Interviewee: Eleanor Golar-Williams
IWY SC 697
Interviewer: Constance Ashton Myers & Elaine Mayo Paul
Date: June 10-11, 1977
Eleanor Golar-Williams, an associate professor of social work at the University of South Carolina, lived in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in Washington, D.C. where she attended Howard University. She earned her M.S.W. from Atlanta University in 1966. Interview includes discussion of her son Samuel’s experience at the Highlander Folk School and her impressions of groups at the IWY conference who were disruptive in workshops. Golar-Williams, an African-American woman, also discussed how women and people of color did not want to be treated differently in society or “shuffled” into specific roles or careers.
Eleanor Golar-Williams: . . . school, years ago.
Constance Ashton Myers: What, what . . . you are Eleanor G. Williams
EG: Eleanor Golar-Williams.
CM: And where are you from?
EG: Um, I live right here in Columbia.
CM: Do you?
EG: For five years.
CM: And your son?
EG: My son is almost thirty-one.
CM: What’s his name?
EG: Samuel Golar-Williams. And we went . . .
CM: How do you spell that middle name?
EG: Um-hmm. And he went to Highlander Folk School, to the camping program.
CM: For heaven’s sakes.
EG: The time he was at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia And they were having trouble there, ah, with the people that lived in that community. And Highlander Folk School, Mrs. Septima Clark, was directing the program, and offered to bring those children to her school.
CM: Ms. Williams, where do you live?
EG: I live here in Columbia, South Carolina.
CM: What is your street address?
EG: Um, 617 West Regency Square.
CM: Why did you come to this meeting? Why did you think it was an important thing?
EG: I think it’s most important that women all over this state and this nation, uh, be concerned about what happens to them. And I think it’s most important that Congress does something about it. So I’m here to be sure that appropriate resolutions get to Congress. Get to Congress.
EG: The real concerns of our women in this state.
CM: Yes. Well, I hope that this meeting will bear fruit. And will have . . .
EG: I certainly do.
CM: With social consequences.
EG: I am very optimistic about it.
CM: Thank you, Ms. Williams.
(Break in recording at 1:32)
CM: Ms. Williams, tell me where you were born? And what you do now.
EG: Well, I lived half of my life in Washington. I went to all the public schools there, and college. I moved from there.
CM: Which college?
EG: Howard University. Yes I did. And I moved from there to Atlanta, Georgia, where I spent twenty-six years. Plus, I’ve lived a little bit in Mississippi, and Alabama. From Atlanta, I moved to Columbia, South Carolina. And I’ve been here five years. I’m an associate professor at the University of South Carolina, and at the College of Social Work.
CM: Thank you, Ms. Williams.
(Break in recording at 2:10)
Elaine Mayo Paul: Continuing the interview with, this is Eleanor Williams. Mrs. Williams, would you tell us about that second concern that you were just . . .
EG: Yes, and this is a very real concern that I have, because I know that people think differently (unintelligible at 2:29). And that is good. If everybody thought alike, I don’t know what would happen with this world. But, at the same time, people ought to be able to come together in a healthy atmosphere with healthy attitudes, and communicate in a healthy kind of way what their concerns are. Whether we agree with those concerns or not.
But I think that a negative element that comes to destroy the intent of this conference should not be tolerated. And I’m beginning to see the element to destroy, not to come and share whatever the differences are, and see how we might come to some kind of mutual understanding, you know. So that whatever these concerns are might be worked into resolutions also. This is a working-together and an interdependence, not a . . . I’m not in favor of the, any kind of destructive element coming in to say, “Oh, we want to destroy what you do,” . . .
EP: I’m not either, but we have to tolerate dissent. But how can you . . .
EG: I’m for tolerating dissent; I think it’s good to disagree. But I think there is a way to disagree, to make for understanding. You know. And to share your disagreement, you know. That’s how we debate. We argue the point. And this can be a positive thing. But when I see it being a negative force, only for destructive measures, then this is the kind of thing that I become real concerned about it, and I think should not happen.
EP: Well, this destructive group has not permeated any workshop, save the one on international understanding.
EG: Well, this I don’t know, because I’ve only been in one.
EP: I haven’t heard of any . . .
EG: And one . . . we’ve just come out of the first workshop. And we have not had time to see what has happened in other workshops. So it’s very difficult at this point. But the fact that it happened in one, gives me a great deal of concern. So I would want to know what has happened in the others. Has the same element been in there, or has the element taken one force and are sticking together so they can be destructive to a segment of the total conference, you see. There’s strategy in that, too.
EP: Of course there’s strategy. But they must . . .
EG: But there may be so many. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Because I can’t identify the group, nor the faces, you see. On just some of them. And they may be dispersed. I don’t know. Or they may be working together in, you know, going to the same workshops at the same time. I just don’t know. But I think it is a thing to be concerned about.
EP: But you must not let them ruin a meeting. Now, there’s a question that I can get from you that they can’t disrupt. Tell me how you happened to get interested in women’s issues.
EG: I, you know, since a little girl, I’ve been interested in human beings. So that includes women and (laughs).
EP: From your perspective; there’s nothing wrong with that.
EG: Since I was a little girl, I have been very observant in how human beings are treated. And as I grow older and mature, I could see that there was some preferential treatment towards women.
EG: Preferential treatment toward women. Preferential meaning that . . . not good, you know. But different. In terms of because you are a woman that we haven’t . . . an attitude towards you that is not compatible with sometimes your being a human being.
EP: Um-hmm. You mean the pedestal kind of thing?
EG: The pedestal. Not only the pedestal, but looking at women as property. You know, that’s preferential treatment. Most people look at preferential treatment as looking at something positive.
EP: Yes . . .
EG: And I’m not using it in that connotation.
EG: Ok, sometimes we as black people talk about, we get preferential treatment, because we’re black. Meaning that it’s a different kind of thing – a different kind of looking at you, because you’re black, you know. And some of the treatment is most negative, and some of the attitudes are most negative.
EP: . . . I think . . .
EG: You see what I’m saying?
EP: I think you’re saying the same thing that Bill Raspberry is saying in his columns, and that Mr. Jackson has been saying: that the black can achieve and be superior, and that they don’t want preferential treatment.
EG: We don’t want . . .
EP: In the other sense!
EG: We don’t want to be treated any differently. And I don’t think women want to be treated any differently from any other human beings. It’s that they should be treated as human beings. And whatever their interests and concerns should be considered. Just like any man’s interests and concerns . . .
EP: And their abilities should be . . .
EG: And their abilities should be recognized. They should not be shuffled or channeled into special areas. You know. We have . . . whether they like it or not.
EG: But according to their abilities and their interests. And sometimes women’s interests . . . sometimes a person of color has interests in areas that somebody has not channeled them into. And it’s wrong to assume that people must be in certain jobs, in certain interests, have certain capabilities because they are of a different sex. Or a different race. Or a different religion. Or because they’re a different age.
EP: You’re a total democrat. (Laughs) In the largest sense.
EG: So these are really my concerns, you know, and they’ve been my concerns throughout my life. And it looks like they’ll be my concerns until the day I die. And this is why I’m so for the, you know, looking at the total training of young children from the crib. And this is why I think that this conference is good, even though we’re dealing specifically with women, talking about women all over this world, not just in South Carolina, not just in our own region, but all over this world. Because there is some interdependence, there is some tie. What effects one effects the other.
EP: I wish you could tell that to those John Birchers. Thank you so much.
End of Interview