The Importance of Documenting Diversity

Trenae Johnson is one of our graduate assistants in Special Collections this year. She holds a B.A. in Studio Art with a cognate in Psychology from the University of South Carolina and is now a first year masters student in the Art Therapy program at Georgia College.

Spectrum 1988-1989 - smaller
From the 1989 Spectrum.

As a new member of the team here in Special Collections, I am honored to say that the other graduate assistants and I have been working on a project that it set to document diversity throughout the university. The project started out as a part of the display for Georgia Archives Month. However, the project has been expanded beyond Georgia Archives Month and is now apart of an ongoing collection here in Special Collections. Nancy, the associate director of special collections says, “I think it is a learning experience for them [graduate assistants], and it also introduces them to campus folks they might not ever meet.” And I could not agree with her more! Continue reading “The Importance of Documenting Diversity”


New Year, New Projects, New Faces

The beginning of each school year always proves a bit hectic. It almost seems as though overnight Special Collections shifts from the slow drawl of summer, with researchers dropping by or calling in with requests once every couple days, to suddenly juggling three projects at once.

This year, Special Collections welcomed two new graduate assistants (in addition to me) and two new undergraduate Service Learning Opportunity students. In the past, Special Collections hasn’t always been this filled with staff, but this year we’re lucky to have a full house with all hands on deck. New graduate assistants this year are Art Therapy major, Trenae Johnson, and English major, Jessica McQuain. Our two new Service Learning Opportunity undergraduates are Business undecided, Reese Christian, and Laurie Gentry, who majors in Art and plans to pursue Art Therapy as well.

The first big project Trenae, Jessica, and I have begun to tackle is putting together the physical exhibit for Georgia Archives Month. In the past we’ve featured the NAVY Waves uniform for the 2016 theme, “Archives Big and Small: Showcasing Our Gems.” Last year, we focused on the library’s major innovations and renovations beginning with the school’s original opening in 1889, the loss of materials from the Main Building fire of 1924, all the way to the most recent addition in 2010. This year’s theme is called “Faces and Places: Documenting Diversity during Georgia Archives Month.” For the visual exhibit, we’ve decided to spotlight staff around campus, those that often go unrecognized. Through Front Page and other news media such as The Colonnade, students are often informed of their peers’ accomplishments and achievements, we’re exposed to faculty recognition, and we’re updated on clubs and athletics, social events, etc. Acknowledging student and faculty achievement is, of course, important. It’s our duty as a university to root for one another, and to document the marks we make, the imprints we leave. But what about custodial? What about landscaping and grounds? Food service? Parking and transportation? Facilities operations? There are so many other moving parts to the “well-oiled” machine that keeps Georgia College, or any university, operating, and it’s important to remember this not just during the month of October but always. Continue reading “New Year, New Projects, New Faces”


What do you get when you mix an uncensored, sexually exploitative art show put on by Georgia College and State University’s Art Department with a cacophony of performance reactions and concerns?

You get “Mexotica.”

In 2004, an art show put on by performance artist and writer Guillermo Gomez-Pena and a number of volunteers, in conjunction with the school’s Art Department, was held in Russell Auditorium. The reactions erupted discussion that travels the entire spectrum.

Gomez-Pena works in a number of artistic mediums exploring cross-cultural issues, immigration, and the politics of language. His mixing and blending of genres and art forms, of truth and fiction, seeks to create a “total experience” for the viewer/reader. He is the creator of La Pocha Nostra–an online collaborative art laboratory for performance artists to link up and connect with other rebel artists. Its main function is to destroy borders separating people by race, gender, and other cultural differences. La Pocha Nostra’s mission statement is “to provide a base for a loose network of rebel artists from various disciplines, generations, and ethnic backgrounds.” The term is meant to represent Mexican empowerment, to praise abnormality and indecency. Click on this interview for Guillermo’s detailed explanation of where the name originates.

The school’s Colonnade featured several articles of audience reaction following the performance. President Dorothy P. Leland, who was newly appointed president at the time, is quoted in the articles. Mexotica was the first visual arts performance she attended at GCSU, and what a way to acclimate her to the fine arts within the university. Gomez-Pena allowed students the freedom to wear and perform what they wanted, and I think that’s one of the most important takeaways in all of this. Performance is about trusting other artists. One student told The Colonnade that she felt like she was in the red light district; others felt it was fuel to confront issues regarding sexual exploitation. Continue reading “Mexotic-huh?”

