Monday, September 26, 2016

The Liberty Ship, S.S. Charles D. McIver

On May 23, 1943, the North Carolina Ship Building Company, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, launched its 100th Liberty Ship, the S.S. Charles D. McIver. As founder and first president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and a fierce advocate of public education for women, McIver was a natural choice for a commemorative Liberty Ship. He was one of several North Carolina educators to have this honor. Initially named after notable deceased Americans, the ships names’ eventually included men and women, of all ranks, who were lost in the war. Naming opportunities came to those who raised two million dollars in war bonds.

The S.S. Charles Duncan McIver, 1943*

On the day that the S.S. Charles D. McIver was launched, high-ranking representatives of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, along with local dignitaries, gathered for the festivities in Wilmington, which was broadcasted on the radio. The shipyard band played as the newly christened ship slipped into the water. For glamor, Hollywood actress Constance Bennett was in attendance to present the shipyard with an award for its exceptional purchases of war bonds. Launching its first Liberty Ship only hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Wilmington shipyard was considered one of the best producers of these types of ships in the United States. The yard boasted over 20,000 employees and the ability to deliver up to ten ships per month.

Actress Constance Bennett attends the launching ceremony at the Wilmington Shipyard, May 25, 1943**

Based on a British design, Liberty Ships were basic cargo vessels built by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II. The first of these “Emergency Cargo” ships was launched on September 27, 1941, with President Franklin Roosevelt in attendance. Named the S.S. Patrick Henry, who is well remembered for his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, the president expected these ships to bring liberty to Europe and they were dubbed accordingly. Liberty Ships were meant to be quickly and economically mass-produced, with parts manufactured throughout the country and then assembled at shipyards on the east and west coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Eighteen shipyards built over 2700 ships during the years between 1941 and 1945. Considered the “ugly ducklings” of the naval fleet, the Liberty Ships averaged 441 feet long with a crew of forty-four, holding almost 10,000 tons of cargo in addition to tanks, planes, and ammunition. Built to last only through the war, many of these ships survived, with over 800 incorporated into the United States cargo fleet, and others sold to Italy and Greece. Several ships continued to serve into the 1970s, and currently, two are used as museums. Sadly, the S.S. Charles D. McIver did not fare as well. On March 22, 1945, it sank after striking a mine as it left Antwerp, Belgium. A full rescue was made by a British motor minesweeper and a motor torpedo boat, which rescued the Merchant Marine crew and the armed guard also on board. The S.S. Charles D. McIver was later written off as a total loss.

*Image from the Charles D. McIver (Liberty Ship) subject file
** Image from The North Carolina Shipbuilder, June 1, 1943

Monday, September 19, 2016

Desegregating WC: Tillman, Smart, and the Long Road to Integration

This Fall semester marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the student body at the Woman's College (now UNCG). In the previous two weeks, we explored previous issues related to integrating campus facilities and services. Classes in Fall 1956 began on September 20th, and this week we will look at the debates over desegregation at Woman's College and in the UNC Consolidated University. 

On September 20, 1956 -- 60 years ago this week -- Fall semester classes began at Woman's College (now UNCG). And for the first time in its history, the WC student body included two African American women. JoAnne Smart and Bettye Ann Davis Tillman enrolled in the Fall of 1956 as freshmen at WC, becoming trailblazers in the desegregation of the WC campus. Both graduated with the Class of 1960.

Bettye Ann Davis Tillman
Bettye Ann Davis Tillman was a 19-year-old student from Wadesboro, NC. She graduated from the Anson County Training School, a segregated school aimed at providing education for rural African Americans. Tillman was voted "most likely to succeed" by her classmates and graduated as salutatorian of her class.

JoAnne Smart of Raleigh entered WC as a 17-year-old. She was president of her class at the segregated J. W. Ligon School, where she was also a cheerleader and member of the glee club. More on JoAnne Smart (later, Drane) and her experience as a student at WC can be found in this earlier Spartan Stories post.

School officials noted in articles released to media outlets that Tillman and Smart were two of seven African American women who applied for admission to WC. Two applicants did not complete their application in full, and three others "failed to meet scholastic requirements."

