LOTW 79: Auntee Martha

By: Olivia Mund

When I was reviewing documents one of our newest hires edited, I came across one letter in particular, which piqued my interest. This letter is only addressed to “Auntee.” This is clearly a term of endearment, however, there is nothing in the letter itself that points to a specific person. I had a hunch that the “Auntee” could potentially be Martha Berry and, knowing little to nothing of her family tree, I decided to look into it. I found a family tree for Martha Berry on Ancestry.com and went through the list of her sisters looking for one with a son named John Graham. According to Ancestry, Martha Berry had a younger sister named Lila who married a man named Samuel Graham. One of their children was a son named John. It is possible that this is the young man writing to “Auntee” in this letter. The use of the name “Auntee” is still a little unusual to me if this is the correct John Graham. This John was born in 1905 and would therefore be thirty-three at the time he wrote this letter. It seems like an unusual nickname to use as a grown man, however, the handwriting and tone of the rest of the letter seem more in line with that of a grown man. In the end, I am not entirely sure who this letter was written to, but it is interesting and enjoyable to research.

LOTW 78: Harbin’s Helping Hands

By: Jordan Brannen

This letter stood out to me for a few reasons. While it is well known and documented that the current Harbin Clinic in Rome, GA is named for Dr. W.P. Harbin because of his hard work in the Rome community, Dr. Harbin’s contribution to the Berry schools is much less known. The rhetoric is endless from Martha Berry about how the students had little to no money for schools, but one rarely thinks about how this also means that the students had little to no money for anything, including health care procedures. This letter shows how he was kind enough to operate on countless Berry students with no intentions of being paid for his invaluable time and services. It also shows how appreciative he was of Dr. Frank Wright, former Berry student and patient of Dr. Harbin, for trying to pay him the money he owed for his surgery. Instead of accepting the money, Dr. Harbin suggests that Dr. Wright donate the money to the Berry schools. After reading this letter, I gained a new respect for Dr. Harbin that surpassed my previous high opinion of him.

LOTW 77: Berry at the World’s Fair

By: Chloe Lombard

Recently, I was editing documents online when I came across a postcard that caught my eye. I was thrilled to see that it was one about the World’s Fair, one of my favorite historical topics. In it, a woman named Mrs. Enck tells Martha Berry all about her experience at the exhibitions. My interest piqued, I just had to research more about it. It turns out that the 1939 New York World’s Fair was the start of a new technological era.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a rural woman in 1939; a friend of Martha Berry’s. You’ve seen her work come to fruition and it’s inspired you. While in New York, you visit the World’s Fair. What you see their promises future technology beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. A Tele-type machine, an early model of television, plays a live video of the Golden Gate International Exhibition in San Francisco. There’s a diorama of many of the world’s most promising laboratories, factories, and office buildings from around the world compressed into one idyllic fictional city.

What’s possibly most impressive though, is the Futurama exhibit sponsored by General Motors. This is a demonstration, complete with moving seats demonstrates motorcars as a reliable mode of transportation over virtually any terrain. You’re proud to be a friend of Martha Berry, who is such good friends with Henry Ford.

In the Court of States, the Georgia building’s colonial architecture evokes a feeling of the traditions of the Deep South. There are exhibits displaying Georgia’s natural resources which claim to provide a wealthier future, something which a person living at the end of the 1930s desperately wanted. At this time, the paper industry was picking up speed. Not only were there natural resources, but new businesses as well. A booth with students from the Berry Schools is there explaining some of Martha Berry’s most notable achievements. Certainly, Martha Berry’s students, the mountain children whom she raised up from poverty and educated could be compared to the rise of modern technology after the Great Depression.

LOTW 76: Foundation of Servitude

By: Camille Hanner

In a letter addressed to Martha Berry, a representative from State Normal School in Athens, Ga, D. L. Earnest, contacts Martha in hopes of finding support of a poor girl that has come into his association. He writes telling Martha of an eighteen year old girl who has sadly come into a rough patch of her life, finding herself in jail because her very own brother brought her there for vagrancy, or homelessness. It seemed that she had been ill for a while, and on her discovery in prison, Earnest and his workers took her to the hospital where she was able to be administered the care she needed. On her recovery, she spoke to her new friends of her desire to become a teacher and made a respectable situation for herself in life. It is here that Earnest is encouraged to reach out to Martha on the hope that she may be able to assist in this.

