Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Fun? Well Rather" The Diary of Virginia Clay McClure - part of the Sesquicentennial Stories Series

In celebration of the University of Kentucky's 150th anniversary, beginning on September 6, the diary of former student Virginia Clay McClure will be released, one entry at at time*.  The diary chronicles the day to day activities of Virginia's junior and senior years at the State University of Kentucky from 1910-1912.

Virginia McClure 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 in 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.

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.

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.

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 Virginia Clay McClure's time as an undergraduate at State University, Lexington, Kentucky (now University of 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; it follows this experience from her junior through her senior year, 1910-1912. The photograph album and loose photographs also document this time period and include photographs of her University of Kentucky 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. 

*Diary transcriptions completed by Taylor Adams, SCRC Learning Lab intern.

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