Delphine Hurst Parsons papers
Scope and Content
The Delphine Hurst Parsons Papers, 1923-1976, bulk 1923-1931, consist of one legal size half-Hollinger box containing folders of loose documents, two Hollinger boxes containing seven yearbooks from Maury High School and the State Teachers College, and three oversize flat storage boxes housing two scrapbooks and newspapers. Except for three yearbooks belonging to Nellie Cowan, this collection contains only papers created and collected by Delphine Hurst. The collection contains paper ephemera such as tickets, programs, calling cards, and nametags as well as correspondence, newspapers, and memorabilia acquired during Hurst’s time spent at Maury High School (Norfolk, Virginia) and the State Teachers College in Harrisonburg. As such, virtually all of the material contained within covers a time period from 1923 to 1931. Two items fall outside of this time period: one vinyl record of the Madison College Choir Concert of 1966 and a single photograph from a 1976 reunion of STC students featuring Delphine Hurst and Nellie Cowan alongside several other former classmates.
Much of the correspondence contained within pertains directly to club, sorority, and academic activities; there is little personal (i.e. non-school related) correspondence. The bulk of the papers from Hurst’s high school years (1924-1927) are contained in a green scrapbook. From her high school years, Hurst collected newspaper clippings covering Maury High School athletics, theater productions, debate club, and student academic activities. Hurst also collected postcards, brochures, and newspaper clippings pertaining to Camp Owaisa, a now-defunct YWCA camp in Virginia Beach. Loose and oversized items found within the front cover, back cover, and pages of the high school scrapbook were removed and placed within separate folders that are housed alongside the scrapbook in a flat storage box.
While attending the State Teachers College, Hurst collected dance cards from the Cotillion Club, score cards from the Debate Club, newspaper clippings covering the Glee Club, photos of campus and of classmates, notes and letters pertaining to student government, numerous playbills and programs from student theatrical productions, written feedback on her student teaching performance, letters relating to the Kappa Delta Pi honor society, and programs from university events such as alumnae banquets and the Wilson Hall dedication on 1931 (an event at which Hurst, the sitting senior class president, delivered an address). Most STC-related documents are secured within a blue scrapbook, while loose documents are organized by topic and housed within a single legal size half-Hollinger box.
The Hurst Parsons Papers also contains several issues of The Breeze from the years 1930 and 1931, as well as issues of the Baltimore American (5/24/1931), Norfolk Ledger Dispatch (5/27/1931), Daily News-Record (5/16/1931), and a special insert from the Alexandria Gazette (10/1931) dedicated to the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. Newspapers are housed within a single flat storage box. The vinyl record of the Madison College Choir Concert of 1966 is housed with the newspapers.
Rounding out the Delphine Hurst Parsons Papers are four yearbooks from Maury High School, entitled The Commodore, as well as three Schoolma’am yearbooks from STC. As indicated by signatures within the yearbooks, Delphine Hurst owned the following: The Commodore 1925, 1926, and 1927 as well as the Schoolma’am of 1931. Nellie Cowan owned The Commodore of 1927 and the Schoolma’am of 1928 and 1929. These yearbooks contain the signatures of their owners as well as well-wishes of classmates. Though few loose items were found within the pages of these yearbooks, some are of note, including a pamphlet by John W. Wayland entitled A Bird’s-Eye View of the Shenandoah Valley with Map and a program from the State Teachers College commencement exercises of June 7, 1931.
- Creation: 1923-1976
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1923-1931
- Parsons, Delphine Hurst, 1910-2001 (Person)
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Delphine Hurst Parsons was born Ida Delphine Hurst on February 21, 1910 to Bayard T. and Ida. L. Hurst of Norfolk, Virginia. Delphine attended Maury High School in Norfolk, graduating in 1928. In the same year, Hurst enrolled at the State Teachers College (later James Madison University) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In addition to studying elementary education, Hurst participated in numerous extracurricular activities such as the university Bluestone Cotillion Club, Glee Club, Student Government, Lee Literary Society, and Debate Club. The financial constraints brought about by the Great Depression forced Hurst to return to Norfolk during what would have been her junior year at STC. Having already earned her two-year “normal degree,” Hurst spent the year in Norfolk teaching fourth grade, taking courses through the College of William & Mary’s extension program in Norfolk, and attending summer school at STC. By 1930, Hurst had earned enough money to return to STC and complete her bachelor’s degree on time in the spring of 1931. Hurst was elected to serve as president of her sophomore class and, in spite of her absence, was reelected to the presidency of the senior class in 1931. The 1931 STC yearbook, Schoolma’am, lists Hurst as one of the “Most Intellectual” students of her graduating class.
Upon completing her degree in 1931, Hurst returned to Norfolk where she worked as an itinerant music teacher, traveling by streetcar between city schools. She married James Edward Parsons (January 16, 1912 - December 10, 1986), also of Norfolk, in April of 1941. Following the birth of their daughter in 1949, Delphine temporarily left teaching, but she made a return in 1958 as a teacher of history and English at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. Hurst continued working at Hargrave until her retirement in 1975. Just as it had been at STC, Delphine’s spare time was filled with music. She directed the Hargrave glee club, several church choirs, and she often played as a piano accompanist in Chatham.
