Monday, November 26, 2018

Mary Settle Sharpe: Keen in Intelligence, Kindly at Heart, and Democratic in Sympathy

Mary Settle Sharpe (1863-1944) was a woman ahead of her time, in both education and politics. She was an early member of the faculty of State Normal and Industrial College (UNC Greensboro) and was also the first woman nominated for public office in the state of North Carolina after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Mary Settle Sharpe
The daughter of a Rockingham County judge and politician, she attended Salem Academy and graduated from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh before marrying Edgecombe County lawyer Benjamin Charles Sharpe in 1884. The Sharpes moved to Greensboro in 1897 and would eventually have six children. In 1896, Mary became one of the first married women faculty members at the State Normal, residing with her family in a house near campus on South Mendenhall Street.  She became known for her friendliness, her beautiful singing voice, her impressive literary interpretations, and her tireless interest in the students in her charge. Equally popular with students and faculty, Professor William C. Smith described Mary as “keen in intellect, yet kindly at heart and democratic in sympathy … always gracious, courteous, just and true.”

During the early years of State Normal, the faculty was not always specialized and Mary taught a variety of classes across several departments. Her positions included Director of Physical Training, Instructor of History, and Head of the Department of Expression. Mary’s efforts were especially appreciated in the area of campus productions. As chairman of the faculty committee on entertainments, she was in charge of student plays and the school’s May Day festivals. Especially elaborate were the May Day celebrations held in the years 1912 and 1916, which involved the participation of State Normal students and faculty, as well as the younger children who attended the practice school on campus. These particular pageants included parades down College Avenue, a variety of plays presented on the school grounds, and the crowning of the May Queen.

Elizabethan Court, 1916
Always an advocate of women’s rights, Mary resigned from the college in 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment, to become more involved in politics. It is not surprising that she felt drawn to this vocation, as she came from generations of politicians and public servants. Her father, Thomas Settle, Jr., had been a lawyer and the son of a Congressional Representative from North Carolina, also named Thomas Settle. He held important positions in the state government, serving as a legislator, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, State Solicitor, and Associate Judges of the Supreme Court. Settle also helped found the state’s Republican Party during Reconstruction, and was nominated by President Ulysses S. Grant to a seat on the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Mary’s brother, Thomas Settle III, also had an illustrious career in the government.

Judge Thomas Settle, Jr.
Mary, like her family, had always been interested in politics. She was considered “progressive and impatient with all forms of injustice.” Mary served as the chair of the state Republican Executive Committee for Women and accepted the Republican nomination for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1920. She wrote letters and spoke at events throughout the state asking for support – “especially from the ladies.” Only a month after women had gained the right to vote, she wrote a letter to the “Womanhood of North Carolina,” laying out a platform that would “lift North Carolina’s school system out of partisan politics” and “educate all the children of all the people.” She also advocated for better salaries for teachers.

Mary’s candidacy had wide and enthusiastic support from her former colleagues and students at North Carolina College for Women,* who attended many of her talks.  She traveled the state attending local political events and encouraging the women of North Carolina to “help purify the ballot box” and urged women to exercise their new right to vote. Hailed as an “eloquent and captivating” speaker, Mary campaigned for the improvement of education and the importance of citizenship. Although she lost the election, she remained very involved in state politics, chairing the state organization of women.

Mary Settle Sharpe Event
 Mary lived over eighty years. Growing ill at the end of her life, she spent her last eight months at Cox Restorium in Winston-Salem. She was buried next to her husband at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery in Ashe County where they had kept a country home. Mary has been honored by UNC Greensboro on several occasions since her death in 1944. In 1997, she was inaugurated into the UNC Greensboro’s Theatre Hall of Fame for her encouragement of the dramatic program during the early years of the school. Additionally, the University established the Mary Settle Sharpe Award for Teaching Excellence, recognizing outstanding success in facilitating student learning. There is also a conference room dedicated to her memory in the Elliott University Center.

* State Normal had changed its name to North Carolina College for Women in 1919.

Monday, November 19, 2018

100 Years Later: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 hits State Normal

In 1918, an influenza pandemic began to spread across the globe. In the U.S., about 28% of the population became infected, and 500,000 to 675,000 people died over the course the next two years. The campus of the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) was, of course, not immune to this easily-transmitted disease. In October 1918, the disease found the College, and campus administrators had to made quick decisions on the best course of action to protect the students and limit the spread of the flu.

