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In 1943, UNC-Greensboro was the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina. And on this day in 1943, first-year students were preparing for their freshman formal. Our May Artifact of the Month is a dance card from that event.

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In the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, dance cards provided a structure and etiquette for attendees of formal dances. The dance card — which was really a small booklet — had a number of blank lines corresponding to the dance songs at the event. When a man invited a woman to dance to a particular song, she’d write his name down on the corresponding line.

These days, if a critical mass of people still attended formal dances, someone would design a smart phone app to handle this task. But in the 1940s, paper and pen managed just fine.

And although the dance card is no longer a mainstay of social gatherings, we’ve kept the idea of the dance card alive as a metaphor for describing our social capacity — hence the phrase “my dance card is full.”

dance card

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This particular dance card was donated by NCC Gallery volunteer and donor Bob Schreiner, who came across it for sale on the Web. We don’t know anything about its original owner, but the dance card itself conveys enough information to give us an intriguing picture of the life of that Woman’s College student.

The card gives the location, Rosenthal Gymnasium, which was built on the campus in the 1920s and can be seen in this photograph from the County Collection in the NCC Photographic Archives:

Rosenthal Gymnasium

We also know that the official guests included Frank Porter Graham, who was then UNC President, and Woman’s College Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson.

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Graham is described in the 1943 Woman’s College yearbook, Pine Needles, like this:

Dr. Graham is recognized as one of the South’s truly great men, but this is not what endears him to us. He is a particular favorite of ours because of his easy manner, his very effective speeches, and his delightful conversation. Our only complaint is that we see too little of him.

The cover and front page of the 1943 yearbook.

The cover and front page of the 1943 yearbook.

The 1943 Pine Needles also illuminates some aspects of life at this women’s college during World War II. The foreword to the yearbook reads:

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“The 1943 Pine Needles is trying to portray for you the true spirit of a great woman’s college; to give you the picture of young women who — in the midst of a world at war — are seeking to equip themselves to play a useful role in a post-war world in need of a responsible youth; and to aid you, the students, to recall the laughter and hard work, the study and recreation, and — above all — the pure joy of living which was so much a part of your college life.

You may not remember… the times you were homesick… your struggle in Statistics… the payments you made in the Treasurer’s Office… the term papers you ground out in the Library… how long the lunch lines were…

But just try to forget: … those solitary walks by the lake… those ever-welcome boxes from home… initiation day for freshman and how queer girls look minus make-up… coming from chapel in the rain… the snowballs you threw… registration day and the struggle to avoid “eight o’clocks”… that blankety-blank alarm clock… dashing into Junior Shop for cokes and crackers between classes… “after-school” hockey games and the appetites you worked up… a W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor… dance group and how you wished you were in it… those dorm parties which always surprised you… riding at Mary Lee… the jam around the Milk Bar on Saturday nights… the sophomore Christmas pageants which were always lovely… waiting for the mail to be put up… rolling your hair at night in hopes that it won’t rain the next day… learning to aim at your target… !

Because dance cards were typically carried by women, they usually list men’s names. But judging by the names on this card, the card holder’s dance partners were all women. Thanks to the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, we can even see photos of those dance partners in the 1946 Pine Needles.

And while the yearbook foreword mentions the “W.C. formal with its dance cards and crowded floor,” it doesn’t give any indication of whether the floor was crowded solely with women. The names on this dance card are our only clue.

If the freshman formal was an all-women event, we’re left to wonder whether that was by design, or whether the war effort overseas had affected the population of local young college men.

If any readers have personal experience or more information, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks to Bob Schreiner for this fantastic donation!

“In 1923, a bill introduced in the state legislature to prohibit organizations from keeping their memberships secret or wearing masks in public posed a major challenge to the Klan’s North Carolina support base….The bill failed, a testament to the Klan’s political influence….

“[After a 1949 rally in Charlotte] both the Raleigh and Charlotte city councils adopted ordinances barring the Klan from appearing in public wearing masks or hoods….

“[In 1953] in the wake of the rash of floggings perpetrated by Thomas Hamilton‘s Associated Carolina Klans, the state… passed a law prohibiting members of ‘secret political societies’ from wearing disguises in public or burning crosses on private property without consent of the owner….”

— From “Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan” by David Cunningham (2013)

 

On this day in 1918: Future senator Sam Ervin, in infantry training, writing his “Dearest Mamma” in Morganton:

“Today is Mother’s Day, and according to orders from General Pershing it is to be most fittingly observed by each member of the Amixforce [American Expeditionary Forces] writing a letter to his mother. No order heretofore given has, in my humble opinion, contained so vast a store of true wisdom….