The road to desegregation of the WC campus was not a smooth one. Starting in 1950, public discourse on segregation practices became more common. On the WC campus, a number of faculty members were quite active in encouraging desegregation – of the school and of local businesses. Warren Ashby, a philosophy professor, publicly endorsed school desegregation in a letter to the Greensboro Daily News and led a faculty council resolutions supporting the desegregation of UNC campuses in 1955. He also organized a group of faculty members who regularly met for lunch at the YMCA with faculty members from A&T. WC student leaders also spoke out against segregation, with The Carolinian in 1952 proclaiming segregation to be “legally, morally, and practically wrong.”

Bettye Ann Davis Tillman and JoAnne Smart, 1956
In 1951, the Supreme Court ruled that white professional schools had to admit African American students if there was not a comparable segregated black school. Under a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals, three African American men were granted admission to UNC’s School of Law in 1951.

The UNC Consolidated University -- which then consisted of UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and WC -- fought against desegregation of the undergraduate colleges, and it would take lengthy court battles to win African American students access to North Carolina’s predominantly white universities. In 1951, NC State’s Chancellor Harrelson sent a letter detailing instructions for processing the applications of African American students to all of the college’s deans. He noted that while students applying for programs that were not available at historically black colleges had to be considered regardless of their race, African Americans students would not be accepted if they could attend a program at a segregated college.

In a unanimous 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S Supreme Court declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” But, this case failed to immediately bring about the admission of African Americans to undergraduate programs in North Carolina because higher education was not specifically discussed in the case. In fact, in early 1955, the year after the Brown decision was made and after a number of applications from potential African American students had been received, the Consolidated University System’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution affirming that all three institutions would not accept African American undergraduate students.

JoAnne Smart's letter of acceptance to WC, 1956
In a response to questions from UNC President Gordon Gray, NCSU Chancellor Carey Bostian drafted a form letter, which could be sent to any African American applicant to the UNC schools denying them admission solely on the basis of race. It stated that “The Board of Trustees of the Consolidated University of North Carolina has decided that applications of Negros to the undergraduate schools at the three branches of the Consolidated University will not be accepted. We trust that you will be able to pursue your education at another college."

On September 16, 1955, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of three African American men from Durham who had filed a lawsuit against the UNC Board of Trustees after being denied admission to the undergraduate program in Chapel Hill. They enrolled in 1955. Both NCSU and WC first admitted African American students in Fall 1956.

In discussing why she chose to attend Woman's College, JoAnne Smart Drane noted, "once I was aware of Brown v. Board of Education, it just seemed to offer a lot of hope for doing things that had not been done previously. And so I realized that this was an opportunity that could be had. So why not pursue it?" She recognized that she had an opportunity due to others who had gone before and fought against the leadership. When asked if she considered herself a trailblazer, she responded, "only in the sense that the opportunity to do what I did could have been done by so many others before me. But those doors were closed, and they did not have the same opportunity ... If they had the same privilege, [they] could have gone through the same doors and done even more."

Monday, September 12, 2016

African Americans and WC Library Use Prior to Desegregation

This Fall semester marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the student body at the Woman's College (now UNCG). Classes in Fall 1956 began on September 20th, and next week we will look at the debates over integration and the process of desegregating the student body. But this week, we are re-sharing a post from 2014 that will help provide context for next week's post. 

In February 1951, UNC System Trustee (and vocal segregationist) John W. Clark contacted Woman’s College Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham to inquire about faculty members’ support of integration and college policies regarding campus facilities and resources. In investigating Clark’s questions, Graham found that the Library (which had just moved in to its new building) allowed limited use by African-American students from neighboring colleges, and that Librarian Charles Adams had recently conducted an internal discussion with his staff regarding use of the Library by African Americans.
Entrance to the newly-constructed library, 1951

Adams’s library was relatively open to African Americans – both students and faculty at neighboring colleges and select community members. Full access to the public catalog as well as use of books from the closed stacks (via call slip), from the open shelves in the reference and periodical rooms, or through interlibrary loan was permitted. Visiting African-American librarians from neighboring colleges and students in the Library Training program at Bennett College were given full tours of the Library facilities. Reference services were “given liberally on request and considerable effort has been made to help them graciously and fully in locating material for their study or research.” Only the reserve reading room, which housed required reading for WC students, was not open to use by the African-American visitors.

After a face-to-face meeting with Adams regarding library policy in early April 1951, Graham wrote a tense letter outlining what he saw as the leading issues related to the use of Library resources by African Americans and chastising the librarian for his decisions to construct and apply Library policy without first consulting the chancellor. Graham argued that it was Adams’ responsibility to bring this matter to his attention before creating an internal policy, stating that “any procedure or practice, or any policy question, bearing on the use of College facilities by Negroes should be brought to my attention.” He added that any policies relating to use of College facilities must conform to Trustee regulations (which required segregated facilities), and that, because Adams did not involve him in the discussion regarding use policy sooner, “we now find ourselves in an unhappy position.”

