A Day in the Life of a UK Student: Jan. 16 & 18, 1911

by Whitney Hale

(Jan. 16, 2015) – In celebration of the University of Kentucky sesquicentennial, UK Special Collections Research Center is releasing the diary entries of former student Virginia Clay McClure. The diary chronicles the day-to-day activities of McClure's junior and senior years at the State University of Kentucky (now UK) from 1910-1912. McClure's 19th and 20th diary entries, dated Jan. 16 and 18, 1911, chronicle hijinks between friends and a game between faculty and the institution's varsity basketball team.  

Jan. 16th, 1911.  Lillian, Addie, Bess, Marion, Lillie, Maria, Pauline, Susan, and I met to see “Madam Sherry” on general admission. I had taken Edna’s coat away from her on the campus that afternoon, and Pauline wore it back to the Hall under her cloak. Lula and Therese wanted her to let Therese have her coat at the gate, but of course she couldn’t. We had a lot of fun about it, and I worried Edna about her coat. Then after supper, about fifteen minutes before time to start, Lillian, Addie, and I decided to go, and get ready in a jiffy. I couldn’t find my coat and I knew immediately that Edna had it.  She wouldn’t give it to me, so I borrowed Annie’s, and we went on. We ran most of the way, cut across to Broadway. Lillian and I got separated in the crowd and had to wait in line about half an hour. When we finally got in we had to stand away up. Annie seemed to be perfectly disgusted, but who cares? “Every Little Movement Has a Meaning all its Own.” Addie spent the night with me, and we stayed awake a long time. Chocolate candy with “figs.”

Jan. 18th. The Faculty team played the Varsity team, and were defeated 40 to 1. Downing, Schnaitter, Spahr, Kelley, and “Dope” were the faculty team, and “Dope” got his collar bone broken. Downing made all the points for the faculty. Gilbert took “Dope’s” place, and played in tennis garb. Kelly was the funniest looking thing I ever saw. I never laughed so much at anything as I did at the way the faculty chased around.

More on Virginia Clay McClure

Virginia Clay McClure, a native of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, graduated in 1912 with an AB degree and received her master’s degree in 1928 from UK. After receiving her AB, she taught for a year at Middlesboro, Kentucky, another year at Paducah, Kentucky, and seven years in Cynthiana, Kentucky. After this, she returned to Lexington, where she taught for nine and a half years in the Fayette County schools. At this point, she took two and a half years off of work to complete her doctorate.

Virginia Clay McClureThe first woman to receive a Ph.D. from UK, McClure said that her department chairman did not “want a woman to get a doctor’s degree.” In spite of those words, McClure received her doctoral degree in American history in 1934.

Her dissertation was “The Settlement of the Kentucky Appalachian Region,” about which “nothing had been done before.” McClure did significant original research for the dissertation and made several trips to Eastern Kentucky with Katherine Pettit, who had taught in settlement schools, including Pine Mountain School, which she helped to establish.  

McClure planned to teach at the college level but after finishing her dissertation in the midst of the depression, colleges were laying off faculty rather than hiring them. She then joined the Fayette County School system, then Lexington City Schools, and taught United States history and government at Henry Clay High School from 1934-1959. A position that she found quite rewarding.

The UK alumna and educator was very active in the community. McClure was a member of Central Christian Church and Kappa Delta Pi Honorary, Kentucky and National Retired Teachers associations, Salvation Army Auxiliary, Cardinal Hill Hospital Auxiliary and numerous historical societies. She was also a charter member of the Lexington Rose Society, twice serving as president, and was a member of the American Rose Society.

McClure passed away in 1980 at 91 years of age.

The Virginia Clay McClure papers are housed at the Special Collections Research Center and include a diary/scrapbook, a photograph album and other assorted photographs related to McClure's time as an undergraduate at State University, Lexington, Kentucky from 1910-1912. The scrapbook includes clippings, small artifacts, programs and invitations, but the bulk of the material is McClure's many personal writings. The photograph album and loose photographs also document this time period and include photographs of her UK classmates (many of whom are identified and also mentioned in her scrapbook); class trips and events (such as Arbor Day); and women playing basketball among other casual snapshots. 

This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections Research Center. UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian collection and the digital library, ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Diary transcriptions completed by senior Taylor Adams, Special Collections Learning Lab intern and history major from Ashland, Kentucky.

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