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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriette Arnow, April, 1976. Interview G-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Balancing work and family for a woman writer

Here, Arnow discusses how she balanced her career as a writer with her duties as a wife and mother. According to Arnow, her primary responsibilities were as a wife and mother and she scheduled her writing around her domestic tasks. At this point, Arnow was living in Ann Arbor with her husband and children. Although she did have the help of a cleaning woman at one point, Arnow explains that she would wake up early in the morning to write before she had to begin her day of child care and housekeeping.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriette Arnow, April, 1976. Interview G-0006. 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

Because I am very interested in the balance, or the difficulty in keeping a balance, between being a woman who is a wife and a mother, and a woman who is a writer.
Of course, the wife and mother always comes first, up to a point. I did my writing early in the morning. I never neglected-or don't think I did-the children or cookery and kitchen work. I could have kept a better house. You can see from the things that are scattered around this room and other rooms that I'm not the world's best housekeeper, and time that should have gone to dusting and cleaning and windows and this. . . . I did have a cleaning woman for a number of years, but she had to come from Detroit. She was getting old, and she retired. It's very difficult to get household help in Ann Arbor, and I've heard the same story from other women. It seems much easier in the South. But I couldn't write all day, although there were many days when I wished I couldcopy what I had written or take time to read it over, and I'd wish I didn't have to stop to do this or that.
Now in the years when your children were very young and you'd have to get up and get them breakfast and bring them to school, did you write from four to seven in the morning?
Yes, I have awakened as early as 2:30 and gone to work on something, but not that often. I usually get up around five. And I had a few hours, and then it was time to get them and get my husband off to work. Then, after I came home from taking them to school, I usually wrote for the rest of the morning, and did my cookery, housework, and remainder of the chauffeuring and shopping in the afternoon.