Earnest describes this young woman as a girl of a “bright face, really pretty and attractive” with also the “making of a fine woman.” He speaks of her high words of respect upon meeting graduates of Martha Berry’s school for woman, and her respect for how refined and proper these women were in this poor girl’s eyes.

It is with good reason that Earnest trusts in Martha Berry’s goodwill and the fact that her generosity with find good reason to take in this girl and support her. He points out her destitution, but almost unnecessarily so, for Martha Berry is known for her generous soul and willingness to befriend and adopt those in need.

This foundation of servitude is the establishing base of Berry’s fundamental goals and hopes for its students and their impending futures on leaving Berry. Through Berry’s self-maintenance through the work program and rigorous curriculum, future employers see the true value of a Berry student and the strength of character that Berry produces, all because of Martha Berry and the fine example she set for all of her students: past, present, and future. These upright codes of morale that Martha built into her institution has continued to effect each and every student and inspired these young adults to hold true to their best possible self and encouraged each individual to answer their own personal life calling no matter the difficulty or arduous journey involved.

Every student on entering Berry’s program is faced with the difficulty of the rigor that Martha Berry established into her work, but also the reward that such hard work will yield if one is dedicated to the process and finds success after completing their four remarkable years at Berry College.

As a freshman at Berry, I am too faced with the hard toil that Berry requires and the difficult adjustment to such a lifestyle, but it is easy to see the value that these experiences will be bring myself and my classmates through the experiences we will have these next few years, and the skills and networks that will development out of our dedication to the program.

LOTW 75: Good Til the Last Drop

By: Allison Moore

Having worked for MBDA for three years, I have come across hundreds of donation pamphlets. They are probably the most common item in our collections, and often cause the editor some chagrin. Do I list it as being from “The Berry Schools,” since it is an excerpt from a pamphlet dispersed by the school, or from the donor? How do I title it, especially since it’s not a letter? Is there any interesting information I can put in the summary rather than “donation of… from…”? They are nobody’s favorite document, but sometimes you may come across one with an interesting story.

While editing this donation slip from 1939, I noticed a small note at the bottom in Martha Berry’s unmistakable scrawl: “Owns Coca Cola Atlanta.” As born and bred Atlantan, I am very familiar with the Coca-Cola Company, its story, and have visited The World of Coke on multiple occasions. Because of this, I was very interested to learn of the connection between Berry College and this staple of Atlanta life. A quick internet search revealed that Mrs. Arthur K. Evans of Hot Springs, VA is better known as Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans, who is considered to be first woman leader in the Coca-Cola Company. She gained this role mostly by happenstance, when her husband purchased the rights to bottle Coca-Cola for international distribution in 1899. He died a few years later, leaving the quickly growing Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company to his wife. Even after re-marrying, Whitehead Evans maintained control of the company for the next few decades, including overseeing the opening of a bottling center in England. Although women did not commonly hold such positions in the early 20th century, she was a widely respected business leader in the Atlanta community. She retired to Virginia in 1934 after selling her company to Coca-Cola.

In 2015, the Coca-Cola corporate offices named a board room after her, but that is far from her only legacy. Here at Berry, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation funds a need-based scholarship that allows students to gain financial aid in exchange for community service. Although the relationship, if there was any, between Lettie Pate Whitehead and Martha Berry is unclear, it is easy to see the similarities between these two women. Both were fiercely independent, and unwilling to accept the role society established for them. It is no wonder that Mrs. Whitehead Evans so generously supported Martha Berry’s mission.

LOTW 74: Grief and Friendship

By: Olivia Mund

In reading through letters in the Archives, I come across many mentions of the passing of Frances Rhea Berry, Martha Berry’s mother. However, this letter Martha Berry wrote to Kate Macy Ladd specifically stood out to me. The first aspect of the letter that caught my attention was the description provided of France Rhea at the time of her death. Her refusal to take morphine paints a picture of her strength and determination. I was surprised to see that all eight of her children were with her when she passed away, especially since many young people these days do not have a strong connection and commitment to their families like that.

The main part of Martha Berry’s letter that intrigued me was the portrayal of friendship between herself and Kate Macy Ladd. I think everyone should have friends they can count on for committed love and care, like Martha Berry says is true of Kate Ladd. At the same time, I believe it speaks to Martha Berry’s character that she was willing to wait to reach out to this close friend in her time of grief because she knew Kate Ladd was unwell at the time. It seems like such a small act to simply wait a little while to write a letter, but by doing so Martha Berry was setting the tone and standard for how friends should act and the selfless respect they should pay one another.

