Monday, November 18, 2019

The Education of Charles Duncan McIver

Charles D. McIver (left) and his younger brother William in 1865 
The founder and first president of our university, Charles D. McIver, left a wealth of information behind when he died suddenly in 1906 on a train returning from Raleigh to Greensboro. Among his more formal papers dealing with his work as president of the school are also included diaries, school note books, and reminiscences of his life. From these, it is possible to get a better understanding of McIver’s education in Reconstruction era North Carolina.

Charles D. McIver was fortunate to have been born into a family well enough off, that he was able to enjoy an early education that was decidedly better than many North Carolinians had access to at that time.
Charles' first teacher may have been his father, Henry (Matthew Henry McIver, always referred to as “Henry”). Although from a wealthy family, Henry’s own father needed him on the farm and thus, Henry never attended college. Despite this, Henry was compelled by his neighbors to teach at the local one room school house. When Henry went to teach, he brought along his four year old son, Charles. Charles would later recall that school house as among his earliest memories.

Despite never having attended college, Henry and his wife, Sarah, always encouraged their children to go to college. “My father and mother reared me to the idea that, as a matter of course, I was to go to college,” McIver would later recall.
"Winter" an essay written by Charles D. McIver, Dec. 19th, 1873

By the age of eight, Charles was ready to properly go to school. This time, however, Henry and his cousins hired a “proper” teacher. Bertha Buie, a sixteen year old graduate of Salem Academy was Charles first formal teacher. Charles would learn from textbooks such as McGuffey’s Reader or the North Carolina Reader. McIver also remembered other teachers from this period. Mary Newby particularly helped to see his education through to the age of thirteen.

From age thirteen to sixteen, Charles was taught by Davidson College graduate (and cousin) John E. Kelley. The subjects taught during this time were appropriate for a student who sought to enter college- English, geography, algebra, Latin and Greek.

With his Presbyterian roots and connections, it would have been entirely natural for Charles to attend Davidson College, but he instead chose the University of North Carolina, partly because it had produced so many leaders in the state, but also because he wanted something a little outside of his upbringing.
Charles' Zoology notebook, 1878

The entrance requirements for UNC were stringent:
“A competent knowledge of the elements of the English language, Geography, and Algebra through equations of the second degree, Latin Grammar, Prosody and composition, four books of Caesar, five books of Virgil’s Aeneid, or the equivalent in Ovid, Sallust, or Cicero’s orations; of Greek Grammar and Composition, four books of Xenophon’s Anabasis, or Memorabilia, and two books of the Iliad.”

Charles was well prepared by his schooling under John E. Kelley and entered UNC in the fall of 1877 at age sixteen. Although his family was decidedly not poor, he was forced to borrow money from his uncle to pay for tuition and expenses (Tuition was 60 dollars, Room rent was 10 dollars/year at UNC during this time). McIver later stated that his total tuition debt for attending UNC was $1,200 dollars.
Charles' notes on NC History, 1880


Charles enrolled in the A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) degree, and being well served by the course of education taught by Kelley, was a very good student, scoring above 90 in every subject in his first two semesters. Indeed, he did so well, that he would later earn a medal for Greek in 1879. If Charles had one failing at UNC, it was his inability to speak publicly. As he would later relate, “During my four years at this institution I made no appearance before the public as a speaker when the payment of fines…could relieve me from that duty.” Fortunately, Charles would later overcome that deficiency in the course of time.

Charles would graduate in 1881 among the highest in his class, all the more notable in that his classmates included many future NC leaders. 
Although he would record on a questionnaire for a prospective book on prominent men in North Carolina that he had pursued no professional education, Charles was later awarded two honorary degrees from UNC: a doctorate of literature in 1893 and doctor of law in 1904.
One example out of many of Dr. McIver's reminiscences concerning his early life and education, undated

Charles' medal for excellence in Greek from UNC, 1879
*In addition to the Charles Duncan McIver Records, 1855-1906 (UA2.1), the books: McIver of North Carolina by Rose Howell Holder & Covert Curriculum by Pamela Dean were also consulted in the creation of this blog post.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lina McDonald: The First Campus Mystery

Graduating Class of the State Normal and Industrial School, 1893
Lina McDonald is not pictured
Working at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is always interesting. Recently, I came across one of the earliest campus mysteries – the tragic accident of a student who lost her life several months before graduation when she was struck by a train and killed, not far from campus.

