[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Kasper: We'll ignore this machine after a few minutes. It is there with us right now, but it won't be for long.
Moulton: All right.
Kasper: We'll just kind of pretend that it's not after awhile. I'm very comfortable. Are you comfortable?
Moulton: Yes, indeed. I don't know what your next thing is going to be.
Kasper: Okay. Let's start literally with this. You know, I mentioned to you that these Who's Who of American Women had a biographical sketch of your life, but I don't know whether this was intended, but I noticed that with a lot of the women (obviously they are all women who were cited in this book) there were very few that had birthdates. And I thought, I wonder whether that was polite.
Kasper: In any case, I didn't—
Moulton: It was a concession to—
Kasper: A concession to female—I don't know what you would call it. What would you call it?
Moulton: Well, I don't have the word for that.
Kasper: Vanity, maybe?
Moulton: Vanity, yes, I think. A lot of people my age don't want to publicize their age, but I really don't mind. That doesn't bother me at all.
Kasper: Oh, good, because I need to know what year you were born in. [Laughter.]
Moulton: April the 8th, 1913.
Kasper: Okay. I had a feeling it was thirteen or fourteen, but I wasn't quite sure.
Moulton: Because of the year I graduated from college, it sort of dates you.
Kasper: Right. Right. And where were you born?
Moulton: In Boston. In a Boston suburb.
Kasper: Which suburb?
Kasper: I lived in Boston for a year, so I know a little bit about it.
Moulton: Did you? Going to college?
Kasper: No. Actually, my husband, Tom, was doing his internship at Boston City Hospital at that point, and so we had lived in New York City and then gone to Boston for him to do a year's worth of training. And we lived in the South End, which was not a wonderful place to live, but it was convenient to the hospital. But we loved being in Boston and got around.
Moulton: There are lots of things to do there.
Kasper: Yes. It was a very young city. There were a lot of places to visit. His sister still lives in Salem, so we get up there now and then.
Moulton: Did you go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum?
Kasper: Oh, yes. The Gardner Museum is wonderful.
Moulton: That's next door to Simmons College where I graduated.
Kasper: That's right. Well, tell me a little bit about your early childhood—the Dorchester community and the school and so forth.
Moulton: Well, I went to the public school and we moved a couple of times. I spent a year in New Hampshire in the third and part of the fourth grade, and then we came back to Boston. And moved some more, and I—really there's not very much to tell about my childhood because it didn't involve my work when I got through school. I didn't work on any school papers or do anything like that.
Kasper: School newspapers, you mean?
Moulton: No. No, I didn't.*
Kasper: Tell me a little bit about your parents. What kind of work did they do.
Moulton: Well, my father, in the early times, worked in the Walter Baker chocolate mill. Do you ever buy Baker's chocolate in the store?
Kasper: Sure. Sure. I still buy Baker's chocolate to bake with.
Moulton: Well, it moved long ago to Delaware, but—
Kasper: Oh, is that right? I didn't know that.
Moulton: And the big mills are still there and they've been reorganized and some of them are condominiums now.
Kasper: In Dorchester?
Moulton: In Dorchester. They call it Dorchester Lower Mills—they did, in those days. I don't know whether they still do or not.
Kasper: What kind of work did he do in the mills?
Moulton: You know, you'll have to excuse me, but I don't remember. [Laughter.] I'm not sure I ever knew.
Kasper: You just knew it was said that Daddy was going off to—
Moulton: Well, yes, everybody in the neighborhood worked in the mill. You know, the mill was the economic mainstay of the area, and well—everybody didn't, but a great many people did—and I can remember watching at the end of the day for this stream of people to—they walked home from work, and they would walk up the street and my father would be one of them. But that ended and basically, well, when I got through college, my father and mother separated and there were a lot of ins and outs during that time and I don't think posterity would be interested in them at all.
Kasper: When you were small, was your mother working or was she at home with you?
Moulton: No, she was at home with me.
* Later Ms. Moulton added: Two high school friends have reminded me that there was a school publication called The Item, which was a kind of all-purpose, one-time, end-of-senior-year effort, with lists of club memberships, etc., and some efforts at writing. One friend had kept a copy of the 1930 issue. She paged through for my name and found me listed, with another classmate, as editor of the jokes column! How's that for a message to posterity. Did I volunteer or was the job assigned to me?
Kasper: With you. You didn't have any brothers and sisters, is that correct, or did you?
Moulton: Well, it was my father's second marriage and he had three sons by his first marriage, but I was the only one the second time around.
Kasper: Did the three sons live with you when you were coming up?
Moulton: Mostly they were grown up. One of them came back for a while. And then one of them was in World War I and after that he married so he wasn't back. And basically I was alone growing up.
Kasper: Did your mother ever work at all when you got a little older or was she a housewife at home?
Moulton: Well, she did. She did, but I'm really not interested in going into it—to a personal story of family life—I'm really not.
Kasper: Okay. Tell me then about early schooling. What was your elementary school like and so forth—your friends and teachers?
Moulton: I can't think of anything unusual about it. It was just the way children went to the public school in those days. Is this on now?
Kasper: Yes. Um hum.
Moulton: I walked to the first grade. And I learned how to read and some arithmetic and so forth. Then I was in another school in the second grade, and we were in one of those little cabin-type places that are out in the schoolyard because there were too many pupils for the main school building. School in New Hampshire was just walking to school and learning. The third and fourth grades were in one room. The teacher divided her time between us.
Kasper: Whereabouts in New Hampshire did you live at that time?
Moulton: Alton. Alton, New Hampshire.
Kasper: Oh, yes. Yes.
Moulton: You are familiar with that?
Kasper: Yes. My son goes to camp in New Hampshire. Actually a little bit further north—Wentworth. Do you know where that is?
Moulton: I don't place Wentworth. Alton is near a place called Alton Bay which is on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Kasper: Yes. That's further north then.
Moulton: So I went to school there. Came back to Boston and went to school. It was just going through the public schools. And then they were very good, I might add—
Kasper: Is that right?