“The game ain’t worth winning if you’re breaking all the rules:” G.N. & I.C.’s own Crime & Punishment, or Rules and Regulations of the Founding Years (1890-1924)

Note: This is the final part of a three part series on the day to day administration and life of Georgia Normal & Industrial College students from 1890 to 1930. Find part one here and part two here.

“We don’t need no education…”

“School’s out forever…”

While housing and fashion are the somewhat more glamorous parts of college, today we’re here to talk about the respected and resented, controversial topic of rules and regulations. Girls at Georgia Normal & Industrial College had more than just the Student Judicial Board and Honor Code to worry about while out and about in Milledgeville. These girls were held to a high standard, as former President John Harris Chappell, and later President Marvin M. Parks, expected them to abide by a code of conduct that would probably impede even the most rule-abiding student among us today.

To examine these particular codes of conduct, I initially turned to what has become my favorite resource – A Centennial History of Georgia College. (The name has gotten familiar enough that I feel like I don’t even have to write out the full name agnic main buildingnymore, but here you are.) And if you’ve ever wondered why historians rely so heavily on prospectuses from 1891 to 1924, here’s your answer: the main building of the G.N. & I.C. campus burned in 1924, sending all administrative records up in smoke. What have we got to go on, then? Prospectuses, photographs, and personal histories recorded in memorabilia.

At this point, it is important to note that the ages of G.N. & I.C. students was much different than Georgia College students today. Students during this era ranged in age from 16 to 20, with preference given to younger girls rather than older. This differs wildly from the 17-22 year old age range on campus today. Younger students in the 1890s meant that Chappell took his role of “in loco parentis” very seriously, leading to his autocratic reign as president. Chappell was absolute in his enforcement of rules on his students, going so far as to admonish parents of students for breaking them, and asking them to avoid sending their young daughters to the school if they were not willing to play by his rules. However, there were also pockets of delightful resistance, of which I hope to highlight. Continue reading ““The game ain’t worth winning if you’re breaking all the rules:” G.N. & I.C.’s own Crime & Punishment, or Rules and Regulations of the Founding Years (1890-1924)”

“What can’t she do?” Julia Anna Flisch: Author, Scholar, Journalist, Professor, and Women’s Education Activist in Georgia, 1861-1941

The founding of Georgia Normal & Industrial College — a college dedicated to the goal of educating women and supporting women in their quest for knowledge — is marked in the timeline on Georgia College’s website by a simple statement:

1889. Due to the lobbying efforts of Julia Flisch, a journalist in Augusta, support builds to establish a publicly funded college for women that would prepare them for the demands of the new industrial age. In 1889, the Georgia Normal & Industrial College is chartered as a two-year college emphasizing teacher training and business skills.

For the purposes of a timeline friendly history of the college, this statement serves well. But I’m never one to take summarized history laying down. Histories of the foundation of the college intimately describe the process of the college’s charter at the legislative level, but what of the women campaigning for the establishment of the teaching and industrial college behind the legislature? Digging deeper into the history of our Georgia College reveals the relentless efforts of the women’s suffrage movement in the South, and particularly the efforts of Julia Flisch, as well as Susie Cobb Milton Atkinson, Rebecca Latimer Felton, and Martha Moss Neel Northen (Hair). Specifically, without the push of author, activist, and professor Julia Flisch, Georgia College would not exist today. Special Collections houses an extensive collection of Flisch’s papers and publications, as well as a dissertation and thesis on Flisch from Georgia College alumna and professor Dr. Robin O. Harris. Because of this, I decided to dive into Flisch’s collection to highlight the push from her and the suffrage movement in Georgia for the foundation and continuation of Georgia Normal & Industrial College.

Education in Georgia became tied with the exponentially growing women’s rights movement that began in the early 1800s. Women’s activists demanded education reform that included education for women at the college level. Schools for women already existed in the state, but their curricula were based on forming a more “socially oriented [woman]” and would not be considered true collegiate-level scholarship (Hair). The most prominent educational opportunity for Georgia women was the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens, founded in 1859. Students generally came from wealthy families in the area, and subjects emphasized art, music, and French (Case). Under the later leadership of sisters Mildred Lewis Rutherford and Mary Ann Lipscomb, the curriculum expanded to include a collegiate track offering sciences, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, languages, history, and literature (Case).

