A.G.T.I. at the Eve of the War

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The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute: A School on the Eve of War

What was the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute like in 1913, just one year prior to the outbreak of the Great War? How did A.G.T.I. function during the pre-war years, and in what ways was this Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute different from the institution that developed during the course of the Great War? Answering these questions requires reflection on the history and early development of the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute. To accomplish this task, I have relied primarily on the 1913 Technala, A.G.T.I.’s yearbook, and a collection of academic and social bulletins published by the institution during the period.

In 1913, the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute was an institution in its infancy. Only two years prior, the Institute had been known as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School, an institution that first opened its doors to the young women of Alabama on October 12, 1896.Since its founding in 1896, the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School, later the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, was envisaged and operated as an institution through which to educate and better the lives of the women of the state of Alabama. The mission and aspirations on which the A.G.I.S. was founded are enumerated in a bulletin published by the institute in 1913 and are as follows:

(1) To teach the principles of the liberal arts and sciences, and their application to home making; (2) to enable young women who are its graduates to do effective work as teachers; (3) to train young women to be self-supporting through proficiency in the industrial or fine arts; (4) [and] to inculcate in the young womanhood of Alabama ideals of character and culture so that they may carry forth into the state the blessings of strength, ability, and refinement.2


Gaining Admission Into A.G.T.I.

At the age of fifteen, girls from the state of Alabama were eligible to enroll in the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute. Prospective students were admitted to study at different grade levels, ranging from sub-freshman to sophomore classes, based on their previous educational attainment. These three levels (sub-freshman, freshman, and sophomore) generally corresponded to the curriculum provided in the first three years of high school. The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute also offered vocational coursework, but admission to courses included in the vocational curriculum required a minimum age of eighteen years. An image of the A.G.T.I. admissions requirements from the bulletin Requirements for Admission, 1913-14 is included in the gallery at the bottom of the page.

There were a number of methods by which to gain admission into the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, including certification by the state or a recognized high school, or by examination. The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin Requirements for Admission, 1913-14 lists the affiliated high schools recognized by A.G.T.I. for admissions purposes; these institutions included Alabama’s county high schools, the city high schools of Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and other towns in Alabama, and other select institutes throughout the state. Certificates from other institutions in the state, including schools in Guntersville, Montevallo, and Pratt City, granted students admission into the freshman class at A.G.T.I.3


How Much Did It Cost To Attend A.G.T.I. in 1913? 

Information regarding the pre-war price of a year’s study at A.G.T.I. can be found in the above mentioned Requirements for Admission, 1913-14 bulletin. While the exact expenses for the 1913-1914 session are not tabulated in this publication, the rates for the previous year (1912-1913) are included. For the 1912-1913 session, the lion’s share of the expenses consisted of room, board, and laundry charges, which totaled $100. The medical and matriculation fees totaled $10 when combined, and the lecture and library fees added another $4 to the tabulated expenses. After adding the cost of uniforms (around $11), the expenses for an entire academic session in 1912-1913 came to $125. Additional fees for music, voice, and art lessons, if applicable, were payable by semester or by session.4


The Uniform

When students arrived at the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, it was expected that they would bring materials for their bedding and for their uniforms. According to the A.G.T.I. Catalog from 1912-13, each student was required to bring: toiletry items; four bed sheets, one pillow, bedspread, and comforter; towels; an umbrella; one teaspoon; one glass; and six napkins. In addition, A.G.T.I. had very specific uniform requirements for its students, even going as far as to dictate the exact patterns, width, materials, sleeve length, trimming, and vendor for certain uniform items. One of the required uniforms, referred to as the heavy uniform, consisted of “a long grey serge coat, grey serge skirt, white shirt waist, black tie, oxford cap, black hair ribbon…and black leather shoes.” It was mandatory for students to wear this grey uniform at all functions after November 1, including “when traveling to and from school, invariably; on all public occasions, at church, teas, lectures, and concerts; when away on leave of absence; or representing the institution at any convention.” Only when spring arrived were students allowed to don other garments. From spring until November 1, the students of A.G.T.I. were permitted to wear their white uniforms, which probably consisted of lighter materials suitable for the warmer months.

