Bertha Couchman Hess and Ethel Virginia Dunn Correspondence
Scope and Content
The Bertha Couchman Hess and Ethel Virginia Dunn Correspondence, 1918-1927, is comprised of four postcards and seven letters written by Hess and her niece Dunn to their family in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Couchman authored three postcards while visiting Harrisonburg in August 1918 and the remainder of the correspondence was written by Dunn while she was a student at the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg and while she was a teacher in Morgantown, West Virginia.
In Hess’ three postcards to family she mentions that she is having a nice time (she attended the fair) and that Harrisonburg is a “beautiful little town” of about 6,000 people. The postcards feature scenic views of Harrisonburg and the State Normal School for Women.
Dunn’s correspondence dates primarily from her time as a student at the State Normal School for Women. In a postcard written to her grandmother, postmarked October 19, 1923, Dunn describes how she plans to spend her free time: “I am going on a hike Saturday. We are going up to the mountains for chestnuts. This certainly is a pretty little town and I like it real well.” The postcard features a view of the court house. An additional five letters are included from Dunn’s time as a student and are dated 1924-1925. She wrote to her grandmother, Lucy Gordon Couchman, and her Aunt Bert, presumably the aforementioned Bertha Couchman Hess. Dunn’s letters include descriptions of Harrisonburg and campus: “This is a very pretty town and the view of the mountains are lovely. I never saw such lovely sunsets before. We have a beautiful school. There are eight large stone buildings with red tile roofs.” She also provides detailed accounts of life as a student including descriptions of classes, roommates, social events, meals, weather, and receiving care packages. She makes frequent mention of her cousin Sadie and Aunt Laura who live in town. Dunn also describes a trip to Clifton Forge, Virginia in March 1925, during the holiday between quarters.
Dunn’s last letter is dated November 29, 1927 at which point she is teaching school in Morgantown, West Virginia. She describes the Thanksgiving holiday during which she threw a party for her students. Her class also put together a box of groceries for a needy family.
- Hess, Bertha Couchman, 1884-1980 (Person)
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Bertha Couchman Hess was born April 20, 1884 to David Calvin Couchman and Lucy Gordon Couchman of West Virginia. She married Robert Newton Hess (1880-1854) on June 20 1917 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. She died in April 1980 and is buried at Darkesville Cemetery in Berkelely County, West Virginia.
Ethel Virginia Dunn, Hess’ niece, was born September 29, 1903 to William Nelson Dunn and Mary Catherine Couchman Dunn of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Dunn matriculated into the State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg in 1923 and attended for two years. She was a member of the Choral Club, Racquet Tennis Club, Athletic Association, and Y. W. C. A. She went on to attend Rutgers University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Dunn was a school teacher Morgantown, West Virginia for four years before continuing her career in New Brunswick, New Jersey where she taught for 44 years. Dunn died February 9, 2002 and is buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
0.12 cubic feet (2 letter folders)
Language of Materials
The Bertha Couchman Hess and Ethel Virginia Dunn Correspondence, 1918-1927, is comprised of four postcards and seven letters written by Hess and Dunn, her niece, to their family in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Couchman authored three postcards while visiting Harrisonburg in August 1918 and the remainder of the correspondence was written by Dunn while she was a student at the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg and while she was a teacher in Morgantown, West Virginia.
The correspondence is arranged by author in two letter folders and further arranged chronologically.
The donor came into possession of a “Xerox size box” of materials saved by Barbara Lucinda (Lucy) Gordon Couchman, Bertha Couchman Hess’ mother and Ethel Virginia Dunn’s grandmother, and Alice Couchman Staples, the donor’s grandmother. The materials that make up this collection were contained within that box.
The correspondence was donated to Special Collections by Maxine N. Evans in September 2002. Evans’ mother, Evelyn Staples Nuse was Ethel Virginia Dunn’s first cousin. Evans’ grandmother, Alice Couchman Staples, was Bertha Couchman Hess’ sister.
- Obituary for Ethel V. Dunn, The Herald-Mail, February 11, 2002.
- The Schoolma'am, 1924. Harrisonburg (Va.): State Normal School for Women.
- The Schoolma'am, 1925. Harrisonburg (Va.): State Teachers College.
At some point during initial processing and for unknown reasons, the envelopes that accompanied the letters in this collection were photocopied and the originals discarded. The letters were dated based on the postmark on the envelopes and based on information provided by the donor. In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in the spring of 2017. This collection was previously cataloged as SU 2002-0910.
- Education, Higher -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- History
- Harrisonburg (Va.) -- History
- James Madison University -- Students -- Correspondence
- James Madison University -- History
- Letters (correspondence)
- Morgantown (W. Va.) -- History
- State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- Students -- Correspondence
- State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- History
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- Students -- Correspondence
- State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (Harrisonburg, Va.) -- History
- Universities and colleges -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- History
- A Guide to the Bertha Couchman Hess and Ethel Virginia Dunn Correspondence, 1918-1927
- Tiffany Cole
- February 2017
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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