Charlottew-Mecklenburg HLC Photo Gallery: Young Women at Elizabeth College in 1914

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Images of Young Women at Elizabeth College in 1914.
In 1914 the Victorian era was fast approaching its death. World War One would erupt upon the scene in August of that year, and the self-confidence and optimism of European culture would never recover. The young women in the 1914 photographs that follow were students at Elizabeth College, located at the present site of Presbyterian Hospital. Everything about them -- the way they dress, their posture, certainly their athletic uniforms -- tell us how a Victorian lady in Charlotte was expected to behave.

Elizabeth College

You are standing at the intersection of Elizabeth Ave., named for the college, and Hawthorne Ln. Notice that the streets are not paved. The year is about 1896. The large building on the left was the main classroom and dormitory building. The building on the right was the Gerard Conservatory of Music. Elizabeth College was a women's school. It closed in 1915 and moved to Salem, Va. The property was then bought by Presbyterian Hospital, which still occupies this prominent hilltop.

Anna Preston

Victorian women were supposed to be beautiful. This was Anna Jackson Preston, mascot of the Class of 1914. There is nothing spontaneous about this photograph. Film speed meant that subjects had to sit perfectly still. Isn't she beautiful? Indeed, she is, from the bow atop her bonnet to the hem of her delicate dress.

Matrimonial Club

These were the members of the Matrimonial Club. Victorian women were supposed to prepare for marriage. These ladies look very serious. It is obvious that they will be the guardians of virtue in their homes of the future.

Thriller's Club

This is about as naughty as any picture could be in a college annual in 1914. This is the Thriller's Club. Victorian women were told to use their feminine charm to entrap a man. "Look twice before you thrill -- it might be the wrong one," reads the caption. Notice the two women revealing their arms. The lass in the rear is especially adventuresome. She places a hand suggestively beneath her bosom.

Basketball Team

This was the 1914 Elizabeth College basketball team. Three on offense. Three on defense. Their uniforms are hardly suitable for letting the players make fast moves toward the basket. But Victorian ladies were never supposed to work up a sweat. That is the Elizabeth College president's home in the background.

Hobo Band

This is what was called the Hobo Band. Notice the goofy hats and the skirt-like britches. This must have been a way to let Victorian women let off a little steam. Do you think they really played those instruments?


The three Victorian ladies on this page represented the ideals of Victorian womanhood. Lucille Glenn on the upper left was Most Accomplished and Best All-round. Myrtle Vollers on the lower right was Most Conceited. But the real champion was Harriet Orr. Best Dressed. Biggest Boss. Most Reliable. Most Influential. Most Respected. Biggest Heart Smasher. Miss Orr never married. She taught first grade for many years at Dilworth Elementary School and is remembered as a hard taskmaster.

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