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Transcript of interview with Frances Hensley, June 17, 1992, for the film "West Virginia"

Source: WV History Film Project


Q: Frances, let's kind of start in the middle. Tell me about how the industrial revolution in West Virginia and the way it developed? How it started out for being for men only, not really including women?
JJDD 0053
FH: Because of the nature of the Industrial Revolution, it was mining, the extractive, all the extractive industries, what we call basic industries and those excluded women. Not necessarily by their nature, but because of both tradition law, women were not hired in those jobs. And so you have the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, in very short order, in West Virginia, and none of those were for women.

Q: What starts to change that equation. When does it start to change and how?
JJDD 0109
FH: I think first you have those kinds of changes and you have a new economy that's being created; and once you have that kind of new industrial economy, other kinds of industry develop. In particular once you have changes in transportation, once you have changes in energy sources, then you can have more factories and those will benefit women. Once you have sort of a fledgling textile industry, a fledgling garment industry, the glass industry develops, it had been there but the glass industry develops, those are industries where women could find a role -- even if it was a small one in industries like the glass industry, even if it was a small role, there was a role for women there.

Q: When we think about West Virginia I think all of us even those in the know think of it first as a rural state, and second as an industrial state. What was the interplay of the fact that so much of the state was rural in the way of opportunities, both employment and other, can evolve for women of this time?
JJDD 0221
FH: It's because it's a rural state that you don't have the kinds of opportunities for women you will find in other states. There is a significant industrial revolution in West Virginia and there's significant industrial revolutions in other states but the difference in West Virginia is so much of the state is rural that the industries that develop in the rural areas are those basic industries. For women to work in one of these industries like the textile or like the garment industry, you have to live in places like Wheeling or you have to be in for example the whole Berkeley County;
JJDD 0287
And for a lot of women, that would mean moving away from home because the women who worked in these early industries were single women and that would mean for a young woman leaving home and finding her way to a city like Wheeling, finding a place to live in the city, and then getting a job that would create, give her enough money to make a living. And in the first place you'd have to have parents who would agree to let that daughter go. Now, they did sometimes do that. Sometimes the daughters from the coal mining areas would on occasion leave home and go to the city to work in one of these industries, but primarily, the women who worked in those industries were the women in the surrounding areas. So it didn't draw large numbers of women out of rural West Virginia and into the cities like Wheeling.

Q: Is it then sort of a two world set up in West Virginia for women?
JJDD 0381
FH: It is in that women's lives in the rural parts of the state, which is the majority of the state would continue after the industrial revolution, after industries have developed, their lives will continue much as their mothers' lives had been and their grandmothers' lives have been for decades. By that, I mean the job opportunities that open up for women in rural areas are either domestic work, which is no great change from the kind of work women had always done or -- this happened a lot in rural areas for example where you have coal mining camps -- women do become wage earners, but its not -- we don't even consider this industrial work because what they were doing was taking in laundry, taking in borders, they cooked, they just extended their service, the kinds of productive labor they'd always done for their families. And now in a sense they extend the idea of the family by providing the same services to others, but this time for money, for wages.

Q: Getting back to the women who are near the cities or in the cities who are going out to a job. What kind of a change is that have on their lives?
JJDD 0515
FH: I think it's a big change, but it's a temporary change. It's a big change in that they're away from the supervision of their families. They have experiences that have nothing whatsoever to do with home and family. But I don't think it has any kind of long term impact, except the financial impact. They help their families economically, and that's often an important part of the family's income.
JJDD 0562
But since the women who worked in these industries are young and they are unmarried for much of their early decades, they're young, they're unmarried. It changes them only temporarily. It doesn't prevent them from marrying. It doesn't mean they've changed their ambitions in life, which apparently they do not. So you just have sort of a constant turnover of women from these same areas, taking jobs that maybe even their mothers had briefly before them. Later, later, you'll find more and more married women doing these kinds of jobs.