Specifically on the collegiate front, Representatives Duncan G. Campbell and Tomlinson Fort attempted to appropriate funds from the Georgia Legislature to “endow a college for female education in Georgia” in 1822 (Hair). They petitioned again in 1825, joined by Representatives John Singleton and Wilson Lumpkin, for a women’s college in Milledgeville. The House approved the bill, but it failed to pass the Senate. It seemed at the time that Milledgeville had lost its chance in establishing a degree-granting university. The Legislature approved a charter in 1836 for an institution in Macon to be called the Georgia Female College, which later became Wesleyan College. Georgia also chartered 35 women’s “schools” between 1836 and the start of the Civil War; while many of these then subsequently failed, three remain open and functional today, and Wesleyan remains the only all-female institution.flisch-3

After the Civil War, higher education became increasingly male-oriented with the establishment of agricultural colleges and technical schools closed to women, while women in the suffrage movement became increasingly vocal in demanding  training for jobs in business and teaching that were opening to them. One such woman was then twenty-one year old Julia Anna Flisch of Augusta, Georgia. On November 20, 1882, the Augusta Chronicle published an anonymous letter to the editor, signed as “A Young Woman,” entitled “Give the Girls a Chance” (Flisch papers, Box 6). The letter writer, who was later identified as Flisch, strongly condemned the lives of financial dependency that were forced on women because of their lack of educational opportunities.

After her first publication in the Augusta Chronicle in 1882, Flisch became a “special correspondent” for the paper by permission of Patrick Walsh, editor and co-owner of the Chronicle. Walsh saw his own causes in Flisch and gave Flisch the platform to expound her own cause of women’s education. She took this up resoundingly, using the rallying cry of “Give the girls a chance!” (Harris 63). Notably, Flisch sought education reform not out of some abstract theory, but because she herself was denied admittance to the then all-male University of Georgia after graduating from the Lucy Cobb Institute in 1877 with honors. Ten years later when sent to cover the commencement exercises of UGA, Flisch penned multiple pieces criticizing the students apparent lack of scholarly pursuits, and a final, emotional piece detailing her own rejection from UGA:

Our hearts might thrill at the music and the applause; our minds might hunger for the crumbs that fell from that table, but the feast was not for us. These provisions were for the sons of Georgia, in them her daughters could not share…Oh! Georgia, little as thou hast done for thy sons, it is yet something, but what has thou done for thy daughters? (Flisch papers, Box 6, 15 July 1887)

It is clear to historians that her rejection from UGA placed Flisch on a path towards agency for herself and for her gender. Furthermore, Flisch could not rely upon family wealth or influence to mediate her outspoken nature. However, Flisch continued to publish throughout the 1880s in the Augusta Chronicle and Athens Banner, as well as speak for women’s organizations on the need for industrial education for women (Harris 83).

It was Flisch’s persistence in pointing out the inadequacy of opening up a myriad of institutions for men, but denying this knowledge to women, that persuaded more prominent women like Rebecca Latimer Felton, famous for being the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and Mrs. Susan Cobb Milton Atkinson, wife to then Representative and future Governor of Georgia William Y. Atkinson, to push for the opening of a woman’s institution. The original proposal came in 1887, which the legislature rejected because of the construction of the new School of Technology (GA Tech) and of a new capitol building (Sheehee 41). Flisch did not accept this answer, continuing to campaign for the opening of a state-funded school for women. In her 1889 piece “Give the Girls a Chance” for the Augusta Chronicle, Flisch lays out an argument for transitioning the role of women in Georgia from a passive role to a more active role (1889, as seen in Harris) Harris states: “While our more modern sensibilities may not readily recognize the radical implications of her carefully-crafted argument, neither did those in a position to block her proposed advances for women” (Harris 93).

