Going the Extra Mile – Mary Elizabeth Miles in the History of FSU

Black History month asks us to remember some of the most influential members of our history. Some of these people are closer to our school than you may think. Mary Elizabeth Miles was the first African-American woman to enter and graduate from Framingham Normal School when it resided in Lexington, MA in the early 1840s. She was born in Rhode Island around 1820 to free parents in the Quaker community. Miles was educated at Prudence Crandall’s Female Academy by Crandall herself, a white abolitionist who was the first to teach exclusively black children. By the time Miles was a young adult she had proven herself capable enough for Rev. Samuel J. May and Horace Mann to petition the school committee to allow her access to higher education.

Miles entered the school on May 26th, 1842 as a twenty-two year old woman and graduated in April of 1843. Back then, an Education major had requirements that could be achieved in one or two years, a fact that shocks many present day Education students. The 1861 school catalogue states that students were only required to attend three consecutive terms (roughly a year and a half) to complete their courses of study in Reading, Spelling, Writing, Defining, Grammar, Geography, and Arithmetic. Miles already had some teaching experience working in public schools before she entered the Normal School giving her an edge in her studies.

After her graduation in 1843 she began her teaching career. She moved from Boston to Albany to Cincinnati before meeting her future husband Henry Bibb, a fugitive slave from Kentucky and ardent abolitionist. They formed a bond at an abolitionist convention in New York City in 1847 and married a year later in Ohio before moving back to Boston. They resided in the North until the federal government passed the Compromise of 1850 and the dreaded Fugitive Slave Act. Since Bibb himself was a fugitive slave and Miles’s family had been free for generations with little way to prove they were not slaves, the couple emigrated to Canada and lived in Sandwich.

Unfortunately, much of Miles’s career was overshadowed by her husband’s. He established Canada’s first black newspaper, Voice of the Fugitive, and continued the abolitionist movement while in Canada until his death in 1854. During his lecture tours, Bibb left the job of editing and publishing the paper to his wife making Mary Miles the first ever woman in Canadian history to publish a newspaper.

Meanwhile, Miles was doing more than her part in trying to promote education in the black community. She opened her first school in their home in 1851, the year that Canada segregated its public schools. Miles’s school was the first opened in Sandwich for black children. Attendance swelled she had no choice but to find a bigger space to accommodate all of her students. Unfortunately, the community was too impoverished to afford the meager six cents a week per student she was asking to be paid, and Miles was forced to close the school.

In a way, Miles’s story should make us present day Rams very proud because she continued her fight despite the odds against her. She opened a second school in 1852 in Windsor for both black and white children to attend with no prejudice about race. She also opened a third school later on in her life as well that promoted the same model.

At the same time that the Bibbs were running the newspaper and opening schools, they were also acting as the final stop on the Underground Railroad. They accepted American refugees into their home as a part of the Windsor Anti-Slavery Society and the Refugee Home Society. They worked to give the fugitive slaves enough of a foothold to survive and thrive in a new country.

Thanks to her dedication to education, Mary Elizabeth Miles forever changed the lives of the children she taught as well as the fugitive slaves she bravely sheltered. She was someone who sought to brighten the future by teaching new generations while trying to help fugitive slaves find a new life beyond the border. This is a woman who each Framingham State student should find strength in as well as an immense sense of the pride.

For more information on Mary Elizabeth Miles, check out the exhibit in the foyer of the Henry Whittemore Library.

Written By,

2017 English Intern

Ryan Toomey

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Meet the new Curriculum Library Assistant!

maria-lentini

Maria Lentini is the new Curriculum Library Assistant. She has a BA in Theatre and Communications from Seton Hall University. She has a great interest in mythology and travel, and has taught English in Hiroshima, Japan as a participant in the JET program.

She is very excited to be a part of the FSU Library team.

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CareerSpots Videos

CareerSpots videos bring you a 24/7 library of career development tools.

A fun, fast way to get Job Search advice and information on over 600 Career/Occupational Fields from over 50 Global Professionals in 30 seconds to 3 minutes!