Q: Tell me why we should care about this?
JJDD 0631
FH: The important thing about the industrial revolution from the point of view of women is that it wasn't an industrial revolution for women because there's a blip -- where there had been nothing there's a blip. Whereas for men, it's an explosion; it truly is a revolution. You go from having most people in the state involved in agriculture in some way or another and that includes women by the way, to a change in a matter of years when you have men, thousands of job opportunities for men. For women, their lives continue very much on the, with the same traditions that they've had for centuries, really. And there's a change that separates in a sense home from work that happened in the early 19th century in much of the rest of the country.
JJDD 0728
In West Virginia it happens at the end of the 19th century, where there is a separation of spheres between the home and work. And some women would -- for some women, this sphere would change also. But for most women, there's now -- work is something that's done outside the home. I think this will have long term impact on the way we think about what women do and about what women have contributed to West Virginia because what remains behind when work moves out of the home is obviously not work. So, the industrial revolution is truly a revolution for men in the way they lead their lives, in the way they define themselves.
JJDD 0810
But it's ironic that that revolution takes place a century late in West Virginia, but it has the same kind of impact, and that is that we've increasingly I think in modern West Virginia thought of what women do in the home as not work. But, in fact, when women went into factories in West Virginia, like elsewhere, they would take the kind of work they had done in the home and just recreate in another environment and recreate it for wages.

Q: Okay, we've got that down; now let's go over that same train and ... do the condensed cream of that. One way of saying that is .... instead of saying I think this will change, give us a definite statement ...
JJDD 0941
FH: ... The industrial revolution is a real revolution for men in that they go from a situation where they had been primarily agricultural workers, and now there are thousands of job opportunities that open up and a wage structure and a new identity for men outside the home or outside the farm and an identity as a worker. There's no parallel explosion, no parallel revolution for women in the state because the jobs that do open up are not in the extractive industries and in factories and so forth, for the most part exclude women. So, instead, you have a separation of spheres for women in West Virginia similar to one that had taken place in other parts of the country a century before, and that is what goes on outside the home now is work, and what goes on inside the home is something else.
JJDD 1024
It's not productive; it's not work, even though it's the same work that West Virginia have been doing that was productive, and it contributed to family income for centuries. Now that's not valued. For those women who do move out into the industrial work force, their lives are changed only temporarily, and I'm talking here about in the earliest part of the industrial revolution because they merely take women's work outside the home and convert it into wage. They now do it instead in a factory environment and they do it for wages. ... Because they take essentially what we call women's work outside the home and they do it now in a different environment in a factory environment, and they do it for wages.
JJDD 1106
But it's considered low skill and it's undervalued in terms of the rewards as well. So, even for those women for whom the industrial revolution has some meaning, it does not re-define because they're temporary workers, and the jobs they do are not comparable industrially, are not comparable to the jobs men are doing. Do you follow what I'm saying?

Q: Exactly; but I'm really amazed that for a women 20 years old to go in and spend a year, two years, or five years working in a textile factor or a cigar factory in Wheeling and have her own money doesn't radically change her sense of her place in the world?
JJDD 1183
FH: It didn't happen other places either. One might assume that that kind of work would have transformed that woman's identity, but because of the nature of the work and because often these young women gave their wages to their families, gave most of the money that they earned to their families to help support the family, in the early part of the industrial revolution, it did not transform those women. Not in West Virginia and it had not in other parts of the country.
JJDD 1243
The changes had been temporary. Now, there will be an accumulative significant change that will take place because even though the numbers are very small to begin with, there's steady growth and it never goes backwards; it's always a steady, upward curve of growth in women's employment. And over time, yes, there will be a big change. You don't see that initially; you don't see that in those first couple of decades of the late 19th century, even into the early 20th century, you don't see that kind of transformation.

