Tag Archives: Hollins University

Shakespeare and the Spirit of Community

Today’s post comes from Hollins University.

The Queen and Shakespeare

The Queen and Shakespeare

A century has passed since Hollins College (Roanoke, Va.) celebrated the tercentennial of Shakespeare’s death. On May 13, 1916, “An Unrecorded Progress of Queen Elizabeth” wound its way through the grounds of Hollins, complete with Elizabethan villagers, dancers, and characters from Shakespeare’s plays. Included in the pageant was Queen Elizabeth and the old bard himself.

The pageant was a grand affair, with 800 in the cast and 2000 or more spectators, according to The Roanoke Times. The newspaper’s reporter noted the complicated logistics of hosting such a large event: “Persons from Roanoke were transported to Hollins in a special train. From the station to the college, jitneys, omnibuses and automobiles were put into use. Two hundred automobiles were counted on the campus, after the pageant was in progress.”

Miss Matty as Queen crop

President Martha L. Cocke “Miss Mattie” as Queen Elizabeth.

With Hollins College being a small institution of 260 students, faculty, and administrators, community organizations were invited to be part of the production. Children from the Salem Orphanage, students from both Roanoke High School and Elizabeth College, two Roanoke Shakespeare clubs, and the Y.W.C.A. were among the community participants. So many individuals were involved that it took no less than eight committees to organize the event. These committees handled everything from costumes and publicity to dancing and music. There was even a committee to coordinate all the community organizations involved with the pageant.

“One of the most interesting features of community participation was the fact that the Rotary Club of Roanoke came over en masse and in costume at its own expense, and contributing, besides an abundance of courtiers, explorers, and other desirable masculine celebrities, a large share of delightful Elizabethan music.”

Morris dancers

Morris dancers

Comfit sellers

Comfit sellers

The press coverage was wide spread. One article, written by O. L Hatcher, a Richmond authority on Elizabethan customs and pageantry, gave high praise for the event, calling it a “superb success” and an “artistic achievement.” The opening scene was set in Stratford Road, where Queen Elizabeth travels to Shakespeare’s birthplace. Along the way were many villagers, awaiting her coming: Morris dancers, foresters, milkmaids, tradesmen, village children, Clerk of Trinity, cake and comfit sellers as well as the historical figures of Jonson, Marlowe, Raleigh, Spencer, Beaumont, and Fletcher. “She came with her Court, winding down a hill at a distance, and finally turning into the Stratford Road, where a seat for her had been prepared, and the revels began. At the end, Shakespeare was called to the throne and honored before all….” Dancing, singing, and the presentation of scenes from As you Like it, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, and Twelfth Night were part of the revelry.

Milkmaids

Milkmaids

O.R. Hatcher called the pageant a “wonderful success.” “It not only brought together from all the neighboring country, and further away, a crowd estimated as the largest ever assembled there, but it embodied in itself the perfection of the community spirit.”

A Birthday Celebration

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Hollins University.

October 9th marks the birthday for an important Hollins University persona: Martha Louisa Cocke, known by all as “Miss Matty,” (1855-1938).   Miss Matty is also recognized as the first woman college president in the state of Virginia.   As the daughter of Hollins founder Charles Lewis Cocke, she was intimately acquainted with every aspect of Hollins: she was born on campus, received her education at Hollins, and served in many roles throughout her lifetime. She passed out candles to students as a child, and served as faculty (mathematics and English), librarian, and registrar as an adult.  She also became her father’s secretary in his advanced years, corresponding with parents, alumnae, and others.  Although her brother Charles H. Cocke was being groomed to succeed his father, his untimely demise in 1900 caused Charles Lewis Cocke to leave the decision of the next successor to his children.  After her father’s death in 1901, the family selected Matty as the new president, recognizing she was perfect candidate for the job.

Matty with her mother, ca. 1895

Matty as president, undated.

Matty as president, undated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Songs Every Hollins Girl Should Know, undated.

From Songs Every Hollins Girl Should Know, undated.

As a proper southern woman, she was reluctant to take on such a leadership role, yet for the sake of her father’s dream of making a Hollins education equal to that afforded to young men, she agreed to the position.  Serving from 1901-1933 as president, Matty oversaw numerous changes and allowed students freedom to shape Hollins Institute as well as their own college experiences. Student initiatives included establishing a student government, a newspaper, and fund raising for buildings (The Little Theatre and Tayloe Gymnasium) and the endowment, necessary for accreditation.  She maintained a serious, scholarly atmosphere, upholding the high academic ideals her father endeavored to create at Hollins.  She was an imposing figure on campus, always wearing full-length black dresses, even when the current styles were shorter, according to Fonnie Strang, Class of 1928.  She also was guardian of lady-like behavior, and would often point out in chapel services breaches of etiquette she had witnessed among the girls.  Strang remembered Miss Matty saying “I have noticed girls holding hands. Hollins girls don’t do that.  I have also noticed girls talking to boys from their [dormitory] windows.  Hollins girls don’t do that.

student_song

Student song sheet.