Moulton: —in those days. You didn't graduate kids who didn't know how to read and write. By the time we were through high school, we had had six years of French, four years of Latin, a year of ancient history, and some algebra and geometry and whatever. When I got to college, I decided that I was fluent enough in French that I could take another language, so I took Spanish in college. So I have all words of high praise for the Boston public schools in those days. I understand that they have somewhat deteriorated.
Kasper: I've heard tell the same thing.
Moulton: They were basically good schools.
Kasper: That it was a very good school system in that earlier time period. Do you remember any teachers in particular that you enjoyed or that had an influence on you?
Moulton: Well, I remember our Latin teacher in high school. Her name was Miss Marr and she was very hard on us. She insisted that we work. But I think that was one of the good things about her, that she turned out some people who knew how to read Latin and some background in it. And let's see, whom else do I remember? Oh, the English instructors, who were two sisters, Marjorie and Lillian Smith, in Dorchester High School—for Girls, incidentally. There was a high school for girls and a high school for boys.
Kasper: Did you go to the high school for girls—the Dorchester High Schools for Girls—is that what it was called?
Moulton: Yes. There was a time when there were just too many students for the school building, so they built a new building. But of course, they gave the new building to the boys and we kept the old building.* [Laughter.] Anyway, there were these two Smith sisters, each of whom taught English, and one of them—this is probably a confession I shouldn't make—but one of them had a speech impediment and so we used to call her "Mit Mit" and that—
Kasper: Oh, instead of "Miss Smith" because of the "sm" didn't come out so well? "Mit Mit." [Laughter.]
Moulton: Yes. But, they were both excellent teachers and we had good English instruction and had to write themes and so forth. So, by the time I got to Simmons, I felt that I had a good grounding in English. I think lots better than some of the others that came because I didn't run into any problems with college English.
* Ms. Moulton later recalled: We lived quite a distance from the school. Three classmates lived on my street and we walked to school together. We whistled in a peculiar way outside our houses to get ourselves together in the morning. In winter, we usually walked 10 minutes or so to the terminal and rode a streetcar.
Page 6 Kasper: Do you think that the Smith sisters, among others, taught you how to write well?
Moulton: Oh, definitely. They taught us to plan what we were going to say, and then say it. To have an outline before we ever started to write—of the points we were going to make, and then follow the outline. That was definitely taught in high school.
Kasper: So they not only taught you how to organize what you wanted to say, but did they also teach you good English, as it were—concise and to the point?
Moulton: Well, I think they tried. I don't remember that part of it though. But, there again, most of the teachers were fairly demanding and, actually, I think we respected them and we liked them and we had less regard for the ones that let us off easy, so to speak.*
Kasper: Yes. Which is really the way it's supposed to be.
Moulton: Yes, that it is. And I really think it was.
Kasper: Do you remember enjoying any particular kinds of reading or books at that time that you were in grade school or high school? Was there a—?
Moulton: Oh, I remember the Dick Merriwell series—you know those paperback books—who wrote that? They were paperbacks, you could probably buy them for ten cents. They had to be very inexpensive. There was Frank Merriwell and Dick Merriwell—they had adventures, you know. This was way back, like when you were in grade school. My mother was very interested in acquainting me with public libraries and what they had to offer. And we went to the public library probably every week and we got books and she read to me. This was, of course, before high school. I think that was a great asset to understand what the library could do for you.*
Kasper: Plus, what you're saying is, your mother encouraged you, as well, to read.
Moulton: Oh sure. Oh, definitely. Yes, I was always encouraged to read. And I was read to a great deal.*
* Later Ms. Moulton recalled: Miss Alice M. Twigg was school principal. Another English teacher was Miss Grace Phemister, who taught us junior year. Of course English consisted of a great deal of reading as well as writing. Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream come to mind. Harold Bisbee taught us chemistry; Miss Josephine Wentworth, either algebra or geometry (maybe both); "Chappy" Wentworth, American history, including a detailed examination of the U.S. Constitution; and Miss Mayberry, French. All were excellent.
*Ms. Moulton later added: A letter I wrote at age 8 to my aunt says, "I take library books and read a lot of them." Ms. Moulton also recalled: I remember I had a gift subscription to the Youth's Companion for several years. I think that was a monthly but I'm not sure—probably for youngsters of 10 or 11.
*Later Ms. Moulton added: I remember memorizing poems from A Child's Garden of Verses. Then there was Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Peter and Wendy. When I was very young I had a big volume called The Chummy Book. This got so much wear that it came apart and had to be replaced. For many years I kept a number of my children's books but finally sent them to the Simmons College Library School for its old book collection.
Kasper: Which I think is a wonderful thing.
Moulton: Yes. It is. It is.
Kasper: Yes. I always read to my children, too. Do you remember having any particular interests during those early years, like music or hobbies or things that intrigued you that you spent extra time on or with?
Moulton: Well, not really. In my early years, I enjoyed getting out in the street and playing ball with the boys. There were only boys in the neighborhood to play with, so I became pretty much a tomboy at one point. And we used to get out there and play stickball and all kinds of things.
Kasper: How old were you then, do you remember?
Moulton: Oh, I'd say I was about ten or eleven or so, somewhere in there. And then, later on, what was I interested in? Well, my aunt bought me a piano and I took piano lessons during high school. But when I got into college, I commuted the first three years, and I just didn't have time to take piano lessons and prepare lessons and go to the teacher's. So I stopped the piano when I went to college. I lived at college senior year, in the dormitories, but the first three years I commuted and that took a good bit of time in order to travel to Simmons and home again.
Kasper: Yes. How far would Dorchester be from Simmons?
Moulton: Well, it would probably be an hour's ride. By the time you walked to the station, where you would get on the streetcar, and then took the streetcar to what we call the metro, then took the metro somewhere to get another streetcar to get to the college, it would be a good hour, probably more.
Kasper: Yes. So you would spend at least two hours a day on your commute.
Kasper: Plus your school work and any obligations you had at home and going to classes. Yes, it's a big chunk of time. Did your parents encourage you to go to college? Was this something that was expected of you?
Moulton: It was expected of me.
Kasper: It was?