Q: Let's talk about -- describe to me a little bit more the kinds of women's work. Tell me about it.
JJDD 1304
FH: Women's work is a term that historians have created to describe the work that women traditionally do in the home. It is productive work that is done in the home; it's food preservation; it's sewing' it's textile manufacturing; it's a certain amount of gardening; it's eggs and butter. That's women's work. Even though it wasn't always that term, it has not always been used to describe the kind of household manufacturing and household production that I'm talking about, but now historians recognize the economic value. People recognized the economic value of that all along. I'm not saying they didn't, but as a society we didn't and it was so taken so granted that it wasn't even worth mentioning. But it was a part of the household economy.
JJDD 1392
And in a pre-industrial economy, it's much more important; it's much more significant and recognized as much more significant than it will be in an industrial economy. And especially so when we begin to have less and less manufacturing in the home. It changes the nature of women's work in the home. At the same time these kinds of tasks, many of them are moving outside the home where they are done by other women.

Q: Not on the frontier, but pre-industrial, did women see themselves as equals to men in terms of supporting the family. Now we can look back and say we recognize the family, they raised the chickens, they sold them, milk and eggs and they tended the garden and they took care of the 'lighter' tasks and the men did the heavy clearing of the fields and all that, but how did they conceive of the economic functioning of the family in the rural state?
JJDD 1496
FH: The evidence we have, not about West Virginia, but about pre-industrial society in general, indicates that the idea of equality -- that women thought about what they did in that kind of term -- seldom arose. It didn't arise with the men. It was a well-integrated, functioning family economy. And the participants, including the women recognized the economic value of that functioning because if they weren't there, if they ceased to function for some reason, there were economic consequences. But you don't find people talking about that; the kind of analysis we do of that today didn't exist. Women wrote about the chores they did; they wrote about the tasks they did; they wrote about how tired they were as a result of the hard work they did. But they never used that for a basis for making some kind of political claim, especially a claim like equality. It didn't arise.

Q: Go out on a limb a little bit and tell me your opinion? Where things better for women in that pre-industrial ...


Q: Francis, in the 18th and 19th century in West Virginia we know a fair amount of what leaders both national and state leaders did -- they were white men, we know their exploits, their accomplishments politically, materially, and also in terms of the evolution of West Virginia. We know less about women's experiences? What is essential to know about women's lives, let's just say prior to the Civil War?
JJDD 1688
FH: The important thing about women's lives in West Virginia is not very spectacular. It isn't anything very dramatic; it is that day-to-day contribution that a woman makes to the survival of her family and for example a wilderness or in a frontier state, which is what West Virginia was for such a long time. It is the contribution that individual women made and that women in groups to their communities to building -- ...

TAKE 3, HENSLEY INTERVIEW, TAKE 4, ROLL 187, SOUND ROLL 58 [she has said the wrong sound roll]

Q: You know what we know; what don't we know; tell me about women's experiences?
JJDD 1778
FH: The important thing about women's experiences isn't anything very spectacular. It isn't anything gut-wrenching. Instead, it's the kind of contribution that individual women made and women made to their families' survival in a frontier state like West Virginia. Whether it is the economic contribution, whether it's the emotional contribution that women made; it's the contribution that women made therefore to the economic survival to the whole area, but it's also the contributions that women made that go unheralded for building community.
JJDD 1842
It's usually women who insist upon and who lead the movements for schools, for churches and Sunday school classes and so forth. For social clubs and social activities, the kinds of things that knit a community together are usually done and are historically been done by women. And I'm sure women served that role in West Virginia when it was still overwhelmingly a rural state in a frontier stage of development.

