Interview with Beth Turner

Beth Turner was interviewed on November 3, 2007 by Thomas “Whit” Winslow.

Beth Turner is a 58 year old mother of three. She was born and raised on a farm in rural eastern North Carolina. The oldest of her parents’ four children, Beth knows all about growing up in a large family and the pains of sibling rivalry. Beth was an art teacher for many years; she has painted several great pieces, and has recently picked up an interest in photography.

Learning Gender Roles

When asked about how gender roles are learned, this is how Beth answered:

I think it’s just picked up. I don’t remember my… well I do, I do, I take that back. I remember when I was little and they built that pool I told you about earlier in the back yard. My mother went out and bought us all beach towels for the pool and she bought some fringe.  And my brother, he was a little fellow at that time and my mother was putting fringe on ours and he wanted some fringe on his and she said, “No, don’t put fringe on little boys’ towels,” that he didn’t get fringe on his.  So I guess that was, you know, that was teaching gender roles right there; that’s one example. I don’t remember my brother washing dishes; I do remember him doing yard work, so maybe there was…. I have to check with my brother to see if he ever washed dishes; I don’t remember it.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about gender roles.

Dating

Beth feels that dating practices have changed since she was a girl:

Oh yeah, another thing that is different now: I could date several guys at one time and it was no big deal. As long as I wasn’t going steady, I was free to date several guys at one time. I don’t think my children would dare do that now; they ‘d date one guy at the time. That’s difference I see in my girls and me. I mean if you weren’t going steady, you hadn’t made a commitment, you could date one guy on Friday night and one guy on Saturday night and that was cool.  But I don’t think that’s cool anymore. I think when I would be dating one guy on Friday night and another one on Saturday night, today my girls would have been hanging out, they’d go hang out with their friends, but when they started dating they would date one guy at the time. As long as they were dating one guy they wouldn’t date another one. But like I said, my girls are older now too – my girls are 35 – and so I’m sure it’s even different now than the young ones coming up. I haven’t heard a young person talk about dating in a while.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about dating.

Changing Gender Roles

Beth talks about how she became a stronger individual:

Well, I’d say I first brought it home from work, but then my home situation got to the place where I had to become a stronger person still, I mean I had to assert myself more at home.

I think it started at work, but when my marriage deteriorated because of problems within it, I think that accelerated my becoming a more independent person, a more independent woman and more independent thinker. Well, I want to go back, I grew up in a home, as I said, where my father, he was the leader and I expected that when I got married, and my father was very responsible in his role. My husband originally took advantage of the leadership role that I entrusted him with and that caused problems in our marriage and I had to stand up, whereas my father was more responsible with being the leader in the family. Am I clear, am I making any sense? [WW: Yes.] So when my marriage started falling apart, my husband was taking advantage of the fact that I was deferring to him, so I had to stand up to my husband and I had to be a stronger woman. I saw that you couldn’t just hand your life to somebody else and say, “I married you, you’re a responsible person, and you’re going to look after me.” I found out that yes, there are men you can hand your life to and they will take care of you, and then there are men that you can hand your life to and they will take advantage of you [laughs], so I had to stand up to my husband. He was walking all over me and I allowed it, in part because of the way I brought up. I didn’t understand that all men weren’t like my father. I had to stand up to my husband in order to save my marriage and I had to become a stronger person or get walked over, and so I became a stronger person, a stronger woman.

My marriage is good now and I’m a strong person at work, and I don’t defer [both laugh] unless the job description calls for me to defer. I mean if my boss at work, my supervisor, somebody says, “You will do this,” I don’t contest it, but I just don’t automatically defer to a male anymore. I think that when I was growing up, my mother deferred to my father and I saw women defer to men and so when I went into my marriage I deferred to my husband and I shouldn’t have [both laugh] and I differed at work

Listen to the audio excerpt about Beth becoming an individual.

Work

Beth talks about her least favorite chore growing up:

Bitties are baby chickens. Okay, we bought bitties and then we raised them to be young pullets or whatever they’re called now, young chickens. And you had to transport the bitty, the young chickens from the bitty house over to the house where they laid the eggs. You had to take two birds in one hand, upside down, you know, grab them by the feet.  So you had four birds that you were carrying from the bitty house to the chicken house where they were going to lay the eggs. And I hated that more than any other job I ever had was carrying those birds from one house to the other house by their feet. And when they would curl up like they were going to peck my hand, I would let them go. I let so many chickens go that they would have to run down and catch later that they finally told me I was fired, which suited me fine because I hated that job, of all the jobs I ever had, that was the one I hated the most.

Listen to the audio about Beth’s least favorite chores growing up.

Farm Work

Beth described how many people helped work the family farm and the types of tasks that she and others did:

At different times, different numbers. I do remember a lot of people working, I think there were approximately four families living on the farm at one time that helped him, and we were always out there helping.  Let’s see, we had cucumbers one year and my siblings and I got out there every morning and picked cucumbers until lunch. We worked in the egg house. We pulled weeds out of peanuts; we’d go down the row and just pull weeds out. We never chopped. Father was afraid to give us a hoe; he was scared we’d chop up things we weren’t supposed to. He would send us down the rows to pull the weeds, so I pulled weeds, and I picked cucumbers, and I walked behind the tobacco harvester and picked up leaves when we were doing it with a harvester.  And I drove the harvester, which was a real easy job really. When we didn’t use the harvester, but we worked under the shelters, I would hand tobacco sometimes. Then when we moved to bulk barns I got to drive tractors. I also helped feed livestock.  Sometimes when we were little, we would get baby calves and we would fix up milk buckets for them to nurse off of. We worked pretty good, but we had a good time working.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about the farm.

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