Spartan Stories

Tales from the UNCG University Archives

by Kathelene McCarty Smith

Virginia Brown was one of the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College’s (now UNC Greensboro) first students. Because State Normal did not give formal degrees in the early years of the school, Virginia and six classmates returned to the college for a fifth year to receive their degrees. Virginia majored in Zoology. Her Botany teacher was T. Gilbert Pearson, founder of the North Carolina Audubon Society, who she described as “the great bird man of the world.” His fascination with ornithology often took him out of the classroom, resulting in Virginia teaching his class and becoming an authority on birds and wildflowers. She was also very inspired by math professor Gertrude Mendenhall, chemistry professor Mary Petty, and Dr. Anna Gove, the college’s second physician. Virginia credited Dr. Gove for being the most influential person in her life.  

Virginia and her horse Victor

Virginia was always considered strong willed, more interested in outdoor pursuits than domestic duties. While attending State Normal, she insisted on riding her horse, Victor, to school every day. Victor would be stabled in the campus barn with Dr. McIver’s horse during the day, then he and Virginia would trek home every afternoon. Victor was given to her by her father, a merchant and livery stable owner. Known as “one of the wildest riders in the state,” she was often seen racing Victor around Greensboro.


“One of the wildest riders in the state!”

Virginia later married local lawyer, Robert D. Douglas, grandson of Stephen A. Douglas of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. Robert was a match for her free spirit, and he encouraged her interests. The couple had four children: two daughters and two sons. Her son Robert Douglas, Jr. and her daughter Virginia both became lawyers. Her daughter, Helen, joined the Army and was stationed in Australia. Sadly, her son Stephen, was killed while piloting his own plane. 

From all accounts, Virginia was a very unconventional mother for her time. Their house often smelled like scuppernong wine, which she made in the attic. One of her children commented about their mother, “She could never cook worth a dern. Rather than being the sweet little mother who stayed home and took care of the household, her interest was in birds, flowers, and mountains. She was always encouraging us to get involved in the study of nature.” 

Virginia and her children traveled all over the state, studying wildflowers in 76 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The children recall traipsing through the swamps of eastern North Carolina looking for unusual flowers or wild birds. Closer to home, they collected leaves and built birdhouses. Their father also helped fuel the children’s imagination by reading them exciting tales of adventure, such as The Jungle Book, and by looking the other way as they slid down the banister of their family home in Fisher Park.

Virginia Brown

Virginia never lost her love of learning. In 1928, she returned to her alma mater and earned a degree in English, from what was then called the North Carolina College for Women. Virginia’s journeys led her further afield than North Carolina, traveling around the world twice. She remained active into old age, riding horses, mowing her own lawn, and even trekking across the world to visit her daughter in Tasmania in her nineties. Virginia lived to be 101 and when she died, she was one of the two oldest surviving alumnae of the college. She is still referred to as the school’s first commuter student and the image of Virginia and Victor arriving on campus for class figures prominently in the history of the early campus.



by Kathelene McCarty Smith

Even before there was a pool on campus, swimming was an important part of the college’s curriculum. Early lessons were given at the downtown Greensboro YWCA facilities, but when the Rosenthal Gymnasium was completed in 1925, classes were held in the new 25 ft. by 75 ft. swimming pool, which included a shallow end and separate lanes for lap swimming. The addition of the pool, strongly endorsed by Mary Channing Coleman, enabled the school to offer a more convenient on-campus option for students who were interested in the sport. 

Dolphin-Seal Club Members, 1946

In 1926, the Dolphin Club was formed, boasting six charter members. The purpose of the group was to help students improve their stroke techniques and become expert swimmers and divers. To be a Dolphin, a student was required to pass a rigorous admittance examination which tested “speed and perfection” in swimming. The successful candidates had to excel in “two strokes for form, three standard dives, a speed record of two lengths of the pool in 45 seconds with the crawl, and [swimming] 12 lengths of the pool.” Dolphins met once per week for practice and to work on earning special badges for swimming accomplishments. Members also performed yearly “water festivals,” during which students staged choreographed routines and stunts. 