Instead of suspending operations as some schools did at the time, State Normal President Julius Foust made the decision to instead quarantine students to the campus. From October through December, students were unable to leave campus, and guests were not permitted to visit. One alumnae wrote:

Wooden Dormitory (approximate site of the Alumni House today)
"It was that fall when the Fourth Horseman on his livid steed was abroad in the land. Pestilence, in the form of deadly influenza epidemic, was sweeping the country. No city, village, or hamlet was spared. It reached the campus as I remember in October. Several hundred girls contracted it ... A rigid quarantine was enforced. No one was allowed to leave the campus, no going to town, no weekends at home, only walks into the country were permitted."

Several hundred students were infected -- so many that the campus infirmary could not hold them all. Wooden Dormitory (also known as Guilford Hall) was converted into a makeshift hospital. But fortunately, none of the students contracted pneumonia, and no deaths resulted. As President Foust wrote in his unpublished history of the College, "This was remarkable in view of the fact that many more people died from flu in this country than were killed in the war [note: Foust is referring to World War I]. Both faculty and students had relatives and friends in the army and frequently a report would come that a loved one had been killed or died from influenza, but these sorrows were endured with Christian fortitude."

The pledge signed by students prior to leaving campus in December 1918
By December, the influenza outbreak on campus had subsided enough that Foust decided that the students should be allowed to return home for the holiday break. But each student was required to sign an agreement pledging to report any illnesses in their home, avoid possible sources of the disease, and reporting to the infirmary for a health assessment immediately upon returning to the school.

When the holiday period end and student returned to State Normal, they faced a week of final exams. But, as soon as those were complete, they began to celebrate the end of the semester and of the full campus quarantine by planning a large gala event for the evening of February 3, 1919. As reported in the Greensboro Daily News:

"Memories of long, dreary weeks of quarantine were forgotten, and mirth reigned supreme through the spacious dining hall, when at 7:30 o'clock last evening students of the State Normal and Industrial College participated in one of the most elaborate entertainments in the history of the college.

The first event of the evening was, perhaps, the most impressive when 700 young ladies, dressed in quaint costumes, formed a long, gala procession and passed in review before the judging members of the faculty ... After the procession had ended a unique program, arranged by Misses Clarence Winder and Lula Martin McIver, was given, including farce scenes of "what might have been" and "what actually happened" during the quarantine. A liberal sprinkling of humor was traced through the numerous sketches given, and the effect was indeed ludicrous.

During the latter hours of the evening a delightful dance was given in which the majority of the young ladies participated. Between dances several vaudeville sketches were presented, including aesthetic dancing, ballet scenes in which the students were dressed in colonial costumes, "buck and wing dancing," and other forms of the Terpischorean art."

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Library as a Hub of Learning (Part Three)

Since the school’s founding in 1892, the library has played a key role in supporting faculty research and student learning.  From its humble beginnings in a small classroom to its current prominent location at the center of campus, the library has sought to keep pace with emerging scholarly trends, changing researcher needs, evolving uses of technology, as well as a growing student population.  This third and final blog post about the history of the library at UNCG will examine the profound changes in its collections, services, access tools, and spaces between the years 1973 to 2013.

College Ave Entrance to Jackson Library

 By the start of the 1973 fall academic term, the multi-story tower project was completed and open to students.  The renovation of the 1950 portion of the library complex began in December 1973 and was completed within ten months.  The new library addition provided 119,000 square feet of floor space.  This new space increased the overall number of study carrels and public seating as well as shelving for books.  The library director Dr. James Thompson confidently declared that the new space was designed to house a total of one million volumes.  He expected the library to reach its storage capacity within 10 to 15 years.

Jackson Library and Statue of President McIver

During the 1970s, academic libraries were feeling the impact of new computer technology and resources.  In April 1977, Jackson Library offered a new service to its faculty.  Employing a computer terminal, library staff provided users with bibliographies that drew on forty computerized data files.   Thus, if a faculty member was looking to assemble a bibliography for a research project, they could pay a fee (ten to thirty dollars) for librarians to search data files and compile a single print out of a list of potential useful titles.  This service would allow the researcher to skip the task of looking up the titles of scholarly works in bound print indexes.  By the early 1980s, the library automated its serials list and joined a national inter-library loan network of 2,400 libraries.

Within six years of the completion of the construction and renovation projects, the library was reporting a space crunch.  Additional shelving units were being added on the floors of the new tower building.  To accommodate this new shelving, the library was forced to give up space for public seating and even some staff offices.  In 1982, the library reported that the library’s holdings of books approached 600,000.  Between 1970 and 1982, the library’s book holdings increased from 320,118 to 594,325.   The libraries total holdings of books, journals, and micro-texts grew from 466,999 in 1970 to 1,393,522 in 1982.  This rapid expansion of materials was intended to support the demands of an active research university.  Interestingly, the library director in 1982 gravely noted that due to the inflationary costs of books and journals as well as deep state budget cuts, the rate of purchases actually slowed thus preventing even a worse space crunch.   Along with collection growth, the library more than tripled its personnel and added new services that put additional strain on library space. 

