At the University Day celebration on October 11, 2016, Chancellor Carol Folt announced a new program to name scholarships after notable “firsts” in UNC history. In recognition of the individuals recognized as pioneers at UNC, the University Archives is publishing blog posts with more information about each of the twenty-one “firsts.” This post is part of that series.In 1898, Sallie Stockard became the first woman to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a thesis called Nature in Poetry. A few years later she triumphed again, earning a masters degree.
Before attending UNC, Stockard went to other institutions. In 1892, at the age of 23, Stockard enrolled in Guilford College — a school only 4 years old at the time.
The trustees of UNC voted to open its doors to women for postgraduate studies in January of 1897. Five women including Stockard were accepted, but the university was unprepared for the possibility that a woman would actually complete a degree. When Stockard did finish (the only one of the four to do so), she was excluded from all ceremonies, including the actual presentation of degrees and class pictures. She would stay on at UNC until earning a masters degree in 1900.
After obtaining her master’s degree, she left North Carolina for Clark University in Massachusetts where she published a dramatization of the Song of Solomon. By 1904 she had moved to Arkansas, where she married. She then moved to New Mexico, where she had two children. She separated from her husband soon after the birth of her second child, and in the 1920s, she moved to New York City and enrolled in Columbia University’s Teachers College. In 1924 she received a second masters degree there.
Over the course of her life, Stockard published several books on local history, both in North Carolina and other places she lived. Her master’s thesis at UNC was The History of Alamance, and was reprinted by the Alamance Historical Museum in 1986. Her second book, The History of Guilford County, North Carolina, was published in in 1902. In Arkansas, she published A History of Lawrence, Jackson, Independence and Stone Counties of the Third Judicial District of Arkansas.
In the 1940s, she wrote an autobiography detailing life in rural Alamance and her UNC experience, Daughter of the Piedmont: Chapel Hill’s First Co-Ed Graduate. Around the same time she founded a newspaper, the Nassau Golden Fleece News Gleaner, in her new home of western Long Island, NY.
Stockard passed away at age 93 in Long Island.
Sources and Further Reading:
Dean, Pamela. Women on the Hill: a History of Women at the University of North Carolina. Division of Student Affairs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1987.
“‘Daughter of the Piedmont’ by Sallie Walker Stockard” in Miscellaneous Writings, circa 1893-1956 #03704-z, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Finding Aid: https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/03704/
“Stockard, Sallie Walker (1869-1963): Scan 1” in Digital North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives
Stockard, Sallie Walker. History of Guilford County, North Carolina. Nabu Press, 2010.
Stockard, Sallie Walker. History of Lawrence, Jackson, Independence, and Stone Counties of the Third Judicial District of Arkansas. Little Rock: Arkansas Democrat Co., 1904.