Interview with Sharon Ringwalt

Sharon Ringwalt was interviewed by Cara Goering on November 7, 2007.

Sharon Ringwalt is a very interesting lady who has lived in North Carolina for the majority of her life. She grew up in High Point and currently lives in Chapel Hill. She was the only child of a couple that were much older than the parents of her peers. She is married and has one child. She was very close with her mother and is close with her husband and son. Religion has played a very strong role in Sharon’s life. She was raised Methodist and switched to Quaker in college. Within the past year Sharon and her husband have become Episcopalians. Sharon loves to cook, knit, and read. She worked as a speech and language pathologist for many years. Sharon also taught at UNC-Chapel Hill for many years. She recently went back to school to get her Ph.D. in early intervention. Currently she works in a policy and research institute that supports early intervention programs.

On North Carolina

Sharon enjoyed living in North Carolina, although she didn’t always feel that way. As she said in the interview:

When I was growing up, I didn’t like growing up in High Point, particularly. I just thought it was a boring place to grow up, and pretty provincial. I just didn’t like the values of a lot of the people there. I was very resistant to going to college in North Carolina. I wanted to go out of state and live out of state, and I was never going to come back to North Carolina. And my parents, being older parents, and very middle class, not wealthy, were very reluctant to let me go to college out of state. So the compromise was – they would’ve liked me go somewhere like UNC-Greensboro or someplace close and I just thought that was terrible. So the compromise was that I would come here for two years and then I could go out of state if I still wanted to. But of course once I was in Chapel Hill, you couldn’t not love Chapel Hill, so I stayed for four years. I quickly told my husband who was born in England and had lived in Jamaica, gone to prep school in the Northeast and college in the Northeast, that we would live someplace else. The pull of family and to come back here and the feeling that we needed to be here to be around our parents as they grew older and that we wanted to raise our… one child near family was surprising to me. I wouldn’t have predicted that when I was fifteen and wanting to go away.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about living in North Carolina.

Values

About the values she was taught by her parents, Sharon noted:

Family and church.  And my father believed very, very, very strongly in people getting jobs by merit and not through patronage. He had grown up in a time when it was who you knew that helped you get your job. He worked for the city of High Point in their Personnel Department. He felt strongly that you should work hard and get a job because you were qualified for the job.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about family values.

Opportunities for Women

Sharon felt that gender roles changed during her lifetime:

There are more opportunities for different careers. The expectation of women my age was that we would grow up and be teachers or nurses or secretaries. And then I became a speech language pathologist, it was sort of, “Wait that’s not really a teacher or really a nurse.” So that was kind of different. When I did my master’s degree and I guess when I was considering master’s programs, my father said, “Well, I always wanted you to be a lawyer.” And that was just a huge surprise to me, that I certainly knew women who were going to law school, but it wasn’t sort of a prevalent career for women. I mean he never told me. I might have thought differently if he had ever said, “Law school would be really neat.” Which is not something I had ever considered.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Sharon’s thoughts on how gender roles have changed.

Gender

Sharon felt that it is very important that women receive encouragement to pursue careers:

There were certainly a lot of bright women who didn’t pursue higher education probably because either the family’s financial situation or because it wasn’t expected of them. My husband’s cousin who lives here – who’s in her mid-sixties, so you know ten years made a huge difference – she and her twin sister weren’t allowed to go to college because that wasn’t something that they did, although their older brother was expected to have a career. She and her twin sister both really had to fight as adults. Her twin sister went back to college, or went to college after her kids were born. It was just a different world.

Listen to the audio about pursuing a career.

Family

Sharon feels that family is crucial:

I think it’s just sort of the root of everything. It was important enough to me and to my husband that when we were having rough times, that we not only fought with each other but fought to keep our marriage alive. It’s just the thing that’s with you.  If you lose your job, you’ve still got your family. If you lose your house, you’ve still got your family. If you can’t travel, you still have your family. So… it’s there.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about family.

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