WC Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham
Graham sought a formal policy specifically restricting African-American use of the library facilities. Adams, however, notably avoided a creating a policy that limited access based on race, choosing instead to develop a policy that more uniformly limited library access for all non-WC college students. Adams insured that use of the WC Library by non-WC students would continue, but only with a new requirement in place. All students from outside of the Woman’s College would now be required to present a letter of introduction or a card of identification from their home institution’s library.

While these new restrictions satisfied Chancellor Graham, Trustee Clark continued his assault on WC. In February 1952, he once again argued against use of the Library by African Americans, proposing a movement “that the Woman’s College Library be reserved for the students for whom it was built, and that if the Negro students do not have a sufficient library, one be built for them.” Trustee Laura Cone, a graduate of WC, pointed out the existing policy that required all non-WC students to present documentation from his or her own college librarian stating the student’s research needs. But, the remaining Trustees voted to refer the issue to the Executive Committee (which no longer included Clark) and request a full report at their meeting on April 19.

Adams once again avoided producing a policy with constraints solely based on race. His March 1952 policy statement specifically targeted “the use of Library materials by non-college persons” – never specifically placing restrictions on use by African Americans, students or non-students. Instead, it required all people who are not WC students or alumnae to present clear evidence of their need for the use of the WC Library. As noted in Adams letter from the previous summer, the policy required students from other colleges in Greensboro to “present a card or letter from their librarian requesting books or services not available at their institution.” Unlike the policies at State College and Chapel Hill, the WC policy allowed non-WC students – regardless of race – to borrow books as long as they provided the required letter of need from their home institution.

WC Librarian Charles Adams
On May 12, 1952, Graham took the finalized policy for use of the library by non-WC students to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. His report, along with reports provided by his counterparts at State College and UNC Chapel Hill, was presented by President Gray. Trustee Laura Cone made the initial motion to close the investigations, stating that “the Executive Committee is satisfied that the use of the library by Negroes is properly restricted and conducted at the three institutions.” With that, the major discussion of the issue at the Board level was resolved. Restrictions against library use by non-WC students were formally and firmly in place, but were to be equally applied to all non-WC students, regardless of the patron’s race.

The debate over African-American use of Woman’s College resources touched upon many key topics prevalent in North Carolina in the 1950s. While administrators of the Consolidated System fought against desegregation and the forced admission of African-American students to the University campus in Chapel Hill in 1951, Charles Adams and the librarians of the Woman’s College stepped forward to commit to access to information and Library resources, regardless of the color of the patron’s skin.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Walter Clinton Jackson, Race, and WC Resources

This Fall semester marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the student body at the Woman's College (now UNCG). Classes in Fall 1956 began on September 20th, and in the next few weeks, we will examine the history of segregation on campus.This week, we are re-sharing a post from 2013 that will help provide context for the next few weeks' posts. 

Throughout the first seven decades of its existence, the institution now known as UNCG grappled with a number of questions regarding facility use by students from neighboring colleges, particularly the nearby African-American institutions such as North Carolina A&T and Bennett College.

Interior of the College Library, circa 1923
As early as February 1929, administrators were discussing use of the Library by students from A&T. Then Vice President (and later Chancellor) Walter Clinton Jackson wrote College President Julius Foust on February 15, 1929, requesting that an A&T student be allowed to borrow books from the College Library. Jackson wrote, “it seems to me rather incongruous that we should refuse a little courtesy of this kind to a neighbor institution, even though a negro institution. It is a very small matter, in a way, but it has large consequences so far as the Negroes are concerned.”

Foust agreed to discuss the matter with the College Librarian and “do anything we can to aid these students.” He quickly added, however, that Jackson should be acutely award “that certain embarrassments may arise in our attempt to do what they request” and that he “doubt[ed] the wisdom of permitting negro students to take the books out of our library.” While he agreed to consider the idea, Foust added that he would ask the Librarian to consult with Dr. Anna Gove, the student health coordinator, to learn more “about the danger that may arise from disease if these students are permitted to take the books and use them when our students must use them when they are returned to the library.”

