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Roanoke Times, August 16, 1944

Four Women On Boards Of
Leading Virginia Colleges

Two Will Serve At University Of Virginia
And Two At Virginia Tech

By Virginia Waller Davis

Editor's Note: The following story on appointments of women to the board of visitors of the University of Virginia was written for the Associated Press by Virginia Waller Davis, press secretary to Governor Darden.

Richmond, Aug. 12 (AP). -- Four women -- alike, and yet very different -- have the distinction of having been selected by the governor of Virginia to serve as members of two former male strongholds -- the boards of visitors of the University of Virginia and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Completely womanless from the time it was brought into being by act of the general assembly, January 25, 1819, until the year 1922, when one woman was invited to join the impressive assemblage, (followed by four others in the 22 years, since then singly and alone) the enlarged board of visitors of the university will meet in Fredericksburg on Tuesday, with its adopted daughter Mary Washington college, and four women, representing Tidewater, the Valley, Northern Virginia and the Great Southwest, will answer to the roll call.

Though outstanding leaders in varied lines of endeavors, they are bound to this new board, by many ties. One holds a masters degree from the university two may point with pride to sons and daughters as honor graduates, another, holding a BS degree from Mary Washington college can claim both husband and father as graduates of the university and four young sons just biding their time before following in their footsteps.

Mrs. Calcott First
The first of the four to be named by the Governor was Mrs. A. O. Calcott of Norfolk, and few women in the state could more richly deserve the honor. Though claiming to be "just an average woman with a large family" this tall, gray haired woman member of the Norfolk school board for the past seventeen years, leader in the Home and School league and the Parent-Teacher organization in the days of their infancy, has given to the state and nation five sons and one daughter, all now serving on far flung fronts of war, industry, science and education and five of these, including the daughter are honor graduates of the University of Virginia. One son is now a commander in the navy, one a lieutenant commander in the merchant marine, and another a lieutenant commander in the coast guard, while another is an assistant director of chemical development of a great corporation -- one, superintendent of a busy shipyard and the daughter, holder of a Ph. D. Degree, is professor of English in a southern college.

As soon as her family was even halfway launched, Mary Whitworth Calcott followed them out into the world, and her contributions to the educational, cultural and civic life of the community are legion. Believing that the public library and the public school are closely interrelated, she took an early interest in library development, and educational work of all kinds. She was selected as Norfolk's outstanding woman citizen of the year and holds an important list of offices including being regional vice-president of the Virginia School Trustees association, secretary and treasurer of the District School Trustees association, member of the Council of Administrative Women in Education, member of the board of trustees of the Norfolk Polytechnic college for Negroes, parliamentarian for local, state and district Parent-Teacher associations, member Virginia Education Association, president Anti-Tuberculosis league of Norfolk, chairman of the Negro Girl Scout movement in the Tidewater area and many other civic and cultural undertakings.

Mrs. Gilmer Is Leader
To Mrs. Howard C. Gilmer, of Pulaski, religious and civic leader and "stateswoman" extraordinary service on a board is no novelty whatsoever, even though it formerly was exclusively male. She was the first woman in the 9th district to be named to the state Democratic committee if not the first in the entire state. This honor she continues to hold as she has since women were first granted the franchise, and she has been vice chairman of the Pulaski Democratic committee ever since that same date. She was named as the only woman member of the board of visitors of Bluemont college and the Virginia Baptist hospital board, resigning to become a member of the board of missions and education of the General Baptist Association of Virginia, and is now serving as a member of the executive committee. Since 1926 she has been the only woman member of the Virginia Commission for the Blind. As a delegate in 1924 and 1936 she weathered unconcernedly the storms of the national Democratic convention in New York and Philadelphia, is a former vice president of the Woman's Missionary Union of Virginia, an officer in the Valley woman's Missionary union for more than 10 years, reared one graduate of the University of Virginia, who was recently elected president of the State Bar association and, by way of an only daughter, acquired a son-in-law who now, as lieutenant in the naval reserves, is a student at the University of Virginia in the American military government school.

Energetic and dynamic, the third member of this group is Bertha P. Wailes (Mrs. Ben Wailes), wife of an Amherst dairy farmer, born in Switzerland, of Swiss parentage but every inch of her Virginian, by many years of adoption and grace. With a B. A. From Sweet Briar, M. A. From the University of Virginia, post-graduate work at both the University of North Carolina and Columbia, she has been a member of the faculty of Sweet Briar college as assistant professor of sociology, for more years than she enjoys counting. An only child, Mrs. Wailes came to this country with her parents when a very small girl. Traveling the length and breadth of the land, they decided on Virginia as the state of their adoption and Amherst county the place to grow new roots. They bought a farm, enrolled their daughters in the academy at Sweet Briar, and from then on, daughter did the rest. She can almost step from what she calls her "very old farmhouse home" to her office on the campus where her courses are "just a part of her," but there but there are many other parts as well. She is a member of the state farm labor committee, the Virginia rural health and medical care committee, was the first woman to be asked to serve on the Virginia defense council, is a past president of the Federation of home Demonstration clubs, is community service chairman of the Amherst war price and rationing board, member of the executive committee of the Red Cross and numerous faculty committees including that of admissions.

From Maryland
The last of this honored group is a Virginia convert from the state of Maryland who came to teach, remained to marry a University of Virginia graduate and, as a part of an active career is rearing four prospective graduates of the university, now aged 11, 9, 7 and 21 months. She is Phoebe E. Willis (Mrs. J. M. H. Willis), graduate of the Sergeant School of Physical Education in Cambridge, Mass., who became instructor in physical education at Mary Washington college immediately after her graduation, but went right on with her education in off moments, and won her BS degree at Mary Washington three years after she went there. Active in the civic life of Fredericksburg she is a past president of the alumnae association of Mary Washington college and was the first president of the Fredericksburg chapter. Church, Red Cross and community fund take up much of her time, but her four young sons account for the overtime.

The trail was blazed for these new women of the board by Dr. Emilie W. McVae of Sweet Briar. Appointed in 1922 she held her own among her male colleagues for four years, was succeeded in fairly rapid succession by Dr. Meta Glass of Sweet Briar for a very brief term, Miss Orrie Latham Hatcher of Richmond, Mrs. Beverly B. Munford of Richmond, and Dr. Bessie Randolph of Hollins.

The board of seven in 1819, composed of Jefferson, Madison, Cabell, Cocke, Breckenridge, Johnson and Taylor, has in 125 years grown to fifteen and is all ready to go into action, a full-fledged woman's college under its wing, and a full-fledged contingent of women to help them do it.


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