Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part Three)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Trapped in a subordinate position within society, Mary Lacy took pride in controlling the slaves within her household, using it as a way to forge her own identity. Women, such as Mary Lacy, were merely viewed “as a unit of production and reproduction under men’s dominance,” as they were denied the ability to form their own opinions or ideals as a whole.[1] The normative for women in society was to succumb to coverture: a concept that a “married woman had neither independent minds nor independent power.”[2] In an attempt to distinguish her place in the patriarchal realm, “[to] encompass [a] feeling of identification,” Lacy derived “principle and practicality” by believing herself to be an “owner” and “manager” of the slaves. In her letter to Bess on January 2 of 1857, she writes: “I had set my mind upon a little girl” to buy as a slave.[3] Disregarding the objectification set upon the child, Lacy’s use of “set my mind upon” infers that she finally felt like she was in control of something and had the “upper hand” to a decision made in the household—a rare find in a world where women’s traditional role operated completely separate from one of “work and politics.”[4] Lacy turned a trivial pursuit for a new worker in their household into an “almost universal dilemma,”[5] as ‘ordering’ these slaves served to be the one way in which she, as a slave-holder’s wife could exert her power where typically she would be “alienated from [her] own society,” trapped in a bubble within their household.[6] This dehumanizing treatment to those “racial[ly] inferior” of the white bourgeois class revealed in the language of Lacy’s writing served as a “feminine guise” to mask the desperation a woman felt to hold a place in society as a slave-holder’s wife.[7]

Screenshot of text from January 2, 1857 letter from Mary Lacy
Text from January 2, 1857 letter where Mary Lacy expresses her interest in acquiring a young girl as a slave. View the whole letter here.

Mary Lacy’s letters not only reveal the atrocious behavior of the slave-holding women at the time towards the slaves which occurred nearly every day in the 1860s in North Carolina, but they also have a strong tie to Davidson College which are unbreakable. As wife to a previous President at Davidson, her baneful acts are coincidentally elusive, as they are not actively publicized by the college. This contradicts the slogan embodied by the college, “#DAVIDSONTRUE”, one which according to the college marketing website is defined by “deep sincerity, unquestioned integrity, and fundamental decency.”[8] If truth at the college is such an “elusive” concept, then why must students excavate to uncover the racist actions committed by the former President’s family?[9] Mary Lacy’s letters serve as an important reminder that we, as Davidson students, bound by the Honor Code which serves as one of the defining principles at the college, are entitled to this information and that it is imperative, that no matter which class we are enrolled in, we learn the truth about the college’s history.


[1] Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Black and White Women of the Old South.” Within the Plantation Household (The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 46.

[2] Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Williamsburg, Virginia: University of North Carolina Press, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1980), 152-153.

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 113; Laura F. Edwards, “At the Threshold of the Plantation Household: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Southern Women’s History.” The Mississippi Quarterly 65, no. 4 (2012): 578.

[5] Jones, 115

[6] Fox-Genovese, 53.

[7] Fox-Genovese, 50; Fox-Genovese, 51.

[8] Davidson College, “#DAVIDSONTRUE” (Davidson: Davidson College, 2020), https://www.davidson.edu/about/davidsontrue.

[9] Ibid.


This is the third post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part Two)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Mary Lacy’s letters demonstrate her extreme ignorance as well towards blacks as a whole. Lacy reveals her husband’s utter exhaustion to “living in this country,” as he must complete tasks, such as making fires and feeding the animals, unsuitable to his high ranking position as President of the college.[1] She expresses that they “must conform to the ways of the people and buy [their] own servants,” a job that proves to be much harder than it appears to the Lacy family, despite serving as a ‘necessity’ in their privileged eyes.[2] On August 6, 1856, Lacy’s referral to her family friend’s plantation as a “favorite resort of Davidson professors and Davidson students” further establishes her dehumanizing angle towards those who work for her and her ignorance of the atrocious acts on the plantation.[3] In February of 1859, Lacy described an ‘incident’ in which a Davidson student’s belongings were stolen. A black man was whipped for this, despite “confess[ing] nothing” and another for merely “having a pistol.”[4] Lacy flits by this fallible case, stopping only to highlight how “poor Barry never got back his things.”[5] Lacy’s lack of acknowledgement towards the central issue of blatant racism shows her utter disrespect towards black people. The way in which Mary Lacy, wife to the former President at Davidson, glossed over such events raises a critical issue of the absence of general education and respect at the college towards human beings as a whole.

