Monday, April 21, 2014

A to Z April Challenge: R is for Rebekah




My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.”  I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways. 

is for Rebekah.  Rebekah Elizabeth Stephenson

Rebekah Stephenson was a college friend of my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan when the two were students at the Harrisonburg Normal School (later Harrisonburg Teachers College, then Madison College, now James Madison University.  GO DUKES!)

Rebekah was older than many of her classmates by about six years.  Violetta and other girls went to college straight from high school, but Rebekah didn’t.  In fact, in 1920, at age 21, she was already a teacher in Wakefield, Virginia.  In 1921, she was a student at the State Normal School. 

Rebeka Stephenson 1923
Rebekah Stephenson
scanned from the School Ma'am 1923

While that seems backwards today, the requirements for becoming a teacher were quite different.  In a rural area, someone with an eighth grade education could be appointed teacher.  However, I don’t know what Rebekah’s situation was or what she was teaching when she enrolled in college.  She was in a two year program, most likely in Home Economics judging by her membership in that club, indicating her desire to either teach or supervise in that special area. 

Rebeka Stephenson 1923
Rebekah in front of Spotswood dorm

Described in the yearbook as “capable and sensible, broadminded . . . , brilliant . . . ,”  it is no wonder Rebekah was voted President of the Senior Class.  The added description as “musician for us all” plus the Class Prophecy that she would one day be on a music tour abroad are puzzling since she seemed never to have been in the Glee Club or orchestra.

Whether she went on to teach Home Economics after graduation in 1923 is not known.  On October 15, 1925, Rebekah married Charles Baskerville Watkins, Jr., a businessman twenty years her senior. 

Wedding Announcement
Richmond Times Dispatch
from Genealogybank.com








In 1930, the two were living in Clarksville, Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  Bass was a banker and Rebekah was caring for their three-year old son. 

By 1935, they were living in South Hill, Virginia, where in 1940 Bass was an accountant.  Rebekah was caring for three sons.

Obituary Richmond Times Dispatch
from Genealogybank.com





















In the 1950s, the Watkins were in Richmond where Bass died in 1952. Rebekah died August 30, 1977 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  I have to wonder what brought her back to the home of her Alma Mater.


Run right over to the A to Z April Challenge for some roaring good reads.

16 comments:

  1. Another lovely tribute to one of your Aunts college friends and another reason to regard your Aunt as a foresighted historian of her times. The wedding clipping is priceless...they just don't write them like that anymore. I could visualize her dress and hear the music as it was so well described...plus...I love that era, the clothes and have a vivid imagination....as you know. I really like Rebeka.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

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    1. When I found that wedding announcement, I just HAD to use it. I can picture that dress -- it must have been gorgeous. Some day you'll have to use this dress in one of your stories.

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  2. Wendy, you have many great female role models in your life!

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  3. Rebekah reminds me of a classmate I had in college, she too was several years older than all of us as she joined college late. I like Rebekah.

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    1. Most people I know who went to college did so straight from high school. I recall having classes with MUCH older people, but nobody just several years older.

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  4. Wow she was gorgeous and so very talented. A lovely tribute to Rebekah! :)

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    1. She must have been very well-liked to be selected president of the class.

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  5. I love your teacher posts :)
    An envelope is in the mail to you. I am faster this year!

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    1. Oh, you didn't need to do that. I meant to email you. Why did you have to be so efficient this year?????

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  6. There was probably a teacher need. That's how it works today, too, although there are more hoops.

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

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    1. You're right about the need for teachers. That was also behind the creation of so many "normal schools" in Virginia.

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  7. Another interesting story of Violetta and Velma's friends.

    I love the wedding announcement. I miss the old days of a lengthy wedding announcement describing the details of the ceremony, clothing and flowers.

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    1. Yeah, I miss reading the detailed descriptions of the wedding gowns and flowers. But nowadays our newspaper charges for the privilege - BY THE LINE! Writing one of those old-fashioned wedding announcements would double the whole wedding budget!

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  8. Rebekah was so pretty! And her wedding sounded so lovely. The wedding announcement was wonderfully detailed. I recognized the song "Oh, Promise Me" from watching Anne of Green Gables. It was sung when her friend Diana got married. =)

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    1. Oh Jana -- I LOVE Anne of Green Gables and have all the DVDs. I can watch them over and over. And yes, when I saw that song in the wedding announcement, I could hear the rendition from Diana's wedding. I could also hear Anne's imitation of it.

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