Jackson Library Tower

 With steady advances in library technology, Jackson Library actively sought to adopt new practices and technologies to improve collection management and user services.   For example, the library undertook the reclassification of its entire holdings and moved from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress Classification System.  The goal of this 1983 project was to align with the best practices of its peer institutions.  In 1984, the library acquired its first public stand along “micro-computer.”  The computer was an IBM PC with twin diskette drives and a 10 megabyte hard drive.

In 1986, library moved forward in purchasing an integrated online computer system.  It was affectionately called JACLIN.  The acronym stood for Jackson Library Information Network.  It was an online catalog with circulation, acquisition, and serials components.  To support the adoption of this integrated system, the library in 1987 took on the challenge of assigning an individual bar code to each of its 700,000 books.  The library’s 70 staff members were tasked with affixing bar codes to books and inputting the data into the new automated system.  During the 1989 fall semester, the JACLIN system went live.  Books were now being checked out to patrons by scanning the code on the borrower’s University ID as well as on the book’s assigned bar code.  With twelve computer terminals installed within the card catalog area of the library, patrons could now gain instant access to an individual book’s circulation status and location.  The new library director Doris Hulbert noted that the automated system also allowed patrons to search if a book was located at any of the other UNC system school libraries.  With an estimated 9 million catalog cards stored in the catalog area, Hulbert remarked that “many of us have a great fondness for the card catalog, and there is some trepidation about seeing such an old friend go.  But once people get used to the old system, they’ll see how helpful it can be.”  In 1993, the library completed the removal of the wooden cabinets and cards of its old card catalog system.

With the removal of its card catalog, the library was able to free up space to accommodate new services and technologies.  In 1994, a teaching lab was developed to assist faculty and students on accessing online data bases.  The newly constructed space was named the Electronic Center for Information Technology and Instruction (CITI) lab.  It contained 20 multimedia NCR 486 computers, a computer file server, a projector, desks and chairs, and other support equipment. Along with the new classroom and equipment, the library hired its first electronic resources information librarian to teach students how to effectively locate and integrate online content into their research.  The designated information literacy sessions sought to nurture student critical thinking skills by comparing and contrasting traditional and electronic resources.  Recognizing the campus demand for access to personal computers in 1997, the library repurposed 7,200 square feet of space and partnered with the University’s Information Technology Services to establish a computer lab for students.  The space was called the Super Lab.  It was the largest open access computer lab on campus with 125 individual work stations.  

With opening of the University’s new Music Building in 1999, the library was able to move its music collections to a designated library space within the elegant modern structure.  Jackson Library still served as the central library for the campus.  But, the new music library served as a satellite library that met an important teaching and research need.  In 2012, the music library was named to honor Dr. Harold A. Schiffman who is a Greensboro native and music educator.  Schiffman made a $2 million planned gift to the University.  The library now began to refer to itself as University Libraries. 

Harold  Schiffman Music Library

During the decades following the construction of the tower, Jackson Library transformed itself to meet the research needs of its faculty and students during a time of rapid technological change.  Indeed, the budget of the library was shifting in terms of monies allocated towards the purchase of physical books and monies for the purchase of electronic resources.   To be sure, the library continued to purchase books.  In 2001, Jackson Library celebrated the purchase of its one millionth volume.  To mark this milestone, the library purchased a rare first edition of William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job.  It was one of only 315 copies produced in 1826, a year before Blake’s death.  Including its one millionth volume, the library in 2001 had over 2.3 million items and over 140 databases and 3,000 web pages.   

The pace of change in libraries and in higher education caused by technology seemed to accelerate at the start of the new millennium.  Jackson Library strove to adopt additional access tools and services to support faculty research and student learning.  At the same time, the student population of the University was growing.  So, the number of folks using library resources was increasing.  Due to the heavy demand and steady increase in the student body, there were a number of conceptual plans were developed that envisioned the construction of new adjoining structures that accommodated new instructional spaces, collection storage, tech labs, and even a cafĂ©.  Yet, the price tag for these plans was of a significant dollar amount. 