CHOOSE from the following videos, plus many more, for tips and answers to your toughest questions about landing a job or internship that’s right for you.

  • Starting a job search
  • Resumes and Cover Letters
  • Networking and Your Personal Brand
  • Internships
  • Interviewing – Before/During/After
  • Interview Dress
  • Salary & Negotiation
  • Social Media & Job Search

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Stephanie Farne, Reference Librarian

stephaniefarneStephanie Farne has been a part time reference librarian at FSU since May of 2016.  She holds a BA in Political Science/International Relations from UMass Amherst, a JD from Northeastern University School of Law and an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.  Stephanie has worked at several Boston area academic libraries, a law firm library as well as a public library.

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Hedda Monaghan, Reference Librarian

hedda

Hedda Monaghan is our part-time Reference Librarian and she usually works on Fridays and Saturdays.

Hedda has an MLIS from the University of British Columbia and a B.S. in Plant Soil and Insect Science from U. Mass. Amherst. She has taught Refworks and Zotero workshops for undergrads and graduate students, edited and updated Libguides in biology and forestry, and created tutorials in database searching. The library is excited to have a Hedda as part of our team.

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by | June 21, 2016 · 3:23 pm

2016 Video History Project -1944 Alumna – Ethel Cavanaugh McMahon

Since Framingham State Normal School opened its doors in 1839 Framingham has been a destination for thousands of students who want to become teachers. One such student, from the class of 1944, revisited the Framingham campus this past week to share her own experiences from her time enrolled here.Cavanaugh Ethel reduced

Ethel Cavanaugh, now Ethel McMahon, is an alum from the days when Framingham State was a Teacher’s College. She was enrolled in the Vocational Household Arts program here, which prepared students for teaching positions in Vocational schools. Though she was a commuter, she was one of the many students who lived, for a small portion of her school days, in the no longer standing Vocational House. This house was once located at the end of State Street, by the train tracks, where Maple parking lot can now be found. Living there for a certain number of weeks and taking on different assigned tasks to keep the house in order was a requirement for these Vocational students.

When Ethel recently came to Framingham to share her memories about school, she brought with her a photo album with a collection of photographs taken during her years at Framingham. Ethel is a graduate of the class of 1944 and attended Framingham State during the years of World War II. This fact is evident from her class yearbook, which features full-page advertisements for War Bonds and a message from the class of 1945 that reads, “We came in with the war, we hope the war goes out with us.” Ethel’s stories about this significant era in history reflected the times. She recalled a memory of a train full of American soldiers, all standing in open boxcars, passing by the vocational house, and waving at the students as they went. She also remembered a time when many of her teachers were drafted into the war and had to leave their positions at the College. These men were honored in the 1944 yearbook, which was also dedicated to Lieutenant Edward Gilday, a beloved music teacher at Framingham State who served in the war. Ethel’s recounting of her time here provides a new picture of how much the world has changed since the 1940s, and it also reveals the great strides this small school has taken through the years.

Alumni interviews such as this one are part of the Video Histories project, a collaborative effort between the Communications Department and the University’s Library Director and Archivist. For this project, various alumni are returning to Framingham in order to share their key memories from when they were enrolled here, whether these are good or bad, regarding studies or social events, or about friends or faculty. On camera, they each share a record of what they remember best from their time here. These digital accounts will be available through the digital repository in the future, as more video interviews are conducted.

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When Ethel returned to the Special Collections room in the Henry Whittemore Library, she looked through an old, leather-bound photo album which had been taken out of the archives so that a history student could use it in her research. To everyone’s surprise, some of the same images that Ethel had in her own album were in this one as well, each with a handwritten note about who was featured in each of the pictures and what was occurring at the time it was taken.3rd Group Jan-March 1941 resizeda

Now in her nineties, Ethel’s most memorable days as a Framingham State student are far in the past. However, her experiences here remain a lasting part of Framingham State history decades later. With the pictures of Ethel and her classmates in the archives, and now her enlightening interview, students will continue to learn from her experiences for years to come.

