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 Leaksville, North Carolina, and became a high school teacher and then the principal of Leaksville 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 Leaksville, 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.

In 2003, her children further honored her memory by pledging the largest gift ever given to Jackson Library for an endowment benefitting 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.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tate Street: Evolving to serve a changing community

Tate Street, UNCG's original "campus strip" was originally two streets: Tate Street north of Walker Avenue and Lithia Street to the south. By 1923, when most of the area's commercial development was beginning, both sections shared the same name. The shopping area was targeted at a pedestrian population and included chain grocery stores such as Pender's (330 Tate Street), Piggly Wiggly (337 Tate Street), and Bi-Rite (403 Tate Street); Franklin Drugs (401 Tate Street); Hart's Hardware and Appliances (336 Tate Street); and the Donut Dinette (332 Tate Street). The Victory Theatre, later the Cinema, operated in the now-abandoned building at 326 Tate Street that most recently housed Addams University Bookstore.

As the adjacent Woman's College grew, the Tate Street "strip" became more campus-oriented. Longtime tenants such as The Corner, a soda fountain and variety store located at the corner of Tate Street and Walker Avenue and The College Shop, a clothing store across the street at 413 Tate Street, anchored the district. By the 1950s, Bi-Rite was the only remaining grocer, but it was still offering a full range of meats and produce through the early 1980s, when it was replaced by the current convenience store at the site.

Tate Street, 1963,
from Greensboro City Directory
As Woman's College became the coeducational University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963, and as campus attitudes liberalized throughout the decade, Tate Street began to see the appearance of bars and other nightspots. Among the earliest were the original Joker's 3 at 449 Tate Street, a converted house that had previously housed a women's clothing store, and the Apple Cellar, a coffeehouse located in the basement of the Apple House diner. Later in the 1960s, the area in front of Brown Building, then home to the UNCG School of Music, would become known as "Hippie Hill", a hangout for the psychedelic generation that caused university and city officials much consternation.

In 1971, the Apple House diner, which had been the site of segregation battles, was replaced by Hong King House, a Chinese restaurant that served vegetarian dishes; this space is now Boba House. Nearby, Friar's Cellar, a much-loved wine shop and small grocery store began a several-decade run in the building at 334 Tate Street that now houses Tate Street Coffee. Around the same time, the row of shops of the east side of Tate Street added a new, unified façade as part of a project to "modernize" the street and give it more the feel of a suburban shopping center. This was also the genesis of the unusual parking arrangement on the street. Franklin Drugs relocated around this time to a new two-story building with a small parking garage attached at 948 Walker Avenue.

Next door to Bi-Rite in 1971 was a restaurant called Pizzaville (407 Tate Street) that would by the end of the decade be transformed into Friday's, a restaurant by day and venue for new alternative bands by night that hosted some of the earliest performances by R.E.M. and the Violent Femmes as well as local acts like Treva Spontaine and the Graphics. Friday's closed on 11 December 1983 with an unannounced performance by R.E.M., who by this time had "outgrown" the small club and were generally playing in larger venues. Subway and Leon's Style Salon now occupy the space,

Tate Street, ca. 1971
With Friday's and the dawn of the 1980s, Tate Street became a very active area for nightlife and live music in general. The old Piggly Wiggly, later a clothing store called The Cupboard, now became New York Pizza. The Apple Cellar coffeehouse became the Nightshade Café, another live music venue. Upon its closing in the early 1980s, the Cinema Theatre was replaced by the House of Pizza Cinema, a restaurant and bar that featured stereo broadcasts of the new MTV Music Television channel on multiple monitors. Also on the street were the Belstone Fox (329 Tate Street), a bar and live music venue, and Mr. Rosewater's, a restaurant and bar located in the former home of the original Joker's Three. Around 1983, the College Shop closed and was replaced by the Galaxy video arcade.

Recorded music was also a big part of Tate Street's appeal, starting with the opening of the Record Exchange (330 Tate Street), one of the first record stores in Greensboro specializing in independent and imported releases as well as used records and tapes. In 1983, Platterpus Records opened at 335 Tate Street as Greensboro's first record rental store; this short-lived format allowed customers to rent records, which were then sold as used merchandise. Record companies were incensed due to the potential for piracy. Copying of a different sort was facilitated by one of the state's first Kinko's locations, which opened around 1984 in the old Franklin Drug location at 401 Tate Street.

There was new construction on Tate Street in the 1980s as well, including a the block of shops at 427-435 Tate Street that initially included a Burger King and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop. This block of stores replaced a large old abandoned house and is now home to Coffeeology and Don Japanese Restaurant.  Around 1990, the building next door, which had housed the original Joker's Three and had later served as Mr. Rosewater's and The Edge nightclub was torn down for a relocated and expanded Kinko's, which remains there today as FedEx Office.

