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NORFOLK WOMEN'S ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

JEAN E. FRIEDMAN, COORDINATOR
INTERVIEW 7

Life experiences of a 62-year-old white Norfolk housewife. Includes work history, sexual history, and sexual attitudes, with a focus on sex roles of the 1930's.

Interviewer: Terry Waff

Transcribed: 19 April 1984
ODU ARCHIVES


Interviewer: Okay, How old are you now?

Housewife: Sixty-two.

Interviewer: Okay. And how old were you when you were married?

Housewife: Twenty-six.

Interviewer: And how old was your husband?

Housewife: Twenty-three.

Interviewer: Were you employed outside the home?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: Where did you work?

Housewife: Landis, William & Co.

Interviewer: And do you know what year this was? Or about when?

Housewife: From, well, begin with I worked somewhere else beside there after I got out of school. If that's what you talking 'bout.

Interviewer: This is when you were married.

Housewife: Oh. Landis, William & Company. I started working there in uh -- about 1935.

Interviewer: And what was your salary at the time?

Housewife: ---'36. $8.00 a week.

Interviewer: And did you get any raises?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: What were they?

Housewife: Well, I was making $18.00 when I quit work.

Interviewer: Talk louder, Okay?

Housewife: Sorry.

Interviewer: That's. okay. Did you graduate form high school?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: What year?

Housewife: '31.

Interviewer: And did you have any education beyond this?

Housewife: Norfolk College Business School.

Interviewer: And how long did you remain single after high school?

Housewife: Well, must have been 'bout seven years.

Interviewer: And what was you husband's occupation?

Housewife: Bookkeeper.

Interviewer: Okay. What was you father's occupation in the 1930's?

Housewife: He was a civilian pilot.

Interviewer: What's a civilian pilot?

Housewife: Well, he used to bring the Navy ships in and out of the harbor into the Navy yard into drydock. And he brought the Dutch Apaline carrier in the first time it ever came into Norfolk.

Interviewer: Well, what was your mother's occupation?

Housewife: First wife.

Interviewer: And what was your religion?

Housewife: Baptist.

Interviewer: And of course your ethnic background is white. Do you remember you address? Where you lived in the 1930's?

Housewife: 2812 Marlboro Avenue.

Interviewer: What section was this in?

Housewife: Chesterfield Heights -- Norfolk.

Interviewer: In Norfolk. Right. Chesterfield Heights. And your present address?

Housewife: 609 Summers Drive, Norfolk.

Interviewer: What kind of books do you like to read?

Housewife: Well, detective stories for one thing and good southern stories.

Interviewer: Romance?

Housewife: Yeah.

Interviewer: What movies -- What kind of movies do you like?

Housewife: Well, the same type of movies. The good southern Civil War movies, good love Stories -- like Gone With The Wind, musicals, varieties. Movies like -- (inaudible) shows, dancing, and stuff like that.

Interviewer: Well, do you belong to any clubs? Do you have any social affiliations?

Housewife: Well, I bowl and play bridge once a week and I play poker once a week. (Laughter)

Interviewer: Poker! Oh my gosh! And do you belong to any civic activity?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: No-huh. Well, what do you do in you leisure time? I guess you bowl and play bridge and poker-huh?

Housewife: Right. And sew.

Interviewer: And what did you do with your family? What did you do with your family?

Housewife: I don't quite understand that.

Interviewer: Hmph. Neither do I. (Laughter) Did you have separate vacations?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Oh, okay. In the 1930's now, did you feel your chance of being employed was better or worse?

Housewife: Then men?

Interviewer: Yeah. Well, you weren't a single woman were you?

Housewife: In the thirties?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Housewife: Yeah. Up until '39.

Interviewer: Okay. Then you can answer this. Because you were single do you think your chance of being employed was better or worse?

Housewife: Well, there's quite a difference in age now.

Interviewer: Well, back then. At that particular time. What did you feel?

Housewife: Well, I didn't have any trouble getting a job I guess. I don't really know.

Interviewer: Okay.

Housewife: I never tried to get a job now and I mean I don't know what its like. I imagine it's easier then because there's a lot more people trying to get jobs now.

Interviewer: Well, did you feel any resentment from female employees working with you?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Any from male employees?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Was there any pressure from you parents to remain single?

Housewife No.

Interviewer: How about from the men you dated?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: What sort of image of the single woman did you draw from magazines, movies and radios? Can you answer that one?

Housewife: During the thirties?

Interviewer: Yeah. How was she portrayed? You know, was she glamorous, or was she the working girl, or what?

Housewife: I don't know.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, don't worry about it. What was your definition of feminine in the 1930's? You know, what did you feel like? Like you have to be feminine?

Housewife: Well.

Interviewer: Did you ever think about that?

Housewife: Well, in the 1930's I didn't think about it. I guess I just wore feminine things because everyone else wore feminine things.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, did you think a college degree was a hindrance in the to getting a job as a woman? Did you think that 1930's?

Housewife: I never thought about college or anything of the sort because I mean there was no possibility of ever going.

Interviewer: How close were you to your father?

Housewife: Well, very close.

Interviewer: Did he encourage your education?

Housewife: Well, I just -- all I was interested in was getting through high school.

Interviewer: (Laughter) Have you ever been pregnant?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: What did you do to prevent pregnancy if anything?

Housewife: Well, uh, actually nothing.

Interviewer: Okay! Was there any friction between you and your husband as to what should be done in preventing pregnancy?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: No. Did fear of pregnancy interfere with regularity of marital relations?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Did you wish to have children?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: Did your husband wish to have children?

Housewife: I guess so. He went along with it.

