Descended from the landed gentry of Eastern North Carolina, Miss Doug witnessed the transformation from “Old South” to “New South"-- changes in race relations, gender roles, and the very definition of Southerness.
The stories here, stories from her and about her, chronicle this transformation with insight, wit, and affection.
I would grow up to work in costumes, and I did sew when I was little. I was around women who sewed. Miss Mill sewed beautifully. I have a quilt that she made that I hang up on my wall. She did beautiful hand work. Aunt Lucy would come and visit us, and she would sew. Between the two of them, they would make our clothes. My mother’s mother sewed beautifully too, but Mother did not, and so when I got to be a teenager--it was during the Depression and I wanted more clothes--I started teaching myself to sew.
And Maggie, who worked for us in Raleigh, also sewed beautifully, and she helped me learn how to sew. She also told me that things weren’t always going to be like this. I remember one day when I was a teenager, she was ironing my father’s shirts, and she said, “You better let me teach you how to iron these shirts. A little boy is going to want you to iron his shirts one day. You know it’s not always going to be like this.” And I must say she was right, because I’ve ironed a hell of a lot of shirts for little boys, back before there were drip-dry fabrics.
Maggie was an interesting dichotomy for the South too. It was Maggie’s story that actually got Simon & Schuster to give my first husband Ben an advance to write his novel Look Away, Look Away. They told him that they thought the question of Civil Rights was going to be over in a couple of years, and so Ben should hurry and write this because it would be a dead issue. This was in the late ‘50s. He explained to them that the South was an entirely different area from what they knew. “The editor from one of your major newspapers is the uncle of the woman who helped raise my wife,” he said, “and I’m sure he would never publicize this in New York City, but when he comes to Raleigh and stays at the Sir Walter Hotel and the family gathers there, she is invited too.” That was Maggie...