|First graduating class of State Normal and Industrial School, 1893|
While the students were learning how to improve their teaching, the graduates were still being forced to teach in sub-par facilities - often one-room wooden school houses which educational leader James Y. Joyner deemed to be "a lion in the path of rapid progress." A 1902 address to the student body by the institution's founding president Charles Duncan McIver particularly struck the students. He stridently urged them to "labor as mothers and teachers to provide education" in the state. As a result, they formed an organization known as the Woman's Betterment Association, a group which sought specifically to improve North Carolina school buildings.
No. 2 Williamsburg schoolhouse (Rockingham County, NC), late 1800s
With the Woman's Betterment Association leading the charge, educational leaders across the state were charged with examining existing schoolhouses and making recommendations for improvements (or replacements). Viola Boddie, a charter faculty member at State Normal and head of the department of Latin, was one of the professionals sent to survey the educational landscape. She recalled "traveling around the state in an open buggy, pulled by a mule, observing rustic schools with spaces between the logs wide enough to 'throw a cat through if not a dog.'"
|New No. 2 Williamsburg schoolhouse (Rockingham County, NC), 1906|
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. According to a 1906 state report, these improvements were a direct result of the work of the members of the Woman's Betterment Association, who "became effective lobbyists for every educational case." The work of the Woman's Betterment Association effectively demonstrated the political savviness of its membership, more than a decade before they were allowed the right to vote.