Q: What's your guess about how the factor that we hear through everything which is the geographic isolation that this state exists. What's your sense of how that impacted women who are by your definition "networking" and more socially concerned.
JJDD 1926
FH: The geographic isolation with regard to West Virginia has to do with the isolation of West Virginia from elsewhere. It has to do with the isolation of one area from another area. Doesn't necessarily have to do with the isolation of the individual within a community. There are communities -- it depends on which part of the state -- West Virginia is such a diverse state that that would not be true for every part of the state, but let's say for example in the southern part of the state. You're not talking about plantations; you're not talking about large family farms; you're talking a lot of families who are living a self-sufficient level in terms of economic terms.
JJDD 1998
That doesn't mean they were self sufficient in social or emotional or religious terms. They had -- they formed communities, and so the isolation is the isolation from the technology, from the knowledge that is available elsewhere. The change that happens elsewhere, that doesn't happen in West Virginia in the same fashion. And so in that respect, women are affected and when you talk about the industrial revolution, for example, and you look at how late the changes are, in coming to West Virginia, for women it's an example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. There's isolation from outside; there's isolation of one part of the state from another before the transportation revolution, but people are not living isolated lives from other human beings, and that's important. For women, that would be very important.


Q: In all its aspects -- geography, social, culture, tell me about a holler?
JJDE 0030
FH: I can tell you what I remember living in a holler. It was when I was the young girl and had originally I was born and grew up in a coal camp, which occupied all the valley space. And other than that, the only place you could live was a holler. It's a narrow road and you have obviously just one house at a time and to tell you the truth, I don't remember anyone else on that road. They couldn't have been that far away in terms of distance, but I don't remember them. I don't remember anyone but my family, living on that -- because of the nature of it. If you want to talk isolation, then I suppose it is isolation. But that didn't mean there was no sense of community for me; it was just there was no sense of neighbors.
JJDE 0119
I don't remember neighbors, but I remember community because we would walk out of that holler to school every day and to church on Sundays and there was a community church at the foot of it as I remember that served both the coal camp, and there may have been other hollers; I only remember this one. But that is an interesting aspect; you don't have neighbors but you can have community even where you don't have neighbors. This is a child's view; this is what I remember from being a very small child -- was the sense you have a mountain rising on one side and on the other. But I never remember feeling hemmed but I know people who've not grown up with the mountains probably get claustrophobic from that sense of the mountains pushing in. I never thought that.
JJDE 0201
When it rained there was a little creek that ran through this and when it rained the road was impassable. And so, we climbed the hill and we just had a little path along, just not very far up the hill and that's how we got to school and that's how we got to church. But I never had a sense -- I never had a sense of that kind of isolation as a child or of being hemmed in by the mountains. And I've never had -- I feel vulnerable and naked if I go where -- in a flat spaces make me very uncomfortable. I need some of that sort of comfort hemming me around with those mountains. I think it's because of that; maybe that's its holler experience.

Q: ... You certainly never hear about the West Virginia mountains being protective.
JJDE 0286
FH: No, but maybe that's a clue why people want to come home. Outsiders do not understand why West Virginians want to come home. Why they mourn the loss of the young. So they're moving to North Carolina, so what? Otherwise you're going to be provincial. Let them go. But they don't necessarily want to go and stay, and maybe that helps to explain why West Virginians want to be here. Maybe it is that sense of comfort that comes from those tall mountains that have always surrounded you. And when you get outside, even when you get into a place like Huntington, for example, the mountains are there, but they're so far away, I don't even -- I don't realize they're there.
JJDE 0373
That's not mountains to me. Mountains are what I grew up with, and I mean all of my life, even when I moved out of that community. I just moved into another community where the mountains were right around me and I lived in -- as many West Virginians, the experience of many West Virginians, is you just live in another bowl and you live in the only flat space available and then you're just surrounded by the mountains. That's how you view the world and that's how -- and when you grow up like that, that's how you come to see the world is ringed with mountains. And without them, I think you lose your balance; I think you lose your perspective.

Q: When you don't have that do you lose a sense of identity?
JJDE 0442
FH: I'm sure you lose your sense of identity, and perhaps that's part of what draws people back to the state, is that sense of identity because I can't think of another state where the mountains have that strong a part of the identity. I mean they're the mountain ranges in the United States, but I don't think anywhere where the state has been so affected, not just geographically, but socially, economically, by the presence of those mountains. They're larger mountains in the United States for sure, but nothing I think that has that kind of personal impact.

