Interviewee: Kathleen Wilkerson
IWY SC 694
Interviewer: Kathie J. Carter
Date: June 10-11, 1977
Kathleen Wilkerson, of McCormick, South Carolina, attended the IWY conference to learn more about women’s issues and organizing. She was a mother of ten and volunteered with the Head Start program. Interview includes discussion of Wilkerson’s concerns including rape and domestic violence, equal opportunity, and childcare. Wilkerson, 49, also discussed her difficulties finding paid work and how she struggled to support her large family as a widow.
Kathie J. Carter: …didn’t mean disrespect. Could you give me your name and your address?
Kathleen Wilkerson: Kathleen Wilkerson, Post Office Box 665, McCormick, South Carolina.
KC: McCormick, South Carolina. That’s Wilkerson, W-I-L…
KW & KC: -K-E-R-S-O-N…
KC: I want it to be spelled properly…
KC: Can you tell me what brought you to this meeting?
KW: Well, I was interested, and wanted to come to this meeting to find out more needs…concerning of women, and meet more people, and be involved in a lot of things that I didn’t know about, and wanted to learn more about.
KC: What kinds of things were you particularly interested in, and you desired to learn more about?
KW: Well…the rape and the battered women, and the childcare, and equal opportunity and rights, you know, the people….
KC: You have a lot of concerns, I can tell…which would you say is your most…the one you would give priority to? The most value to?
KW: Rape and battered woman because I have four girls, and I’m interested in it for myself also.
KC: Has this been a problem to your family?
KW: Well, it hasn’t, but I’d never know when…and I would want to, you know, have all the…you know, knowing about all the protection that I can get to try to prevent it, and then if it happened, what I could do to—you know, to go about who to contact, what to do and all…to find shelter…something—for something like that, you know…
KC: You also mentioned that childcare was a concern of yours. Why is that?
KW: Because I work as a volunteer in, what do you call….the Head Start, and I enjoy working with children. And I have been to many other conventions, and enjoyed being with them, and want to know, can we get more money involved, to see the program still run. Because it has been a help to me, because I have had about four or five children to go to in it, and I would hate to see it go down the drain.
KC: Head Start has been a help to you because you have four or five children, and you’ve had to work…
KW: I’ve had four or five children in this program, and it really has helped, because the things they needed, such as going to the doctor, to the dentist, and different things I knew I wasn’t able to take care of, and it really did help, and it learned ‘em on through up in years, in school…
KC: You said that you volunteered with Head Start, did you get paid for that work?
(Recording cuts off briefly at 3:28)
KC: This is a continuation on 6-11-77 of my interview with Ms. Wilkerson of McCormick, South Carolina. She was talking about the fact that first when she began working with Head Start she worked as a volunteer for a few hours. Could you go ahead and explain to me how that came about?
KW: Yeah, I had volunteer work and then after the day, when school was out, I kept children outside and played with them and they paid me for that. So I’ve always just did volunteer work. But mostly I just did volunteer work, never was able to get a job there.
KC: A job at Head Start?
KW: No. Just volunteer.
KC: Have you ever had a job besides at Head Start?
KW: No more than just housework.
KC: Day’s work?
KC: Has it been hard for you to make ends meet?
KW: It really has, it really has and still is.
KC: It still is?
KW: Because my husband’s deceased and I have small children ranging from 12, 13, 14, and 16, because one of them was lucky enough to get a summer job. And I also have a son came out of high school this year and he’s trying to make arrangement to go to school. It’s kind of hard, you know, trying to get the money for him to go there.
KC: Would you have chosen to have five children, if you’d had a choice? How old are you?
KW: I’m 49 and I have over five children. (Laughs) I have four girls and six boys, and one grand.
KC: You have ten children? Would you have chosen to have had ten children?
KW: No, I just couldn’t help it, I guess. (Laughs) I guess I have enough.
KC: Were you aware of contraception when you were younger and baring children?
KW: Yeah, I really was. It just happened that one of those time…you know, I was real well caring about two or three but it went over the limit. And I’m proud of them now. I don’t regret that I’ve got that many.
KC: But it’s made life very difficult for you.
KW: Yes, mmhm.
KC: Why do you feel you’ve never been able to get a job except as a housekeeper?
KW: Well, I don’t know. It was told to us, to put in a lot of volunteer time, volunteer work at this Head Start center, you know, with me having children in there and that would help a lot. But I put in…of course I did get a recognition from one of the Head Start, it wasn’t a convention, but something where they gave you a certificate for so much work you’ve done in the school while volunteering. Putting in the hours.
KC: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this record?
KW: Hmm. Well, I would appreciate if I, if anyway any help can be made for me to, if there wasn’t…(Announcer in background overpowers voice of speaker and recording cuts out briefly at 7:12)
KC: You’d appreciate it if…
KW: If with childcare, if I could get a job to help me out…in some, in any. Of course, I’m not able to do much housework but anything, I would try. Whatever came up. Just since it would be a help to me and my children.
KC: Thank you very much, Ms. Wilkerson. (Loudspeaker heard in background at 7:29)
End of Interview