Jackson’s decision to support the use of the WC Library by African-American students ran counter to the Jim Crow laws that were prevalent across North Carolina at the time. Jackson, however, was well known as a champion of racial equality. He arrived at the institution then known as State Normal in 1909 to lead the history department. A native of Georgia, he studied at Mercer University and spoke frequently on the topic of race relations in American history. Although he was forced to work within the framework of the segregated South, he served as chairman of local, state, and southern regional Commissions on Interracial Cooperation. From 1938 to 1953, he served as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Bennett College.

Walter Clinton Jackson, 1948
Throughout his sixteen-year tenure as Woman’s College chancellor (1934-1950), Jackson opened many venues for progress and collaboration between WC and its neighboring educational institutions, including those that were African American. In a June 17, 1935, letter to Charlotte Hawkins Brown, he expressed dismay that WC would not be able to openly welcome students from Brown’s Palmer Institute, a school for African Americans in Sedalia, North Carolina, just outside of Greensboro. After Brown declined to bring her students to a music performance at the WC due to the segregated seating requirements, Jackson wrote, “I hope the time will speedily come when difficulties which confront us may be more easily resolved.”

State laws and regulations, however, did not support open sharing of resources between WC and its African-American neighbor institutions. “Separate but equal” policies resulted in the segregation of public schools, public spaces, transportation, restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains. Since 1901, North Carolina state law had explicitly required separate facilities for the consumption of library materials by white and black citizens. While a number of prominent North Carolinians, including Governor W. Kerr Scott (1949-1953), believed in extended some degree of civil liberties to African Americans, the general consensus across the state favored the continuation of segregationist policies.

Jackson’s willingness to push these boundaries and search for concessions whenever possible led to him being recognized as a “pioneer in the field of better race relations” when he received an honorary doctorate from Bennett in 1949. While Jackson was no longer Chancellor when the WC was officially desegregated in 1956, he stood as an early leader in creating a more open and accepting campus.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Martha Blakeney Hodges: From Farmerette to First Lady of North Carolina

Martha Blakeney Hodges
Little did Martha Blakeney realize when she first visited the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion during the 1940s, that one day she would find herself in residence as the First Lady of the state. One of six daughters of a Monroe, North Carolina, landowner, Martha Blakeney sought higher education at the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Planning to pursue a career in medicine, she took science courses and became active in the debate club, graduating with the Class of 1918.

Martha Blakeney attended college at a time when the world was at war. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and the State Normal immediately mobilized the campus, with students taking over many of the tasks previously held by men. One of the most significant ways that the students participated in the war effort was to tend the college farm. Taking the lead from the Land Army of America, ten State Normal students calling themselves the “Farmerettes” stayed at school during the summers of 1918 and 1919 to harvest crops for use by the college. Donning overalls and straw hats, the young women milked cows, fed pigs, and pitched hay, ultimately producing 1100 bushels of wheat, 3000 gallons of beans and tomatoes, and 2000 bushels of corn.  Martha Blakeney was one of those Farmerettes.

The Campus "Farmerettes"

After graduating from State Normal, she moved to Leakesville, North Carolina, and became a high school teacher and then the principal of Leakesville High School. It was there that she first saw Luther Hartwell Hodges, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who had returned to his old school to give the commencement speech. Luther Hodges, an American success story, was born in a log cabin in Virginia and rose to vice-president of manufacturing at Marshall Field and Company, before holding public office. He always remembered this significant evening and later remarked, “I looked down in the audience and saw a beautiful girl. I made up my mind that I was going to marry her.”

Martha Blakeney

They married in June of 1922 and spent much of their lives in Leakesville, working to build the state’s textile industry. In 1940, Luther Hodges was transferred to Marshall Field’s New York Office, where his family would spend the next seven years. During World War II, he was director of the textile division of the Office of Price Administration and became a consultant to the Secretary of Agriculture. Martha Blakeney Hodges would once again become active in homefront mobilization, planting her own victory garden and volunteering for civilian war work as an Air Raid Warden and a Block Leader.

After retiring from Marshall Field in 1950, Luther Hodges served with the Marshall Plan Forces in Western Germany as Chief of the Industry Division and his family moved to Europe for several years and traveled extensively. In 1953, he became Lieutenant Governor and subsequently, the sixty-fourth Governor of North Carolina, and Martha Blakeney Hodges returned to the Governor’s Mansion that she had visited many years before.