Interviewer: There was no friction then, you'all having children. During your dating years were you familiar with contraceptive techniques? And if so, did you use them? And if you did, which ones?

Housewife: Well, rubbers I guess that's not the name for them. (Laughter)

Interviewer: Did your mother or father encourage you to have a career?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Did they encourage you to get married?

Housewife: No. My father died when I was twenty-one.

Interviewer: Well, did your mother or father give you any advice about dating?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Did your mother & father encourage you to read?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Or go to school?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Did you attend church regularly?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: Weekly, bimonthly, monthly, or all the time?

Housewife: Weekly.

Interviewer: Okay. What did your mother or father want you to be?

Housewife: They never said.

Interviewer: Did you receive any instruction about sex from either parent?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Were you a tomboy?

Housewife: Yeah.

Interviewer: Was your father removed at all from the family be employment, death or --

Housewife: Yeah.

Interviewer: Would you say that your mother preferred the domestic life?

Housewife: I don't know. She worked because she felt like she had to for a while.

Interviewer: What did she do?

Housewife: Seamstress.

Interviewer: Did you have a close relationship with your mother?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: How come? Did you know?

Housewife: She was my stepmother.

Interviewer: Oh! Did you and your husband indulge in sexual intercourse during pregnancy?

Housewife: Not after the danger period.

Interviewer: Okay.

Housewife: You're not suppose to after certain months.

Interviewer: That was harmful?

Housewife: Could be.

Interviewer: Have you ever had an abortion?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Have any of your friends ever had abortions?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: How did you learn about menstruation?

Housewife: From school, other girls.

Interviewer: Did you feel abortion was a valid means of birth control? Did they have abortion back then?

Housewife: Uh --

Interviewer: Well, Did you know about it if they had it?

Housewife: No. I didn't know about it.

Interviewer: Ummm. Were you involved in any lobbying effort?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Your not particularly involved?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: You felt that women ought to work, they ought to have a career?

Housewife: Not married women in those years.

Interviewer: Did you admire Eleanor Roosevelt's lifestyle?

Housewife: Never thought about it.

Interviewer: Do you feel that a husband should share housework?

Housewife: If, when children are little and if the mother needs it.

Interviewer: Did you feel that most marriages were failures then?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: How about your personal goals at that time?

Housewife: Just getting married and having a family.

Interviewer: Did your husband object to your working when you were married?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: And he was employed when you were married?

Housewife: Right.

Interviewer: Did he help with the children?

Housewife: I wasn't employed when I had the children.

Interviewer: Did you have any outside help with your housework?

Housewife: Once and a while.

Interviewer: Well, who was in charge of the family money?

Housewife: My husband.

Interviewer: And was there any conflict over this?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Can you remember what your income was in the 1930's?

Housewife: Well, mine was about, about, well from $12 to $18 'cause I got a raise in here.

Interviewer: Twelve to eighteen dollars a week?

Housewife: A week. My husband made $80 a month when we were married in 1939.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, when the Depression hit did your income change at any time?

Housewife: Well, I wasn't working during the Depression.

Interviewer: How 'bout your husband?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: He wasn't either?

Housewife: No. 1929-30. I didn't graduate from high school to '31.

Interviewer: Oh, that's right.

Housewife: Depression might have gone on around '32, '33, but I wasn't working and my father had a good job.

Interviewer: Well, did it affect your family, your father, in anyway?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: No? Well, do you think the Depression affected your life in anyway?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: No. You weren't really touched by it?

Housewife: No. We had a nice home and plenty to eat and my stepmother made all our clothes. So, we weren't affected.

Interviewer: Okay. Did you have premarital intercourse.

Housewife: We went together for five years and we went steady for three years.

Interviewer: Eight Years. Wow!

Housewife: No. We went together five years but three years of it we went steady. And during that time, yes.

Interviewer: And this was to your partner who later became your husband.

Housewife: Right.

Interviewer: Well, how did you learn about sex?

Housewife: Just from the other girls.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, was it pleasant to you or did you find it distasteful or painful or merely a matter of duty like with your husband. You owe it to him, that's your wifely duty?

Housewife: No.

Interviewer: Do you feel that premarital intercourse was immoral?

Housewife: Ummm -- not since I was going steady and planned to marry him I didn't think so.

Interviewer: Ummm -- well, describe a typical date.

Housewife: During that time?

Interviewer: Yeah. When you were dating.

Housewife: Well, I didn't have a date every night. We had a date weeknights.

Interviewer: Well, what'd you do?

Housewife: Well, sometimes we went to the movie and sometimes we went walking and once in a while we went riding with some double date and on the weekends we used to, Saturday night we used to go to dances.

Interviewer: Did you all drink?

Housewife: Yes. Just on weekends. Just when we went to a dance.

Interviewer: Well, would you say all your friends would get together and like drink and dance and stuff like that?

Housewife: Yes.

Interviewer: Did you approve of petting?

Housewife: I guess so.

Interviewer: If you of had the chance would you have married a divorcee?

Housewife: It wouldn't of made any difference.

Interviewer: And was it okay for an engaged couple to have intercourse?

Housewife: Well, I guess so.

Interviewer: Did you wish to marry a person with experience in sexual relations?

Housewife: Never thought of it.

Interviewer: And can you like remember anything about the time you were dating that you'd like to say?

Housewife: No. Just come over to the house during the week most the time and go for a walk in the summertime and maybe go up to the show and walked back and he always left at eleven o'clock to go home. We'd each have to work the next day. So, then on Saturday nights, like I said before, we'd go out to dancin'. We used to have to work on Saturday in those days.

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