Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 1

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this first post, we will highlight how two of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses and churches near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic. Our first narrator, Patricia Sailstad, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark. Our second narrators, E.M. and Dolly Hicks, shed light on labor relations in the South through the lens of the Davidson Cotton Mill, now known as the Hurt Hub.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 107: Interview with Patricia Sailstad, April 1997

Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.
Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.

Patricia Sailstad: And I remember the first time we ever had an integrated World Day of Prayer, and I went with Ms. Maude, and it was over at the little Methodist Church that has the log cabin next to it.  Oh, gosh.  Well, it’s…this is not the black church there.  This is the one behind it.  It was a white church at the time. But they decided they would have refreshments.  

And actually, this was...  But it was the first time they’d had black and white together, and after the ceremony we went to their little log cabin, which was right next to it.  You’ll see the church; it’s a Methodist church, I think.  Now it is a [00:40:00] black church, but it was white at the time.  And so there we were (inaudible) standing up.  We weren’t sitting down, eating.  And Ms. Maude said, “You know, Mrs. Sailstad.”  She looked around at the black and the white together, all chatting.  She said, “I think this is what heaven must be like.” [Pages 23 – 24]

On the Davidson Cotton Mill:

AUDIO 150: Interview with E.M. Hicks and Dolly Hicks, September 18, 2000

The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
¬¬Dolly Hicks: At one time we had a union that picketed, trying to get the union in at the old Davidson Cotton Mill…I remember from down the street cars just -- But we weren’t allowed up there because there was trouble going on up there -- Up at the mill, so you can see it from right where -- back then it looked like a hundred miles, but it’s only, [00:30:00] what, not very far at all, half a block.  (laughs) But they did have some over there.   Now, [Beatrice?] might could tell you more about that -- but I remember it very distinctly, because we were not very young at that point…’cause I was born in ’25.  It would probably be in the early ’30s…But the union or something came in, something they were doing up there, and there was cars, and seems like somebody got hurt.  
 
E.M. Hicks: They had the flying [00:31:00] squadron.  Had a flying squadron came out of the North, and they were coming down through the South, and they were going to organize the South.  And so they came through Greensboro.  Now, this would have been the ’30s. And they came through Greensboro, because Cone Mills was in Greensboro, and we were out -- I lived close to Cone Mills.  And this flying squadron came down there, and I remember very well -- you know, it was different back in those days.  I was freer to get out and go where I wanted to than most kids my age.  And so I wanted to see what was going on.  I went out to Cone Mills, [00:32:00] and I could walk out there easily.  And I got out there, and the cops wouldn’t let me -- get close.  They kept me back.  But in those days the cops wore leather leggings. And so these people who were fighting the cops, some of them were the employees, see, and the others were imports, and they’d take an apple and stick a razor blade down in it, you know, and then if you take your fingers and put it on the wrong side of the razor blade so it would be [toward it?], and throw that thing, and when it would hit these guys on the legs, it cut their [00:33:00] leggings.  It cut their leggings. It was rough.  I mean, it was kind of tough.  But anyhow, the cops won, and they left Greensboro, came on down this way.  They got to Gastonia.  That’s where the big one was.  You can find that on the record, because they had machine guns up on the buildings, and they were sitting up there with machine guns. [Pages 66 – 70]

In part 2 of 2 of this blog post series, we will provide another look at the Lingle Hut, culture surrounding the cotton mills, downtown eateries, and a devastating fire.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Sailstad, Patricia. Interview by Jim Smith, Heather Baker, John Thornberry. April 1997. “Common Ground Oral History Project.” Audiotape Collection 107. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Hicks, E.M. and Dolly Hicks. Interview by Jan Blodgett. September 18, 2000. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 150. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

“(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories” Week One Update

As mentioned in the previous blog post about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, Archives and Special Collections is proud to present the initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we aim to document the personal experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during the COVID-19 epidemic. We invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away.

We’ve had a wonderful start to this project and here are some highlights of the first contributions!

Wearing face masks to go outside and to go shopping has become the temporary new normal. Many people are wearing homemade masks as seen by contributions from Annelise Gorensek-Benitez (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry), Molly Kunkel (Digital Archivist; “Shopping Essentials”), and Ann Haley and Shaw Smith (Joel O. Conarroe Professor of Art History).

We are also delighted to see contributions of creative works, including a painting from community member Dr. Edward L. Boye and original poetry from Lisa Forest (Leland M. Park Director of E.H. Little Library) and Anthony S. Abbott (Professor of English Emeritus).