Moulton: Oh, it was, for the simple reason that I had a cousin who had gone to Simmons and she graduated the year I was born, coincidentally. I don't know that that had anything to do with it, but everybody seemed to think that Charlotte would do what Emily did, and it turned out that way. She went to Simmons and took a course in—well it was called secretarial studies in those days—and so—
Kasper: It was called Simmons College.
Moulton: School of Secretarial Studies.
Kasper: When she went, as well as when you went?
Moulton: I think so, but I'm not completely sure. It probably was. I think the time when I was in Simmons, just after that time, was a time of change at the college because the first generation of—Simmons was started around the early days of the century—and that was about the time when new things were coming in, just about the time I finished there.
Kasper: What kind of new things do you mean?
Moulton: Well, new—
Moulton: Curriculum, yes. For instance, when I was just starting my senior year, I think it was, there was a School of English that was started which was right up my alley, you know, to go into public relations or something that had to do with writing. But I'd already taken three years of secretarial work and shorthand and typing and bookkeeping and stuff like that, and I, well, you know, you couldn't afford to start in all over again.
Kasper: No, hardly.
Moulton: So that was something. If it had only come in perhaps a couple of years sooner, I might have been able to take advantage of it.
Kasper: Well, when you say it was called Simmons College, comma, School of Secretarial Studies, was that the way it was referred to?
Moulton: No. It was Simmons College, period. And then, underneath that was the School of Science, the School of Secretarial Studies, the School of Nursing, the School of Library Science, and a couple of others.
Kasper: And it was a women's college—
Moulton: Oh, definitely.
Kasper: And it still primarily is, although they admit men too now, don't they?
Moulton: Well, I think for graduate work they do. So all those schools were just breakdowns in the college.
Kasper: Right. Okay. And you went to the School of Secretarial Studies because Emily had gone.
Moulton: That's right! You can't believe it at this stage of things, but that's the reason I went.
Kasper: Oh, I understand. Was cousin Emily on your mother's side?
Moulton: No, my father's side.
Kasper: And so it wasn't so much that you were asked, and clearly weren't given much choice, it was just, this is the way it was to be.
Moulton: Yes. That's right. That's the way it was.
Kasper: Did you take any objection to that?
Moulton: I didn't know enough to. You know, young people in those days were not the way they are now. And I just went along with what everybody told me I was supposed to do. Of course, now it looks ridiculous, but that's the way it was.
Kasper: No, I understand. And this was about 1930, is that right, when you were enrolled?
Moulton: Yes. I graduated from high school in 1930. I think there were almost 500 girls in the class, if you can believe that. We graduated from the local theater [Laughter], because that was the most—you see, students from a very large area went to that school.
Kasper: The whole area around Dorchester pulled in from all the other smaller communities around that area?
Moulton: Well, I don't remember how many it pulled in, but you can see it pulled in a great many. Dorchester itself was pretty big.
Kasper: Yes. Did it have a fairly high standing—that high school—that girl's school?
Moulton: Oh, I think so. Definitely, it did.
Kasper: Something like Boston Latin only in the suburbs?
Moulton: Well, it didn't quite approach Boston Latin, I think, which was really the tippity-top, but it had a very good standing. And, well, there was a very large Jewish population in the area and Jewish people tend to be pretty smart, and so, you know, they were a large segment of the school population and they gave it a big lift too. Then there were—let's see, after you had—I don't remember quite at what point this division came about, but the people who were going on to college were in a certain division of the high school and the people who were not going—who knew they were not going—were in another one. I think probably the college division siphoned off the ones that were likely to get the highest marks. I don't know what that has to do with anything, but that's the way it was.
Kasper: Well, were you siphoned off into that college prep, as we used to call it, group?
Kasper: Were you a good student all along?
Moulton: Oh, yes, I was a good student.
Kasper: From early on.
Moulton: Yes. I got good marks.
Kasper: Were your parents proud of you as a student? Was that something—?
Moulton: Oh, I guess so. They didn't complain. [Laughter.]
Kasper: They didn't complain. Do you remember much encouragement or much praise?
Moulton: Oh, my mother—yes, my mother encouraged me a lot. She was pleased when I brought home report cards with "A's" on them, you know, and—yes, I was encouraged.
Kasper: And you must have been somewhat encouraged, too, from your father's side because it was cousin Emily from his side who had gone on to college, as well.
Moulton: Yes. Well, she was busy and, let's see—she was overseas in World War I. She did not live near us. I used to see her occasionally, but there was not a close relationship there. It was just a family thing. Emily had done it and so I was to do it. [Laughter.]
Kasper: It was just a given.
Moulton: Yes. But, when I actually started at Simmons, they called me in—some faculty committee. I had applied for a scholarship and that didn't work out. They gave me a $75.00 loan, I think, at the time. [Laughter.] But she was involved in the actual business of getting me in there. I think we had to pay a $25.00 admission fee or something like that. I've forgotten just how that worked. But, anyway, I remember being with her and her helping me make out papers and so forth and she paid the $25.00, whatever it was. So, in that way, she was sort of with me, but she had her own life to live and we weren't close.
Kasper: What did Cousin Emily do after she graduated?
Moulton: Well, she worked, I think, getting out advertising copy for different firms.
Kasper: Do you think your parents hoped that, with a college education, you would go on to have a career of some kind so that you could provide for yourself? Do you know whether that was part of their hopes in sending you to college?
Moulton: Well, it probably was. You see, in those days, everybody was very poor. There was a deep depression, deep financial depression. You know, the country was in a real downslide, and if you could just do anything to make things better for yourself, you tried to do it. I suppose that—you know, they were not college people, my parents weren't themselves, and nobody else in the family was except Emily. That's one of the reasons why Emily stood out. She was the only one who had done anything scholastically. So, I guess, you know, with everybody job hunting and not having any money at all to speak of, that if I could get into college, that was a great thing. That was about as far as anybody thought.
Kasper: Now, how come your parents—with money, as you recalled, it certainly has been called the Great Depression—why is it that your parents didn't expect you to go to work and bring some money into the house as opposed to costing them money and going to college at that time?