Some of the materials for these grey and white uniforms were not tabulated in the $11 uniform cost listed in the Requirements for Admission bulletin. According to the Catalog for the 1912-13 session, only the coat, cap, tie, and gymnasium shoes were accounted for in this estimation. Students were also required for the maintenance of their uniforms and replacing any items as needed, in accordance with the above mentioned policies. It appears that students were closely monitored for infractions related to their uniforms. One noticeable exception to the uniform policy mentioned in the Catalog was for students “wearing mourning,” who were allowed to substitute the heavy grey uniform for an identical black one.5


The Curriculum

Once admitted, the students of A.G.T.I. had access to both literary and vocational training. The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute was comprised of both academic and technical departments, allowing the students of A.G.T.I. access to a broad education. In the 1913-1914 Catalog, the coursework for the school was divided into five categories: sub-freshman, freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Each classification had prescribed coursework, and several of the upper divisions also required students to pursue elective opportunities. All students at A.G.T.I. were also required to take coursework offered through the technical departments. Students in the sub-freshman class were required to take coursework in English, mathematics, and science, and they were given the option to choose between instruction in civics and history or a class on the Latin language. They were also required to take coursework within the technical departments, in which they had to declare an area of major and minor concentration. Freshman were required to take coursework in the academic departments, as well, including classes in English, mathematics, science, and history/Latin. Preparation in the technical departments was also required, and it appears that freshman had greater access to technical coursework, including lessons in cooking, sewing, and other trades.

Sophomores had fewer required courses in the academic departments than did sub-freshman or freshman; the 1913-1914 Catalog indicates that only coursework in English and mathematics was required. However, in the place of required academic coursework, sophomores had access to a broad range of elective coursework, including classes in physics, sociology, plant culture, and other subjects. In addition, they had broader access to technical coursework, including preparation in home economics, costume design, and manual training. Coursework in the junior year included required coursework in English and psychology, as well as electives in chemistry, French, oral expression, and agriculture offered through the academic departments. Technical coursework at the junior level included the following majors: art, stenography and typewriting, education, bookkeeping, home economics music, Domestic Art, and Domestic Science. Juniors had the opportunity to minor in drawing, home management, art appreciation, and other subjects. Based on a junior’s declared area of concentration in the technical departments, she would be required to take specific electives within the academic departments. For example, juniors majoring in home economics were required to take elective coursework in chemistry.

Senior year, the final year of study detailed in the 1913-1914 Catalog, included required coursework in English and history and elective coursework in sociology, bacteriology, “Harmony,” and other subjects. Seniors were required to complete weekly coursework in the major and minor technical programs that they selected during their junior years. The substitution of a second technical department major for coursework in the academic departments was permissible, provided the substitution was approved by an administrative committee and the president of A.G.T.I. In order to graduate from the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, a senior would have needed to accumulate a total of 103 units worth of academic and technical coursework.

Aside from the coursework completed in the sub-freshman, freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes, a separate vocational track was provided for those unsuited for the coursework of the other classes. This vocational track offered academic training in English, arithmetic, spelling and penmanship, and U.S. history and geography. Technical training was provided in millinery and dressmaking.6


What did A.G.T.I.’s campus look like?

As described in the 1913-1914 A.G.T.I. Catalog, the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute and the surrounding community of Montevallo were exceptionally well-suited to the pursuit of academic endeavors. This publication describes the town and campus in the following manner:

Montevallo is a picturesque village near the geographical center of the state. The unusually beautiful scenery of the surrounding country and the quiet, reposeful atmosphere of the place are, educationally speaking, valuable assets of the Institute. The campus, embracing about ninety-five acres, is well situated on the highest point of the town. The basketball and tennis courts and the croquet grounds make it very attractive for outdoor sports.7

Many of the University of Montevallo’s most iconic buildings were already in existence in 1913, though perhaps not in their modern, recognizable forms. In the 1913-1914 session, A.G.T.I.’s campus consisted of “the Chapel, Dormitory, Library, Laboratories, Gymnasium, Infirmary, Supply Store, Kitchen, Laundry, Power Hours, [and] Dairy.”8 Perhaps the most recognizable to students today would be Main Hall, which at that time served as the dormitory of the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, as well as Front View of the Dormitory from 1913 Digitized Technala the site of the “library, administrative offices, parlors, reception halls, and two hundred twenty-five bed rooms.” The A.G.T.I. Catalog for 1912-1913 touts that each room was “well ventilated, lighted by electricity and heated by steam.” As seen in the image to the right, which is taken from 1912-13 A.G.T.I. Catalog, the streets in front of Main had not yet been paved with Montevallo’s characteristic red bricks. Instead, a simple dirt road lined the front of Main Hall.

Reynolds Hall, which served as the site of A.G.T.I.’s auditorium, classrooms, gymnasium, and other facilities, was known in 1913 as the Chapel Building. Located adjacent to Main Hall, the Chapel also housed “music rooms…and the domestic science kitchen and dining room.”10 Students were required to utilize the gymnasium in the Chapel Building weekly for two hours, and a variety of different exercises were recommended “to give symmetrical development and bodily poise and strength.”11 The Chapel is pictured below as it appeared in the 1913-14 Catalog.

