Interviewee: Mary W. Whitlock
IWY SC 692
Interviewer: Louise Pettus
Date: June 10-11, 1977
Mary W. Whitlock, age 87 at the time of this interview [born 1889], was from Greenville, South Carolina. She was born and raised in Chester County, but moved to Greenville in 1934. Whitlock was not a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and she believed a woman’s duty was to her husband and family. Interview includes discussion of her family, her maternal uncles’ service in the Civil War and her sense of patriotism, her Christian religious beliefs, view of welfare programs, and the desegregation of her apartment building.
Louise Pettus: Alright. What is your name?
Mary Whitlock: Mary W. Whitlock. Ms. Frank Whitlock. I’m legally married, I’ll be Whitlock.
LP: And where are you from?
MW: Greenville, South Carolina. Born and raised in Chester County, but I’ve lived in Greenville since ‘34.
LP: Alright. What brings you here, Ms. Whitlock?
MW: What’s that?
LP: What brings you here? Why are you here?
MW: Why am I here? I made a sacrifice to come. Physically, especially. I’m here because I want to see our country come around. I want to see things pass for the good of our country and the glory of God. That’s why I’m here.
LP: Do you have a special interest?
MW: Well, I have several. I think just right off the bat, I’m interested in fairness to everybody. But now someone says that we’re not supposed to express yourself. I said well, I don’t see any need to go it if you can’t stand up for what you want and believe.
LP: Well sure, sure.
MW: I like to be fair about it. I mean, I like the other man, other person have their time, too, and I’ll listen to what they have to say. But I…
LP: Mmhm and when you say fairness for everybody, you mean fairness for women particularly? Or this a…
MW: Well, now, I am not for ERA.
MW: I express that very distinctly. I think that God honored women about all humanity in making her the mother of men and I think when she does her duty to her husband and by rearing a good family of children, I don’t think there is any more expected of her. And I do not think that the average woman’s place is to try to run the country. I think we can do it through rearing the proper children and having the right Christian influence in our homes.
LP: How old are you, by the way? I know you’re over 50, maybe.
MW: A little bit older. I’ll be 88 the fourteenth of July.
LP: That’s quite wonderful. Have you ever been to a convention like this before?
MW: I have been to other conventions. No, I’ve never been to a convention like this and I didn’t know exactly what to expect. And someone said, “Now you’re not supposed to express yourself,” and my daughter said, “Well, mother. You better stay at home.”
MW: But I don’t see any need of standing for something if you can’t express yourself. Well, I just, I love to hear other people’s expressions and I’m willing to give the other person their chance.
LP: Mmhm. Was there anything particularly on the program that you’re looking to attending?
MW: I’m going to attend as much of it as I can. Now someone said they thought I’d be especially interested in older. When does that come up?
LP: Tomorrow. (Unintelligible at 2:57)
MW: I said I might get up and try to tell them something. I’m old.
MW: But anyway, I am trying to be fair in my thinking and all. I have one daughter that thinks I, she doesn’t think all the things my way is right. I said I don’t, always. But I think what I know best about. What I know some things that better than others.
LP: Mmhm. I’m curious about something. You say you’ve always expressed yourself, who encouraged you do that or what circumstances can you recall? Was it your family or your school or husband or children?
MW: Well, now, I don’t know that any. I’m afraid I was sort of born that way.
MW: My mother was a very outspoken person. My father was (take skips at 3:50)… asked if I had my history of the family and I was telling the about some, one of the girls coming down in the car, about some of the things of older days. And my father inherited the part of the plantation that seemed to have the most tradition on it and they, as a family, were living there the Revolutionary War and before, and I was kind of raised up on those stories and my father had four or five American flags. We’ve always been on the patriotic side.
And my mother had a brother born in the Civil War and the day she was born my mother had a brother killed in the Civil War. She was one of twelve, youngest of twelve children and she had ten boys and two sisters. Her father was asked one time, he must have been quite a wag, said “John, I here you have a big family.” He said, “Yes, I do have a right good sized family.” “But how many children do you have?” He said, “Well, I’ve got ten boys and each one of them has two sisters.”
MW: I always thought that was clever.
LP: That is.
MW: Said, “Well, I didn’t know you had 33 children.” He said, “Didn’t say I had 33.”
MW: But anyway, I love my country always. I heard a good deal of the war and during the World War, I wore four stars. I had three brothers and a sister. My father had four children and a sister in the war and she made quite a stand. She was a nurse and a first cousin of mine was an Army nurse, so we’ve all been deep into things like that. I remember the Christmases, I sent fruitcakes to all of them. Frank, my father said, “If you’re going to make them, I’m going to buy the fruit. You get the fruit and give me the bill.” So I had a time sending my fruitcakes to all of them.
But anyway, I tried to rear my children to love God and country. I have one son and two daughters and I say my pride, maybe it might be false, but I do feel pride. I have one daughter, she’s on the board. Is on the workings of the Country Day School, the Charlotte Country Day School. And the other daughter that lives with me, I’m a widow, and I was living in an awfully nice apartment house. I had a beautiful one there, it was so lovely. I lived on the twelfth floor and had the most beautiful views. The sun rose in front of my bed and the sun set in the living room windows. It had the mountain views.
But, what was I starting to tell? But the children now they said, they just had me move after the government ruined the towers. Forced them to have Negros and I think the type was put in there. Now, I’m not against Negros, I think they should have rights. I mean, I think they should be treated fairly and all. I don’t just believe in turning everything over to them yet. But that just ruined the place. Completely ruined it because I think lots of them were paid to go there and live. You see, plenty of them you knew didn’t have a week’s rent and so I saw a good deal of things that did go wrong there. I tried to be fair in all of it, but the man that built it finally sold it and he evidently sold it to the people who were just thinking.
Now, they said they’re going to spend $3 million dollars on doing it over. Putting in new elevators, floor to floor. And I said “Yes, and who all I going to pay that $3 million?” All of us. I think lots of things are unfair. I think we should take care of old people if they haven’t got any family to do it. I just think this thing of family turning over everything to the government to do, and I do not believe in the welfare programs of taking care of needy people, not to work and paying them. I think that’s horrid. You can hardly get anything done. I paid two dollars and a half an hour for work in the yard, just raking and things, and you can’t get it done. The only reason I can get things down is Bob Jones University is in Greenville and some of the boys work for their living. Some of the girls do too, I think, go out and…
LP: Students work for you sometimes?
MW: Uh-huh. And they are good workers but I’ve moved off the road and don’t take a paper. I do take the paper but don’t have city transportation out as far as I moved and I don’t drive. I was unfortunate, I never learned to drive. My husband never encouraged me because he thought you had to be mechanical enough to build a car before you could learn to drive.
MW: He really did.
End of Interview