Blakeney at the Entrance of the Governor's Mansion
As the First Lady of North Carolina, Martha Blakeney Hodges was tireless in her role as hostess to a variety of visitors. From local Girl Scout troops to United States presidents and foreign dignitaries, she entertained thousands in both the Governor’s Mansion and her private home. She declared that there was “not a state in the union [that does] more entertaining as we do here. It’s just that everybody expects that famous Southern hospitality in North Carolina.” In addition to her hostessing duties and obligations to her husband and children, Betsy, Nancy, and Luther, Jr., she was an advocate of literacy throughout the state of North Carolina. Once asked if she was fearful of her enormous responsibilities, she commented, “I’m not afraid of anything – I don’t have time to be.”

Enjoying a Chief Hobby - Gardening

Described as down to earth, with a warm sense of humor, Martha Blakeney Hodges was a gracious hostess and a successful First Lady of North Carolina. Perhaps one of her most famous guests was the young Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, who was visiting the United States during the fall of 1957. Trying to think of something meaningful to give to the Queen, she remembered seeing a sterling silver statue of Walter Raleigh, which was incorporated into the impressive trophy given by the Historical Book Club to the author of the best fiction in North Carolina. As Sir Walter Raleigh had connections with the state of North Carolina and had once been a favorite of the Queen’s namesake, Elizabeth I, it was thought that this would be an interesting and meaningful gift. She obtained a Raleigh statue and gifted it to the Queen with a special nameplate commemorating the visit.

Martha Blakeney Hodges - First Lady of North Carolina

In  1961, Luther Hodges became the United States Secretary of Commerce under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and the family moved to the nation’s capital. Martha Blakeney Hodges became close to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, treating her like one of her own children. She considered her years in Washington D.C. as the most exciting of her life.

Maintaining a close relationship with The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Martha Blakeney Hodges visited often for reunions and events. She would strengthen this bond by becoming instrumental in the formation of the Friends of the Library and serving on the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association. In addition to working closely with the university, she also enjoyed her hobbies of painting, reading, bridge, gardening, and community volunteer work.

Tragically, Martha Blakeney Hodges lost her life in June of 1969 from injuries sustained in a house fire which occurred at their home in Chapel Hill. In the spring of 1970, her family established the Martha Blakeney Hodges Memorial Fund, earmarked to purchase material in the field of Southern History and biographies to enhance research efforts by graduate and undergraduate students. Each book added to the collection had a specifically designed bookplate.

Her children further honored her memory in 2003 by pledging the largest gift ever given to Jackson Library for the endowment of the Special Collections and University Archives. In appreciation of this gift, and to honor her life-long dedication to the Library and to the university, the department became known as the “Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

Behind the Scenes of State Normal with Lula Martin McIver, part two

In last week's Spartan Stories blog post, we looked at the early life of Lula Martin McIver, wife of the State Normal and Industrial School's (now UNCG) founding president Charles Duncan McIver. This week we will explore her role as the first lady of State Normal and her continued influence on education in North Carolina.

In 1892, the McIvers moved to Greensboro after Charles was named president of the newly-established State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG). As the campus's First Lady, Lula took on numerous responsibilities. She took charge of selecting furnishings for the sole dormitory on campus at the time and attending to much of the campus landscaping and beautification projects. She also was responsible for advocating for the hiring of Dr. Miriam Bitting as the campus's first physician, insisting at a woman's college needed a female medical doctor in charge of the health of the students.

McIver family in 1900
Also, on the frequent occasions when Charles was away from campus, Lula stepped in to handle much of the school's business. She would give a quiz for a Civics class or monitor the campus coal supply or advise with the College Physician about a threatened measles epidemic. She frequently served as a host for guests waiting to meet with Charles, and she often served as a mother figure for the students. In a 1944 memorial tribute, the Board of Trustees of the UNC Consolidated System noted that "her mother's heart embraced the increasing number of young students who were leaving home for the first time and made the McIver home a center of gracious hospitality."

Lula also became a staunch advocate for increased state support for education in North Carolina. She was a founding member of the Woman's Betterment Association, which specifically worked for improved facilities for public schools in the state. Lula assisted county leaders throughout the state, and at one time served as a field director. Only four years after the creation of the Woman's Betterment Association, 1,133 new school buildings were constructed in rural areas across North Carolina at a cost of $490,272. The total value of the entirety of public school property across the state almost doubled in that short four-year period.