Moulton: Well, of course, I don't think my mother would have—she would have made any sacrifice under the sun to make my future life better. And I'm sure that my father was not consulted very much about it. [Laughter.] Of course, it was his niece that was, you know, paving the way, so to speak. But, it was just—the idea was—my father had three sisters and they were, I guess, probably they were closer to Emily than I was, but it was just a family thing that Charlotte was going to do what Emily did. Of course, I was alone, you see. I was an only child, actually, the three step-brothers having left the fold, and, you know, it was just natural. Emily had a brother, and she had a male cousin, but she was the only woman or girl in that segment of—not the previous, but almost the previous—generation, but not quite, because she was 20 years older than I. She was the only girl there, and I was the only new girl, so I guess it was perhaps sexist that I was supposed to follow what the girl did.
Kasper: Was it quite a sacrifice for your parents to send you to Simmons, I mean, financially?
Moulton: Well, one of my aunts actually financed it.
Kasper: Oh, one of your father's sisters?
Moulton: Um hum. She financed my Simmons' education. In dollars, at that time, looking back, it didn't cost very much, of course, in those dollars. I'm not sure that it cost as much in those dollars as it costs today in today's dollars. I worked during Simmons. I had a job at the college in the summertime in the Registrar's Office. I had a couple of weeks vacation and I worked there all summer. Well, one of the summer jobs was to take the college switchboard for the switchboard operator to go to lunch and so forth. When the college year started, I continued that. I had to arrange my courses so I could be at the switchboard so that the operator there could go to lunch. Then I also did quite a bit of work for the alumnae secretary, Marjorie Shea. She had an office and I did copying work for her, and anything she wanted me to do—filing, I suppose. So I spent quite a bit of time with her. I believe I was paid $2.00 a week for the switchboard work.
Kasper: And some of this money went towards your expenses?
Moulton: Well, yes, sure. It went to books and whatever I thought I had to do. I think I was very conscientious about it. I really didn't spend money on much of anything except what I had to spend it on.
Kasper: Car fare and clothes.
Moulton: Yes. Car fare and, you know, some clothes, I suppose—not very many—and basically just the ordinary expenses that I was under.
Kasper: How did you like the subjects that you studied in the School of Secretarial Studies? What were they and how did you like them?
Moulton: Well, the first year, we had just a regular course, sort of an introductory course. We had English 1. We had Physics, European History. And what was the fourth one—English, European History, Physics—
Kasper: Was it a mathematics?
Moulton: No. It was another—funny, I can't remember that. But it was not a course in shorthand or some other business thing. [Ms. Moulton later recalled that the fourth subject was Spanish.] Simmons is supposed to educate you—put in a little cultural stuff, as well as the way you're going to make a living. That's what John Simmons' ideal was—to give women something in the humanities, as well as just schooling you to do something.
Kasper: To earn a living or to have a trade.
Moulton: To have a trade, yes.
Kasper: Yes. So he believed in what we now call the liberal arts curriculum, as well.
Moulton: Liberal arts curriculum, which I certainly was very thankful for because you build your—well, what would you call it—your inner life or something—around things like that that you learn. And I think it's very essential that you make some kind of a foundation so that you can build on it when you get through college for the rest of your life. That's what really Simmons was trying to do—and is trying to do.
Kasper: Absolutely. Now, so this was a four year—
Moulton: A four year course.
Kasper: Course. Yes.
Moulton: Then we started the shorthand bit in sophomore year and took more courses in practical things, but there were electives. We could elect courses in history or whatever. I remember I got awfully tired of the technical end of it. I really did.
Kasper: The technical end of the—
Moulton: Of the education. You know, too much bookkeeping and things like that.
Kasper: The shorthand and the typing.
Moulton: The shorthand and the typing and all the rest of that. I did take some typing in high school, but I had to take more. And boy, they didn't want you to make any mistakes in anything either. I think that was one of my problems after I got through. I'm sort of meticulous by nature anyway, and they scared me to death at Simmons about making a mistake. You know, there are times when you have to shrug off mistakes and keep going and that was very hard for me to do.
But speaking of these electives—well, you could elect more bookkeeping if you wanted to, you know—but I tended to elect American History and some English course that my freshman English instructor taught. I thought he was really great and he was a great teacher. His name was Wiley Sypher. He died just a few years ago. He stayed on at Simmons. He was a very young man when we were there. He was hardly older than the freshman class, but he really had something to give people—to give students. So if someone like him had another course that I could take in a later year, I would take it instead of taking Bookkeeping 2 or whatever. [Laughter.] Dr. Robert M. Gay was head of the English Department. I took a course with him.
Kasper: So you were more interested in, shall we say, the weightier subjects.
Moulton: Well, something to think about rather than something to do with your hands, you know. Well, that's the way things were then—it was a long time ago—and women were supposed to be secretaries, so—I had a history teacher—what was his name? [Ms. Moulton later recalled that it was Warren S. Tryon.] He had the American History after the European History, and I took his course. And, well, we had to take economics. That's about all I can remember, really. I think I have my report cards or something stashed away somewhere. I could look it up.
Kasper: Yes. That's always fun. [Laughter.]
Moulton: As I remember it, I was pretty much a "B" student at Simmons. More "A's" in high school and "B's" in college, as I recall it.
Kasper: Did you do other things that involved college life? I know, as you said, you commuted, clearly not only because you lived nearby, but to save money, I presume, as well.
Moulton: Oh, definitely.
Kasper: Did you participate in activities other than the academic ones on the campus?
Moulton: Not really. In senior year, I lived on campus because I'd been saving some of this money that I didn't spend on car fares and whatever. I don't remember whether my aunt paid that or not, or whether she just paid the tuition. But, anyway, I lived on campus senior year and that was a whole lot of fun. I remember I played basketball that year. What else did I do? More or less just had the fun that I had been missing all that time by commuting. Commuters were a large part of the Simmons' population, but they really didn't get involved too much with school activities. You'd be getting home at a very late time if you stayed around college and did something and then went home.
Kasper: What was the fun that you remember in senior year when you were living on campus?