LOTW 73: Berry Royalty

By Olivia Mund

In working with MBDA, I get a glimpse into the history of the school and a picture of who Martha Berry was. In addition to this, I often learn other historical facts when editing letters in the archive’s database. Recently when I was editing, I came across a letter that revealed the information that Martha Berry’s niece married a prince in Italy. I was surprised by this and decided to look in the database for more details. After more searching I learned that Martha Berry’s sister was a princess, and that her niece’s wedding was attended by a number of cardinals and blessed by the Pope. I couldn’t believe I never knew about any of this. I’m sure many Berry students are not aware of these royal connections and would be amazed to learn about it.

I thought it was interesting in one of the letters I found in my search for more information how Martha Berry’s sister asked her to give ten thousand dollars as a wedding present to her niece. Martha Berry replied to that request by commenting that she didn’t have that kind of money. She said if she did she would give it to the School and not foreigners, however, she only had herself to give to the School, which she gave without restraint. Even though Martha Berry had royal connections and family members blessed by the Pope, she didn’t lose sight of what truly mattered to her. Martha Berry cared about her work with the School, and that is what she kept her focus on.

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LOTW 72: Personal Solicitation

By Jordan Brannen

While editing  a few weeks ago, I came across a letter from Charles Swift from the Union Stockyards in Chicago. In this letter, Swift was replying to an appeal from Martha Berry, saying that he appreciates Miss Berry carrying on personal correspondence rather than personal solicitation. After reading this line I had to pause. From the modern day reader, one look at an appeal letter that Martha Berry sent and it immediately looks like personal solicitation. Then, as a historian, I tried to look at the letter with the context of a 1926 mindset. After thinking this way for just a short time, it was easy to see that while today Martha Berry’s letters look impersonal, at the time she was alive these letters were revolutionary.  In an age where people could not hear about the struggles of the mountain kids from northwest Georgia on social media or television, letters in the mail were how people got their information. Receiving a personalized letter in the mail asking for help would have been much more powerful then, and this is largely why Martha Berry and the Berry schools were so successful. At the end of the letter Charles Swift promises to increase his one hundred dollars per year promise to one hundred and fifty dollars for the Berry.


LOTW 71: Golden Anniversary

By Olivia Mund

One letter in the Martha Berry Digital Archive’s database that captured my attention during recent editing was from Martha Berry to Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Keep. In the letter Martha Berry thanks the couple for their donation to the school. If this was the extent of the letter, there would be nothing truly extraordinary about the contents, however, the amount of the donation had a specific reasoning behind it, which I found unusual. Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Keep had just recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and decided to donate to the Berry Schools a dollar for every year they had been married.

I found this so intriguing because fifty dollars was not a small sum of money in 1930. When I read this letter I was moved by the fact this couple, who were probably about seventy years old, believed so strongly in the work of Martha Berry and her school that they were willing to sacrifice this considerable amount for her sake. Donating this money may have even meant they could not afford gifts for each other. On the other hand, it is altogether possible this amount was not a sacrifice at all for Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Keep to provide. While I do not know the financial situation of this couple, I can see the power of such a gift as theirs. To celebrate a mile-marker moment in one’s life by giving to a cause one believes in is a beautiful gesture.


LOTW 70: McCray Refridgeration

By Rachel Renaud

Besides my work in editing documents on MBDA, I work for Dr. Snider of the Berry History Department. One of my many tasks for her includes updating the bulletin board outside her office. Each semester there is a new theme that is researched and developed into a board display. This past semester I’ve been researching the names engraved on the classroom and office doors in Evans Hall. Most of these names represent a child who donated to the Berry Schools in honor of their mother, whose name appears on a door. While researching these names, I used the MBDA site to see if I could find any interesting relationship between the donor and the Berry Schools.

While researching Sarah Orr and her daughter Lena McCray, I found a letter from Robert C. Alston. In the letter Mr. Alston giving names of possible donors, one of which is Mrs. McCray. The letter mentions how Mrs. McCray’s husband owns the McCray Refrigeration Company, but further research found that there is so much more to that.

The McCray Refrigeration Company established a new standard of refrigeration, and produced some of the first modern, sanitary refrigerators. It seems like such a trivial matter, but I find it interesting to see how many people Martha Berry interacted with and the unique roles those people played in history. There’s no telling how many other letters in MBDA have gone to people with small, but important parts in history.

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