Miss Matty is remembered as being conservative and strict, but also serene and motherly, with a passion to carry on her father’s dream.  Despite her strictness, she was beloved by the students and fondly remembered by hundreds of alumnae.  Beginning in 1930, she was sung to on her birthday each year (a tradition which continues today).  Hymns, songs, and poems were written in tribute to her, and the preparatory students literary society was named after her (The Matty L. Cocke Literary Society).  Numerous letters congratulating her on her 25th anniversary as president, as well as those of condolence upon the death of her mother, exist in the university archives, testifying to the alumnae affection for her.

Letter congratulating Miss Matty on her 25th anniversary as president.

Upon her retirement, she lived in a house on campus, built especially for her.  Upon Miss Matty’s death in 1938, the entire Hollins community mourned her passing.  Local and state newspapers were filled with articles about her, giving testimony to her many contributions to Hollins.  Miss Matty’s obituary even appeared in The New York Times.  Susanna Pleasants Turner, Class of 1935 and great niece of Miss Matty, gave a fitting tribute in the Hollins Alumnae Quarterly (Fall 1938): “So closely was she identified with the school that as the years went by she was to become for Hollins girls all over the country, the living symbol of their Alma Mater and the personal actuality of their ideas for educated womanhood.”

Happy Birthday, Miss Matty!

To learn more about Miss Matty, Hollins history, and Special Collections at the Wyndham Robertson Library, please visit “Special Collections” in the Hollins Digital Commons. http://digitalcommons.hollins.edu/special/.

Additional images: All images are from the Martha L. Cocke Papers, University Archives, Wyndham Robertson Library, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia

Letter of condolence from Mrs. John C. Burnett.

Letter of condolence from Mrs. John C. Burnett.

Matty_newspaper

A Benediction for Hollins

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian & Archivist at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Benediction_Cocke

Charles Lewis Cocke at age 28.

As the graduation season draws near, institutions of higher learning often reflect on their beginnings and founding ideals in their commencement ceremonies. As Hollins University approaches its 173rd commencement this month, I am reminded of Charles Lewis Cocke’s role in the history of higher education in Virginia, particularly women’s education. Cocke was born in King and Queen County, Virginia in 1820 and attended the Virginia Baptist Seminary (now University of Richmond) and Columbian College (now George Washington University). Upon graduation, he returned to the Virginia Baptist Seminary to teach mathematics. While still a young professor, he was approached by the Valley Union Seminary’s board members for the job of running the four year old school. Located in Botetourt Springs, Virginia, it was floundering financially and without leadership.

Page from teaching notebook.

Page from teaching notebook.

While the actual founder was Joshua Bradley, a Baptist minister from New York, Charles Lewis Cocke is considered to be the true founder of Hollins because without his life-long leadership and managerial skills, the school would not have survived. Valley Union Seminary was eventually re-named Hollins Institute due to the generosity of Ann and John Hollins of Lynchburg, Virginia. John Hollins was a successful miller and also board member. Their initial gift of $5,000 brought financial stabilization to the school and in gratitude, the board voted to rename the school Hollins Institute.

Benediction_letterhead

Although much is known about Charles Lewis Cocke establishing Hollins, many are not acquainted with his role in Virginia education for both boys and girls as well as his interest in evangelism and establishing Baptist churches in the state of Virginia. While he was adamant about Hollins remaining non-sectarian, it is clear from his papers, housed in the University Archives, that his zeal for both education and evangelism drove many of his activities beyond the administration of Hollins. Benediction_collectionCommencement addresses to the students make clear his educational ideals for Hollins students but his other writings demonstrate his wider interests for improvements of the educational system throughout Virginia. The collection contains many writings on the subject of education, including addresses to the Virginia Education Association as well as articles and essays on various topics: “Our boys and girls! Where will they stand in coming generations?”, “The true ideal of a female school,” and “What are the best methods for educating the very ignorant?” Few know that Cocke also helped to established two other schools in Virginia: Alleghany College in 1858 at Blue Sulpher Springs and Alleghany Institute in Roanoke. The institute, established in 1886, was the first chartered high school in the western part of the state. While both schools were short lived, it is clear Cocke was concerned for educational opportunities for Virginians.

The Charles Lewis Cocke papers in the University Archives also describe many writings on religious topics, in general and specifically Baptist issues. In an 1897 letter to his children he comments about his early career: “In 1846 I came to this place to save the Institution now known as Hollins Institute from sale and to do also a kind of lay evangelistic work. While most of these documents do not indicate their purpose, whether for speech or publication, they reveal his broad interests, from the theological (“The Priesthood of Christ”), to daily life (“Can Christians read novels and light literature of the day without injury to themselves and the cause of Christ?), and to evangelism (“The wider circulation of our Baptist newspapers & the better support of our missionary work”). Cocke also wrote about African American issues, including “Our duties to the Colored Baptists” and “Mission work among the colored race in the days of slavery.” In addition, records of the Valley Baptist Association show that people of color either joined existing white churches or formed their own churches.

