This book (see it on Amazon) speaks strongly to me of events rememberred from my childhood in the South. It is a biography compiled from interviews taped in the mid-1970's by scholars of oral history. Its language is rich and free like a spoken conversation, full of anecdotes and amusing descriptions. It is both social history and the personal story of Virginia Foster Durr's life. I enjoyed it and recommend it hightly.
Born into a well-off white family in Alabama in 1903, Virginia eventually endured ostracism and defamation for her support of civil rights. Her interviews provided a vivid account of the paranoia of the McCarthy era and tthe racism and severe economic problems in the South up through the 1960's.
Her influence derived from at least three factors. One was her husband clifton Durr, who became head of the Federal Communications Commission and later was a leading civil rights lawyer. Another factor was her sister's marriage to supreme court Justice Hugo Black. And finally there was her own well-formed mind. About the importance of her marriage, she said, "It was only after I was safely married that I could really be interested in anything... Old maids were pitied not just because they had no husband but because a life without a husband meant a life of poverty."
The in-her-time-prevailing racism of thhe South is vividly captured in this book, as in the following description of one Southern senator: "[He] talked race all the time...he would always go on about the sex thing. If anything happened to change the Southern system, the white women would just rush to get a black man. We'd have a race of mulattoes. He and others like him seemed maniacal on the subject of sex...These men...would get up and make vile speeches about white women of the South and how they were protecting them. Every black man wanted to rape a white woman and every white woman apparently wanted to be raped...they showed a kind of sickness...I really think those fears came from the fact that the white men of the South had had so many sexual affairs with black women...It's the only thing I can figure out that made them so crazy on the subject."
---- FOOTNOTE: I wrote the above review in 1988 for WoNet News, an internet newsgroup, and I'm republishing it here and now because all its topics are still relevant for women.