View of Academic Building from the 1913-14 Catalog

A.G.T.I.’s library opened only one year after the establishment of the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School in 1896. In the 1912-13 session, the library contained roughly 4,000 volumes, a total that increased by another 2,000 volumes the following year. For both the 1912-13 and 1913-14 sessions, the Catalogs mention that roughly $1,000 per year was allotted to the acquisition of new library materials. In addition to books, the library housed with a wealth of periodicals, including “Literary Digest” and “Vogue.” The library also received daily newspapers from Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. The library as it appeared in 1910 is depicted in the image gallery at the bottom of this page.12

Another recent addition to A.G.T.I.’s campus was the infirmary (pictured below from the 1913-14 Catalog). Opened during the 1913-1914 session, the building was named Peterson Hall in recognition of the service of MontevalPeterson Hall from 1913-14 Cataloglo’s second president, Dr. Francis Peterson. Designed to facilitate the treatment of thirty-six patients, Peterson Hall was located in the immediate proximity of the dormitory, making the trek a short one for ailing students. Students were mandated “to report to Peterson Hall for any indisposition.” As seen in this image of Peterson, the building’s architecture, which included sun parlors, porches, and large windows, helped to improve the spirits of ailing patients. This building played a particularly important role just a few years after its construction, when the Spanish Influenza epidemic spread throughout Shelby County and the state of Alabama.13

A.G.T.I.’s farm, gardens, and dairy were essential to the operation of the school, both before, during, and after the years of the Great War. At the eve of the war, A.G.T.I. possessed roughly 250 acres of land open to farming, gardening, and pasturage. These 250 acres were divided into two sections: the first parcel was utilized as a dairy and truck farm, and the second section served as a farm for grain and livestock. The girls of A.G.T.I. were well fed from the produce and pigs raised on the land; often, this food went directly from the farm to the plate. The 1912-13 Catalog projected that “[w]ithin a short time the grain and stock farm, just begun, [was] expected to furnish the entire the entire beef, pork, and meal supply” for the school. Such self-sufficiency was of paramount importance to the school during this period, a time when acquiring a supply of fresh food was not a guarantee. Any uncertainty related to food supply was exacerbated exponentially during the war years, when rationing often meant shortages of food. Foresight on the part of A.G.T.I.’s administration and sacrifice on the part of its students prevented excessive hardship at the school.14

According to the same 1912-13 publication, the girls were also provided with 50 gallons of milk daily from A.G.T.I.’s dairy. Just one year later, this estimate increased to 75 gallons of milk daily. This self-sufficiency in milk production can be traced back to 1910, when the school acquired “twenty grade cows and a pure-bred sire.” Through breeding and infrequent purchasing, the number of cows owned by A.G.T.I. more than tripled in the next few years, giving the school control of a sizable milk-producing herd. The milk production of each milking cow in the herd was closely monitored, and the Alabama Girls’ Technical Insitute established production quota for each cow. In 1910, this quota was established at roughly 365 gallons of milk per cow per year. Expectations were that the quota would continue to be raised each year. Due to the cost of maintaining the livestock, only cows that successfully reached the quota were allowed to remain within the herd; those that failed to reach their marks were handed over to the butcher. The barn in which these cattle were housed was a point of pride for the school, as it served as a model of cleanliness and production.15 An image of A.G.T.I.’s cattle, taken from the 1914 Farm Views and Notes Bulletin, can be seen below.

Herd of Cattle from 1914 Farm Notes Bulletin


Life for the Students at A.G.T.I.

The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute offered a wealth of opportunities for its students in the areas of entertainment, sports, and leisure. The 1913 Technala, A.G.T.I.’s yearbook, as well as the bulletins and catalogs from the period, are wonderful resources for exploring the extracurricular opportunities available to A.G.T.I.’s students. A number of clubs were open to the students, including the Castalian Literary Society, the Philomathic Literary Club, the Julia Strudwick Tutwiler Club, the Emma Hart Willard Dramatic Club, the Y.W.C.A., the Story-Tellers’ League, a picture show club, and the Schumann Music Club, among others. Sports included basketball and tennis, and competitions between the classes seems to have been common. When reading through surviving documents and publications from the period, the energy and enthusiasm of the students is palpable. Whether intellectual, athletic, or theatrical, A.G.T.I. offered opportunities to channel the creativity cultivated at the institution.16

In the 1913-14 session, the students of A.G.T.I. could participate in any of the school’s three literary societies, namely the Castalian Literary Society, the Julia Strudwick Tutwiler Club, and the Philomathic Literary Club. The Castalian Literary Society, referred to as the oldest club at A.G.T.I. in the 1913-14 Catalog, was founded in 1900. The organization met weekly, and the theme of studyfor the 1913-14 session was “A Brief History of Art from the Time of the Renaissance.” Examples of lessons from that year’s curriculum included “Causes of the Decadence of Italian Art after the Renaissance”; “Stereoptican Views: Portraits by Rembrandt”; “Industrial Arts Under Louis XIV”; and the “English School of Landscape Art.” Such lessons were consistent with the organization’s goal of fostering “the general culture of its members.”17