The vast difference in Lacy’s treatment towards her own children in comparison to those enslaved serves as evidence towards her sole focus on being the quintessential wife of a slave-holder. In her letter on August 6, 1856, she expressed desperation as one of her slaves fell ill: “Aunt Maria must needs make herself sick….she is a hard old case.”[6] In choosing the word “must needs,” Lacy called Maria out, turning the slave into the one culpable for being sick, making the bourgeois life even harder. Lacy even went to question if her slaves were actually ill, denying them right to a doctor, claiming that her “black baby” was “getting well without any doctor.”[7] In reality, it was common for slaves to suffer “internal conflict and stress” due to long hours they were subjected to in the household.[8] Lacy’s interactions with her own children described as “fractious” vastly differed to those with the slaves who were chastised for no valid reason.[9] Lacy paid no mind to her young kids who would “keep [her] busy [trying] to keep them from killing each other.”[10] Lacy’s differences in reaction to when her slaves fell ill, compared to when her own children acted out, highlights her dependence upon slaves to provide her a path to be a proper slave-holding wife.


[1] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Carlina Green et. al, “February, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[5] Carlina Green et. al, “February, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[6] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[7] Carlina Green et. al, “July 15, 1859.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[8] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 111.

[9] Carlina Green et. al, “July 2, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[10] Ibid.


This is the second post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

Guest Blogger: Alice Garner, “A Lady in the Shadow: The Elusive Truth Masked in the Bourgeois Society” (Part One)

This post was written by Alice Garner, a member of the Class of 2024, for an assignment in Dr. Devyn Spence Benson’s AFR 101: Introduction to Africana Studies class. For the past five years, the Africana Studies Department has collaborated with Davidson College Archives, Special Collections and Community to uncover the experiences of Black individuals at the college. Garner is an intended Psychology Major and possible Latin American Studies minor from Norwich, Vermont. Her interests include the intersection between the African diaspora and Latin American history and childhood developmental psychology.

Forced to uphold an innumerable set of standards, an ideal Southern lady was sculpted by the patriarchal society that surrounded her. In the 1860s, almost one in three North Carolinians were white slaveholders.[1] Although labor-intensive cash crops still played a staple role in the economy, many slaves served in white households. Mary Lacy, born in 1816 to a family of higher education, married Drury Lacy at age 33.[2] In 1855, her husband became President at Davidson College for five years. To pass free time and communicate with her close family, Lacy sent letters to her step-daughter, ‘Bess,’ from 1856 until 1859. Mary Lacy dedicated her time “garner[ing] respect in the private and public sphere” at her husband’s plantation who owned a family of slaves.[3] Cast in their husband’s shadow, women of this time were expected to be “gracious, fragile, and deferential to men whose protection [they were] dependent [upon].”[4]  Southern housewives relied on slaves to uphold their bourgeoisie status in society during the 1860s. The objectifying treatment to the slaves, revealed in Lacy’s writing, attests to the ignorance and disrespect of these upper-class white women, the gender normalities of the time, and the role religion played in society. Although held to a high regard in the public sphere, the disrespect of the Lacy family to their slaves highlighted within this document, questions Davidson’s commitment to transparency through the honor code.

Portrait of Mary Lacy (Photo found on HIS 306’s “The Mary Lacy Letters” website, linked at the end of this post.)

Lacy’s complete disregard to treat her slaves with basic respect is showcased in her letters by the pejorative language she used towards them. Enslaved peoples who worked within the household were commonly assigned jobs such as growing, preparing, and storing food and sewing.[5] “Little value [was] placed on [job] specialization,” yet this did not stop the slave-holding wives to label their servants—”maid,” “cook,” “nurse”—to categorize them.[6] Throughout Lacy’s letters, she refers to one of her servants as “Aunt,” a term for those of older age commonly used by white slave-holder wives.[7] These disrespectful names assigned to the slaves, implicate Lacy’s view—“incompetent, worthless, untidy, indolent, wasteful”—towards those who worked for her and the way in which she used these to make herself feel more competent.[8] In her letter on July 2, 1856, Lacy expresses her desire for Bess to “send round & get [her Zack]” (another slave).[9] Her phrasing dehumanizes the man, objectifying him as a form of transportation. Lacy writes to Bess about the process of finding a child they “could have bound” for “more reasonable terms,” referencing them as if they were products for sale, devaluing them as people.[10] When disappointed with the little girl they “expected to get,” Lacy brushed it off claiming that they would just have to “hunt for [another]” as there were a “great many to hire.”[11] “Hunt” is a term primarily used for animals and “great many to hire” makes it seem like those in the slave market are ‘desperate’ to be “hire[d].” Lacy creates a false reality for herself by stripping the slaves of their identity, allowing her to rise above and claim her wealthy status.