This hard work paid off in having Representative Atkinson introduce legislation to fund a state-supported women’s college in Georgia. While Atkinson was technically convinced by his  wife Susan, the vocal hard work of Flisch is what influenced Susan and prepped the state for the success of this piece of legislation. As residents of Milledgeville and students alike know, this bid was ultimately successful. On the date of November 27, 1890, the city welcomed dignitaries from across the state to celebrate the opening of Georgia Normal & Industrial College. As the festivities went on, Governor Northen regaled Susan Atkinson with praise for inspiring her husband’s role as originator of the legislation (Harris 98). However, twenty-eight year old Flisch was the only woman to have her own part of the program; speaking to a mixed crowd of men and women, a rarity in the South at this time, Flisch challenged women to take hold of their education — “It has come to pass that the question now is not ‘What can woman do?’ but ‘What can’t she do?’” (Flisch papers, Box 5, “Girls Industrial School: Paper Read by Miss Julia A. Flisch at the Lying[sic] of the Corner Stone,” Union Recorder 9 December 1890).

Flisch taught stenography, typewriting, and telegraphy at G.N.& I.C. in 1891, but was most popular for teaching ancient and medieval history. In 1899, UGA awarded her an honorary degree, and she left her post in 1905 to pursue true bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She continued to teach after returning to Georgia, even becoming dean of women and professor of history at the Junior College of Augusta (now Augusta University). Upon her death in 1941, obituaries stated that Flisch had “done more than any other person to advance the cause of women’s [higher] education in the state of Georgia” (NGAE).img_5293

On this International Women’s Day in 2017, over 125 years after the founding of Georgia College, it is crucial to remember the contributions from Julia Flisch. Twelve years after her rejection from UGA, Flisch was finally able to see Georgia “give the girls a chance.” And the next time you think about your education at Georgia College, be sure to give a little thanks to Julia for her hard work and dedication to crusading for the public to ask women “What can’t she do?”

And, in the spirit of Flisch’s first published editorial, this is signed: A Young Woman


Works Cited

Case, Sarah H. “Lucy Cobb Institute.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 21 August 2013. Web. 12 January 2017.

Hair, William Ivy, James C. Bonner, Edward B. Dawson, and Robert J. Wilson III. A Centennial History of Georgia College, University of Georgia Printing Department, 1979, Print.

Harris, Robin O. A New Representative of Southern Intellect: Julia Anna Flisch, a New Woman of the New South. Ph.D. diss., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1996.

Holliman, Irene V. “Julia Flisch (1861-1941).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 20 March 2013. Web. 10 January 2017.

Julia A. Flisch papers, Special Collections, Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College. 12 January 2017.

Shehee, Blanche Alvenia. The Movement for and Establishment of a State College for Women in Georgia. 1953. Print.


Swingin’ the Blues: 21 Years of the Georgia College Jazz Band with Dr. Bob Wilson

Now let’s go back to 1943, and if some of the jokes are a bit corny and sexist by 1990s standards, put it in a historical perspective.

— “Georgia College USO Show” script, 1995

Twenty one short years ago the Georgia College Jazz Band, with special guest appearances from the Georgia College Show Choir and Georgia College Theatre Department, performed the Georgia College USO Show on February 24 and 25, 1995. With a show titled “Music from World War II,” the band went on to swing some iconic tunes, such as “Moonlight Serenade” from Glenn Miller, and the perennial classic, “Sing, Sing, Sing” from Louis Prima. This tribute was especially fitting; Georgia College, or Georgia State College for Women, was the site of a broadcast from Bob Hope and his whole troop on May 18, 1943. Why? Because of the brave women receiving training on campus from the Navy WAVES program. The one thing missing from this triple threat of musical talent was the history. Band director Todd Shiver needed someone to take the helm as emcee and provide some historical perspective to the show — a newly promoted Associate Professor in the Department of History and Geography, Dr. Bob Wilson.

Even after retiring from teaching, Dr. Bob has continued to be the voice of the Georgia College Jazz Band, delighting jazz band members and audiences alike. However, on November 3 and 4, 2016, the jazz band paid tribute to Dr. Bob’s “swinging” as announcer at his final shows. Full of stories of jazz legends, jazz history, and a whole lot of love for the band, Dr. Bob’s scripts represent a large part of the institutional history of Georgia College and the end of an era to current and former band members, as well as those returning audience members. Thankfully Dr. Bob kept all of these materials since 1995; Director of Georgia College Bands Dr. Cliff Towner received four folders of scripts, programs, newspaper clippings, notes — everything imaginable about the band — from Dr. Bob, and these materials were promptly passed on to Special Collections.