Painting of castle.
“Finding Your Castle” by Dr. Edward L. Boye

A huge thank you to those who have submitted thus far! If you would like to view more contributions or would like to contribute an item to the “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories,” please visit the site.

(Re)Collecting the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and COVID-19 in Davidson

On September 18, 1918, the fall term of the 1918-1919 academic year began at Davidson. Three weeks later on October 9, 1918, The Davidsonian reported that the college experienced “a severe visitation” of Spanish influenza. From the report of the first case, new cases began to emerge rapidly. The infirmary, although equipped with medical equipment and staff, quickly became overrun with patients. To more adequately attend to the sick, the Chambers building, the main academic building on campus (which also had two wings set aside as dormitories), was turned into a makeshift hospital. At first, only the first floor of the south wing was used to house the sick. However, cases continued to appear and the second and third floors of the wing were quickly repurposed as hospital wards (“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson”).

Chambers as built.
Old Chambers (Burned in 1921)

With an ever-increasing volume of cases, campus administration decided to suspend class for three weeks and to place campus under quarantine. To care for the sick, the entire Davidson community offered support. Nurses attended to the ill, the women of the Davidson Red Cross Chapter provided meals and necessary supplies, and Davidson professors took regular shifts to assist in any way they could. One individual, presumably a student (and possibly one of those infirmed) remarked about this extraordinary support offered by the community in the October 9, 1918 Davidsonian (“Editorial”).

The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918
The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918

These combined efforts worked. Remarkably, the next issue of The Davidsonian (October 23, 1918), reported that after three weeks of cases of the Spanish flu on campus, the epidemic was practically over. In total, over 200 cases of the flu were reported and those remaining were rapidly recovering (“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College”). However, one student, Daniel J. Currie of Defuniac Springs, Florida, did pass away from pneumonia, which was likely resultant from the influenza. Nurse Laura Rose Stevenson of Charlotte treated patients at Davidson and also died of pneumonia (“In Memoriam”).

While the college was rocked by the flu, the Town of Davidson was as well. The sick were treated in their homes, cotton mills and schools temporarily shut down, and the town was placed under quarantine. The October 23, 1918 issue of The Davidsonian included notices of townspeople affected by the influenza (“Town Items”).

The Davidsonian, October 23, 1918

Like in the case of the college, the Red Cross provided assistance to the Town of Davidson. In total, over 150 cases were reported in the town. There were at least five deaths from pneumonia, most of which were African American (“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved”). The next week, in the November 6, 1918 Davidsonian, it is reported that the town’s quarantine had been lifted and that mills had resumed work (“‘Flu Situation In Town Continues to Improve).

Although the events of the Spanish flu epidemic occurred over 100 years ago, we find ourselves in a very similar situation today with COVID-19. What can we learn by reflecting on Davidson’s response to the Spanish flu?

I think it is this: It takes all of us to get through it. In 1918, this was evident in medical personnel, townspeople, and the college community coming together to help one another. In 2020, we can see the same thing occurring. We are helping each other by tending to the ill, by donating supplies, by abiding stay-at-home orders, by offering each other emotional support. The list goes on and on. We are all trying our best to help each other get through it. And I think that is worth everything.

As Davidson adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are challenged to develop new ways to engage and interact with our community. Davidson College Archives, Special Collections & Community, which regularly collects, shares, and preserves the college’s and community’s unique stories, would like to document the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during these uncertain times. To this end, we are excited to present our initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away. To learn more about “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories, please visit the site.

Works Cited

“Editorial.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation In Town Continues to Improve.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 6 Nov. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181106.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 30 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181030.pdf.

“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

“In Memoriam.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

Guest Blogger: Meggie Lasher, Research and Academic Engagement Librarian, “Do I Need to Wear White Gloves?: A story of a new ASCC enthusiast”

I was once entirely intimidated by working in archives and with special collections

Yes, it’s true! A lot of this anxiety came from my preconceived notions about what goes on in these spaces and collections. For example, the whole concept of special and rare. Just hearing those words made me feel I would be a burden and make a mess. When I thought of working with special collections and archival material, I dreamed up visions of pencils and white gloves, no beverages, sub zero temperatures, and perpetual shushing. Special and rare meant exclusionary and breakable. Fortunately, this apprehension has not only subsided, but has since been entirely replaced by an overwhelming enthusiasm for archives and special collections. I owe this metamorphosis entirely to Sharon Byrd and DebbieLee Landi of the Archives, Special Collections, and Community department at the Library. I’d like to share this experience to help others shed their apprehension and expand their intellectual (and often entertaining) experiences.