Nightspots became less common on Tate Street once the national drinking age was raised to 21 beginning in 1985 and the strip entered something of a decline even in the midst of a gentrification in the surrounding neighborhood. The House of Pizza Cinema closed and was replaced by Addams University Bookstore in the late 1980s; Addams closed around 2013.

Restaurants are now more common that bars on Tate Street. There is now a Qdoba located in the former Hop-In convenience store and a Jimmy John's where the College Shop once operated. New York Pizza is still open, though it closed briefly after a fire several years ago. A succession of Mexican restaurants have occupied what was formerly office space about the 1970s Franklin Drug location facing Walker Avenue, and Sushi Republic now occupies a former gas station at the northeastern edge of the strip.

Tate Street has proved to be very adaptable in its service of the adjacent campus and community.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Coraddi Controversy of 1954

Page 15 of the Fall 1954 issue of the Coraddi, the art and literary magazine of the Woman's College (now UNCG) featured a short story by student Mary Wells Edward titled "Dinah." But, the page also contained an unrelated pen and ink drawing of a nude man. The drawing was done by Lee Hall, a part-time student from Lexington who worked on the staff of the Coraddi. The publication of this piece brought the debate between art and freedom of the press to the WC campus and ultimately resulted in the resignation of the entire Coraddi staff.

Cover of the Fall 1954 Coraddi
On December 15, 1954, the WC Student Legislature met to determine what - if any - actions it would take to reprimand the staff of the Coraddi for publication of this drawing. A resolution was introduced by student legislator Frances Alexander. This resolution declared that "the Fall issue of Coraddi violates the responsibility of freedom vested in student organizations and does not maintain the standards expected of student publications." It also proposed a forma reprimand of the Coraddi staff "for the publication of objectionable material in a magazine distributed to the general public under the name of the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina."

After the resolution was presented, a vote was taken. The resolution passed by a vote of 21 to 17 (with one abstention). But, after the vote was taken, Dr. William Mueller, faculty advisor to the student legislature and professor of English, spoke to the group. He states that "one's sense of taste is closely related to his sense of morals ... One purpose of education is to enable a person to acquire the kind of taste and judgment which allow him to distinguish between a work of art and something that is cheap and tawdry ... It is my conviction that the contents of Coraddi is art; it is my opinion that it is good art. When we judge a picture, we must also take into consideration whether our final judgment is more a reflection of the picture or ourselves." Following Mueller's speech, the group decided to hold a second vote.. By a vote of 18 to 21, the student legislature chose not to pass the resolution and not to reprimand the staff of the Coraddi for their publication.

Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham
Chancellor Edward Kidder Graham, however, would not this decision not to censure the Coraddi staff stand. The following day, on December 16, he wrote a letter "to the student of the Woman's College" declaring that "after Legislature acted, I was faced with the necessity of taking and a stand and I have taken it." He officially issued "a very strong censure" to the Coraddi staff "based on the simple premise that Coraddi, issued in the name of the College, violates the standards of good taste and judgment which any undergraduate publication is morally obligated to uphold."

In his censure to the Coraddi staff, Graham stated that "it is my considered judgment that, even under the most liberal interpretation, the issue of Coraddi in question clearly exceeds the limits of good taste." He continued, "freedom of the press is inevitably hedged about by the relationship and the responsibility of the press to the social and academic groups in which it exists. The strongest protection for a free press is the judgment and the responsibility of those privileged with freedom, and the present censure is directed first of all toward an apparent confusion in the minds of the Coraddi staff with respect to the all-important difference between freedom and license." Graham concluded by noting that "a wide range of opportunity for the self-expression of the artist is not only recognized but insisted upon by the Woman's College. Nevertheless, art galleries, exhibitions to which people may go on this campus, booklets designed for people who are (or should be) interested in art, and comparable places are the right setting for uninhibited realism. Such opportunities exist on this campus in abundant measure without involving an undergraduate publication for general distribution."

Coraddi editor Debbie Marcus
On December 17, the staff of the Coraddi, led by editor Debbie Marcus, resigned in protest. In a note left at Chancellor Graham's home, the student members of the staff declared that "in view of the Chancellor's statement, the staff of Coraddi believes that it cannot continue to function properly - that is, cannot put out a Fine Arts magazine ...the entire Coraddi staff believes that in the future, consideration of political expediency will - because of censures such as this - have to be of prime consideration. And since the Coraddi staff members are not politicians, but students of the arts, they believe that their resignation is in order."

In the aftermath of the censure and resignations, the Coraddi was unable to publish a Winter issue during the 1954-1955 academic year. But Graham's decision was upheld by the UNC Board of Trustees (the group now known as the Board of Governors). And he wrote privately the following month that disagreement with his decision was limited to "excitable aesthetes and a few other disciples of freedom."

Also of note is the career of Lee Hall, the artist who drew the controversial piece. Hall graduated from Woman's College on schedule in 1956. She later went on to serve as dean of Visual Arts at the State University of New York-Purchase before being appointed president of the Rhode Island School of Design in 1975. She held that position until 1983.