Before going on, I must admit the personal joy I have gotten out of handling this collection. I was a member of the band from 2012-2016, playing alto and tenor saxophone, and experienced firsthand the pride Dr. Bob has for the students, the band, and the music. Reading his scripts over the past few days has made me relive the concerts of my past, dating back to 2012, my first semester of undergrad at Georgia College. I’m sure that other former members of the band will get this same joy out of seeing themselves, their names, and their memories in this amazing collection.

It’s definitely a “sentimental journey” to look back on the past twenty one years of Dr. Bob’s legacy with the Jazz Band. Here’s a look back at Dr. Bob and the GC Jazz Band along with our institutional history:

1995. The Georgia College USO Show is in full swing. Dr. Barbara Chandler, a former Navy WAVE at Georgia College attended the show. Georgia College is one year away from our sixth official name change – to Georgia College and State University.

2001. Georgia College Jazz Band welcomes Ken Burns to the stage this Fall. Dr. Bob also says perhaps my new favorite quote about jazz music:

Jazz music, like the American experiment, is all about freedom, improvisation, respect, and working together. Jazz, not surprisingly, was discouraged in Stalinist Russia, Hitler thought it was decadent, and Osama Bin Laden rarely gets groovy.

–Fall 2001 Jazz Band Concert

2003. Upon the 60th Anniversary of the Bob Hope Show coming to campus (1943-2003), the band performs the show in its entirety from the original script. Students portrayed Bob Hope, Frances Langford, Jerry Colonna, and the rest of the Hope gang. Dr. Bob once again provided his historical insight, taking the band right back to 1943. He once told me, when the archive was planning to showcase the WAVE uniform donated by Dr. Chandler, how the band dressed one of the show choir singers in the uniform to perform “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” In 2003, Georgia College was growing and preserving, building five new dorms as well as completing a historical renovation of the Old Governor’s Mansion.

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Continue reading “Swingin’ the Blues: 21 Years of the Georgia College Jazz Band with Dr. Bob Wilson”

Decorate Your Dorm Room in 5 Easy Steps! (Circa 1891)

The dream of the 1890s may be alive in Portland, but this week we’re bringing the 1890s alive in Milledgeville. Welcome back to part two of a three part series on Georgia Normal and Industrial College life, fashion, behavior, and education at the founding of G.N. & I.C. and the turn of the century in Milledgeville. After reading about the fashion and uniforms of the college in 1891, you may be wondering where these girls kept their uniforms and rested their heads for full days of studying. To answer those questions, we’re going to dive into room and board.

One of the biggest points of stress for today’s students is the small, yet imperative question of what their freshmen dorm room will look like! Everywhere from Target to Walmart to Bed, Bath, and Beyond has college essential checklists, and students across the Georgia College campus coordinate their color schemes, tapestries, and Christmas lights, and compete for a chance to win Best Decorated Dorm Room in the many diverse dorm buildings across campus – ranging from Bell Hall on Main Campus; Sanford, Parks, Foundation, Napier, and Parkhurst Halls by the Centennial Center; and the Village Apartments on West Campus.

Upon our founding, still struggling to see if this experiment in women’s industrial (or women’s technical) school would come to fruition and success, the only dorm available was the Executive Mansion, or known by its common name around Milledgeville, the Old Governor’s Mansion. The Mansion stopped housing governors after General Thomas H. Ruger, the military governor of Georgia, left the building in 1868; after this abandonment, it had fallen into disrepair and served an ever changing list of uses including flophouse (a very cheap, run down, boarding house) and as a home and dormitory for the President and Cadets at Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College. Among other elements of disrepair include an 1870 kitchen fire, leaking around the dome, and a herd of goats that took up residence on the front lawn.

With all of these problems, how could the mansion ever hope to house these young women? With no source of funding readily apparent to the newly elected directors of the college, it seemed like this housing issue was insurmountable. However, this was solved by the faith the people of Milledgeville placed in the success of the college by voting for bonds to assist construction, $5,000 of which was bookmarked specifically for the purposes of refurbishing the Mansion. This money went towards refurbishing the building by replacing the plaster with stained wood ceilings, the window blinds with inside shutters, and placing a gothic cupola over the dome, as well as towards constructing 35 dormitories.

Photo of Executive Mansion 1891 scanned from A Centennial History of Georgia College

Continue reading “Decorate Your Dorm Room in 5 Easy Steps! (Circa 1891)”