March 11, 2010

March 11, 1919: Letter to a Student

In some ways, little has changed for students at the College of William and Mary since the early 20th century. The College of William and Mary remains a relatively inexpensive choice considering the unique atmosphere on the campus. But college is college and although it may seem trite to repeat, colleges and universities across time and space have shared a common reality: students are broke.

Below is the transcription of a two-page letter sent to student Evelyn V. Palmer from her mother dated and postmarked March 11, 1919. Evelyn Palmer graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1920 and was part of the first class of women to enroll at William and Mary in 1918. Miss Palmer lived on campus in the Tyler Hall dormitory. It appears that Evelyn had asked her mother for money in a previous letter. Although we do not have that original letter, we do have her mother’s response to the request and while it did not include the requested funds there was the promise of a bit of money later. Evelyn’s mother answered by writing that she would travel to Williamsburg to sell "goods" to raise some money the next week. Perhaps in a 1910’s context such a proposition would not seem as foreign as it would to students today!

March 11,1919;

Dear Evelyn,

I received your letter and am sorry you feel so lonesome.

I wish I could let you have a lot of money. I do the best I can and your request for three dollars was unexpected and did bother me.

I will come to Williamsburg next week for a couple of days and hope I can sell some goods.

The chickens are growing real nice. The new brooder beats lamp brooding all to pieces.

Daddy is working at the city clerk’s office with Mr. Hutchins, this week. I don’t know how long the work will last.

There isn’t any news here and the chickens and everything keeps me so busy. I don’t know what to do first.

We all send lots of love your loving Mamma

And this final note was written in at the top of the letter: "I will send you some change soon."

This post was composed by Michael Lusby.

This letter sent to student Evelyn Palmer is a new addition to the resources in the Special Collections Research Center, but unlike the "new" scrapbook that was uncovered in 2008 while this blog was being published, this letter arrived earlier this year. The letter (and its envelope) were donated in January 2010 by Connie Green. Ms. Green had no relationship to William and Mary, but found the letter amongst material she purchased at an estate sale. She realized William and Mary was the best place for the letter and we can't help but agree!

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.


Barbara McDowell Whitt said...

Amy, the letter Evelyn V. Palmer received from her mother in 1919 when she was a student at the College of William and Mary is touching.

I have found your site (and the SCRC Database) because yesterday at the Park University (Kansas City, MO) Alumni Weekend I met Wilford (Pete) Kale whose book, Hark Upon the Gale: An Illustratd History of the College of William and Mary, is among his titles in the database.

On September 9, 2011, I will begin compiling the nightly diary entries I wrote when I was a student at Park (then known as Park College in Parkville, MO). My blog is currently online under the name A Summer of 1961 Diary. In September I will name it A Park College Diary 1961-1965. The URL is

Amy C. Schindler said...

Thank you for visiting this blog and the SCRC Database. If I can answer any questions do let me know.
Thank you as well for sharing your new blog. I read several of your entries and found it quite interesting; I'll certainly mention it to any of our student researchers in the coming months. It could be an interesting comparison with similar diaries of William & Mary students from the same years. Good luck with your own blog project!