Charles died in September 1906, but Lula and her four children remained in the McIver house on the State Normal campus. The two oldest McIver children - Annie and Charlie - were among the ten students enrolled at the first practice school on the State Normal campus. Annie went on to graduate from State Normal in 1905. Their youngest daughter, who was also named Lula, was a member of the Class of 1921 at the institution her parents founded. Charles, Jr. graduated from his father's alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1909. A fourth child, Verlinda, died at a young age in 1908.

Lula Martin McIver,
pictured in the 1921 Pine Needles yearbook
Lula continued to be an active presence on campus, and remained a strong advocate of a number of social causes, including the YWCA, Sunday Schools, the community Art Association, and educational institutions for both white and African American students in the state. Lula suffered a broken hip in 1930 and was wheelchair bound, limiting her ability to be as active as she had been before. But she still attended the annual Founder's Day ceremony on campus every October.

On December 22, 1944, Lula Martin McIver passed away at age 80. At the Founder's Day service the following October, college president Walter Clinton Jackson noted that "death last December broke Mrs. McIver's long connection with this College, but death cannot remove her benevolent spirit from this campus not can it stop the force which she, working with and through her husband, started for the advancement of educational opportunity for women in North Carolina." That year, students placed wreaths on both the graves of Charles and Lula McIver as part of the Founder's Day ceremony, "conscious of the fact that Dr. McIver himself would feel that this was indeed a just and proper recognition of one who may rightfully be called the co-founder of the College."

Monday, August 15, 2016

Behind the Scenes of State Normal with Lula Martin McIver, part one

In a undated speech titled "The Educated Woman's Contribution to the Service of the State," Lula Martin McIver, widow of the State Normal and Industrial School's (now UNCG) founding president Charles Duncan McIver, passionately argued for the value of education for women in North Carolina. Her speech echoes many of the sentiments expressed at the founding of the school about the importance of educating women as a way of educating the populace as a whole. She stated, "since it is true that the child of today is the citizen of tomorrow, it may safely be claimed that the woman citizen of the state laboring in the home and school combines all four -- she rules all, prays for all, fights for all, and metaphorically and literally feeds all. Since she occupies such an important position in relation to the future citizenship of the state, it is of supreme importance to every state that she be properly trained for her great work."

The fight for women's education is one that Lula McIver started as a young girl, developed further with her husband Charles, and continued until her death. Lula was born Lula Verlinda Martin in Salem, North Carolina, on June 8, 1864, to Dr. Samuel Martin, a dentist, and Verlinda Miller Martin, who had graduated with honors from Edgeworth Seminary in Greensboro. Young Lula grew up surrounded by books and scientific instruments, and dreamed of becoming a physician. But, in the 19th century, the path for women wishing to become medical doctors was almost non-existent. She attended the prestigious Salem Academy, graduating in 1881. Ultimately, however, she chose to pursue a career as a teacher over her dreams of becoming a physician.

She began her career teaching in a one-room private school and later in the Oxford Orphanage. Four years after beginning her teaching career, Lula met a fellow teacher named Charles Duncan McIver. In 1885, the couple married. Lula, however, retained her strong sense of independence and her belief "that a woman was an individual with a right to her own mind, her own property, her own privileges." She refused to wear a wedding ring as she believed it to be a symbol of the oppression of women (according to a 1940 Founder's Day address issued by the College).

Around the time of their marriage, Charles became heavily involved in local Teachers Institutes, which sought to provide professional training for educators throughout North Carolina. At the time, the state had no formal system for training its teachers, and funding for public schools was sparse. Lula was an essential part of the Institutes' success, doing everything from practice teaching demonstrations to scrubbing clean the local courthouses used as training sites.

Most of the Teachers Institutes took place during the summer months when the public schools were not in session. During the academic year, beginning in 1886, the McIvers both taught at Peace Institute in Raleigh. Lula also briefly held the position of "lady principal" at the Charlotte Female Institute (now Queen's University). During this time, Charles also contemplated leaving education for a career as a lawyer (a decision he ultimately abandoned). Lula joined him in studying the law "because her mind needed the constant stimulation of study and learning." Charles often told a story of coming home to find Lula "completely absorbed, lying across the bed with her chin in her hands, in The Legal Rights of Married Women in England." During her time in Charlotte, Lula studied with Dr. Annie Laurie Alexander, the first North Carolina woman physician to practice in the state.

Next week, we'll explore Lula McIver's role as the first lady of the State Normal and Industrial School as well as her continuing contributions to the development of the public education system in North Carolina.