Gilna Nance

Photo courtesy of Gilna Nance.

“I remember the first night I went I said “I’m glad to know there are other people who are thinking like me” because I thought, you know, maybe I was crazy. Since then I’ve heard other women say the same thing. “Thank God I’m not alone!” And I remember saying what I don’t want to do in this group is any marching. Because I had just been through the…anti war movement stuff that happened as soon as I got to Chapel Hill.”~Gilna Nance

Gilna Nance is a North Carolina native, having been was born and raised in Asheboro. When it came time for college, Gilna spent three semesters at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She planned to transfer to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) for her junior and senior years, then a common practice among women (at this time, women were largely not admitted to UNC-CH until at least their junior years). Gilna was the beneficiary of another woman’s lawsuit against the university which resulted in UNC-CH becoming co-ed. Already accepted as a junior transfer student for the coming fall, Gilna was able to transfer a semester early, finally arriving in Chapel Hill in 1970. She graduated from UNC-CH in 1972 and immediately enrolled in UNC-CH’s School of Social Work. In 1973, while working towards her Master’s of Social Work (MSW), Gilna completed a field placement at the Durham YWCA. Once she was there, the YWCA asked her to head up the Durham Women’s Center (which she founded alongside of Suzi Woodard, Susan Cartmell [whose interview unfortunately did not record], Meri-Li Douglas). These experiences eventually became the topic for her thesis, “Social Work and the Women’s Liberation Movement.” Gilna received her MSW in 1974, but stayed very heavily involved with the YWCA and several women’s group. After getting her graduate degree, she was part of a group of women who brought Women’s Pavillion, the first abortion clinic in Durham, to the city. She served on the advisory board of it until 1976, when she dramatically left because she felt that the clinic’s businesspeople hadn’t kept their promise to lower the cost of abortion. Coming from a poorer family and having many student loans, she remembers living off of a few dollars a week for food and that cr group meetings, which always had food, helped to keep her fed. When she and her college sweet-heart got married, she kept her last name. During the early 1980s they lived in Virginia before moving to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they have lived since. Gilna is currently the executive director of the Volunteer Center in Corpus Christi.

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