Diving Exhibitions by Dolphin-Seal Club Members, ca. 1948

In 1930, the Club decided to allow students who were less technically proficient than the “Dolphins” to join. This group of students were called the “Seals” and subsequently, the “Dolphin-Seal Club” was formed. Continuing the tradition of providing elaborate campus entertainments, the Club held yearly events featuring synchronized aquatic performances, as well as technical swimming and diving demonstrations. These elaborately choreographed events included festive and sometimes very elaborate decorations, props, and lighting. Live music was integral to the performances and often became an important part of the annual themes. 

Club Members Participate in “A Tale of the Toys” (1963)

Yearly festivities had creative themes, such as the 1940 pageant “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” during which student swimmers, representing “all marine deities and animals,” payed tribute to Neptune, the god of the sea. “Rhythm Americana,” produced in 1953, guided the audience through water-based versions of tangos, duets, ballads, and waltzes. The mid-1950s saw aquatic productions that were less fantastical and more modern, such the “Underwater Times.” This 1955 pageant program featured “headlines” such as “Escaped Murderer Captured” and “Democrats vs. Republicans,” and performances divided into Editorials, Travel, Sports, and Theater. The 1960s embraced more whimsical themes, including “The Tale of the Toys” (1963) and “Spring is a New Beginning” (1967). Sadly, by the early 1970s, the Dolphin-Seal Club was no longer included as a student group in the university’s handbook. Although UNCG still has a swim team, the Dolphin-Seal is now considered one of the university’s lost clubs.

by Kathelene McCarty Smith

Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe, 1979

Founded in 1973 as an innovative and experimental drama group by acting instructor Jamey Reynolds, the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe was established to give student mimes an opportunity to practice their art on and off campus. The tradition of Mime is thought to have had its origins in Ancient Greece, when a masked dancer, or Pantomimus, performed to honor Dionysus, the god of theater. In both the Greek and Roman dramatic tradition, mimes created a comical break between acts of more serious plays and performed for weddings and important events. The performers of the Middle Ages adapted the early art into “mummer plays,” or “guisers,” which evolved into the “dumbshow.” Pantomime, or Mime, saw its modern incarnation in France with performers portraying a character through silent, creative movements or gestures, usually in costume. Mimes such as Etienne Decroux, Jean Louis Barrault, and Marcel Marceau set the bar in France, while American Mime was made famous by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Emmett Kelly, and Buster Keaton.

The oldest Mime group in the US is The American Mime Theatre, which was founded in 1952. By the 1970s and 1980s, mimes mainstreamed into television, street performances, and even onto the UNCG campus. As part of the university’s Department of Communication and Theatre, UNCG undergraduates, as well as graduate students, could enroll in the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe.

Alamance  County Arts Council Performance, 1981

Professor Reynolds taught his students that Mime was “the art of gesture, of making the body’s movements express a dramatic scene.” He incorporated elements of French, American, and classical Mime to develop routines that required mental and physical control to reach the optimal performance level. Their programs ranged from magical and mystical tales to abstract and representational interpretations of our society.

Pensive Student Mime, 1975

Sound, light, and costumes were also utilized to accentuate their programs. The costumes were often very imaginative in their use of bright color and design to re-mold the mimes’ human shape into new forms. Describing their performances as “a combination of comedy, fantasy, mystery, and satire,” the Troupe performed at school and community events. They entertained with traditional miming, as well as juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, music and dancing. The mimes continually re-configured their shows to suit their audiences, which ranged from elementary school students to retirees. Most performances were free, but when they would charge, all monies were channeled to a theater scholarship fund.

While The American Mime Theatre continued to produce mimes, the art form’s popularity dwindled. By the 1980s, the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe seems to have disappeared completely from campus.

by Kathelene McCarty Smith

When the State Normal and Industrial School opened its doors in October of 1892, there was barely enough room for the 176 students who came through them. By the end of the year, the girls’ school had 223 students spilling out of the dormitories. This overflow resulted in some students rooming in auxiliary dormitories, while others boarded with neighborhood families. Most of these students dined at the college’s dining hall, which was located in Brick Dormitory. The only other students who lived off of the main campus were the small number of girls who lived at home. Initially, there were very few of these “Day Students.” In 1904, there were forty-six students attending classes at State Normal, but living at home.