Delphine passed away on December 14, 2001 and was buried alongside her husband in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Chatham, Virginia. She is remembered by her daughter Elizabeth Harper as a lover of music as well as travel and history.
Nellie Morgan Cowan Williams was the closest, lifelong friend of Delphine Hurst Parsons. Nellie was born in Norfolk, Virginia on November 2, 1908 to William J. and Mattie M. Cowan. Cowan and Hurst attended Maury High School and, later, the State Teachers College in Harrisonburg together, both completing their degrees in 1931. The two women shared a love of music, and Nellie in particular was known for her extraordinary singing voice. While enrolled at STC, Cowan was a member of music organizations such as the Aeolian Club, Choral Club, Glee Club, as well as the Y.W.C.A, Lee Literary Society and Cotillion Club. Nellie returned to Norfolk, and later Virginia Beach, where she taught upper elementary school. Nellie wed Frank Taylor Williams in the 1960s. At the wedding, Delphine stood as Nellie’s maid of honor just as Nellie had done for her so many years before. The marriage was cut short by the untimely death of Frank Williams in June 1966. Nellie passed away on April 10, 1998 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk.
2.47 cubic feet (2 Hollinger boxes, 1 half-Hollinger box, 3 oversize boxes)
Language of Materials
Materials include correspondence, paper ephemera, yearbooks, and memorabilia of Delphine Hurst Parsons from her time as a student at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia and at the State Teachers College (STC) at Harrisonburg, with one vinyl record of the Madison College Choir Concert of 1966, and a single photograph from the 1976 reunion of STC students. This collection also contains three yearbooks owned by Nellie Cowan Williams, a close friend and STC classmate of Delphine Parsons, and four yearbooks belonging to Hurst.
This collections contains one legal size half-Hollinger box containing folders which are arranged topically. Items within each folder are arranged chronologically when possible. The scrapbooks remain intact with the exception of loose and oversized items which were removed and placed in folders; these folders are marked to indicate the original location of their contents. Yearbooks are arranged chronologically and are housed in two Hollinger boxes alongside folders containing loose items removed from their pages. Other oversize items, such as newspapers and the vinyl record, are housed in a separate oversize flat box.
The collection is arranged in four series:
- Letters and Memorabilia, 1926-1976
- Scrapbooks, 1923-1931
- Yearbooks, 1925-1931
- Ephemera, 1931-1966
Elizabeth Harper, Parsons’ daughter, donated this collection to the James Madison University Special Collections Library in May 2013.
Nellie Cowan’s 1931 Schoolma’am was removed from the collection due to lack of annotations and due to duplication elsewhere in Special Collections.
Harper, Elizabeth. Re: JMU Special Collections Donation. 2015. E-mail.
"Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV2S-TYLQ : accessed 9 July 2015), Nellie Cowan Williams, 1998; Burial, Norfolk, Norfolk City, Virginia, United States of America, Forest Lawn Cemetery; citing record ID 53808185, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.
"Find A Grave Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVL1-DPZG : accessed 15 June 2015), Delphine Hurst Parsons, 2001; Burial, Chatham, Pittsylvania, Virginia, United States of America, Hillcrest Burial Park; citing record ID 104919658, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.
The Schoolma'am, 1931. Harrisonburg (Va.): State Teachers College
"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJJW-NP2 : accessed 9 July 2015), Nellie M Cowan in household of William J Cowan, Norfolk Washington Ward, Norfolk (Independent City), Virginia, United States; citing sheet 5B, family 111, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,821,901.
"United States Census, 1930," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:CHLR-CN2 : accessed 15 June 2015), Delphine I Hurst in household of Bayard T Hurst, Norfolk, Norfolk (Independent City), Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0004, sheet 3A, family 36, line 4, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2469; FHL microfilm 2,342,203.
"United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VTMM-GLD : accessed 15 June 2015), Ida D Hurst in household of Bayord T Hurst, Area B, Norfolk, Norfolk City Voting Precinct 2, Norfolk City, Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 114-8, sheet 62A, family 167, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 4311.
Nellie Cowan’s 1931 Schoolma’am was removed from the collection due to lack of annotations and due to duplication elsewhere in Special Collections. Loose items found within yearbooks were removed and foldered separately. The scrapbooks remain intact with the exception of loose and oversized items which were removed and placed in folders; these folders are marked to indicate the original location of their contents.
- Harper, Elizabeth (Person)
- James Madison University (Organization)
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) (Organization)
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- History (Organization)
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- Alumni and alumnae (Organization)
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- Students (Organization)
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- Students -- Social life and customs (Organization)
- James Madison University -- Students -- History (Organization)
- A Guide to the Delphine Hurst Parsons Papers, 1923-1976 (bulk 1923-1931)
- Ellen Blackmon
- June 2015
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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