Q: Tell me what it's like to grow up in the coal camp?
JJDE 0536
FH: My experiences growing up in a coal camp may surprise some people, and now that I'm an adult I might have a different interpretation. But when I was a small girl growing up in a coal camp, at Otsego, West Virginia, I had a sense -- I had a very pleasant experience there. ... My memory of it is very positive of living in a community where there's such commonality. There's not a division between people who mined coal for a living and those who don't. Everyone does. Everyone shops at the same store. Everyone goes to the same school. I went to a two room school, and the principal, we called the principal 'Granny'.
JJDE 0637
This is the kind of school it was. I don't even know what her name was. It was 'Granny'. She was the principal and she taught the upper three grades. My memories is of some wonderfully, attractive young woman who was my teacher for the first three grades. And our fathers because this the coal mine was not that far from the community, so our fathers would often come to the school if they worked a shift where they wouldn't get to see us otherwise. They would come to the school on the way to work and often have lunch with us. I have visions of my father, these big men, sitting in our little tiny chairs at the tables where we had lunch and having either a snack or perhaps a meal with us on the way to work.
JJDE 0715
And then there's that living in a coal camp, the idea of seeing the men come out of the mines often didn't bathe and so that heavy, heavy, black of coal dust. But I don't have that as a sense of that as something, I didn't have a sense of that when I was child as something oppressive. And I look back on that, and I was very happy there. I think my family was very happy there. My mother, I know all about women who lived in coal camps, one of the greatest enemies they had was dirt. Coal dirt. And so one of the memories I have of my mother, she was always cleaning. Everything inside the house had to be kept clean, and I think it was because she couldn't keep the outside of the house clean.
JJDE 0805
It was impossible, just an occasional painting. So the inside of the house, what she could control, had to be spotless. And after all of her children went to bed at night, my mother has told me, she would stay up and polish those floors and polish that woodwork. Every night, while she waited for my dad to come home from work. And these are the visions I have. I have this vision of my father with his face covered with the black coal dust, and he probably did not do this. I'm sure he did not come to school straight out of the mines, but that's how I remember him. When I think of him coming to school and I see his face, that's what I see. I see his face with the coal dust on it. And I have that vision of my mother waging war on coal dust as she scrubbed those floors and scrubbed that woodwork every night after she finally got the children to bed.

TAKE 6, ROLL 188, SOUND 58

Q: Tell me about your father.
JJDE 0903
FH: One of the things I remember about my dad is his excitement about coal mining as his job. He would come home at night after working a late shift. He would come home let's say after midnight and he would be covered with coal dirt and he would sit down and get his blueprints all out in front of him and he would design things for the mines. They never went anywhere. This was just my father's pride in what he did for a living; it was not something that was dreadful to him. He enjoyed it; he liked mining. I don't mean that it wasn't a dangerous job, and it was; and there were times that he hated working in low seam. It wasn't that, but he took pride in what he did; and I have these really very vivid memories of watching him with his ninth grade education trying to improve on the way things were done in the mines and inventing.


Q: Tell me using the case of your father how the concept of tired, betrodden miners, ? ? also include in your description the story of your father, the long term effect? ?
JJDE 1058
FH: People have an impression of coal mining as only a dangerous, horrible job, and there's no mistaking that that's true. But to think that coal miners have no pride in what they do or no enjoyment in what they do, no sense of fulfillment and no sense of accomplishment in what they do, is not accurate. I can well remember my father had, any time he spoke about his job, great excitement, could just bubble about his job, and that he was always trying to find ways to improve production, trying to invent new technology and so forth -- not because, not for just purely scholarly reasons for whatever because those didn't exist for my dad -- but because this was his job, this is what he did, and this he wanted to do better. And the tragedy is that he loved what he did and eventually it helped to kill him.
JJDE 1178
He developed black lung, and it was part of the medical complication that would first of all, he was disabled when he was still a young man. And that happens to a lot of miners. They become disabled from one disease or an accident or whatever. It's not uncommon at all in their forties, and that's what happened to my father. And so he was in many respects always an old man in that he was disabled at such a young age that much of my young adult life, my father was already not working any more. But he talked about mining all the time; long after he was disabled as a result of mining, he still talked about it eagerly and four of five sons followed in his footsteps. And they talked about it with a great deal of passion, what they were doing, and my brothers still talk about coal mining today with a great deal of professional pride in what they're doing -- even as they recognize the long term consequences.