Town Students, ca. 1953

Because the “Day Students,” or “Town Students,” did not live in the dorms, they tended not to be as involved in groups, and often felt that they had second class status on campus. As Day Students had their own particular needs and concerns, they were encouraged to start their own organization, in the hope that it would encourage them to become more involved on campus. In the early years, these students were represented in the school’s Student Government Association, but they were not given formal recognition until 1929. In that year, the Day Students Association was founded, which allowed the students more representation in the school’s student government. At this time, the group was given a special room in the Students’ Building that was designated for study and relaxation. Unfortunately, the space had very few amenities which would have made life easier for students who lived off campus. It had sparse furniture and no lockers, resulting in the students having to carry their books all day. There was also a parking problem for commuting students, who had to compete for a limited amount of spaces with faculty members.

As the college continued to grow, students continued to live both on and off campus and there continued to be an organization for commuting students. In 1933, the Day Students’ Association changed its name to the Town Students Association. Membership included all women who lived off campus, and the group’s constitution reflected their desire “to participate more fully in college activities, and believing that student government develops self-control and instills loyalty in students.”

President of the Town Students Association Choosing Tunes on the Jukebox

In the years after World War II, college enrollment began to swell. At that time, almost ten percent of the student populations lived at home. By 1949, 220 town students were enrolled at Woman’s College (now UNC Greensboro). Although these young women had only minimal participation in campus organizations, they occasionally would socialize together in the Day Students’ Room. In an attempt to draw these students further into college life and create deeper connections with on-campus students, administration allowed each town students to join a residence hall. This plan was not a great success and most town students preferred to return home after class or to gather in the Day Students’ Organization room, which was now located in Elliott Hall. Instead, to further the feeling of inclusion in typical campus activities, the Organization decided to hold a dance. This type of activity allowed the students to have a typical college experience without living on campus.

Town Students Association Dance, April 1949

When Woman’s College became a part of the University of North Carolina system in 1963, the school became co-ed and the commuting community grew even larger. Indeed, most of the rise in registration was due to local enrollment. Two years later, the Town Students’ Association had its first male officer, Anthony Thompson. This was not popular with many of the female members who were still becoming accustomed to male students on campus. The organization’s new handbook set their goals as: “to inform the Town Students of student government activities; to unite the town students, and to link more closely community students with dormitory students.” Recognizing that meeting attendance was one of the most challenging aspects of the organization, members were requested to check their mailboxes every day for organization news and to attend all meetings, which were held in Elliott Hall.

By the 1970s, the organization attempted to appeal to a broad and diverse range of members by sponsoring a car rally and book exchanges. The early 1980s saw a population of approximately 6000 off-campus and commuter students at UNC Greensboro, and the Town Student Executive Board planned engaging and creative activities. Dues payed for activities included breakfasts and lunches for the members, as well as trips to local breweries and dinner theaters, as well as career planning events.

In 1983, the Town Students Association became the Commuting Students Association, incorporating students who traveled to campus from out of town. The average age of this group was twenty seven years old. Sadly, the renamed organization never really garnered support from the student body, and by 1993, their main function was to supply monthly deli lunches for its members. As the commuting population grew larger, there became less of a formal need for an organization to help the students assimilate to campus life. These students would now help to shape the culture and personality of the school.

by Scott Hinshaw

In an earlier blog post, the collaborative effort between architect Edward Loewenstein, Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina students, and professionals in the building and construction professions, was detailed in the creation of the first Commencement Home. This post will continue to look at that effort as it moved into its second year.

Although there seemed to be less publicity for the second Commencement Home, the second home designed and built collaboratively by students, architects, professionals, and Woman’s College was featured in the October 1959 issue of Living for Young Homemakers.

Cover of the October 1959 issue of Living for Young HomeMakers

The article (titled, “a house with a college DIPLOMA”[sic]) describes the course in Residential Design as giving Woman’s College’s “art and home economics students the practical experience of planning a home from foundation to furnishings.” The students were “assigned to committees undertaking specific study in orientation, space planning, electrical, mechanical and plumbing potential.” Because the houses were always meant to be sold, students were given budgets that were realistic and marketable. The target budget for the 1959 Commencement House was placed at approximately $24,000. Apparently the price was right, since the house was immediately sold to Mr. and Mrs. Hinsdale in 1959.