Moulton: Oh, I lived in a small house. I had a single room. There were three double rooms on the floor. And it was just, you know, communal living, so to speak. Just talking with the other girls and listening to what they had to say about what they did that day and what you did that day. And going out perhaps for an ice cream soda somewhere
or something like that. Or going into town to a movie or a play of some kind. Gilbert and Sullivan was on there at a theatre—different Gilbert and Sullivan things—and so we used to go to some of those. Oh, roller skating! You know, the Boston traffic wasn't what it is now. The little side street in front of the house where we lived was paved, of course, and so some of us decided we'd bring our own roller skates from home and go roller skating out on this street. [Laughter.] I distinctly remember doing that.
Kasper: Was Simmons located then where it is today?
Kasper: It's somewhere near Back Bay isn't it?
Moulton: Yes. It's near Brookline. Brookline Village was one of the places where they had a lot of stores and we'd walk over there. The campus, of course, has changed a lot. They've put new buildings on it. And this house where I used to live has now been torn down and just recently they built a big sports center with all kinds of things in it—a pool and a place where you—rowing machine—
Kasper: Like a health facility where they have workout machines?
Moulton: Yes. And places to run and places to bat balls around. They have everything in there. It's beautiful. I was there for my—
Kasper: I was just going to say, you've been back.
Moulton: —fifty-fifth reunion. But, of course, they are very interested in collecting money from the alumnae to finance the sports center.
Kasper: Have you stayed active in Simmons' alumnae affairs since you graduated?
Moulton: No. I'm a loyal member of the alumnae. The college has a monthly paper with class news in it. So, I'm interested in class matters (there were 380 in our class in 1934), but I haven't taken any job particularly with it, like a class secretary or president. Mostly people who live near Boston do that kind of work because they can meet regularly—or irregularly. [Laughter.] And people from far away, of course, it costs them to get there and so it's mostly Boston area people. But I'm always interested in the college and what it's doing. Some people didn't think the sports center was a great idea. They thought that we should concentrate on mental not physical activities [Laughter], but I rather thought that it was appropriate to have it. And women's colleges seem to be in difficulty now, as you probably have read.
Kasper: Yes. I went to a women's college, too. I went to Douglass College, which is the women's college of Rutgers University. It's doing all right because it's affiliated with a large institution to which it is a party, but you're right, a lot of them are struggling, either financially or with the whole idea of expanding and not being women's colleges exclusively anymore.
Moulton: I don't know just what that—whether it bodes ill for all women's colleges eventually. I think Simmons is trying to remain a women's college.
Kasper: How do you feel about that? I know there are sort of mixed arguments, you know, that a women's college is kind of ghettoizing women and not making them a part of the real world, which, of course, contains both men and women, and some people feel differently. How do you feel about that issue, being a graduate of a women's college?
Moulton: Yes, not only a women's college, but a women's high school, too.
Kasper: That's right. Yes.
Moulton: Well, I think it probably is a good thing to have men there along with you as you're getting your education. But, on the other hand, it does indicate that—well, I don't know, that women can do with their lives whatever they want to and telling them how to do it—I'm really not on one side or the other because I don't feel actually that I know enough about it to be dogmatic on the subject.
Kasper: Yes. Well, there are some people who feel that women who have gone exclusively to women's colleges have a chance to be very assertive on their own at a formative time when boys, or the young men, aren't there to blunt their independence and their growth—
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Moulton: —what all this background, what you said, is to the whole operation here.
Kasper: You mean to the whole oral history?
Kasper: Well, I think, we talked very briefly about it on the telephone and I think the point is the approach we use is called a life history approach. And the belief of people who do this kind of oral history work is that it's fine to understand someone's career, but someone's career is also embedded in their whole life. And there is a lot of stuff that precedes someone's career—you know, their family influences, their interests, their early schooling, their friends, their community—all of which participated in some way in forming a person's life—their perspective, their biases, even—but certainly their notions of how to lead a life—work and family, home, friends—are all part of an integrated life. And that, you know, somebody who is interested in, certainly anybody looking at your transcript and your tape is primarily interested in your career, but people also want to know how you got to that career. And it's a belief of oral historians, and other sociologists like myself, that you can't really understand one piece of a person's life unless you understand all of it.
Moulton: The whole of it. Yes.
Kasper: So that's why we often spend a fair amount of time in the beginning talking about early years—family and education and friends and so forth. Sometimes, it doesn't seem that important to you, but it does give the person reading your transcript or listening to your tapes some guide, some sense of where you came from, and how you came to be who you are.
Moulton: Yes. I see.
Kasper: That may seem less important to you, but more important to someone else. So that's part of it.
Moulton: Yes. Looking at my own, I can't see exactly how my career in the news business ever developed from anything that happened to me growing up.
Kasper: Well, that's exactly why we're interested in documenting your growing up, because, in fact, if there is no connection, that's interesting in itself.
Moulton: Um hum. The only thing that runs through childhood and education and up to where I started in the news business was books, reading, early acquaintance with libraries, and that I seemed to have a flair for writing—and that is not like writing a novel, and all this beautiful writing that's turning up these days. Sometimes when you read a long piece in the [Washington] Post, you think that a reporter is trying to write a novel instead of a news story [Laughter]. But, basically, it was just learning how to write a sensible piece in good English and enjoying doing it. That was about the size of it. I just can't think that anything that happened to me in my early days drove me to United Press. There just wasn't anything there.
Kasper: Well, and as I said, if there wasn't anything there, that in itself is interesting. In other words, that you got to the United Press without there being any antecedents that you can name, is interesting in and of itself. I mean, the fact that there is no connection is an interesting point.
Moulton: Yes, I guess so. I mean, I drifted to it after college. When I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, I had a job as a secretary, but after a while [Laughter], I knew that, as I said, during college, those courses interested me less and less, and general subjects, like history and philosophy, or whatever, attracted me much more and I wished probably that I hadn't gone into secretarial work even before I graduated from college, but by then it had been done—it was finished. So then I had to sort of work my way out of it into writing. And I suppose, in that sense, it was a push in the direction of journalism.
Kasper: I think, you said it yourself, I mean the connection, you said just a few minutes ago, books, reading, early acquaintance with libraries, and writing were some of your chief interests in those early days.
Kasper: And clearly there's—would you like to expand on what I think must be some connection to your career as a journalist? Is there more that you want to say about those early interests?
