Mary Herr was born in Springfield, Ill. in 1940. In 1978 she moved to Cherokee, N.C. where she has worked on many community development projects, primarily in legal aid services. Herr begins the interview by discussing her family history; a history of suicide on her mother’s side of the family; memories of growing up on a farm in Staunton, Ill; attending a small, country school; chores that she performed on the farm; her relationship with her parents; and her perception of her parents’ marriage. She talks about being a student Staunton High School and taking her first job upon graduating. She describes working as an ediphone operator at the Aetna Casualty Insurance Company; living in the Evangeline Residence with other working women; and her first impression of the workplace. She talks about moving from St. Louis, Mo. to Nashville, Tenn.; being a big fan of the Wilburn Brothers; and attending the Grand Ole Opry and other Nashville, Tenn. venues with friends. She describes her secretary work; the environment of the workplace; and gender relations in the office. She discusses integration in Nashville and how people she met in Nashville responded to her Catholicism. She tells about moving to Phoenix, Ariz.; dating life; and working for Kelly Girl. She discusses learning about the Volunteer in Service to America program (VISTA); VISTA training in Baltimore, Md.; VISTA placement in Bedford County, Va.; discovering that a Ku Klux Klan member was a VISTA supervisor; attending a Klan rally out of curiosity; and volunteering in Charleston, W.Va. She then describes moving to Knoxville, Tenn.; meeting members of the Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS); volunteering with FOCIS; community development through arts projects; moving to Clairfield, Tenn.; doing paralegal training and working in a legal services office in Clairfield; receiving a Ford Fellowship; receiving a grant from the Commission on Religion in Appalachia to do paralegal training in Cherokee, N.C. She then discusses moving to Cherokee, N.C.; legal services in Cherokee; being employed by the Catholic Church in Cherokee; community work in Cherokee; serving as Guardian ad Litem Program Supervisor; and working as a multicultural representative for Faith Formation. She discusses her participation in the women’s movement; getting her first credit card; legal training at the Knoxville Women’s Center and Rape Crisis Center; working with SAFE, the domestic violence program; and the Yogi Crowe Scholarship Fund. She describes her faith and the place of religion in her life. This interview is part of the Southern Oral History Program’s project to document the women’s movement in the American South.
Interview with Mary Herr by Jessie Wilkerson, May 19 2011 U-0538, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.