Mount Holyoke College Archives

My past experiences with archives began as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Western Massachusetts. Also founded in 1837, the college has an extensively documented and rich history. Underneath one of the oldest buildings on campus was this hobbit house of a space. Round windows with light, long wooden tables, and smiling people! Who knew?! I had a special introduction to working with archival materials that may be familiar to a few readers: crafternoon! The head archivist led afternoon activities with themed crafts throughout the semester. My favorite was by far creating postcards from copies of old photographs, course catalogs, and other campus publications. Participating in these crafternoons helped me feel part of the community and the history of the college.  While in graduate school at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, I met many future archivists. Often in awe of their dedication, I found their program of study to be demanding. The Archives and Records Management track was rigorous and precise. They had to follow a specific course sequence to prepare them for their field. I got to dabble in all the arts of library science. (Yes, there was a class in the art of a good book recommendation!)

During a summer seminar in London, I met future archivists from other institutions. They could barely contain their excitement during one afternoon excursion to the Metropolitan Archives of London. Yes, they hold records for the entire city and its history. Some of the special collections librarians there set up a special room of materials for us to peruse. Sitting on a folding table was the census for the city of London in 1092.  Yep, just sitting there! We could touch it! It was probably a foot high and I remember an interesting odor… This experience on a spring afternoon in London fueled those feelings of wonder and awe that can only come from those special things that once intimidated me.

Meggie Lasher with London’s Big Ben as the background

Sharon and DebbieLee have since secured my now positive associations with Archives and Special Collections. We worked as a team to seize a unique opportunity. We opened the Rare Book Room to an ANT 101 course last spring. Some students had visited before, but for many others it was their first time in the RBR as we fondly call it. We created a session that introduced anthropological research methods through the resources at the library. Then, we gave students a hands-on experience unpacking a mystery from campus history. Just like archaeologists (a branch of anthropology), they handled objects found under an old building on campus. They got to share what they examined: a toothbrush, a piece of porcelain from a doll’s face, even bones! What could have been a point and click database demonstration became an interactive, exploratory session. 

Librarians and archivists love to share what we do in the classroom. I wrote a lesson plan that outlined what we did as a submission to one of my favorite series instruction “cookbooks” from the American College and Research Libraries branch of the American Libraries Association. There was a call for “recipes” for the Teaching in Archives and Special Collections Cookbook edition. While our submission was not accepted, I still view our collaboration as successful. I’m grateful that I get to work with such inspiring and open minded colleagues. Sharon and DebbieLee demonstrate how archives and special collections are for everyone, white gloves optional.

Hensley, Merinda, et al. “Analyzing Archival Intelligence: A Collaboration Between Library Instruction and Archives.” Communications in Information Literacy, vol. 8, no. 1, July 2014, 

doi:10.15760/comminfolit.2014.8.1.155.

Mhcarchives. “‘Day in the Library Life’ Challenge image from the Archives Desk,” Instagram, 3 Nov. 2015.
                 

www.instagram.com/p/9pPYj7sxhj/

Other images is author’s own.

Guest Blogger: Dr. Annie Merrill, Thomson Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of English, “Dr. H. W. Marbourg, Botanizer”

Dr. Annie Merrill is currently writing a book on popular botany in the 19th-century United States.

In my research, I’ve studied hundreds of nineteenth-century American flower books, from tiny flower language dictionaries to lavishly illustrated folios of US flora.  Their contents have much to tell us about scientific education, natural history, and botanical popular culture at that time.  An individual book’s unique features such as inscriptions and marginalia also convey fascinating stories.

Title page, 1855 edition of Wood’s Class Book of Botany

Hezekiah Wilson Marbourg was born in 1833 in Indiana county, Pennsylvania.  He attended Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg) and received an M.D. from Jefferson Medical College in 1858 (Pennsylvania College 361).  During the Civil War, he was stationed on Roanoke Island as a surgeon for the U.S. Army (Portrait and Biographical Record 150).  As the copious marginalia and pressed specimens in his copy of Wood’s Class-Book indicate, he was also one of the many amateur botanists in the 19thcentury US.