Design principles laid out by the WC students included: areas zoned for family activities, stepsaving traffic pattern, visual spaciousness beyond actual square footage, easy maintenance, dramatic lighting, and climate-conditioning. Some of these principles are apparent in the house plan, which show well-separated living and sleeping areas, as well as a sunken living room, which helps to delineate the more formal dining room from the living room.

1959 Commencement Home Plan (p. 159 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)

In keeping with the Modernist feel of the home, the interiors are decorated with period-appropriate furniture. Note also, the use artificial and natural lighting, which is both practical and fulfills the stated design principle of “dramatic lighting.”

Living and Dining Rooms (p. 158 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)

The exterior of the home also exhibits the design principles of dramatic lighting, easy maintenance, and climate-conditioning.

(p. 183 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)

Like the 1958 Commencement Home, The 1959 Home featured measured advancements and innovations. One of those accomplishments which both the 1958 and 1959 home shared was the “Live Better Electrically Gold Medallion” an award from Duke Power Company for “electrical excellence.” A wonderful announcement (sponsored by Duke Power) for the open house taking place on May 30-31, 1959 showed the electricity mascot, “Reddy Kilowatt,” with the medallion and invited the public to view the Home.

Greensboro Daily News March 30, 1959

We are fortunate to have in our archives a picture of the student designers alongside their 1959 Commencement Home.

1959 Commencement Home with WC students with Edward Loewenstein (UNCG University Archives)

Although the first Commencement Home has been demolished, the 1959 Commencement Home still stands.

1959 Commencement Home in a 2010 photograph (photo from Guilford County Tax Department, Real Property Search

by Kathelene McCarty Smith

During World War I, many young American women became pen pals with European prisoners of war. This was the case with Miss Melville Fort, an art teacher at the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNC Greensboro). Like many of the women who taught college in the early 20th century, Miss Fort was strongly committed to the education of the young students in her charge.  A native of Mississippi, she was known as an intelligent and witty teacher and a good friend, but we know very little about her social life. In fact, we know very little about Miss Fort at all, but we can glean a bit of her nature from several letters and postcards that she received from a Belgian prisoner of war in 1917.

Miss Melville Fort

Miss Fort participated in a British program in which Americans were able to write POWs in Europe. Programs such as these provided interred men with a link to the outside world, and a way for Americans to “give back” to the war effort. Although Miss Fort corresponded with two men, her correspondence with Arthur Limbosch was the most substantial. As his letters provide a response to Miss Fort’s correspondence, her interests and compassionate nature become apparent. She shared a little about her profession and her love of travel with him, commenting that she had been to Holland. In turn, he described the beauty of his country and his fear that it would be destroyed by “the Huns.”

Arthur was only seventeen years old when the war began. He had been an electrician living with his parents in Brussels and by his own account, was very inexperienced. As there were sufficient electricians in his military unit, he was made a “telephonist.” In his letters, Arthur recounted his involvement in the Siege of Antwerp in October of 1914. He expressed the horrors of war though the death of his friends and comrades, the lack of food, and his fear of the enemy. Arthur was surprisingly candid about how his battalion was besieged by the Germans and subsequently retreated.

Camp Zeist postcard from Arthur Limbosch

Like many young men, Arthur was captured and forced to live in an internment camp. The official name of this site was “Internment Camp Amersfoot – near Zeist,” but was usually shortened to just “Zeist.” In his letters to Miss Fort, Arthur described the grounds and the “shed” in which he lived. Zeist was actually two camps that consisted of twenty-four barracks within an approximate square mile area, housing up to 15,000 men. It was surrounded by barbed wire and the prisoners were given little freedom, although they were allowed to take walks around the area before they retired for the night. Every other day, they were granted permission to walk in the woods, guarded by Dutch sentries. The camp also included sports grounds, and Arthur told Miss Fort that he played football (soccer) on these athletic fields. He also described dining on potatoes and beans – and sometimes a few vegetables and a little meat.

Prisoner participating in an athletic event at Camp Zeist, from a postcard sent to Miss Fort by Arthur Limbosch

Through the several surviving letters, we see that she became an immediate favorite with Arthur and the other prisoners by sending stamps for their stamp collections. Arthur was also thrilled to find Miss Fort was a teacher and asked if he could practice his English through their correspondence. He insisted she correct any mistakes in his letters, as he was attempting to master a language that he considered much different from his. He made a special point of telling her that he had not learned English in school, but had picked it up during the time he was a prisoner. Arthur was also quick to correct her assumption that the European schools were more advanced than their American counterparts.

