Title: Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064.
Interviewer: Smith, Annette
Interviewee: Winston, Ellen Black
Subjects: North Carolina--Politics and government University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Institute of Government Women--Suffrage--North Carolina Women government executives--North Carolina
Abstract: Ellen Black Winston was born and raised in North Carolina during the early twentieth century. Growing up, Winston was especially influenced by her parents' social and political views. Her father worked as a civil lawyer and as a banker and her mother was actively involved in various community organizations. As Winston describes it, "a very liberal, democratic attitude . . . prevailed in our home." As a result, Winston was expected to attend college. In the 1920s, she studied English and French at Converse College in South Carolina with the goal of becoming a schoolteacher. By the late 1920s, however, Winston made the decision to continue her education at the graduate level. With the active support of her husband, Winston completed her doctoral degree at the University of Chicago in 1930. She returned to Raleigh and taught social science for several years before relocating temporarily to Washington, D.C., to work for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In the late 1930s, Winston returned to Raleigh and worked for the Works Progress Administration program in North Carolina. In the 1940s, Winston spent time teaching at Meredith College and became increasingly involved in organizations aimed at improving social welfare in North Carolina. In particular, she was actively involved in the American Association of University Women. In 1944, Winston was appointed North Carolina Commissioner of Public Welfare, and in 1963 she became the first United States Commissioner of Welfare. In this interview, she focuses specifically on the status of women and opportunities for professional women; her philosophy of social welfare and her goal to improve standards in North Carolina; and her efforts to work with government at the local, state, and federal level.