Interviewee: Mary E. Jenkins
IWY SC 615
Interviewer: Constance Ashton Myers
Date: June 1977
Mary E. Jenkins of Beaufort, South Carolina attended the IWY State Conference because she was interested in women’s competitiveness in business. Jenkins was the owner of the “Mary’s Kitchen” restaurant in Beaufort and, at the time of the interview, she had owned the business for nine years. Before opening her restaurant, Jenkins worked in social services and was a homemaker. She has three children. Interview includes discussion of: Jenkins’ involvement in community and women’s organizations; how she first learned about the IWY; and her interest in economic issues.
Constance Ashton Myers: This could never possibly be that good again. But let me ask you, ah, what is your name?
Mary E. Jenkins: This is Mary E. Jenkins.
CM: And you’re from Beaufort?
MJ: Beaufort, South Carolina.
CM: And where . . . and you are in business?
MJ: Yes I am. And I’m in downtown Beaufort, right across from the First Carolina, and across from Piggly-Wiggly store, on Port Republic Street.
CM: And your restaurant is?
MJ: Mary’s Kitchen.
CM: And you think that this meeting is important because you’ve… tell me why.
MJ: (Laughs) Well, I think it helps to answer some of the questions that, uh, pondering, you know, a woman’s mind . . . that men say they are incapable of competing into a man’s world. But this seems to be kind of untrue, because there’s a lot of women who are really handling themselves in a man’s world. And it kind of would answer some of the questions that I have in my mind. Uh, put it at ease, rather. At which I know, that I don’t have any doubt that I’m capable, and other women are capable of . . . uh, maneuvering in the business world.
CM: How long have you been in business, uh, Mrs.?
MJ: Well, going on nine years.
CM: What did you do before that?
MJ: I have worked social service, and, um, I’ve been a housewife, and a mother.
CM: How many children?
MJ: I raise, uh, three. A step-son, two children of my own. Finished them in high school, and now they are off on their own and having a family themselves. And I have one – my step-son is in college, at state.
CM: In South Carolina State?
MJ: Yes. And he’s majoring in music. And he’s doing fine. And my other two children lives in New York, and they’re doing fine. My oldest son, he works for CBS Radio Station. And my daughter . .
CM: CBS in New York? Or in Beaufort?
MJ: Yes, in New York. And, uh, my daughter is an executive secretary for the insurance company and she’s doing well. And I . . .
CM: What organizations do you belong to?
MJ: I belong to the women’s voters’ league. And I belong to the, um, Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, of fund-raising committee. And I also belong to the American Legion Auxiliary; I’m presidents of that. And, um, there’s other little programs that I work with, but I don’t work with them as much as I work with these. And, um, I’ve found out that doing, working with all these things – the, uh, interesting people that I meet, come in contact with every day and talk to – it kind of answers my questions that set the doubts that I have at ease, that women are really moving up, and they can handle the job.
CM: Um, how did you hear about this conference in the first place?
MJ: Well, I read about it in the paper, but I . . .
CM: Was in in the Beaufort paper, then?
MJ: No, I read about National Women’s Year in The State paper quite some time ago, before it was, uh, established in the sound. And there was one lady that, um, was . . . elected to it, I think I read about it. It was such a long time ago I can’t remember exactly. But, um, a friend of mine told me about it, and asked me if I would like to go. And I told her, yes, I think I would like to attend. And that’s how I’m here.
CM: Are you here with other people from Beaufort?
MJ: Yes, yes.
CM: That’s wonderful.
MJ: . . . she’s from Beaufort, and two more ladies are from Beaufort. Well, I think it’s altogether about six of us from Beaufort.
CM: That’s wonderful. Um, do you think that this will . . . that this meeting will have some social impact on society in Beaufort, for example? On women’s conditions in Beaufort?
MJ: Well, I think it will to a certain point, but not enough of them are exposed, you know. There’s a whole lot of people that’s not opposed to what’s going on around him, and I . . . this has a lot to do with, you know, they’re not out there, uh, already should been, or could be . . .
CM: But don’t you think there could be . . . that one consequence of meetings of this sort will be legislation, or enforcement of legislation?
MJ: I think it will.
CM: . . . and to open avenues for women?
MJ: I think it will. I think it will, because I attended a conference similar to this for the Women’s Voters’ League. And . . .
CM: Where was that held?
MJ: That was . . . this time it was held in Florence, South Carolina. And it really . . . you’d be amazed at the things that have opened up to women since, you know, they have been pushing. And, um, I’m surprised that the ERA hasn’t, you know, really won out yet. Uh, it keeps, uh, being floored every time. And . . .
MJ: But, as far as women are concerned, they are doing a marvelous job. And I, they’re gonna be more and more women doing marvelous jobs.
CM: And you, uh, will be going to workshops tomorrow, I guess? You’ll pay for . . .
MJ: Yes, I think I’ll go.
CM: . . . the Business of Leadership workshop?
MJ: Yes, yes I think I’ll go. Because I does, you know, work in that field quite a bit. And I work with people where instruction, and sort of things like that. I think I would like to know more about it, because we are having another thing that is suffering. They said the communication breakdown.
MJ: And I think that, being leaders, you can’t afford to let that happen.
MJ: Can’t afford to let that communication break down between, you know, the other person, whether it’s a man or woman. Or girl or boy. You have to keep these sort of things open.
CM: Are you more interested in economic issues, or political issues, or which area are you most interested in?
MJ: Well, I think economic condition. Because I think once you get that under control, then the political condition will be better. Because you’ll have a sort of foundation to stand on. You know, sort of build on. I think the economic condition is the first thing to be straightened out. I think so.
CM: Do you think . . . what do you think of this conference so far?
MJ: Well, I think it’s gonna be a good conference.
CM: Does it compare well with others you have attended? The way it’s been going so far?
MJ: Well, more people . . . in that respect, it has attract more people. And I think this is good. Because the more people you get to be motivated toward it, the better it’ll be . . . I think this is the one big step that helps it to move forward, is to get people there. And once you get them there, then you can find something to hold attention enough to give them something to take back.
CM: That’s true.
CM: Well, I thank you, Mrs. Jenkins. Now if you would sign this release slip, then this will become part of the permanent record.
MJ: Thank you.
End of Interview