[1] Jeffery J. Crow, “Slavery” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

[2] Carlina Green et. al, “Introduction.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[3] Carlina Green et. al, “Slave Owning Women.” Mary Lacy Letters: (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[4] Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Black and White Women of the Old South.” Within the Plantation Household (The University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 104.

[5] Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family, from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 29.

[6] Jones, 112.

[7] Carlina Green et. al, “August 6, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[8] Jones, 113.

[9] Carlina Green et. al, “July 2, 1856.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[10] Carlina Green et. al, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).

[11] Carlina Green et. al, “December 12, 1858.”, “January 2, 1857.” Mary Lacy Letters (Davidson: WordPress, 2017).


This is the first post in a three-part series about Mary Lacy, the wife of Drury Lacy, the third President of Davidson College. In our collection, we are fortunate to retain a collection of Lacy Family Papers, which includes correspondence from Mary Lacy to her step-daughter Bess. In Spring 2017, Dr. Rose Stremlau’s History 306: “Women and Gender in U.S. History to 1870” class transcribed, annotated, and analyzed these letters. Their work can be found on this website. To view digitized items from the Lacy Family Papers, please explore Digital Davidson, our platform to view born-digital and digitized versions of archival materials, special collections, and college scholarship.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 2

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 second post, we will highlight how three of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses, churches, and neighborhoods 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, Margaret Potts, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark, and local recreational facilities. Our second narrator, Mildred Workman, sheds light on downtown businesses and dining practices. Lastly, our third narrator, Mildred Thompson, discusses the Brady’s Alley fire which devastated several African American families in Davidson, NC shortly after World War II.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 154: Interview with Margaret Potts, January 2, 2001

Black and white image of the front of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Image of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Interviewer: How did you end up at the Sunday school [at the mill chapel]? 

Margaret Potts: Well I was teaching Sunday school in Davidson Presbyterian Church, early.  They wanted me to have the little ones, the two in, whatever hours it was, babysitting more than anything else, in the old church.  It was a terrible place to have little children.  But anyway, so just through the years, I would teach Sunday school and do things like that, whatever needed to be done.  And so, some of the students, some real good students here at Davidson took on the mill project.  And they got anybody that they could get to go and help there.  And of course, I knew a lot of the people over there, so I was willing to help.  (laughter) And until I went off to go to college, and then I had to stop doing that.  [Page 26]

On recreation in Davidson:

Davidsonian article from 1920 stating: "The Mill Sunday School is quite elated over the new playground equipment provided by Dr. Munroe and his associates. A considerable quantity of open-air gymnasium equipment, such as is found in city parks, has been received. The apparatus consists of swing."
April 29, 1920 Davidsonian article discussing the construction of a gymnasium for mill children.
Margaret Potts: Well, I liked the track meets; oh I loved the track meets.  I didn’t miss a single one of those.  And in the summertime, we used to come out, and [00:49:00] they would let us -- not complain, if we played.  We never did anything terrible.  But on this very spot, right here, where this library is, they had this tremendous jungle gym for adults.  And what, where they got that, I don’t know whose idea it was to put that thing together.  It was metal, big metal things, put together, and it had a ladder that went up two stories and it went all the way across.  Now this is was when I was a child.  It had -- was hanging down, and a place for you to sit, and you could swing back and forth.  It had the most interesting jungle gym I’ve ever seen.  They let us play on that.  We used to spend hours over here.  I think the -- [00:50:00] what was behind?  The gym was behind it.  And it was in front of the gym.

On Dining in Davidson:

AUDIO 158: Interview with Mildred Workman, January 11, 2001

September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
Mildred Workman: Absolutely no place.   
Interviewer: No place? 
Mildred Workman: No.  There was a little place called the Coffee Cup down on -- what’s the street where Jasper’s is? 
Interviewer: Depot. 
Mildred Workman: Depot.  Down on Depot Street.  It was just kind of a little greasy spoon.  You could get decent breakfast there.  But I remember when we moved in -- we moved in as I recall on Saturday.  And we inquired where we could go for Sunday lunch of the C.K. Browns, and they said, well, there really was not anywhere.  You must come to The Browns and have Sunday dinner.  And there was no place near around to go.  You had to go to Charlotte.  And there wasn’t much in Charlotte.

