the men really did not see that the committee, it was another committee assignment. And they did not attend. I certainly failed in that respect, in eliciting from them the kind of support that we should have gotten. So I'm not coming up with very many people, am I? Or very many sources of support. Sam Williamson, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was very supportive. He helped change my time commitment so that as the last two and three years came into being, I had more time to be involved in this and taught less in the School of Education. My load had been so heavy that…. He did recognize that. He did come up with monies, and he was, I felt, very supportive in many ways.
PAMELA DEAN:
A very valuable person to have on your side, rather essential in fact.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, absolutely essential. And when it came time to have a search for a new director, then he wanted it to be a national search. In fact, he asked me to stay on an extra year after my five year assignment so that they would have time to do a full national search. So then there were individual faculty women, Gillian Cell, Beverly Long, Joan Scott, as long as she was here. She was a great loss because she had clout wherever she went and whatever problems she tackled. Madeline Levine in Slavic Languages. That was essentially our core group. Joan and Gillian and Madeline and I and then Katherine Mayly from Romance Languages, who was also an assistant in the Graduate School at that time. So the five of us had a good sense of what was going on in the College of Arts and Sciences. We also knew when new faculty appointments were coming up and we worked very hard to submit names of women. We tried to keep running lists of women whose names could be submitted for faculty appointments. So the support was small in many ways in terms of numbers of people but I felt that it was intense and strong in the people who were there.