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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The ways race, class, and gender undermine alliances among the oppressed

Durr explains why the leaders of the women's rights movement refused to partner with her anti-poll tax committee by showing how race, class, and gender create hierarchies among the disempowered, undermining social activism. She blames this tendency on human nature and illustrates how it occurs in various societies around the world.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. 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

Did you talk to Alice Paul?
Oh, yes. Those women were the most rigid sectarian women that I have ever seen. They wouldn't talk to you about anything, and we even got the American Association of University Women to go along with us.
Didn't they think that the poll tax discriminated against women?
Yes, I guess that they just didn't . . . well, they wouldn't do anything to help us or make it a part of their program. They were terribly sectarian, you know, just women's rights. That's what I keep telling the women today, that if you are just going to work for women's rights, you're not going to get anywhere, you have got to work for the rights of other people, too. See, this was the same thing with civil rights, too. As long as they just worked for the rights of Negroes, they weren't going to get anywhere either. They had to have a lot of support before they got their rights. You have got to appeal to people on a broader basis than just sectarian rights of groups. And another thing is, you see, and as I see it, the discrimination against Negroes and women is all part of the fight to exploit other people. Because in the rich Negroes, they exploited poor Negores, rich women exploited poor women. I certainly believe in women's rights and black rights too, but the point is that the exploitation, as far as I can see, since the beginning of time has been by the haves against the have nots. You see, there has always been, as I see it and I have read a lot of history, a great desire on the part of people who accumulate money and property and power, to get somebody to do all the dirty work. You know, to do the washing and the cleaning up and the taking out the garbage and the dead animals and nurse the babies and looking after the sick. You see, people like to be relieved from all that. They like to be clean and smell good and live above all that, digging coal and draining out the cesspools. Even in India, they had it on a caste system so that the untouchables were the ones that took care of the outhouse and took out the dead animals and they couldn't even drink out of the village well. But that is why I think the thing in human nature that seems to have been there since the beginning of time almost, is the desire to get somebody else to do the dirty work. Now, whether it is women or blacks or slaves or captured . . . for instance, you know, in Africa they used to kill all the captives and then they thought that it was much better to let them be the slaves and let them do the dirty work.