Q: Has the change been in one generation of the long term consequences for your dad was black lung; now for your brothers, it's not, it's the lack of employment?
JJDE 1335
FH: My brothers have followed in the footsteps of my father in a remarkable sense in that two of my brothers were disabled at a relatively young age; the other two are still active in coal mining, and even though they also do face many of the same hazards my father did as a miner, I think probably they face the possibility off loss of jobs. I think they would see that as equally a possibility right now.

Q: And it's happening all across the state, especially in the southern counties and its meaning families, individuals, are moving out. What --
JJDE 1437
FH: The loss of those jobs ... The loss of the coal mining jobs and I'm speaking here the kind of economic changes that have taken place in the coal regions in the state. The loss of those jobs has begun the process of destroying communities. A small thing ... [sound roll 59 ends here, no signal]


Q: Let's ? at arms length from this whole thing. Tell me of your assessment of what happened in the 1950's and coal in West Virginia?
JJDF 0032
FH: I don't think people understood in the 1950's the long term consequences of technological change. When it came to the coal fields, it was wonderful, those continuous miners for example seemed this was the breakthrough. This would make coal mining more profitable; it would improve production, and it took awhile for the reality to intrude. The reality that you have an initial response is a loss of jobs. The very technology that did increase production, as a matter of fact decreased the need for workers, and for example my own father got caught up in that. It took awhile for that to happen, but my own father got caught up in that slump that hit and was unemployed for maybe over a year and had eleven children to feed.
JJDF 0138
Exhausted all of his savings, sold the stocks he had bought in the company and finally reached a point where he had to relocate, and he moved to another part of West Virginia, left behind a wife and eleven children and moved to another part of West Virginia. And we were grief stricken, absolutely devastated and he was also. And all of us spent most of our time writing letters back and forth. My father, he found a job. He had a job, but he couldn't stand it so he came back home.
JJDF 0204
Then you have a recovery in the coal industry, and again people's hopes were this was a temporary setback; this was an adjustment to technology, but now it's back and everything's going to be fine. What we're seeing today is the long term consequences of that change, and a changing economy, changing energy needs; the national economy has changed, and so once again in West Virginia families are being separated, but this time there's more of a sense that this is it, that this particular kind of recovery is not coming back. People vary in terms of how they feel about that. For young people perhaps there's a sense of 'well, I'll go elsewhere; I'll relocate,' even if they're pulled back by ties of family and location.
JJDF 0316
A lot of other people who are not that flexible, who can't move on, for many of them there is the sense that 'we're not going to recover from this one.' That even if as we hope even if the economy of West Virginia does adjust and recovers and adjusts, life will never be the same again. The life that was centered around coal won't ever be the same again, so people whose lives were centered around coal will never be the same again. In communities the impact this has, it has an impact at the family level as older people remain behind, and many young people move elsewhere.
JJDF 0408
It has as a consequence it has an impact on the community. As the population decreases, one of the first places it will be felt will be in the schools and for many this is not unique to West Virginia. But for many communities, it's the school that is the social hub of the community. It's what the little communities revolve around. I mean when you close that school, when you have consolidations because of population loss, and when you lose that school, what takes it place? We haven't invented anything to take its place. There isn't anything.

