Guest Blogger: Stefan Moskowitz on “Music Education in the Town of Davidson”

In Fall 2019, Archives, Special Collections, & Community (ASCC) had the privilege of working with Dr. Rose Stremlau’s “HIS 306: Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” course. Over the course of a semester, students researched the history of women and gender in the greater Davidson, North Carolina area using materials in the Davidson College Archives and other local organizations. The following series of blog posts highlights aspects of their research process.

My name is Stefan Moskowitz, a senior at Davidson who is majoring in Latin American Studies and minoring in Gender & Sexuality Studies. Some of my other academic interests include US history and the factors that influence the culture of different regions of the country. 

Music education became an important part of the cultural fabric of the town of Davidson and other nearby towns such as Statesville, during the latter part of the 19th century, particularly among the upper classes. Aside from being used as a class marker to separate the upper classes from everyone else, music education also provided a source of entertainment on weekends to several residents of the area. This type of education became prevalent in the public’s consciousness to the extent that local media outlets were actively providing coverage of recitals featuring the performances of college-aged students and residents. 

Excerpt from the Statesville Record and Landmark dated March 19, 1897. The text describes the coeducational music program led by Miss Eulalia Cornelius.
Excerpt from the Statesville Record and Landmark, March 19, 1897. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection.

The content in the image above focuses on a coeducational music program run by Miss Eulalia Cornelius, a resident of Statesville at the time the article was published in March of 1897. Some time after graduating from the conservatories of Boston and Berlin, she taught music classes in several towns of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, including in the town of Davidson. A local correspondent of the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper reported on one of the live performances that took place on a Saturday night at the residence of Mr. Stirewalt, presumably a wealthy figure in the area. The report attributed the positive reception of the performance to Ms. Cornelius’s skills as a teacher in addition to her success during her studies at the Boston and Berlin conservatories. 

Ms. Cornelius’s program was available to both Davidson students (which at the time of the publication were entirely white and male) and to young women of the village, which was rather progressive for the time these events took place. However, it is likely that young women’s participation in the program helped form the intersection between their gender identity and class position, which was only true regarding the latter in the case of men. One reason for why the study of music was associated with femininity at the time is because it was not seen as a practical means to a career path. This was intensified by the fact that most professional musicians at the time were men, given that conservatories were prejudicial to admitting women into their programs. 

Works Cited:

“Miss Cornelius Music School at Davidson.” Statesville Record and Landmark Statesville, North Carolina (March 19, 1987) p. 3 (Downloaded on October 1, 2019). 

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