Moulton: Well, the only thing that I can think of is that I always did well in English—from high school on through college, English was my best subject. But where I started to think of using English to make a living, I'm not quite sure where that came into the picture—really at what stage it came in. Basically, you know, I think I was, of course, rather naive from the very first that I didn't think of a lot of things that young people think of now when they—I mean, they run around and look at six colleges and put an application in and wonder which college they're really going to, and they pretty much, a lot of them, know exactly what they want to do. They are much more sophisticated and their parents probably raised them to be more sophisticated. But that was not the way it was with me. I was just steered into Simmons and did what I was supposed to do [Laughter]. It wasn't until I got out, or really got well along, that I started to think for myself a little bit. Before that, other people were doing my thinking for me.
Kasper: On the other hand, it would seem to me there's no way that you would have sought out a career in journalism, or even fallen into a career in journalism, if writing and reading and books, as you said earlier in this interview, the business of thinking as opposed to the business of doing, were not your interests. In other words, those early interests of yours must have had some kind of a direct connection to journalism, it seems to me. I mean, if in fact you were much more satisfied with the typing and bookkeeping, accounting and stenography courses at Simmons and eschewed the others—the philosophy, the history and—
Moulton: I never would have gone into it, no.
Kasper: You probably wouldn't have gone into journalism, don't you think?
Moulton: Oh, definitely, definitely not. No. But I'm sure—well, I'm not sure, but I think that at no time during my college career did I ever think to myself, "I want to work for a newspaper." I think that I worked into that somehow.
Kasper: But that's not unusual either. You know, it's very interesting to read some of the commentaries, or even whole books, that have been written by women sociologists, historians and, in particular, women who have studied women and work. One of the major themes that runs through that whole body of literature is what they call the contingency factor—the whole notion that women somehow have fallen into careers, or fallen into jobs that then they have maintained for a lifetime and may have become careers. And you're certainly not unusual—not then, not even now—although clearly more women are prepared for a sort of a direct connection today than they were in the past. But it's probably one of the most common themes in the whole literature of women and work—that women literally either had no preparation for the careers and the jobs that they wound up being in, or they literally fell into—by happenstance, by fate, by chance—what became for many of them lifelong careers in arenas that they enjoyed, and in some cases, became quite respected, as in your case.
Moulton: Well, and like this Elanie who just died, who became the great fashion editor at the Washington—
Kasper: Elanie Epstein.
Moulton: Yes, in the Washington Star. Apparently, the same thing happened to her. She had no knowledge of fashion at all when she went to the Star to work, and then she became one of the best known reporters there in her specialty. So I guess I'm sort of—
Kasper: You're in good company.
Moulton: —a parallel situation. Yes.
Kasper: Yes. Definitely. And women are often intrigued when they do oral histories of this kind, the kind of thing we're doing today, intrigued with finding the connections, because sometimes they're very elusive. Although they are usually there, just as we've picked up on the books, the reading, libraries and writing—
Kasper: —there's usually some connection if you look hard enough. It may, as I said, be very elusive and even flimsy—[Laughter], but it's there—it's usually there.
Moulton: Of course, when I went to United Press—well, I'm sure we'll go into all the ramifications before I ever got there—but when I went there, I didn't know anything about wire service work. I didn't know anything about reporting. I'd never written a news story—well, not the wire service kind of a news story—and I just had to learn it. And the only reason I was able to do that was because men were being called to military service and they absolutely had to have women. They really didn't want them, you know, but they had to have them. And that's how I got my—[Tape interruption.]
Kasper: Let's pick up with your graduation from Simmons in 1934.
Moulton: Yes. Well, it was traumatic because most of us didn't have a job and we'd been provided with statistics that the usual weekly pay for somebody graduating from the School of Secretarial Studies was $15.00 a week. It was kind of hard to think about living on $15.00 a week, even then. The Depression was still in full swing. So you were graduating, but you didn't know what you were graduating into. And then it was kind of sad, especially since I'd been living at the college that senior year and it had been a very enjoyable year compared to the others—not that the others were not enjoyable, but, I mean, it was a whole different life living in a college dormitory. So, it was really kind of wandering off into nothingness, you might say.
Kasper: Did you move back home?
Moulton: No. We broke up housekeeping at that point and my mother—well, with a certain little interim period in which we lived with my aunt, my mother joined me and we lived near the capitol in Boston—on Hancock Street—behind the capitol. We had a little room there.
Kasper: Your parents had separated or divorced?
Moulton: They had separated. They didn't get a divorce, but they—well, they separated but they saw each other, too, which was kind of crazy. But, anyway, they separated. So my mother and I lived in there. And shortly after graduation—you know, the college operated a placement service, and the secretary to the head of the Secretarial School had the job of placing the graduates.
So I got a call from her one day and she said that there was a job available at the Massachusetts Emergency Public Works Commission. And the Massachusetts Emergency Public Works Commission was just what its name implies. It was designed to consider possible projects that would help the unemployment situation and okay them or not okay them. They needed a secretary there and, fortunately for Simmons, the immediate past president of Simmons, Henry Lefavour, was the head of this commission, so he naturally looked to Simmons for employees. He wasn't there all the time, he was the head of the—there was a board that met, let's say, once a week, and the rest of the time the office operated under somebody else, so I didn't see him all the time. But, it was obviously the reason why a Simmons person got the job. I'm sure I must have gone for an interview, although I don't remember it, to tell you the truth, but anyway, I was hired by the commission. It was purely secretarial work—taking dictation and I guess writing letters, probably typing letters for Hall Nichols, the man that ran the show.
The office was in the State House itself and I lived right behind the State House, so I could just walk to work in about five minutes. In that sense it was ideal, not in any other sense, but—[Laughter] It was rather nice to live right in Boston anyway. Of course, in those days, you could walk around the city at night and you wouldn't get bopped on the head or shot or anything. I remember coming in on the metro system or the trolley cars that ran underground and coming up on Boston Common, if I'd been out to see some friend in Brookline or wherever, maybe ten or eleven o'clock at night and just walking up and through the—there was a place that you could walk through the State House, through the corridor, and it would be a shortcut. And I'd just come out of the subway and walk up through there and down Hancock Street and never thought a thing about it at ten o'clock at night, eleven, or whatever. Looking back on it, it was pretty wonderful. And so, anyway, we lived there for a while. When I had been a senior at Simmons, we did something called "practice work." I'm sure they have a better name for it now, but seniors in the mid-term were assigned to go to various places to help out as kind of interns.