Example of Marbourg’s marginalia: “Rhoanoke Island N.C. May 5 1865. Beautiful.”

His marginalia all appear in the Flora section – a precursor to today’s field guides – and note a date and location, occasionally with a brief comment like “beautiful” or “pretty.”  The earliest one is dated April 25, 1857: as a medical student, he likely “botanized” for recreation, recording the plants he encountered.  He didn’t go far afield to find them; locations from 1857-58 include Logan Square and Franklin Square in Philadelphia and the Cement Quarry in Johnstown, PA.

Marbourg returned to Johnstown after the war and remarried in 1872, to Esther Nippes, also an M.D.  They established a joint medical practice, and in the 1870s and 1880s Marbourg still noted a few plants in his Class-Book.  The last marginalium appears next to the entry on the Smiling Wake-Robin (Trillium erythrocarpum), which he found on May 2, 1888 at the Cambria Furnaces, part of Johnstown’s largest steel and iron works.  Marbourg died a year later in the Great Johnstown Flood of May, 1889 (Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia 142).

A wide range of people were amateur botanists in the nineteenth century, and most of them “never wrote anything, or made a cent from botany, or joined an institution, or subscribed to a botanically inclined periodical” (Keeney 11).  But at least one of them took the time to record his findings in his book, and that book still speaks to us today.

A close up of a newspaper

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One of the plants that Marbourg pressed in his copy of Wood’s Class-Book.

References:

Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: Union Publishing, 1896.

Keeney, Elizabeth.  The Botanizers: Amateur Scientists in Nineteenth-Century America.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Pennsylvania College Alumni Association.  General Report Made to the Alumni Association of Pennsylvania College.  Gettysburg: H. C. Neinstedt, 1860.

Portrait and Biographical Record of the State of Colorado.  Chicago: Chapman, 1899.

Wood, Alphonso.  Class-Book of Botany.  Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1855.

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “Measured in millimeters: Miniature books at Davidson”

The other day I read an article about “micro” apartments being built in Charlotte’s South End. The square footage of these space conscious dwellings start at under 400 square feet. For some perspective, that’s only slightly larger than a double occupancy dorm room on campus. As a fan of shows like “Tiny House Hunters” and “Container Homes” I am very familiar and fascinated by this mini mode of living. However, when imagining my life in downsized digs I always have one concern: where would I put all my books? Right now bookshelves cover at least half of my walls and those shelves are at (and over) capacity. I have books stashed in cabinets, closets, and boxes. Needless to say I have a storage problem already. So what is a bibliophile with a penchant for tiny homes to do? Enter the miniature book!

Miniature books are typically defined as books that are smaller than 4 inches tall. They can have all the same elements as non-mini books such as hardback covers, illustrations, chapters, etc., just on a smaller scale. Davidson’s Library has several examples of miniature books in its collection and many more were recently added thanks to a donation from the estate of Wilbur L. Fugate (class of 1934). Titles from the donation include a mini “Merchant of Venice”, a diminutive dictionary, and a bitty biography of the composer Handel just to name a few.

From left to right: Miniature “The merchant of Venice” with a full sized copy of “The tempest” for size comparison ; “The little Webster” dictionary is less than 2 inches tall ; a biography of Handel from the Petite Library series.

There is some debate as to when the miniature book originated and for what purpose. Some say the first miniature books appeared during the Middle Ages. These were predominately Bibles, hymnals, and devotional literature used for daily religious practice. Some of these books were so small they became known as “thumb Bibles.” The smallest miniature book in the library’s collection is a Bible which barely measures 1.5 inches tall. That Bible is not from the Middle Ages, but the library’s earliest miniature book was printed in 1808. “Wisdom in miniature” describes itself as a “collection of sentences divine and moral” for young gentlemen and ladies on piety, obedience, calm behavior, and other basic tenets of early 19th century society.

Because small books could be produced en masse and easily distributed, many were used for sales and advertising purposes. “The pocket carpet bag,” much like its namesake, was inexpensive and easy to travel with. Although there are some stories, most of the pages are filled with advertisements for goods and services. And since their small size made them more travelable, mini books became popular souvenirs. Want to remember your trip to D.C.? Then grab “Washington in Miniature” and marvel at the petite pictures of the capital’s major sites.

On the left: “Washington in miniature” with drawings by artists from the Rochon Hoover Studio. On the right: “The pocket carpet bag” with full color illustration on the front cover.