Q: Let's go back a little bit. Tell me when you dropped? your mother ? ? what was that like for your mother and other women in the coal camps? What was their experience?
JJDF 0492
FH: We only lived in the coal camps when I was a small child. When we moved, we were always in a coal mining region, but once we moved out of the coal camp proper, and moved into another community, ...

Q: ...Why don't you say women in the coal .. why don't you talk about women in the coal camps, what they did ? ?
JJDF 0535
FH: Historically, women in the coal camps have centered their lives around their families, whether it was in the early days of the buildup in the industry when many women in the coal camps supplemented the family income either with a garden; if they had the space they supplemented the family's livelihood with a garden and did canning and food preservation. They took in laundry; they took in borders, or they spend their lives just providing for the daily needs of their families. One of the sort of all encompassing dirt that went with coal mining. If a community was located near enough to a mine as most of the coal camps, the early coal camps were to get the dust. It was a constant struggle just to keep clean; to have clean laundry. Some women just wore out in the process of trying to -- that sort of symbolic struggle, I think -- with the dirt that invaded everything, that penetrated everything.
JJDF 0672
In many respects women in the coal camps were fortunate in that they had electricity when it wouldn't be available to people in other parts of, in more rural sections of West Virginia. And these were rural communities that would not have otherwise would had access to electricity. And maybe some other amenities. The coal companies, for example, did bring in, they often built movie houses or they would have other kinds, they would sponsor other kinds of activities. But women were also a part of every struggle that took place. There was no separation in the family between the needs of the father, as worker, and the needs of the family. In most households were the father was the only or the major breadwinner, it was a family enterprise.
JJDF 0779
Therefore, the involvement of women and children in, for example, union activities wasn't about politics necessarily. It was about survival. It was about the survival of the family unit, so women always had that part. And it's sort of, the kind of role that's easy to overlook, although in more recent times women have become much more visible in for example labor struggles in the state of West Virginia, very visible and have assumed leadership roles. Much of that early history women were not very visible, but were, filled the same kind of role that women did in some other industries where they were not themselves the workers, but where their livelihood was tied up in that job.

Q: Let's take the next step higher back a little bit and get back to the sense of how women's lives were changed with technology starting with the 20's. Tell me about that.
JJDF 0883
FH: If you think about household technology and for most women that was how they spent their days and changes in technology would be the changes that would be most significant in bringing change in their lives. In West Virginia because of the rural nature of the state, you have continuity much longer than you would find it in urban areas in West Virginia ...

Q: Start with what you said to me before which was that for two centuries women led basically the same kind of lives, then technology. ...
JJDF 0957
FH: For let's say a couple of centuries, women's lives in terms of their household technology hadn't changed very much -- the scrub board, the hearth, which perhaps gives way to a wood cooking stove -- that remains the same generation after generation. Mother passes this on to daughter. Daughter passes this on to her daughter. It's a remarkably, a remarkable continuity in that. Then in the 20th century you have that change and that is ...


Q: Frances, tell me about the transformation of women's lives.
JJDF 1029
FH: The transformation for women is the technological change that comes to West Virginia beginning in the 1920's, and that's household technology, the change in household technology. Before that, there's remarkable continuity in terms of the way women did the things they did -- the scrub board, those big pails in which you heated the water and to use the scrub board and you hauled the water from the well to fill the pail in which you used the scrub board to do the laundry. Either the open hearth, that open fireplace or the cook stove, the wood and the coal cookstove -- those had existed for a long time. It's when that changed that the quality of women's lives, and I'm talking now about the masses of women, not just urban women who would have had access to those changes.
JJDF 1134
But I'm talking about when it begins to filter down into rural areas and when electricity comes into people's homes and when that household technology changes. It had a significant impact on the lives of women.