Although their correspondence was limited to only a few letters and postcards, it reveals an interesting slice of history, which for a brief time, allowed an electrician from Brussels and an art professor from Mississippi to form a friendship.

by Scott Hinshaw

Charles D. McIver (left) and his younger brother William in 1865 

The founder and first president of our university, Charles D. McIver, left a wealth of information behind when he died suddenly in 1906 on a train returning from Raleigh to Greensboro. Among his more formal papers dealing with his work as president of the school are also included diaries, school note books, and reminiscences of his life. From these, it is possible to get a better understanding of McIver’s education in Reconstruction era North Carolina.

Charles D. McIver was fortunate to have been born into a family well enough off, that he was able to enjoy an early education that was decidedly better than many North Carolinians had access to at that time. Charles’ first teacher may have been his father, Henry (Matthew Henry McIver, always referred to as “Henry”). Although from a wealthy family, Henry’s own father needed him on the farm and thus, Henry never attended college. Despite this, Henry was compelled by his neighbors to teach at the local one room school house. When Henry went to teach, he brought along his four year old son, Charles. Charles would later recall that school house as among his earliest memories.

Despite never having attended college, Henry and his wife, Sarah, always encouraged their children to go to college. “My father and mother reared me to the idea that, as a matter of course, I was to go to college,” McIver would later recall.

“Winter” an essay written by Charles D. McIver, Dec. 19th, 1873

By the age of eight, Charles was ready to properly go to school. This time, however, Henry and his cousins hired a “proper” teacher. Bertha Buie, a sixteen year old graduate of Salem Academy was Charles first formal teacher. Charles would learn from textbooks such as McGuffey’s Reader or the North Carolina Reader. McIver also remembered other teachers from this period. Mary Newby particularly helped to see his education through to the age of thirteen.

From age thirteen to sixteen, Charles was taught by Davidson College graduate (and cousin) John E. Kelley. The subjects taught during this time were appropriate for a student who sought to enter college- English, geography, algebra, Latin and Greek.

With his Presbyterian roots and connections, it would have been entirely natural for Charles to attend Davidson College, but he instead chose the University of North Carolina, partly because it had produced so many leaders in the state, but also because he wanted something a little outside of his upbringing.

Charles’ Zoology notebook, 1878

The entrance requirements for UNC were stringent:
“A competent knowledge of the elements of the English language, Geography, and Algebra through equations of the second degree, Latin Grammar, Prosody and composition, four books of Caesar, five books of Virgil’s Aeneid, or the equivalent in Ovid, Sallust, or Cicero’s orations; of Greek Grammar and Composition, four books of Xenophon’s Anabasis, or Memorabilia, and two books of the Iliad.”

Charles was well prepared by his schooling under John E. Kelley and entered UNC in the fall of 1877 at age sixteen. Although his family was decidedly not poor, he was forced to borrow money from his uncle to pay for tuition and expenses (Tuition was 60 dollars, Room rent was 10 dollars/year at UNC during this time). McIver later stated that his total tuition debt for attending UNC was $1,200 dollars.

Charles’ notes on NC History, 1880

Charles enrolled in the A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) degree, and being well served by the course of education taught by Kelley, was a very good student, scoring above 90 in every subject in his first two semesters. Indeed, he did so well, that he would later earn a medal for Greek in 1879. If Charles had one failing at UNC, it was his inability to speak publicly. As he would later relate, “During my four years at this institution I made no appearance before the public as a speaker when the payment of fines…could relieve me from that duty.” Fortunately, Charles would later overcome that deficiency in the course of time.

Charles would graduate in 1881 among the highest in his class, all the more notable in that his classmates included many future NC leaders. 

Charles would graduate in 1881 among the highest in his class, all the more notable in that his classmates included many future NC leaders. 