So will miniature books solve all our storage problems? Probably not. But they are just so much fun to look at! To view the books mentioned in this post, or any of the other miniature books in the library’s collection, email archives@davidson.edu to make an appointment.  Let’s hope that this COVID-19 quarantine ends soon!

Guest Blogger: Tracey Hagan on “The Ladies Missionary Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church”

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.

Written by Tracey Hagan, a student-athlete senior psychology major from Ridgefield, CT. Student in History 306: Women and Gender in US History from to 1870.  

Davidson College Presbyterian Church (DCPC) began as a small congregation of six women, two male elders, Robert Hall Morrison as the leader, and fifteen Davidson students in 1837.1 As the Church grew, it became more than just a place for worship. The Church developed into a social institution for its members, specifically for the women of the church.  

The Ladies Missionary Society Constitution was created in 1885. In its first year, Mrs. Dupuy was nominated president, Mrs. Knox was vice president, and Mrs. Vinson was secretary. The constitution contains a preamble and twelve articles. The articles provide the details about what was to happen at each meeting of the society. According to the constitution, they were to meet at a minimum on a monthly basis to discuss selected articles about other missionary works in America, Asia, and Europe or Africa. Generally, the meetings consisted of attendance, reading, singing, general business discussion, and the president’s appointment of the readers for the next meeting.  

First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885. Establishes the name and officer positions of the society.
First page of the constitution of the Ladies Benevolent Society of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, 1885.

This three-page constitution alone shows that the white women of Davidson in 1885 had a much more hands on role in DCPC than what was expected from the Presbyterian Church norms of that era. Women’s roles in the Presbyterian Church in general were limited to leading Sunday schools, attracting new members, running women’s prayer meetings and church organizations, furnishing the church and raising her own family.2 Women were not to be active members in the church, or hold any leadership positions.3 Despite the General Assembly’s restrictions on women’s roles within the church, the Davidson women formed this society.  

They wrote the constitution and ran this entire group on their own. In this way, this society gave them a position of power outside of the traditional roles and domestic sphere to which the Church and societal traditions confined them. The society also served as a form of group education. The members were essentially given homework assignments to learn about other missionary works across the country, and across continents. In this way, this society served to empower its members. It is important to note that not all the women of the town were members. As outlined article 8 in the constitution, members were strongly encouraged to give monthly donations to the society. This monetary element of the society may have made it so only affluent white women in Davidson could be members. While this society certainly gave white women in Davidson some more power in their lives, it did not extend this opportunity to all the women of the town.  

Works Cited:

[1] Beaty, Mary D. A History of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church . Davidson College Presbyterian Church, n.d.

[2] Boyd, Lois A. “Presbyterian Ministers’ Wives—A Nineteenth-Century Portrait.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 1 (1981): 3-17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328155.

[3] Brackenridge, R. Douglas, and Lois A. Boyd. “United Presbyterian Policy on Women and the Church—an Historical Overview.” Journal of Presbyterian History (1962-1985) 59, no. 3 (1981): 383-407. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23328186.

Guest Blogger: Tommy Bohannon on “A Girl of the Seventies – Domestic Labor and Women at Davidson College in the Mid-Late 19th Century”

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.

Tommy Bohannon is a senior Biology major and History minor at Davidson College. He is extremely excited about working on this archival research in order to better grasp an understanding of the role women have played in Davidson’s history.

In order to contextualize the history of Davidson College in the mid-19th century, it is important to recognize that the town was very small and relatively isolated from populated urban locations. The relationship between the town and the college was extremely strong, and societal traditions were largely based on family units. When visitors came into town, they stayed with the families that lived there – no hotels were available to accommodate their presence. Women in these families were expected to be gracious hosts, and extensive pressure was put upon them to entertain visitors despite a general lack of resources to do so. 

The A Girl of the Seventies article in the Davidson College archives goes into detail about how women were forced to play the role of the hospitable mother and wife in the years between 1869-1875. According to the record, “there was no market,” but rather “one or two small groceries supplied the heavier items of food,” with items like “eggs, butter, chickens, fresh beef, mutton, or pork,” coming from local individuals with strong personal ties.1 To have a grand feast was a special occasion, one that women were pressured into perfecting. In one instance, a local woman apologized to a visiting Governor, believing that her food was “too simple for such a distinguished guest.” The pressure on Davidson women to prepare extravagant feasts for visitors was extremely high, especially given the lack of options in terms of food sources.  

