Interview with Jeanne Williams

Jeanne Williams was interviewed by Kate MacDonald on April 28, 2010 and May 3, 2010.

Jeanne Williams was around eighty seven years old at the time of the interview.  She was born in Providence, Rhode Island but has lived in North Carolina for around fifty years and currently resides in Burlington, North Carolina.  She has three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Williams attended the University of Rhode Island as an undergraduate majoring in Biology and Mathematics.  She received her graduate degree through a fellowship from North Carolina State University and became the first woman to receive a degree in Experimental Statistic from that program.  She went on to teach statistics at the University of Connecticut and at Elon University, where she was the first woman chairman of the Department of Business Administration and Economics.  Williams was also the first woman chair of the Alamance Health Planning Council and one of the first women on the board of directors for Alamance ElderCare.  She became one of the first women to be ordained as a deacon at the First Christian United Church of Christ in Burlington, where she continues to teach Sunday school.  In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening, and painting antique trays for her family.

On Women in College in the 1940s

When asked about the reaction to the increase of the number of women in college in the 1940s, Jeanne replied:

Well as more women attended at the University of Rhode Island, we had all kinds of athletic opportunities.  By the senior year I was on the senior basketball team and the senior volleyball team.  And believe it or not we had intramurals and intercollegiate games.  The University of Rhode Island played the University of Connecticut, we played New York University, and several.  But it was all at our own expense at that time for travel.  But girls were really beginning to have visions of continuing higher in education.  You realized that it was in 1881 that girls were first allowed into college, thanks to the American Association of University Women.  So I think that girls have the potential and now-a-days they’re going into math and science and engineering and all of the disciplines that maybe they wouldn’t have years ago.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about women in college in the 1940s.

On Technological Advancements and Service

When asked about technological advancements and service, Jeanne replied:

I guess you might say life is easier in some senses.  But people haven’t learned I don’t think to use the time that they save from saving devices to use it to good advantage in some cases.  Now we had a period in Burlington when oh community service through all the organizations like Kiwanis and Community Council and all of those different organizations were just wonderful.  And I’m sure there are some that are still very active but we don’t hear so much about the service organizations as we used to.  I don’t know whether it’s because younger people, younger adults, are not joining into these organizations because they’re off playing golf or something like that but the community service it’s important.  Now I know a lot of older people who are volunteers at the hospital and go every week and I think that’s wonderful.  I think everybody should have at least one connection to a service organization.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about technological advancements and service.

On the South

When asked about moving to the South, Jeanne replied:

I think I probably had an adjustment when I first moved to the south as a family to Crammerton.  But everybody was very welcoming and hospitable and I think that we made our contacts immediately through the church and through the neighbors.  We just had good relationships there and the children had friends and that was important.  I think anybody moving around for them it’s important to make contacts through the church, whatever church, because then you have friends that you have something in common with.  And then your children have some friends with the same interests.  It’s just been a very good experience to do that.)

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about moving South.

On Raising Children

When asked about her philosophy concerning child rearing, Jeanne explains:

I suppose that we needed discipline but we also wanted them to learn on their own.  And we encouraged reading from very early ages and responsibility for them to learn as they run along in school, to develop their own responsibilities.  They’ve all done very well, and as I say, have gone to graduate school.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about raising children.

On Retirement

Jeanne is a retired professor.  When asked about her retirement she replied:

I have time on my hands [laughs].  Like I said, I am teaching a study course and I also teach Sunday school.  I think it’s so important when you quote “retire,” because you don’t really retire, to keep your body moving and to keep your mind moving.  And the people that don’t do this you can see them, should I say, going downhill?

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about retirement.

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