Written By,

2016 English Intern

Rebecca Waitt

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Did You Know? 163 Years in Framingham: From Normal Hall to West Hall

 

Part 1: The First Residents

 

Normal Hall

 

When the first State Normal School was relocated to Framingham Massachusetts in 1853, there were limited living accommodations available for students. It was not until 1869 that Normal Hall, the first dormitory here at Framingham, opened its doors to the first class of “boarding students.” These first residents of Framingham faced new opportunities as well as challenges, and their living situations were ones that today’s Framingham State University residents might be appalled by.

As the oldest state supported institution for teacher training in the United States, Framingham State University has a diverse history with thousands of alumni who have walked through our campus. During the initial years at Framingham, when the school had less than a hundred students enrolled, Normal Hall was the only dorm available for resident students.

Henrietta Graves a student of the class of 1884, recalls the rough experience of living in this dorm. “The last of the double beds was banished from Normal Hall in my day,” she states. “Many a night [had] I lain awake trying to keep from sliding over the outer edge of one while my roommate slept peacefully on the continental divide in the middle. The joy of the new single bed with good springs and a level mattress remains with me yet.” Though, to today’s residents, the very idea of sharing a bed with one’s roommate at FSU might seem like a scene from a nightmare, it was the reality for the earliest students. If that is not enough to make anyone appreciate modern times, it should also be noted that the Normal Hall dormitory was not only home for these students, but it was also home to the principal of the school and some of these students’ teachers.

 

Normal Hall dorm

Courtesy of Framingham State University Archives

Another resident student, referred to only as Mrs. Brockway, a graduate of the class of 1871, describes living in Normal Hall, “when water had to be brought in barrels and our baths were limited to one per week in three inches of water, when the guaranteed heating apparatus proved altogether inadequate, so that in cold weather we put on our coats when we dressed in the morning and kept them on until we went to bed at night.” She also remembers times when the lights “went out all over the house and [students] huddled together in the corridors with the few little oil lamps we were able to procure.” Crocker Hall was the next dorm to be constructed; in 1886. It was at first home for students and teachers, but later became the center for Household Arts. This building, after a fire, a hurricane, and a great deal of reconstruction, currently still stands on campus. What were once dorms for students are now office spaces used by FSU faculty.

Normal Hall dormitory, on the other hand, was eventually destroyed on February 13, 1914, in a fire ignited by a defective fireplace chimney in the principal’s quarters. What was left of the building was completely demolished in 1919 so that Horace Mann Hall could be constructed. This second dorm still stands on campus to this day, and remains a home for resident students.

As Framingham State University’s newest dorm, West Hall, nears its fall, 2016 completion date, the differences between this new building and the first dormitory on FSU property become striking. The new dorm has six stories and can comfortably house 315 residents. There is currently enough space for more than 1770 students to live on campus in one of FSU’s many dorms (not yet including West Hall). Comparatively, when Normal

 

Student Dorm

  

Hall only had three floors and housed less than seventy residents at any time. In Fact, the class of 1905 only had 63 students in total, and not all of these were “boarding students.”

 

Though “living on the hill” at FSU has become an entirely different experience for today’s students, times were not all bad back in the early 20th century. Things were simpler; the Framingham campus was mostly farmland and was referred to as “bare hill,” students could get to personally know their classmates and communicate regularly with their teachers, and school was only a two year endeavor. However, the women that attended Framingham State Normal School were still creating history by bravely making unexpected choices for this era. During these days, not as many girls continued their education after high school as do now. This was a time when “Serge bloomers, serge blouses and high collars, and long black stockings” were the style, a time when “the average citizen scoffed at the idea of [it] being necessary to teach teachers.” These first students at Framingham were defying expectations by continuing their studies. From Normal Hall to West Hall, this goal remains a constant. However, luckily for them, FSU residents can now continue to learn in much more comfortable environment than they might have in the past.

Written By,

2016 English Intern

Rebecca Waitt

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