Kasper: I was going to say, it sounds like an internship.
Moulton: An internship, yes. So I interned at Zions Herald. Another Simmons classmate went into the business office of Zions Herald and I went into the editorial office. Well, see, we were asked to suggest the types of places where we'd like to intern, so I must have suggested a publication—now, why did I do that?
Kasper: That's a good question, isn't it?
Moulton: Hmmm. Well, anyway, Zions Herald was not exactly a tremendous worldwide publication. It was a church weekly, but it was not of the church. It was a privately operated paper by Methodist laymen who had organized the Wesleyan Association for the
purpose of putting out this paper. So when I worked there, I did letters and took the editor's dictation, and, I'm sure, any odd job that they had around there.
And about the time that I was getting awfully tired of the Emergency Public Works Commission, which was not very long [Laughter], the secretary at Zions Herald left. I believe she was expecting a child and she just left. So, of course, they thought of me because I had done my internship there and I was more or less familiar with what went on. So they called and told me the situation and, "Did I want to come over and talk about it?" And so, of course, I did. I thought, well, this is certainly better than what I'm doing, although it didn't offer very much money. I think that Emergency Public Works Commission job paid $70.00 a month, as I recall. Seventy dollars a month I was supposed to live on. And I think probably Zions Herald paid a little more, but not much. [Laughter.] I just can't remember what that was. But anyway, I took the job as the editor's secretary.
Kasper: What were your duties?
Moulton: Well, my first duties were just trying to keep him on track and get his letters answered before they waited too long on the desk. And, of course, well, besides taking his dictation and so forth, there were two linotype machines down the hall, and the paper was set up there and then sent to a printer. So somebody had to read copy after the linotype operators had set up the paper. So I did that.
Kasper: Oh, you did.
Kasper: That was probably one of your early stints in journalism, wouldn't you say?
Moulton: Yes. Yes, it was. And, well, I kept track of the editor—got him to his appointments on time and all of that minutiae that a secretary does.
Kasper: Just explain for me for a moment the linotype machine, and how the weekly was set up on that machine, if you will.
Moulton: Well, the editor had an assistant—there were three of us in the office, that's how big the paper was. And there didn't seem to be any lack of people who wanted to write articles and have them printed in this paper. Of course, a lot of them had to do with Methodism and what was going on in the denomination and so forth or just current issues. This would be 1935 or 1936. Let's see what my schedule is—no, this starts with United Press. From 1935 to 1940, I was in Zions Herald, and well, of course, I'm skipping some, but in 1939, the war started in Europe and so people started to talk about the war. And, of course, before that we were preparing more or less. Anyway, England was arming and this country was looking askance at what was going on in Europe. So I suppose the articles didn't necessarily have to be confined to Methodism. But, anyhow, these different articles would come in by people who wanted to get printed in the paper. The editor would look at them and he would decide what he wanted to go into the next issue. Then the assistant would read them and do whatever editing was necessary and write headlines and so on. Then the copy would be given to the man who ran the composing room.
There were two people working out there on linotype machines. He would distribute the copy to them. They would set the type in columns and when the columns were printed, they would be brought into my office. One of the operators was a woman, Sara Durgin. She would come in with the copy and she would read the original copy and I would look at the copy that had come off the linotype machine—she would read and I would look for errors and mark them.
Kasper: So you would compare. She would read from the original and you would compare with the copy to see if it was the same or any mistakes.
Moulton: To see if there had been any errors in it. Then it would be taken out and mistakes would be corrected, presumably, and then it would be put in page form. Ida Moody was the editor's assistant and she would be the one who would read the pages and be the final one to say this is all right.
Kasper: She was the editorial assistant, was she?
Kasper: Miss Moody.
Moulton: Miss Moody. I got to be quite a friend of hers before it was over. But, there again, my meticulous nature—[Laughter]. There shouldn't be any mistake. When the paper was complete and it was mailed out to subscribers, there shouldn't be one single error in it! So that was just to feed my nature of being scared to death of mistakes. But, anyway, that's how that worked. Eventually I had the job of returning a lot of these submissions to the writers saying, "We're sorry, we can't use your excellent piece, but we only have room for just so much."
Kasper: How big was this weekly? How many pages was it and what size?
Moulton: Oh, I suppose it was—I've got some pages upstairs that I think I could—it was about—how would you say that?
Kasper: Nine by ten, or nine by eleven?
Moulton: Something like that. Oh, I don't know, twenty pages maybe—maybe not that many.
Kasper: Every week though, that's not small.
Moulton: Well, it kept us working.
Moulton: Twenty may not be right, but it did come out every week. At one stage of things, after I'd been there a while, Miss Moody became quite ill. There was a lot of stress connected with her job—getting it out on time, and the editor, sometimes he'd go to New York for meetings—and the real grunt work there was done by her. I don't know,
but possibly the stress of it was partly responsible for this illness. Anyway, she was out of work for, I don't know, five or six weeks, I guess. So, who was it that did all her work while she was out?
Kasper: It was you.
Moulton: Yes. And that was actually a very good experience because I could do it—I did it—and it was a plus, in a way, for me, although, of course, I was supposed to be the secretary too while I was doing all that, but—[Laughter]
Kasper: What did you have to do in her stead?
Moulton: Well, read the page proofs, look at the original copies and—
Kasper: Against the proofs? Read the original against the proofs, as well? No.
Moulton: I don't remember quite how that worked. But I know I had the final responsibility for saying this paper is ready to go to press. I remember Mr. Hainsworth was the composing room foreman. And I remember him on press days coming back and forth and showing me these pages. But the precise operation just evades me now, I just can't remember how it worked. But I remember that the editor would be out at some meeting or something and I'd be there getting the paper ready to go to press.*
Kasper: And there were only, what, two more of you—you, plus one other person—because Miss Moody was out sick, or on vacation, is that right?