A Forsyth County native, Miss Lina McDonald was a graduate of Peace Institute (now Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina) and arrived at the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) when the doors opened in the fall of 1892. Although she had gained teaching experience in the nearby towns of Winston, Shelby, and Concord, Miss McDonald decided to apply to the State Normal to acquire a certificate and additional experience.  In addition to her responsibilities as a student, she also served as an assistant faculty member and soon took charge of the Department of Vocal Music and Education where she quickly gained the reputation as a conscientious and caring teacher. She was described as having a lovable nature, a good character, and winning cheerfulness which made her well-liked by both the students and the teachers. Her sweet personality and reputation as a powerful teacher made her untimely death an even greater shock to the college and to the community.

The circumstances surrounding the accident were never fully understood. There were no actual witnesses and the last person who saw her alive reported that she was safe on a nearby embankment. What happened next is purely conjecture.


A remembrance of Lina McDonald written by members of the faculty

It was not unusual to find Miss McDonald taking long walks. As an assistant member of the faculty, she was not restricted to campus and she was known to relieve the stress of teaching and studying by walking, either with members of the staff or friends in the community. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, Miss McDonald was returning from a visit with her friend, Mrs. James Glenn in South Greensboro when her path took her close to the railroad tracks, presumably because it created easier walking conditions in the snow. A local man, T. J. Trent, told authorities that the young woman had passed him while he was making his way south, away from the city. He noted that when she was approximately 200 yards beyond him, she paused and appeared to contemplate her path. She then reversed course and headed back toward to the city, passing him again. About that time, Mr. Trent heard the sound of the oncoming train, but had lost sight of Miss McDonald who he believed had continued to her destination. It was only later that he heard that she had been struck by the train; her body discovered by a local hunter, lying on the track in the snow. Sadly, the engineer had not seen her and the accident had gone unnoticed by the train crew or the passengers.

As a crowd gathered around the lifeless body, no one could identify her. It was only later that evening when someone discovered a college laundry tag reading “Lina McD ” on her clothing that someone remembered a young woman by the name of Lina McDonald attended the State Normal, and college president Charles Duncan McIver was notified. Two days later, McIver and several members of the faculty accompanied Miss McDonald’s remains to her funeral in Raleigh.

The mystery of how she was hit by the train when she was last seen safely on a high embankment was never solved. The official inquest did not hold the engineers responsible for her death and it was generally believed that she may have panicked when she heard the train, causing her to lose her footing and fall on the track. Another proposed explanation was that somehow the train caught part of her clothing, pulling her onto the rails, and causing the train to pass diagonally over her chest. Whatever the circumstances, Lina McDonald was truly mourned and ten years later when asked to write about the first graduates of the State Normal for the campus yearbook, The Decennial, her classmates and colleagues included her in their number.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Pillar of Inner Strength: Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow

Dr. Elisabeth Anna Marie Jastrow was an Associate Professor of Art History at Woman's College (WC) of the University of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro) from 1941 until her retirement in 1961. Though she spent the last twenty years of her career teaching art history, her true passion was classical archeology. Elisabeth Jastrow was born October 7, 1890 in Berlin, Germany into a family of intellectuals and developed an early interest in archeology.

Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow
Dr. Jastrow was so interested in archeology that she had planned to pursue a career as an archeologist, though she was thwarted at nearly every turn. Jastrow wrote, "My desire always has been to participate in excavations or to make museum work my career, but both these fields were practically closed to women in Germany." Jastrow worked tirelessly to set herself apart in the field of archeology. She completed her Ph.D. in 1916 as the chaos of World War I was having an impact on all of Europe. Her studies were interrupted in 1914 when she took a break to work as a nurse's aide in a Red Cross Hospital in Riemenstadt for a year.

Jastrow was a voracious learner; she studied and traveled broadly from 1910 through the remainder of her working life. She studied in Greece, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England, Switzerland, Holland, and once in the United States, she continued to travel and studied in Canada, Cuba, and France. Despite earning a Ph.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Heidelberg, Germany and a specialized certification to make molds of sculptural objects from a sculpture studio in Switzerland, finding meaningful work in archeology was a challenge for her. By the 1930s, she had an impressive resume in research, instruction, and museum cataloging. At times though, she had to make do with working as a German tutor or an elementary teacher, but she did so as she continued her own research.

Perhaps more detrimental to her budding career than being a woman in Germany during the 1930s was the fact that she was of Jewish descent. Her family were culturally assimilated Jews but the German race laws instituted in 1933 would put an end to her academic career in Germany. At that time, Jastrow was finally employed at Akademisches Kunst-Museum, University of Bonn, Germany, as an Assistant and Curator working to prepare and publish a catalogue of a collection of Greek vases, a particular interest of hers. However, the Nazi government withdrew her appointment to the museum and she had to leave Germany to continue her career. Jastrow was awarded the International Fellowship of the American Association of University Women for the year of 1934-1935, which allowed her to continue her archeological research in Italy. In 1937, Jastrow’s father died and she was no longer allowed to return to Germany nor could she take any money out of the country. Her father had remained in Germany with her mother and sister until his death. Jastrow stayed in Italy until the summer of 1938 when she travelled to Switzerland to study mold-making to create reproductions of art objects.

Woman's College art students, circa 1940s
In October 1938, Jastrow first came to the United States on a visitor’s visa where she gave lectures on classical archeology at several prominent universities. A friend of her father’s was a professor at Harvard University and hosted her in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an extended stay. In April 1939, Jastrow was offered a year-long position at Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. At the end of that year, she left the United States for Cuba and soon returned as a non-quota immigrant and began the process of becoming an United States citizen. She spent the next couple of years trying to make a living doing translations and occasionally making sculptured reproductions of art objects for museums or artists. Though she reported a certain degree of success, she acknowledged that it was difficult to find much work in light of the world situation in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

In January of 1941, Elisabeth Jastrow first came to Greensboro to work at Woman’s College as an Instructor in Art History. In June 1941, she was hired as an Assistant Professor of Art History and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1953. She also taught German for her first few years at Woman’s College. Jastrow continued her research and travels during her time in Greensboro and published numerous articles and a couple of books.

Jastrow’s contacts and reputation allowed her to bring several significant exhibitions to the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at Woman’s college, including an exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art and an exhibit of photographs of Egyptian Art belonging to the collection of a colleague in Germany. Though her contributions to the field of archeology were numerous and her impact as an educator well documented, her career was no doubt stifled by her limitations of being both a woman and a German Jew during the first half of the 20th century. Her years in Greensboro were marked by her involvement in various organizations related to history and archeology as well as time with her family as her mother eventually came to live with her.

Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow
Dr. Jastrow retired from Woman’s College in 1961 and remained in the Greensboro area until her death at age 91. Her niece and nephew spoke of their aunt at her funeral and described her as a woman of impressive inner strength and discipline as she had pursued a new life and language upon her exile from her native Germany due to "Hitler's madness in Europe". Her niece, who called her Aunt Ebith, described her tender relationship with an aunt who had introduced her to the beauties of antiquity and sent postcards from all over the world as she travelled and continued her research despite the chaos of WWI and WWII. Indeed, Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow was a pillar of inner strength and a model of perseverance for the young women of Woman's College of the University of North Carolina.