One example out of many of Dr. McIver’s reminiscences concerning his early life and education, undated
Charles’ medal for excellence in Greek from UNC, 1879

*In addition to the Charles Duncan McIver Records, 1855-1906 (UA2.1), the books: McIver of North Carolina by Rose Howell Holder & Covert Curriculum by Pamela Dean were also consulted in the creation of this blog post.

by Kathelene McCarty Smith

Graduating Class of the State Normal and Industrial School, 1893
Lina McDonald is not pictured

Working at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is always interesting. Recently, I came across one of the earliest campus mysteries – the tragic accident of a student who lost her life several months before graduation when she was struck by a train and killed, not far from campus.

A Forsyth County native, Miss Lina McDonald was a graduate of Peace Institute (now Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina) and arrived at the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) when the doors opened in the fall of 1892. Although she had gained teaching experience in the nearby towns of Winston, Shelby, and Concord, Miss McDonald decided to apply to the State Normal to acquire a certificate and additional experience.  In addition to her responsibilities as a student, she also served as an assistant faculty member and soon took charge of the Department of Vocal Music and Education where she quickly gained the reputation as a conscientious and caring teacher. She was described as having a lovable nature, a good character, and winning cheerfulness which made her well-liked by both the students and the teachers. Her sweet personality and reputation as a powerful teacher made her untimely death an even greater shock to the college and to the community.

The circumstances surrounding the accident were never fully understood. There were no actual witnesses and the last person who saw her alive reported that she was safe on a nearby embankment. What happened next is purely conjecture.

A remembrance of Lina McDonald written by members of the faculty

It was not unusual to find Miss McDonald taking long walks. As an assistant member of the faculty, she was not restricted to campus and she was known to relieve the stress of teaching and studying by walking, either with members of the staff or friends in the community. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, Miss McDonald was returning from a visit with her friend, Mrs. James Glenn in South Greensboro when her path took her close to the railroad tracks, presumably because it created easier walking conditions in the snow. A local man, T. J. Trent, told authorities that the young woman had passed him while he was making his way south, away from the city. He noted that when she was approximately 200 yards beyond him, she paused and appeared to contemplate her path. She then reversed course and headed back toward to the city, passing him again. About that time, Mr. Trent heard the sound of the oncoming train, but had lost sight of Miss McDonald who he believed had continued to her destination. It was only later that he heard that she had been struck by the train; her body discovered by a local hunter, lying on the track in the snow. Sadly, the engineer had not seen her and the accident had gone unnoticed by the train crew or the passengers.

As a crowd gathered around the lifeless body, no one could identify her. It was only later that evening when someone discovered a college laundry tag reading “Lina McD ” on her clothing that someone remembered a young woman by the name of Lina McDonald attended the State Normal, and college president Charles Duncan McIver was notified. Two days later, McIver and several members of the faculty accompanied Miss McDonald’s remains to her funeral in Raleigh.

The mystery of how she was hit by the train when she was last seen safely on a high embankment was never solved. The official inquest did not hold the engineers responsible for her death and it was generally believed that she may have panicked when she heard the train, causing her to lose her footing and fall on the track. Another proposed explanation was that somehow the train caught part of her clothing, pulling her onto the rails, and causing the train to pass diagonally over her chest. Whatever the circumstances, Lina McDonald was truly mourned and ten years later when asked to write about the first graduates of the State Normal for the campus yearbook, The Decennial, her classmates and colleagues included her in their number.

by Suzanne Helms

Dr. Elisabeth Anna Marie Jastrow was an Associate Professor of Art History at Woman’s College (WC) of the University of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro) from 1941 until her retirement in 1961. Though she spent the last twenty years of her career teaching art history, her true passion was classical archeology. Elisabeth Jastrow was born October 7, 1890 in Berlin, Germany into a family of intellectuals and developed an early interest in archeology.

Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow

Dr. Jastrow was so interested in archeology that she had planned to pursue a career as an archeologist, though she was thwarted at nearly every turn. Jastrow wrote, “My desire always has been to participate in excavations or to make museum work my career, but both these fields were practically closed to women in Germany.” Jastrow worked tirelessly to set herself apart in the field of archeology. She completed her Ph.D. in 1916 as the chaos of World War I was having an impact on all of Europe. Her studies were interrupted in 1914 when she took a break to work as a nurse’s aide in a Red Cross Hospital in Riemenstadt for a year.

