Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105i/Section 50/Mary Wright Hall
Overview[edit | edit source]
Mary Wright Hall was a black female principal and nurse who was interviewed for the Federal Writer's Project in 1939 by Sadie Hornsby 
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Mary Wright Hall was born in Asheville, NC on March 5, 1881. She has Indian, French and Black heritage. Growing up, Wright had a dream to pursue medicine and become a doctor. However, when her father died when she was 7 years old and her mother became very sick and weak, Wright resorted to becoming a teacher to help support her family and fund her college education.
Later Life[edit | edit source]
She started a teaching position in Athens, Georgia, where she made $35 a month which went to either rent or her mother. Due to Wright's hard work and diligence as a teacher, in two years she became the first black female elected to serve as principal at East Athens School. At this time, the school for black children had no running water, no electricity, and the students got their drinking water from wells. The poor conditions of the school were making the children physically sick. Thus, as soon as Wright took this position, she set out to improve the school for her students. When Wright's concerns were ignored by the city officials she went to the State Board of Health, and they eventually had clean running water installed throughout the school. Wright noticed that many of her student's had to come to school sick because their parents didn't have the time or money to take them to the hospital. This issue prompted her to get a nursing degree to care for not only her own children, but the ones that she taught at school. Many men and women tried to come take her position of school principal because her race and sex automatically made her inept to them. Nonetheless, Wright's care and dedication to her students proved that she was more than qualified. In her free time, Wright also volunteered to teach reading and writing to illiterate black adults. Wright dedicates her life to helping people for very little compensation, but she remains proud of what she has accomplished and the humble life that she and her husband has built for themselves.
Social Issues[edit | edit source]
Black Women as Nurses
During the Great Depression, women were pushed into the workforce since lower paying jobs, "women's jobs", were less affected by the stock market crash. At this time, 90% of jobs held by white women fell into the category of nursing, teaching, and civil service. Black and Hispanic women were often barred from working these jobs and had to find work in domestic households. For black women, it was especially difficult to find the job of being a nurse during the great depression, since jobs were scarce and they would be discriminated against when competing with white women.
Additionally, this prejudice in healthcare affected the black population in general as they were subjected to lower quality healthcare and did not receive the same preventative care services as their white counterparts. Fed up with unequal treatment, Adah B. Thoms, Martha Franklin, and Mary Elizabeth Mahoney founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). To their efforts, the number of black nurses doubled from 1910 to 1930. Even so, to this day nursing is still a field that lacks racial representation.
Black Schools Vs. White Schools
Jim Crow schools in the south separated white and black students based on their skin color. These schools did help educate the black community, and by 1930 the literacy rate in the black community had doubled what it was from previous years. However, black schools lacked the funding that white schools had. This was especially prevalent in rural areas where the black people far outnumbered the white people. As a result, white schools were able to pay their teachers almost double that of a black school, which resulted in white schools being able to afford better trained teachers. Furthermore, White schools were also able to renovate and maintain the condition of their school. Meanwhile, the black schools were broken down, the few books they had were battered, and the school was "crowded to three times [its] normal capacity." Even after the Supreme Court issued the Brown vs. Board of Education which deemed segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, many black students found it to be a difficult transition as they were oftentimes met with a hostile environment that continued to cater opportunities to their white peers. 
References[edit | edit source]
- "Folder 175: Hornsby, Sadie (interviewer): Principal of Grammar School Thirty-Three Years :: Federal Writers Project Papers". dc.lib.unc.edu. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
- Vaccaro, Annemarie (2011-10-01). "The Road to Gender Equality in Higher Education: Sexism, Standpoints, and Success". Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies 9: 25. ISSN 1545-6196. https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-2667100511/the-road-to-gender-equality-in-higher-education-sexism.
- "Underpaid, But Employed: How the Great Depression Affected Working Women - HISTORY". www.history.com. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
- Egede, Leonard E (2006-6). "Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Disparities in Health care". Journal of General Internal Medicine 21 (6): 667–669. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.0512.x. ISSN 0884-8734. PMID 16808759. PMC 1924616. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1924616/.
- "Recognizing African-American Nurses Who Led the Way". Galen College of Nursing. 2019-02-11. Retrieved 2020-10-09.
- "Jim Crow's Schools". American Federation of Teachers. 2014-08-08. Retrieved 2020-10-06.
- Barber, Paul H.; Hayes, Tyrone B.; Johnson, Tracy L.; Márquez-Magaña, Leticia; 10, 234 Signatories (2020-09-18). "Systemic racism in higher education". Science 369 (6510): 1440–1441. doi:10.1126/science.abd7140. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 32943517. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1440.2.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Hornsby, Sadie. “Folder 175: Hornsby, Sadie (Interviewer): Principal of Grammar School Thirty-Three Years,” 1939. https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/810/rec/1.
Vaccaro, Annemarie. "Three: the road to gender equality in higher education: sexism, standpoints, and success." Wagadu 9 (2011): 25+. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed October 8, 2020).
Rotondi, Jessica Pearce. “Underpaid, But Employed: How the Great Depression Affected Working Women.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 11, 2019. https://www.history.com/news/working-women-great-depression.
Egede, Leonard E. “Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Disparities in Health Care.” Journal of general internal medicine. Blackwell Science Inc, June 2006. Accessed October 1, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1924616/.
“Recognizing African-American Nurses Who Led the Way.” Galen College of Nursing, July 7, 2019. https://galencollege.edu/news/recognizing-african-american-nurses-who-led-the-way.
Aftunion. “Jim Crow's Schools.” American Federation of Teachers, August 8, 2014. https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2004/jim-crows-schools.
"Systemic Racism in Higher Education." Science 369, no. 6510 (Sep 18, 2020). doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/10.1126/science.abd7140. http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/2443915019?accountid=14244.