The Philomathic Literary Society came into existence at A.G.T.I. eight years after the founding of the Castalian Literary Society in 1900. For the the 1913-14 session, the organization focused on the study of the South, broadly examining both history and literary trends in the region up to that time. Topics varied throughout the year, but a sampling of the Philomathic Society’s lessons included: “Exploration and Settlement”; “Indian Tribes in the South”; and “Education in the Colonial South.” Later sessions focused on the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Southern art and architecture. Another such literary organization, the Tutwiler Club, which was named for Julia Strudwick Tutwiler, followed a similar curriculum focusing on the topic of “American Art, Architecture, Painting and Sculpture.” The first lessons in the 1913-14 session were on architecture, with emphasis placed on Aboriginal architecture, European (Spanish, French, and German) architecture, churches, universities, and skyscrapers. They studied the works of painters such as Whistler and La Farge and sculptors including Daniel Chester French and Lorado Taft. Such broad exposure to historical, literary, and artistic elements, all carried out on a voluntary basis, is indicative of the students’ passion for study and for self improvement. It seems remarkable now that students would dedicate such large segments of time outside of class to the pursuit of additional lessons on academic subjects, but it appears to have been the norm among the bright students at A.G.T.I.18

There was no shortage of creative endeavors for the students of A.G.T.I. The Emma Hart Willard Club, a dramatic organization, dedicated sessions to the study and telling of poetry by figures such as Edgar Allan Poe. The Story-Tellers’ League, which had three chapters at A.G.T.I. in the 1913-14 session, focused on the study and delivery of literary and folkloric tales, including classical mythology, Arthurian tales, and Biblical stories. The creativity that drove A.G.T.I.’s students to study these plays and literary also inspired them to create their own dramatic performances. One such example, a three act play performed by the college class called “Contradictions,” can be found in the 1913 Technala.19 Athletics were also quite popular at A.G.T.I., with students actively engaging in both basketball, tennis, and numerous other activities. The campus of A.G.T.I., in addition to its expansive grounds, featured basketball and tennis courts for student use. Beginning in 1913, A.G.T.I.’s students operated an athletic association; the mission and a description of this organization are summarized quite nicely in the 1913-14 Catalog and are as follows:

The objective of the association is to promote an interest in athletics among the student body. Any student is eligible to membership, and all are urged to become members of the association and engage in one of more of the athletic games offered. Class teams are formed in basket ball, baseball, captain ball, volley ball, hockey and tennis.20


Gallery of Pre-War A.G.T.I. Images


Notes

1. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913), 9. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

2. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13,  9-10.

3. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Requirements for Admission, 1913-14, volume 23 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collection, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

4. A.G.T.I., Requirements for Admission, 1913-14, n.p.

5. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13, 41-43.

6. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914), 19-23. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

7. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 10-11.

8. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 11.

9. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13, 11.

10. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 11.

11. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 13.

12. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13, 11-12; A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 11-12.

13. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 13.

14. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13, 15; A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 15.

15. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1912-13, 15; A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 15; Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Farm Views and Notes on Soil-Building, volume 30 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914), 13-15. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

16. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute. 1913 Technala, volume 7 (Montevallo, AL: Senior Class, 1913). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

17. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 51; Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Program of Student Societies, 1913-1914, volume 24 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913), 11-14. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

18. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 51; A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Program of Student Societies, 1913-1914, 3-10.

19. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Program of Student Societies, 1913-1914, 17-25; A.G.T.I., 1913 Technala.

20. A.G.T.I., Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog 1913-14, 50-51.

Image Citations (Main Body)

1. “Front View of the Dormitory,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1912-13 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913), 8. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

2. “View of Academic Building and West Wing of Dormitory,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1912-13 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913), 9. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

3. “Peterson Hall,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Catalog, 1913-14 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914), 13. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

4. “Part of the School Herd on Pasture,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute Bulletin: Farm Views and Notes on Soil-Building, volume 30 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1914), 12. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama..

Image Citations (Gallery)

1. Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, Requirements for Admission, 1913-14 (Montevallo, AL: Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913), n.p. Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collection, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

2. “Main Hall Library, circa 1910,” photograph, Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

3. “College Basket-ball Team,” photograph, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913 Technala, volume 7 (Montevallo, AL: Senior Class, 1913). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

4. “Senior Tennis, Junior Tennis, and Sophomore Tennis,” photographs, from Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute, 1913 Technala, volume 7 (Montevallo, AL: Senior Class, 1913). Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections, Carmichael Library, University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama.

 

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