A Day in the Life of a UK Student: April 19 & 20, 1911


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 20, 2015)  In celebration of the University of Kentucky sesquicentennial, UK Special Collections Research Center is releasing the diary entries of former student Virginia Clay McClure. The diary chronicles the day-to-day activities of McClure's junior and senior years at the State University of Kentucky (now UK) from 1910-1912. McClure's 55th and 56th diary entries, dated April 19 and 20, 1911, tell of McClure hosting a guest from out of town and attending "Brown of Harvard" performed by the Strollers.

April 19th, 1911. Bernice came and Lillian, Farmer, Edna and I met her at the train.

Apr. 19th. Phyllis and I go over to meet Lillian, but we miss her, and she misses us. When we get back I carry Mary Dennison's little nephew to the third floor. Just as we're starting back to meet the five o'clock car, Lillian comes up. We go over to see Addie.

April 20, 1911. She went to school with us. No Latin. Nice day. Very eventful day for "Strollers" and all the college. Everybody excited about "Brown of Harvard." The Most Eventful Event of the year.

It was perfectly fine and everybody was crazy about it. She said it was the best amateur performance ever given in Lexington. Eloise was dear as could be. Becker and Theising were fine. "Tubby" was grand, and Happy was good too. The house was full, and such an enthusiastic audience.

Inserted with the April 20, 1911, entry was a program and ticket for the Strollers' production of "Brown of Harvard." The play by Rida Johnson Young opened on Broadway in 1906.

Apr. 20th. I finish my skirt, and Prof. Darnaby, of Winchester, interviews me on the subject of a job. Phyllis spends the night. Jessie Mit has company (after so long a time) and is matron, too. We walk with Mary.

More on Virginia Clay McClure

Virginia Clay McClure, a native of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, graduated in 1912 with an AB degree and received her master’s degree in 1928 from UK. After receiving her AB, she taught for a year at Middlesboro, Kentucky, another year at Paducah, Kentucky, and seven years in Cynthiana, Kentucky. After this, she returned to Lexington, where she taught for nine and a half years in the Fayette County schools. At this point, she took two and a half years off of work to complete her doctorate.

The first woman to receive a Ph.D. from UK, McClure said that her department chairman did not “want a woman to get a doctor’s degree.” In spite of those words, McClure received her doctoral degree in American history in 1934.

Her dissertation was “The Settlement of the Kentucky Appalachian Region,” about which “nothing had been done before.” 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.  

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. She 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.

The UK alumna and educator was very active in the community. McClure was 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.

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 McClure's time as an undergraduate at State University, Lexington, 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. The photograph album and loose photographs also document this time period and include photographs of her UK 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. 

This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections Research Center. UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian collection and the digital library, ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Diary transcriptions completed by senior Taylor Adams, Special Collections Learning Lab intern and history major from Ashland, Kentucky.

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716; whitney.hale@uky.edu