Jastrow was a voracious learner; she studied and traveled broadly from 1910 through the remainder of her working life. She studied in Greece, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England, Switzerland, Holland, and once in the United States, she continued to travel and studied in Canada, Cuba, and France. Despite earning a Ph.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Heidelberg, Germany and a specialized certification to make molds of sculptural objects from a sculpture studio in Switzerland, finding meaningful work in archeology was a challenge for her. By the 1930s, she had an impressive resume in research, instruction, and museum cataloging. At times though, she had to make do with working as a German tutor or an elementary teacher, but she did so as she continued her own research.

Perhaps more detrimental to her budding career than being a woman in Germany during the 1930s was the fact that she was of Jewish descent. Her family were culturally assimilated Jews but the German race laws instituted in 1933 would put an end to her academic career in Germany. At that time, Jastrow was finally employed at Akademisches Kunst-Museum, University of Bonn, Germany, as an Assistant and Curator working to prepare and publish a catalogue of a collection of Greek vases, a particular interest of hers. However, the Nazi government withdrew her appointment to the museum and she had to leave Germany to continue her career. Jastrow was awarded the International Fellowship of the American Association of University Women for the year of 1934-1935, which allowed her to continue her archeological research in Italy. In 1937, Jastrow’s father died and she was no longer allowed to return to Germany nor could she take any money out of the country. Her father had remained in Germany with her mother and sister until his death. Jastrow stayed in Italy until the summer of 1938 when she travelled to Switzerland to study mold-making to create reproductions of art objects.

Woman’s College art students, circa 1940s

In October 1938, Jastrow first came to the United States on a visitor’s visa where she gave lectures on classical archeology at several prominent universities. A friend of her father’s was a professor at Harvard University and hosted her in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an extended stay. In April 1939, Jastrow was offered a year-long position at Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. At the end of that year, she left the United States for Cuba and soon returned as a non-quota immigrant and began the process of becoming an United States citizen. She spent the next couple of years trying to make a living doing translations and occasionally making sculptured reproductions of art objects for museums or artists. Though she reported a certain degree of success, she acknowledged that it was difficult to find much work in light of the world situation in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

In January of 1941, Elisabeth Jastrow first came to Greensboro to work at Woman’s College as an Instructor in Art History. In June 1941, she was hired as an Assistant Professor of Art History and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1953. She also taught German for her first few years at Woman’s College. Jastrow continued her research and travels during her time in Greensboro and published numerous articles and a couple of books.

Jastrow’s contacts and reputation allowed her to bring several significant exhibitions to the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at Woman’s college, including an exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art and an exhibit of photographs of Egyptian Art belonging to the collection of a colleague in Germany. Though her contributions to the field of archeology were numerous and her impact as an educator well documented, her career was no doubt stifled by her limitations of being both a woman and a German Jew during the first half of the 20th century. Her years in Greensboro were marked by her involvement in various organizations related to history and archeology as well as time with her family as her mother eventually came to live with her.

Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow

Dr. Jastrow retired from Woman’s College in 1961 and remained in the Greensboro area until her death at age 91. Her niece and nephew spoke of their aunt at her funeral and described her as a woman of impressive inner strength and discipline as she had pursued a new life and language upon her exile from her native Germany due to “Hitler’s madness in Europe”. Her niece, who called her Aunt Ebith, described her tender relationship with an aunt who had introduced her to the beauties of antiquity and sent postcards from all over the world as she travelled and continued her research despite the chaos of WWI and WWII. Indeed, Dr. Elisabeth Jastrow was a pillar of inner strength and a model of perseverance for the young women of Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina.

by Hermann Trojanowski

To celebrate Halloween, we repeat this blog post, originally posted in October 2012 by Hermann Trojanowski, who retired from Special Collections and University Archives in 2013. We hope you enjoy this extra spooky Spartan Story.

Spencer Residence Hall

Tales have long circulated about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the campus.  In the late 1960s, the Spencer Residence Hall ghost was known simply as “The Blue Ghost” or “The Woman in Blue.” In the early 1980s, students gave her the name “Annabelle,” possibly alluding to the subject of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “Annabel Lee.”