Moulton: Yes, it was just the editor and me is all. [Laughter.]
Kasper: Oh, gosh. So when he was gone, you were the one who was running the whole show.
Moulton: I was running it when she was sick and when she was on vacation. Well, I doubt if he went out of town at that point, but he had meetings and things to do around Boston. So I did have the load for quite a while. And then there was a page in the paper called, I think, "News of the Week in Review," or something like that, which was just
* Ms. Moulton later recalled the process: The page proofs were not re-read against the original but were simply checked to see that the corrections had been made. On further reflection, I believe the situation was this: I had done Miss Moody's work a time or two when she was vacationing—three weeks, I believe, before she fell ill. Dr. Hartman would always give the final okay to go to press. At one point during her illness I called him when he was out of the office and said the paper was ready. He said, "Well, you had better go ahead." That was the first time I was given this responsibility.
I remember Reginald Hainsworth, the composing room foreman, a gentle man, born in England, walking back and forth from the composing room with page proofs. The pressure got to him, too, at one point and he was ill.
The reason for this added pressure was that Dr. Hartman had received permission to enlarge the paper by several pages, a move that naturally made more work for everybody.
straight news items. I think we made the decision of what news items to put in there by looking at the Sunday New York Times and picking things out [Laughter]. Well the editor, that was his job, to write the "News of the Week in Review." One time, I guess he was somewhere else doing something else, and so, and I don't remember whether I volunteered for the job or whether they told me that was my job, but anyway, I wrote the page of the "News of the Week in Review." I just lifted the subject matter, not the whole thing, of course, from the New York Times. If the New York Times had a column on this, that or the other, I could write something similar, just cutting it back and writing the highlights. So I did that one week, and Miss Moody said, "Well, I'm going to tell Dr. Hartman that you can do this as well as he can." So, I thought, "Well, that's nice. It's a little thing besides typing his letters that I can do." So, after that, I had charge of the "News of the Week in Review" page. And occasionally there would be some meeting that the Boston Methodists had where there was a speaker, a dinner meeting, and I remember covering some of those, just saying what happened, which really wasn't very hard.
Kasper: So that was the beginnings of your being a reporter.
Moulton: That's right. Those were the beginnings. And, well, I might have reviewed a book or done something like that, but not too much. But, I could have had a few little pieces in there.
Kasper: Did you ever get a byline in the paper?
Moulton: No. No, I never got a byline.
Kasper: Was there a rundown of who the contributors were or the office staff, the editorial staff? Was your name on that?
Moulton: No, I don't think so. [Laughter.] I was totally anonymous, I think, in that job. I don't think I have a copy of it. I'm sure the editor's name must have been on it.
Kasper: His name was Dr. Hartman? Is that what his name was?
Moulton: Yes. Lewis O. Hartman. He later became a bishop in the Methodist Church.
Kasper: How did he treat the women who worked in the office?
Moulton: Well, he was very close to Miss Moody—because he better be—she was really the foundation of the whole thing. He could go and come and leave things to her and he knew that everything would be all right and she would get the paper out. One time he took a trip to the Middle East—I believe on behalf of the Board of Foreign Missions. To me—I guess he treated me the way all secretaries were treated in those days. We were just around to do what we were told.
Kasper: Even after you began doing the news of the week section and covering meetings and so forth, were you still treated very much like a secretary?
Moulton: Oh, yes. Because this was a long time ago, and my memory is not the best, to go back fifty years, which is what it is, but I don't recall that. One time I told him
I wanted to write an editorial and he said all right. So I wrote one. One page every week was devoted to an editorial. So I wrote it and brought it in and he made quite a few changes in it, add and subtract and whatever, but they ran the editorial anyway. Editorials were religiously oriented, so it really wasn't up my alley, but I think I just had this idea that I thought might work into an editorial, and so he accepted it. Actually it was reprinted in another Methodist paper.
Kasper: What was it on?
Moulton: Oh, it was on something to do with "you may be your own worst enemy," or "study your attitudes and change them"—something like that. I told him that this other paper had, of course with credit, reprinted our editorial, and he said, "That speaks well for the author." And I said, "Yes, it speaks well for both authors, doesn't it." He laughed because of course he had edited and changed it quite a bit. But I can't remember any other writing I ever did for it. After a while, it was obviously—it was an improvement over the Massachusetts Emergency Public Works Commission, but, nevertheless, it was a blind alley because there were only three people in the office. Even if I had gotten Miss Moody's job eventually, there was absolutely nowhere to go.
Kasper: There was no chance of taking Dr. Hartman's place, presumably.
Moulton: No. I think they would have wanted a Methodist minister, you see, not a lay person. So, anyway, I started running around looking for work. The job situation wasn't much better than it had been. Things didn't get better right away. I remember my first trip to New York. I went to New York looking for—I guess I must have looked into employment agencies. I don't remember exactly how I went about this, except Dr. Hartman had to go to New York, I think it was once a month, for meetings, and he always took the boat. There was a boat that went from Boston to New York—an overnight boat—which was an easy way to get there because you didn't lose any time in travel. So, I thought, well, I'd take the boat too. So I took the boat to New York looking for work, but that didn't work out. I didn't find anything. I'm sure I must have tried all kinds of places in Boston and employment agencies, and if anything turned up, it wasn't any better than what I already had, so—
Kasper: Were you still living on Hancock Street with your mother at that point too?
Moulton: Well, no, we moved to Cambridge because somebody we knew had a home there and an upstairs apartment was available. It seemed to be more comfortable than where we were, so we moved to Cambridge. It was sort of, but not quite, on the doorstep of Harvard, and I remember going over there to Christmas concerts. Did you ever go to see the glass flowers there?
Moulton: There's a beautiful museum in which there are glass flowers which look exactly like real flowers. It was one of the things the museum was best known for. Cambridge was nice. In the meantime, the war was revving up and the federal government was taking in more people, so I decided to apply for a secretary's job, naturally, in the federal
government. Pretty soon I got a telegram from the War Department asking me when I could come to work—I guess I need a glass of water maybe.
Kasper: Yes, I think we're just about done here anyway. Yes, we'll end right here.
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