Newspaper article titled "A Girl of the Seventies." The article goes into detail about dinner parties and lodgings provided by women in the town of Davidson in the late 19th century.

Article written by Lucy Phillips Russell and found in the DC0157s manuscript collection in the Davidson College Archives. The content describes conditions in Davidson in the late 19th century.

Guests were treated with the utmost respect and were typically welcomed even if they appeared unannounced. In one circumstance where a woman was noted to have objected unexpected guests, she told her husband that all she had for them to eat was “some mush and milk,” to which they obliged and ate with gusto.2 Visitors were polite, likely understanding the difficulties that women encountered in trying to assemble grand dinners. These difficulties were normalized in the town of Davidson, and women were expected to fulfill the role of being gracious hosts without complaining. 

This source will be extremely useful in noting the domestic labor of women in the town of Davidson. With descriptions of the roles that women played in acquiring food products and producing them for their families and occasional visitors, this source would inform my research on the role that women played in food production in the Antebellum South. The norm of women being subjected to domestic labor was extremely ingrained in the history of Davidson College, and this source is great for recognizing the extent of that subjugation. 

Works Cited:

“A Girl of the Seventies.” DC0157s Lucy Phillips Russell Collection. Davidson College Archives.

Guest Blogger: Tindall Adams on “Trailblazing Teachers: Davidson’s First Female Teacher”

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.

Tindall Adams is a current sophomore and prospective English major (with a History minor). She is involved with other organizations on campus such as Warner Hall and Planned Parenthood Generation Action.  

Today, a little over half of the professors at Davidson College are female; however, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1896, Eulalia Cornelius became the first female teacher at Davidson.1 Although she was not a regular, full-time faculty member, Cornelius was evidently well-regarded by the Davidson community for her musical talents and teaching.  

As a female teacher in the 1890s, Eulalia Cornelius was teaching during a unique and influential period of education history. In the late nineteenth century, society began to promote the notion that teaching functioned as an “extension of mothering”.2 Additionally, religious institutions also began to promote the idea that women were the “moral sex” in order to increase female church attendance and support of the church.3 During this period, the main function of school was to teach children moral values and women’s expected role was to raise children. Therefore, society increasingly viewed teaching as a natural and acceptable job for women.4 Specifically in North Carolina, where Eulalia Cornelius taught, southern Progressive men advocated for the higher education of women because they believed it could help spur economic progress in the post-Civil War South.5  

Program for a public recital led by Eulalia Cornelius. Features duets, solos, and instrumental performances.
Recital program from the manuscript collection, DC0324s.

The Davidson Archives currently has a program from a music recital given by Cornelius. Eulalia Cornelius not only gave private voice lessons to Davidson students, but to women who lived in the town as well. Therefore, all of her students were most likely white and were in a fairly well-off financial position if they could afford private music lessons. The program is nicely printed, and has a least ten different “pupils” performing at the recital. While there is no mention of this March 21, 1898 recital in newspapers from the time, there is mention of a Eulalia Cornelius recital in 1897 in the Statesville Record and Landmark newspaper. The paper highly praises Cornelius’ skills as a teacher.

Newspaper clipping from the Statesville Record and Landmark. Describes Eulalia Cornelius' music lessons.
Excerpt from the Statesville Record and Landmark, March 19, 1897. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection.

There is no mention of Cornelius in any Davidson College Faculty minutes from the late nineteenth century. Therefore, this recital program, which could initially seem trivial, brings light to an important part of women’s history at Davidson. Although she was not a full-time employee, Cornelius was one of the first women to teach at Davidson. This recital sheet, supplemented by many other newspaper articles praising her skills, gives her recognition of her success as a teacher.  

Works Cited:

Cott, Nancy F. “Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850.” Signs 4, no. 2 (1978): 219-236. 

Davidson Archives. “Active and Benevolent Ladies: A Short History of Women at Davidson College.” Davidson College Library. Accessed November 8, 2019. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/women/#staff

Hoffman, Nancy. “‘Inquiring after the Schoolmarm’: Problems of Historical Research on Female Teachers.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 22, no. 1/2 (1994): 104–18. 

Laud, Leslie E. “Moral Education In America: 1600s-1800s.” The Journal of Education 179, no. 2 (1997): 1-10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42741719

McCandless, Amy Thompson. “Progressivism and the Higher Education of Southern Women.” The North Carolina Historical Review 70, no. 3 (1993): 302–25. 

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).