On the Brady’s Alley Fire of 1949:

AUDIO 159: Interview with Mildred Thompson, January 17, 2001

Photograph of the Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Interviewer: I know.  Asking about, or mentioning Carl reminds me, do you remember a fire in 1949 in Brady’s Alley, (inaudible) – 

Mildred Thompson: Oh, yeah, I sure do.  I remember that like it was yesterday.  Carl was the minister, and Carl was the one that, I’m not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure, he’s the one that started that children’s sermon before church, you know, that called the children down.  I think he started that, because I can remember him seeing him come down out of the pulpit, and the little children would just listen, and they’d turn around and say to their parents, “Is that true?  Is that true?”  When Carl was telling the story.  

But anyway, about that, it was almost time for church to be over, and this fire started, and the fire was just blowing, blowing.  And of course, everybody was apprehensive, “Where is it?”  Well anyway, it was down in that alley; that was pathetic.  Those people, I don’t know where they had water, I don’t know what they had, but what they had was pretty bad.  And so Carl, after that he went down there and he investigated everything, and he told, he got in the church, and he said, “I refuse to preach in a church where the shadow of the church falls on poverty.”  Honey, that afternoon, he took the young people around, it was terrible.  Honey, he really turned this place around. [Page 9 -10]

Each of the five interviews featured in this two-part series are more than one hour long, meaning the vignettes you have read represent only a small part of these individuals’ stories. Now that researchers will be able to keyword search our newly produced transcripts, we hope others will have easier access to these rich narratives.

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

Works Cited:

Potts, Margaret. Interview by the Davidson College Archives. January 2, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 154. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Workman, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 11, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 158. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Thompson, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 17, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 159. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

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.

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). 

Guest Blogger: Sadie Harden on “Women’s Work?”

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.

Despite popular belief, the first Davidson women did not suddenly appear on campus the day the college became co-educational. Women have always played an important part in the town formerly known as Davidson College, long before the trustees voted to allow women to enroll as degree-seeking students in 1972. The involvement of women in community life is most obviously seen in their contributions to and leadership within Davidson College Presbyterian Church, a cornerstone of campus and community social life particularly in the nineteenth century. 

Minutes of the Ladies Benevolent Society, February 27, 1880. Members discuss meeting a Mrs. Helper's house and officer appointments.
Minutes of the Ladies Benevolent Society, February 27, 1880. Found in manuscript collection DC023: Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Women of the Church.

One such example of women influencing and participating in communal religious life in Davidson is the Ladies Benevolent Society. Officially founded on February 27th, 1880 by a group of local church women (primarily wives of college faculty or local businessmen), the organization aimed to serve the community, largely through sewing and donating clothes.1 As recorded in the February 1880 minutes, the group would usually meet at a member’s house where attendance would be taken, the minutes of the previous meeting would be read, the sewing work would be distributed, and the next meeting time would be agreed upon.2 Most notably, those women in the society who did not receive any sewing work for the week and who were able would pay five cents to this society instead.3 

This relatively concise primary source contains clues about how women organized and wielded power within their social sphere. Within this collection of recorded meeting minutes spanning from February of 1880 to August of 1881, the women discuss finances, organizational questions, and the appointment of various women to various roles within the society. At a time where women would have been expected to remain within their separate sphere of the home while it would have been socially acceptable for men to engage in conducting business and managing finances, the women of this society were able to exercise power through organizing independently of their husbands for religious purposes.  

Minutes of the Ladies Benevolent Society, May 7, 1880. ecretary Minnie Helper writes on May 7th, 1880, “Those who are willing will pay .05 or more if so disposed for the month of June instead of doing the work."
Minutes of the Ladies Benevolent Society, May 7, 1880. Found in manuscript collection DC023: Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Women of the Church.

When decisions about personal finances are recorded in the Ladies Benevolent Society minutes, it is only in reference to the particular woman who is a member of the society, not mentioning husbands as a consideration. For example, Secretary Minnie Helper writes on May 7th, 1880, “Those who are willing will pay .05 or more if so disposed for the month of June instead of doing the work…”4 Though to what extent is unclear, the women of this society had influence over how money in their family was spent, and it appears they were confident enough in that influence to write it into the regulations of the Society. Additionally, this addendum points to the value of these women’s unpaid labor. The five cent donation was seen as equivalent to the sewing and garment work other women were performing for the Society, demonstrating one way the work of women functioned within the small-town economy. 

The Ladies Benevolent Society serves as an example of how women in nineteenth-century Davidson broke the mold that dictated the spheres that women of their time were expected to operate within.