Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt shows track runners triumphantly crossing the finish line. I offer a different kind of finish line. A different kind of triumph.
The year was 1923. My great-aunt Violetta Davis (later Ryan) was graduating from the Harrisonburg Normal School after just two years. Educating the populace has always been a priority of the United States, but in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, teaching requirements were not as demanding as they are today. However, the need for teachers was great. The State of Virginia built 4 normal schools to train teachers and establish educational standards or “norms.” The typical normal school offered several courses of study aimed at developing teachers and putting them to work as soon as possible:
1. Training Class Certificate: a person with two years of high school education could enter a one-year program that qualified her to teach in a rural school for three years.
2. Professional Diploma: a person with four years of high school education could enter the two year program that qualified her to teach anywhere for seven years.
3. Bachelor of Science Degree in Education: a person who had earned the Professional diploma could enter this four-year program that entitled her to teach for life.
Violetta opted for the Professional Diploma. But she didn’t stop there. She returned to Harrisonburg Teachers College and received her Bachelor of Science degree in High School Teaching and Administration in 1930, which was the same year her professional certificate would have expired. Then she went to New York where she earned a masters degree at Columbia in 1934.
But back to 1923 ….
When Violetta was a student at the State Normal School in Harrisonburg, the traditions surrounding commencement had been in place for over ten years. Five days of activities were planned. The entire student body stayed to share in the excitement of their friends’ achievements and to dream of the day when it would be their turn to join the “Normal Line.”
On Friday, June 1, 1923, the Senior class presented a play in the outdoor theater. Violetta’s class performed “The Lamp and the Bell” by Edna St. Vincent Milay. It was a poetic drama based on the fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red.” Milay wrote it specifically as an outdoor production with a large cast, colorful medieval period costumes and a great deal of spectacle.
On Saturday night, June 2, the Seniors were entertained with music by the music students and dramatic readings by students in the expression class.
|Click to enlarge|
The Normal Line marched past Spotswood Hall
to the gates at South Main Street
|Click to enlarge|
The Normal Line marching down South Main Street
Since the students were on display, the faculty and administration required a uniform look. The girls wore white dresses with white stockings, white shoes, and white hats. Sleeves had to be at least half way to the elbow and the hem had to be fourteen inches from the floor. The rules were nothing to mess with. Graduates had to pass inspection conducted by a committee of students and chaperone of each dorm. For Violetta, inspection day was April 30, 1923.
The Vesper Services were held Sunday evening in the amphitheater, concluding with a candlelight service in which the graduating class relinquished their seniority to the Juniors. The ceremony was usually accompanied by a great deal of sadness and tears.
On Monday was the annual tennis tournament between the two clubs on campus, the Racquet and Pinquet clubs. Homecoming for the alumnae was always during commencement week, and in 1923 the Alumnae held their banquet on Monday evening, June 4.
On Tuesday evening, June 5, 1923, Commencement was held in the Blue Stone Dining Hall in Harrison. Finally, Violetta and the other Seniors had triumphed in their studies. They crossed the finish line.
|Violetta's "casual picture" in the yearbook.|
Each senior had a formal portrait plus a
casual photo taken somewhere on campus.
I’ll race you over to Sepia Saturday for more triumphs of blogging genius.