Title: Oral History Interview with Gladys Avery Tillett, March 20, 1974. Interview G-0061.
Interviewer: Hall, Jacquelyn
Interviewee: Tillett, Gladys Avery
Subjects: Women in politics Democratic Party (N.C.) Women--Suffrage--North Carolina
Abstract: Gladys Avery Tillett was born in Morganton, North Carolina, in 1891. The daughter of a progressive thinker and state supreme court justice, Tillett grew up in a family where education was of paramount importance. She attended the Women's College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) during the early 1910s. Tillett describes her experiences in Greensboro, focusing on the strong role models she found in her professors. Tillett describes how the faculty and students at the Women's College strongly advocated for the suffrage movement. In addition, she describes her tenure as student government president, in which position she lobbied for more freedom and responsibilities for the women students. After graduating, Tillett worked as a teacher and continued to participate in social reform activities before earning a second degree at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1917. That same year, she became a war bride and spent the next several years with her husband on army bases in the South. In 1920, Tillett and her husband returned to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she gave birth to their two children. Shortly thereafter, Tillett helped to organize a local chapter of the League of Women Voters in Charlotte. As the president of that local chapter, Tillett worked to register women voters, attempt to motivate them to participate in politics, and provide information about candidates running for office. Tillett also briefly served as the state president of the League. By the early 1930s, the experience Tillett had gained working with the League earned her recognition at the state level, and she became involved in the North Carolina Democratic Party, serving on the State Executive Committee. In 1932, Tillett became involved in the national Democratic Party, first as a delegate to the 1932 Democratic National Convention. She became the state party's vice chairman in 1934, and helped organize the Speakers' Bureau of the Democratic National Committee with Molly Dewson during the 1936 presidential campaign. In 1940, Tillett became the head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee and also was elected as the committee's vice chairman. Tillett remained in that post for ten years, resigning in 1950 to campaign for Frank Porter Graham's senatorial bid.