Legend has it that Annabelle is the spirit of a student who hanged herself many years ago in one of the building’s bell towers; however, no such suicide has ever been documented.  A member of the residence hall staff reported that Annabelle had “appeared as a blue shadow” on two occasions in the Spencer’s main parlor and when the building was closed for the Summer in 1976, the same staff member heard the ghost “dragging something on the floor out in the lobby.” There have been other reports of a blue haze passing by a second-floor laundry room and of objects being flung across rooms.

In South Spencer in the early 1980s, an apparition reportedly awakened two different staff member on two separate occasions by walking into their rooms. The building had been closed for vacations both times. It is not known whether this was Annabelle or another ghost or ghosts.

Mary Foust Residence Hall

Build in 1928, Mary Foust Residence Hall was named for Mary Foust Armstrong, daughter of the college’s second president, Julius Isaac Foust.  Mary was a member of the class of 1920 – she died in childbirth in 1925. Some believe that her ghost took up residence in the dormitory that bears her name, because rumors have floated around for years about random “unexpected crying” and “funny noises” on the hall’s second floor.  Mary Foust’s portrait, which had hung above the fireplace, disappeared some time back without a trace.  Another rumor about Mary Foust Hall was that in the 1950s, three nursing students hanged themselves from the rafters in the attic.  Investigations have shown that the structure of the beams would make hanging very difficult but still the rumors persist.

The campus’ most well documented ghost reportedly inhabits UNCG (formerly Aycock) Auditorium, which opened in 1927.  An interview with Raymond Taylor who taught drama and play presentation and was the director of dramatic activities on campus from 1921 until his retirement in 1960, reveals that Taylor not only believed in the ghost of UNCG Auditorium, but recounts his personal experiences with the ghost. 

Raymond Taylor

According to Taylor, “at one time a sort of colonial mansion stood on the corner where Aycock is.  There dwelt in this mansion an old lady all-alone.  After a while she became extremely unhappy about her lonely state and went up in the attic and suspended herself from a rope on the rafters.  Having committed suicide there, she determined to stay on as a ghost.  When they tore down the building, she haunted the area for a long time until Aycock was finally built, and then she adopted that for her home.  She seemed, when I knew her to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door.”

Taylor goes on to tell the story of an incident that occurred one afternoon when he and the auditorium’s janitor were working on the set for a play.  The whole building was locked up, and since it had been an extremely hot afternoon, he and the janitor undressed down to their briefs to work.  Taylor had left his clothes neatly in a pile.  During the afternoon, a storm came up that raged and roared for quite a while and after the storm was over, Taylor went upstairs to dress and found that his clothes had been disarranged.  He had been wearing a vest with a watch chain across it, and his watch chain had been arranged on the table in the form of a cross.  His other clothes were “helter skelter all over the place.” Taylor just knew this was the work of the ghost of UNCG Auditorium.

UNCG Auditorium

Many nights, while working in the auditorium, Taylor would hear all sorts of strange noises.  He tried to explain some of them by saying that they were the echoes of passing cars or the reverberations of the passing trains shaking the building, but one night he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his officer around midnight talking.  Hogue was sitting with his back to the door.  All of a sudden the door opened, and a cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains.  They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

Jane Aycock

Students have given the auditorium’s spirit a name, Jane Aycock, and say that she is the daughter of the man for whom the auditorium was previously named; but Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, whose two wives bore him nine children, had no daughter by that name.  Supposedly she killed herself in the auditorium, a noose around her neck, her body dangling from the fly-loft over the auditorium stage. But the only deaths the auditorium has witnessed have been those acted out on stage, not over it.

According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1977, written when the auditorium was 50 years old and was getting ready to reopen after renovations, the drama majors were so attached to the specter that it became something of a tradition to introduce her to new students. “An unsuspecting freshman would be handed a lighted candle and shown the stairway leading to the attic, reportedly the ghost’s favorite turf.  Then the drama majors… would solemnly watch as the flickering flame floated away into the gloom.  They knew there was a certain spot in the attic where a draft always blew out the candle.  It would take a few minutes for the novice spook chaser’s eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, the victim would see a shape – a human shape – shimmering in the inky blackness.  The drama majors always got a kick out of hearing the screams that usually followed.  It’s surprising what a coat of luminescent paint can do for a manikin borrowed from the theater’s prop shop.”