Q: What resulted from that?
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FH: The result, interestingly enough, the result is that individual household chores become less labor intensive, but the irony is that when that happens the number of chores multiplied. So, it was no savings for women in terms of the time it takes to do household chores, but certainly in terms of the nature of those household chores; the burdensome nature of those household chores, that did change. It also, as that become more and more common, I think it gave women more time to do other kinds of things. For example, it made it easier for a woman, a married woman to be employed outside the home and also to keep up the household responsibilities, labor saving devices, in terms household technology. One consequence, I think, is that it does make it easier for women to do the two jobs that many working women have.

Q: Historically, things have arrived or been put into action in West Virginia later than eastern United States. Did women's consciousness which changed so much in the 1960's nationally, did that also have a delayed impact on West Virginia?
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FH: My sense of when women became conscious of the women's movement in West Virginia is that it probably had a time lag of five to ten years, and I'm talking about really making a splash. Certainly on college campuses that came earlier, and certainly in urban areas that came earlier. But the impact for the women who live in many of the rural parts of West Virginia, I think the impact came when laws began to change. And there's no doubt that television has changed women's lives; it's changed lives for West Virginians because it does bring the outside world into an immediate, brings an immediacy to those outside lives, brings them right into your home, and I think that also in addition to household technology,
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I think that has also had a tremendous impact on the way West Virginians see themselves and the way they see the world around them, in the way they see the outside world. And that means that change comes quicker now to even the most remote areas if they have that television. The knowledge of that change comes quicker than it would have in the early 20th century or in the 19th century.

Q: When West Virginians starting looking into the 'little box' in the 60's what did they see? Did they see themselves?
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FH: When West Virginians looked at television in the 1950's, they saw an alien land. I remember as a child watching television and watching especially those family sitcoms of the 1950's. I did not know people who looked like that, talked like that, or lived like that. It was entertaining; it was fun, and it probably changed me in ways I don't even know, but I certainly didn't identify with it. These were people who lived -- for example, 'I Love Lucy' they lived in an apartment in New York. I had never seen an apartment. No one I knew lived in an apartment. This was a strange and alien world, and I think it did bring new perspectives, and it probably changed us in ways as individuals in ways we don't even comprehend.

Q: What does West Virginia mean to you?
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FH: For me, West Virginia is home. No matter where else I go, if I say 'home' I mean here. In mean, I mean specifically my parents' home when I say home. This is not unique, I think to West Virginia, but for a certain small town identification, even though I've been married 22 years, 'home' is still my parents' home. And there's that same -- West Virginia is synonymous then with 'home,' and I would like my daughter to grow up in West Virginia and remain in West Virginia. And I think that's extremely unlikely that she will do that. And there's a real sadness about that.
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She, in going back to the community where I grew up, she really likes it there, and that has pleased me a great deal that she really likes that, but I also know that lifestyle that a small town in West Virginia offers now, as she gets older, it loses its appeal and she would tell you. She couldn't make a living there, so it's -- what it has become is a place you visit. It's where the parents live and that's where you visit. Even though it's home, you live somewhere else, and I see that increasingly happening in West Virginia; and it makes me very sad because my whole identity is that I am a product of West Virginia. There's no way I can get away from that part of me, even if I leave.
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That will always be a part of me, and it's very sad to think that something that's that much a part of you, is not going to be part, is not a part of my daughter's life in the same way that it was for me because it was a good part. It was a good growing up, growing up in the coalfields of the southern part of the state. It was a good experience; it was a positive experience, and I can already see times when I wish she had that experience.

Q: What's going to be here in 20 years? What's West Virginia going to be like?
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FH: I have no idea what West Virginia will be like in 20 years. I can look around me and see situations that make me very pessimistic and sad, but on the other hand, we may merely in a phase of transition. We may be, if we're lucky, we'll make that transition to a new economy, and we will get beyond the industrial economy that we depended on for so long and that we'll build something else. We'll create something else. That's the best possible scenario. I'll probably still be here 20 years from now and still wondering about that change. I don't think my child will be here 20 years from now. Twenty years from now my husband and I will be the home that somebody comes to visit from somewhere else.

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Hensley Interview