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Janet Paulk oral history interview, February 19, 2003

 Item — othertype: Oral History
Identifier: W008_PaulkJ_20030219

Scope and Contents

Interviewed by Joyce Durand: A minister’s daughter, Paulk describes her childhood in Grafton, West Virginia as very happy. She states that she was able to pursue all of her interests, including chemistry, education and music. Paulk describes her early unsuccessful marriage to the son of the Chilean Secretary of Transportation, which resulted in her living and traveling to South America. She states that it was during this period in her life that she developed a growing awareness that she was not willing to accept the traditional roles ascribed to women. By the late 1960s, married for the second time, Paulk became increasingly interested in civil rights, community organizing and the need to emancipate women. She says she belonged to a number of discussion groups, comprised of “ardent feminists,” and began to learn from them. Paulk describes working at Emory University, and becoming aware of blatant discrimination in the workplace, in terms of salary inequity and retirement benefits. She says she became involved in a number of local women’s groups such as the Democratic Women of DeKalb, the Feminist Action Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation, and ERA Georgia, Inc., and discusses the difficulty in trying to get these different groups to work together. Paulk ends her oral history by reciting a poem she wrote about feminist Maria Getzinger Jones.


  • Creation: February 19, 2003


Restriction on Access

Oral history available for research in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.

Biographical Note

A grassroots activist at heart, Janet Paulk is passionate about a variety of social, political and gender issues. Born in Grafton, West Virginia in 1932, Paulk was the daughter and granddaughter of Presbyterian ministers. Educated in music theory and piano at Maryville College in Tennessee, and business at Georgia State University, DeKalb Technical School and Emory University’s School of Business Administration, Paulk began working for the Emory University Library Administration in 1975. She continued to serve the libraries at Emory for 23 years, most recently as human resources manager. During her tenure there, she became an outspoken advocate for the preservation of women's history. She was also active in national and local library associations. She retired from Emory in 1994. Throughout her career, Paulk served on many women-centered political and social organizations. She was treasurer and executive committee member of ERA Georgia, Inc. (1980-1982); treasurer and executive board member of the Georgia Women's Political Caucus (1982-1984); and a member of the Women's Studies Committee at the University Center of Georgia (1984-1988). Other affiliations include the Southeastern and National Women's Studies Associations. Paulk has received many honors and awards, including special recognition from the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, for her involvement there in the Civil Rights Movement in 1968. She also received numerous appointments by the President of Emory University, specifically a charter membership on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1976-1979) and two appointments to the University Affirmative Action Appeal Committee (1984; 1990). Today Paulk is active in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta and resides in Decatur.


2 item(s) (transcript (22 pages) audio (52:45 duration))

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

100 Decatur St., S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
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