Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”
This week’s challenge theme “FIRST” is the perfect time to tell about another donation to my alma mater, James Madison University. Back in October 2018, I delivered my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring’s college scrapbook to the Special Collections division of the university library. During our meeting, Dr. Philip Herrington, professor of history, and Tiffany Cole, archivist, expressed interest in any other items I might have inherited that could benefit the students and other researchers. Unfortunately I have no other college memorabilia, just personal and family goodies like dishes and quilts.
Then Tiffany asked, “What about diplomas?”
Cha-ching! I do have diplomas but not Velma’s. They belonged to her older sister Violetta Davis Ryan, the FIRST in the Davis family to attend college. Their father Walter Davis stopped the boys’ education at the eighth grade and put them to work. The girls, however, were either allowed or required to go to college, not sure which way the story went.
|Violetta on the steps|
of Spotswood Hall 1923
Violetta graduated twice from the same school. Her FIRST diploma was earned in 1923 when JMU was known as the State Normal School at Harrisonburg. Because she had graduated from high school, she qualified to earn the Professional Diploma. The two-year program allowed graduates to teach anywhere for seven years. Seven years later in 1930, she returned to her alma mater, by then renamed Harrisonburg Teachers College, to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education. This four-year program entitled her to teach for life.
|Formfit Girdle box|
In 2012, I blogged about Violetta’s college career HERE and HERE and even posted a photo of her diplomas. They had been rolled tight and stored in a girdle box, of all things, probably since 1923 or 1930. Those diplomas certainly held that rolled-up shape. It’s what 90 years in a girdle box will do, I guess. At every attempt to unroll the diplomas to take a picture, they snapped right back into a tight roll. If the Formfit girdle could hold a woman’s stomach flat, its box was equally effective in keeping the diplomas’ roll.
Apparently there has been quite a bit of interest in the early diplomas, so I am thrilled to add to the small but growing collection. I warned Kate Morris, the head of Special Collections, about the condition of the diplomas, but she was sure the Preservation Officer could flatten them.
And she did!
|Violetta's SECOND diploma 1930|
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