Benediction_Cocke2Among his personal papers are his will and a letter to his children and grandchildren, written on his 77th birthday. Anticipating his death, which would not come until 1901, he wrote of his wishes for his children to continue his life’s work at Hollins and for success and contentment in their lives. He closes the letter with what seems fitting a benediction to his life and for Hollins: “I enjoin you all, my children, to live and labor together in peace and harmony and to carry out the great design for which I have toiled assisted by yourselves through a long life. Aim to do a good and honorable part in all the labors and responsibilities of this life and acquit yourselves as those that must give an account at a solemn tribunal and at the bar of a common consensus of opinion of good men in this world and of the great God in the world to come.”

The Charles Lewis Cocke papers are located in Special Collections, Wyndham Robertson Library, Hollins University, Roanoke, Virginia. The images of Cocke used in this post are located in the Photograph collection also located in Special Collections.

Receipt from the business series.

Receipt from the business series.

Letter to his brother, John Cocke, 8 Nov 1856.

Letter to his brother, John Cocke, 8 Nov 1856.

Enon Colored Baptist Church report

Enon Colored Baptist Church report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Boys and Girls! Where shall they stand in future years.  Essay on education, undated.

Our Boys and Girls! Where shall they stand in future years. Essay on education, undated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes from a Scrapbook: Victorian Christmas and New Year’s Greeting Cards from Scrapbooks in the Hollins University Archives

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian & Archivist at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (Hollins University Archives)

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (1844-1899) and her daughter, Leila Mason Turner Rath (1872-1937), shared similar lives:  both spent most of their lives on campus and attended Hollins Institute (Roanoke, Virginia).  Leila Virginia was the second child of Hollins founder, Charles Lewis Cocke, and Susanna Virginia Pleasants Cocke.  In 1871, she married Joseph A. Turner, Sr., Professor of Ancient and Modern Languages at Hollins and together they had two children:  Leila Masters Turner and Joseph A. Turner, Jr.

 

Leila Mason Turner Rath

Leila Mason Turner Rath

While there are a number of records that document their lives in the University Archives, the most interesting items left behind were two scrapbooks filled with beautiful greeting cards.  Shown here are just a few of the Christmas and New Year’s cards that they received from various relatives and friends.  Leila Virginia’s scrapbook was begun ca. 1882, while her daughter was given a scrapbook when she was thirteen years old, in 1885.

Some of the cards depict images of holly, ivy, and snow, traditional illustrations for modern day cards.  However, many others include nautical and floral designs that are not associated with Christmas or New Year’s cards today.  Please visit the Hollins Digital Commons  for more information and to see more cards.

Scrapbook1      Scrapbook

scrapbook5   scrapbook3

 

A Blast from the Past

Today’s post is from Beth Harris from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Looking at old photos can bring back a lot of memories of the way things “used to be.”  It can also be a great way to show younger generations how it was “back in the olden days.” As an archivist, one of the pleasures of my job is locating photographs for researchers.  In addition, I am also in the process of scanning and cataloging them.  Our collection, ranging from daguerreotypes and tin types through digital color images of today, enables our researchers to admire beautiful fashions from the past and see the faces of people that made Hollins University what it is today.

Unidentified Hollins alumnae (Lillian Adams?), 1904

Unidentified Hollins alumnae (Lillian Adams?), 1904

Part of the cataloging process involves assigning subject terms to each photograph.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  Should everything in the picture be given a subject term, even the smallest details, or should only the most prominent people and objects be given one?  Then deciding the right term: Is it a “comforter” or a “quilt”?  A phone or a telephone?  Should the general term “jewelry” be used or should the specific term “pearls” be used, or both?

Susanna Pleasants Turner, Hollins Class of 1935. First Officer (WAC), 1943

Susanna Pleasants Turner, Hollins Class of 1935. First Officer (WAC), 1943

Identifying an object can sometimes prove puzzling.  For example, one photograph showed a student holding a small metal device that was about the size of a Nintendo DS game.  The photograph, however, was obviously from the 1980s so the game was definitely out of the question.  After some speculation, we finally realized that it was a “Walkman.” (That’s a portable audio player, for those of you wondering what that is.)  Wow…that really took me back.  As a member of that generation, how could I have forgotten?  I never owned one, but a large portion of the teenage and college student population did.

Nancy Dick, Hollins Class of 1962 (front right) and Ellen St. Clair (William & Mary goal keeper), undated.

Nancy Dick, Hollins Class of 1962 (front right) and Ellen St. Clair (William & Mary goal keeper), undated.

Though this experience, I am reminded of the role of archivist is to preserve and make accessible records of the past.  Old photographs and yellowed letters may give us a “warm, fuzzy” experience, but they are also important for documenting the past for future generations.  For this, I am thankful for past archivists and other individuals who thought these materials were important enough to save for our students and researchers for years to come.

Hollins Cotillion Weekend, ca. 1976-1980

Hollins Cotillion Weekend, ca. 1976-1980

The Hollins University archives, in Roanoke, Virginia, is open to the public.  For more information, please contact Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at bharris@hollins.edu or visit our website at http://www.hollins.edu/library/speccol/main.shtml.