“My hope and prayer is that I may be spared to come back in honor and safety in order that I may repay a small part of the great debt that I owe to you. No one can be under a greater obligation than I, for my mother is the most beautiful and self-sacrificing mother in the world.”

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On this day in 1937: “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley, spending several days at Black Mountain College while driving cross-country, tells an Asheville reporter that he finds western North Carolina “wonderful country,” the rise of Duke University “most extraordinary” and the South “livening up.”

 

“To see busing succeed [in 1974], Americans could look to the South. In Charlotte, North Carolina, 16-year-old Tina Gouge was one of many busing pioneers. At West Charlotte High School, Gouge’s student government committee started a campaign to write letters to Boston’s students and citizens. Gouge, an African American, acknowledged her initial trepidation at the prospect of a 12-mile bus ride. But she eventually found integration to be ‘a fantastic experience.’ She counseled Boston’s students to exercise patience and openness. Don Turbyhill, a white student, wrote, ‘You can’t expect to adjust overnight — but please give it a chance.’

“The Charlotte students then extended an invitation to their Boston brethren. In the last week of October, four students from Hyde Park High School traveled to North Carolina. As Linda Lawrence, a 17-year-old Bostonian, admitted, ‘I never thought I’d be going down South for a lesson in racial relations.’ The world turned upside down.”

— From “All Eyes are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn” by Jason Sokol (2014)

Even in 1974 not everyone thought so highly of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  And of course that was far from the end of the CMS desegregation story

 

“Boone, the county seat of Watauga County, was our destination, and, ever since morning, the guideboards and the trend of the roads had notified us that everything in this region tends towards Boone as a center of interest. The simple ingenuity of some of the guide-boards impressed us. If, on coming to a fork, the traveler was to turn to the right, the sign read,

“To BOONE 10 M.

“If he was to go to the left, it read,

“M 01 ENOOB oT”

— From “On Horseback”  by Charles Dudley Warner (1885)

I’m not reproducing the second sign precisely — all the letters were mirror-image backward.

 

“[From its first appearance in 1868] the outrage story, a matter-of-fact newspaper account of Ku Klux Klan violence in the South, remained the most common means by which Northern readers engaged with the Klan….

“A New York Tribune correspondent reporting from Raleigh, North Carolina…had arrived ‘prepared to find that the stories which have reached the North were greatly exaggerated; but the reality seems to be that the one-tenth part has not been told….Take your idea of Ku-Klux outrages. Whip your man or woman half to death, string up your victim to a tree and let him hang for days, bring to mind the worst case of rape you have ever heard of. [Then] multiply these instances by a hundred and throw in every form of torture and cruelty which ingenuity can suggest, with a few thousand lesser whippings which separately count for little, and you will get some idea of the state of affairs in North Carolina.’

“The constant, predictable appearance of [such] stories spoke to the essential deviance of Southern white society. Klan attacks became the raw materials out of which Northerners fashioned an image of a backward, bloody and dangerous South.”

— From “Stories of the South: Race and the Reconstruction of Southern Identity, 1865-1915″ by K. Stephen Prince (2014)

 

Edward R. Murrow, a native of the Polecat Creek community in Guilford County, died 50 years ago today. As the New York Times observed in his obituary, Murrow’s  “independence and incisive reporting brought heightened journalistic stature to radio and television.”

Today he seems to be remembered most often by critics of his successors in the news media. In 2005 the Washington Post’s Mark Leibovich did the ultimate takedown on “Edward R. Murrow must be rolling over in his grave.”

If you still can’t resist the pull of this hoary rhetorical device, at least don’t refer to the subject as “Edward R. Morrow.”

 

“The words very and must didn’t exist in the rural North Carolina dialect I spoke. All my relatives and neighbors used mighty where Yankees would use very.

“I recall the first time I heard must coming from the mouth of a Southerner. Our high school was having career day and had invited a pianist from Fayetteville who had tried his luck in New York. He said, ‘I must go now; I have another session….’  I was so struck by the incident, that I remember it to this day, a half century later. Now very and must are commonplace….”

— From Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog (Sept. 18, 2013) 

Offline, Dr. Goodword is Robert E. Beard, native of Fayetteville, graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and professor emeritus of languages at Bucknell University.

 

I wasn’t shocked to see Bloomberg Best (and Worst) list Asheville as having the highest concentration of Scotch-Irish ancestry among U.S. metro areas.

But I’d never have guessed the national leader in concentration of Palestinian ancestry: Greenville.

 

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