In the mean-time, the Dean of University Libraries, Rosann Bazirjian, recognized that Jackson Library needed to do more with its current space.  In 2008, the library conducted a space assessment study to consider a number of smaller renovation projects.  These proposed projects included the construction of: an information commons, meeting spaces, storage space for special collections, as well as the relocation of the circulation desk.  Over the next five years, the library diligently acted on many of these proposed library enhancements.  In addition to these projects, the library identified an emerging need for a space to support students who create multi-media projects.  The new space would be called the Digital Media Commons (DMC).  Library staff would assist students with the development of web pages, digital images, digital video, and PowerPoint presentations.  In 2012, the library repurposed a collection storage area in its lower level to accommodate the DMC.  This renovated space housed a service desk, consultation rooms, four student collaboratories, numerous individual computer stations, scanning stations, a gaming lab, a presentation practice room, a recording space, and several digital editing rooms.  Within a year of its launch, the DMC would expand its services to include 3-D printers.

3-D Printer in the Digital Media Commons
This is the third and final blog post related to the history of the library at UNC Greensboro.  The three blog posts sought to document the critical role the library has played in supporting faculty research and instruction and student learning.  The library’s dedicated and skilled staff have always offered innovative solutions to meet emerging research trends, changing instructional and technical needs, and shifts in scholarly communication.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Lettie Hamlett Rogers - An Alumna, Author, and Instructor with International Roots

Lettie Hamlett Rogers writing, 1946.

Lettie Hamlett Rogers, who both attended and taught at Woman’s College (now UNC Greensboro), led an extraordinary and varied life, often using her experiences to fuel her writings. Rogers was born in Suzhou (or Soochow), China, on September 16, 1917, to the missionaries Reverend P.W. Hamlett and Mrs. Lettie Hamlett.

She spent her childhood in both China and Japan, learning to speak Chinese before she learned to speak English. From early in her life, Rogers experienced hardship and strife. Rogers experienced the Chinese civil wars during 1925 and 1927 as a refugee in Japan. She was separated from her father, who stayed in China as one of the few remaining missionaries.

Rogers attended Shanghai American School before moving to the United States to attend Woman’s College. Rogers graduated from Woman’s College in 1940 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Like her parents, Rogers spent some time in China teaching and was classified as a missionary. She then joined the faculty of the University as an assistant professor in the Sociology Department in 1941.

During her time teaching in the Sociology Department, Rogers became increasingly dedicated to her writing. After suffering a bout of influenza in 1942, she spent her lengthy recovery reading numerous mystery novels. Rogers declared she could produce better stories and tried her hand at writing mysteries. In additional to her battle with influenza, Rogers was also affected by World War II. Rogers' parents and other missionaries were imprisoned in Japan, but were exchanged for Japanese prisoners in the United States in 1942.

Despite all of the hardships she faced in 1942, she kept working on her mystery story. Her first mystery was unpublished, but she enrolled in a writing course with Hiram Hayden at Woman’s College in 1943. That same year, she left her position at Woman’s College to dedicate herself full-time to her writing.

Rogers was a published writer throughout most of her adulthood, beginning her writing career with an article on China in Asia magazine in 1944. Rogers went on to publish prolifically, producing four novels, including South of Heaven, The Storm Cloud, Landscape of the Heart, and Birthright.

Typescript and corrections for "The Storm Cloud," 1951.

During her literary career, Rogers returned to Woman’s College, joining the English faculty in 1948. Rogers was instrumental in developing a strong writing program at Woman’s College.

However, Rogers resigned from her position in 1955 due to the controversial censure of the staff of the Coraddi, the art and literary magazine of Woman’s College, over a Fall 1954 issue. Rogers, along with several other faculty/staff, resigned in protest of the censure of the Coraddi staff for publishing a pen and ink drawing of a nude man. (To read more about the controversy, read our Spartan Stories post here.)
Rogers's letter of resignation sent to Chancellor Graham, 1955.

Despite leaving the English department at Woman’s College, Rogers continued writing. Many of her novels drew from her own life experience, perhaps none more so than her debut novel, South of Heaven. The novel focused on familiar territory for Rogers – a child of Western heritage who was living in China, struggling to find her place in the world. Other novels focused on China between 1925-1927, American mental hospitals, and a Southern town much like her residence in Morganton, N.C.

All of Rogers’ novels were met with some acclaim. Her last novel, Birthright, was issued as the April book by the Literary Guild and was well-received critically.

Rogers had been sick of several years, undergoing treatments for cancer in New York City at Mount Sinai Hospital when Birthright was published. Rogers passed away in 1957 at the age of 39, after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was buried in Morganton, N.C.

Although Rogers died at a tragically early age, she accomplished a great deal as a student, educator, missionary, and author. Her impact on UNC Greensboro and North Carolina literature are pronounced.

The Lettie Hamlett Rogers Papers are housed in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA). Rogers donated her papers the the University in the 1950s. If you would like to learn more about Rogers or the collection, visit the finding aid for the collection here
Lettie Hamlett Rogers, undated.