Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sesquicenteniall Stories: The Promise of UK #111

The first woman who received a Ph. D. from the University of Kentucky said that her department chairman did not “want a woman to get a doctor’s degree.” In spite those words, Dr. Virginia Clay McClure received her Ph. D. in American history in 1934.

She attended the University of Kentucky graduating in 1912 with an AB degree and received her master’s degree in 1928, also from UK.  After receiving her AB she taught for a year at Middlesboro, another year at Paducah, and seven years at Cynthiana.  After this, she returned to Lexington, where she taught for nine and a half years in Fayette County Schools.  At this point, she took two and a half years off of work to complete her doctorate.
“ Thursday Afternoon Dear Mother: Are some of you sick or what is the matter? I have been looking for a letter since Tuesday, and I am so disappointed. I thought I'd be sure to get one this afternoon. I am going to the library to read history, and I'd much rather do something else. I hope you are all well. Write to me right away-Lovingly, Virgie” To: Mrs. J.E. McClure Mt. Sterling, Kentucky R.R. #4 (on back of postcard)"
Her dissertation was “The Settlement of the Kentucky Appalachian Region,” about which “nothing had been done before.”  Dr. 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.  

Dr. 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.
Dr. McClure 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.

Dr. McClure was also 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.
Virginia Clay McClure passed away in 1980 at 91 years of age.

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