Interview with Barbara Skidmore Sheehan

Below is the interview that was conducted between Barbara Skidmore Sheehan and her daughter Donna Gladis with questions posed from the 1930’s Group.  The interview was conducted on March 1st, 2012.  The 1930’s Group would like to express our deepest thanks to Mrs. Sheehan and Mrs. Gladis for all of their help with our project!

Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Born and raised in Arlington, VA.  Very happy childhood. Close friends. As a child, played with dolls, jacks, dodgeball, hide-and-go-seek. As a teenager had many outings with a church group—went hiking, rollerskating, to movies, out for hamburgers, to beach (on the Potomac River, where National Airport is now).

What made you decide to come to Mary Washington?
Not sure. Probably because it was a teachers college and was close to HOME.

How old were you when you went to college?

What effect did the Great Depression have on your college experience?
None. Barbara’s father worked for the government, and her parents were able to finance her education.

Were you involved in any clubs or extra curricular activities?
Not many—Barbara went home almost every weekend. She did participate in Frances Willard Speedball.

Who were some of your favorite professors/classes and why?
Eva Eppes—music
Edward Alvey—education
Mrs. James Dodd—education (Mrs. Dodd was her favorite professor)

What was the classroom environment like?
Small classes; mostly lecture style.

What was a typical day for you while you were at Mary Washington?
Going to class, going to the dining hall, studying, carrying laundry bags to the laundry building. Barbara went home every weekend the first year and almost every weekend the second year due to extreme homesickness. (She also had braces so had to go home for dental appointments frequently.) She can remember sitting in the dining hall crying. Some of her college friends went home with her occasionally. She does remember that a swimming class was required, and she was veryscared because she had to do a back dive. She also remembers the May Queen ceremony and recalls making a very long Daisy Chain (which the graduating class carried in class day exercises). As a freshman, she remembers going to a local church for hot cider and doughnuts. Barbara did her student teaching on campus (maybe a school or at least an elementary on campus?). Dr. Alvey’s daughter was one of the students in her class.

What were the dining services like?
The students ate together at appointed times and were served by fellow students who were employed by the college. Meals were quite formal with tablecloths. Barbara sat at a table for student teachers. Mrs. Bushnell taught the young women how to eat sweet canned cherries the proper way—how to remove the pit correctly. Barbara doesn’t remember much about the meals except for sliced cornmeal with syrup for breakfast.

What did the students at Mary Washington do on the weekends?
Not sure—Barbara went home almost every weekend, either by train or by car. She does know that all young men had to meet with Mrs. Bushnell before they could call on a young woman at the college.

What were the residence halls like?
Barbara remembers girls with their hair in curlers walking up and down the halls. She was in Willard dorm—a room with 4 girls (corner room) the first year and a room with 3 girls the second year.  There was one shared bathroom on each hall. No boys were allowed on the upper floors—they had to stay in the parlor.  Barbara remembers girls bringing back delicious homemade food items after they had been home for a visit.

Did you have a close group of friends from school?
Yes. Among others: Eulalee Wimbrow from Chincoteague, VA (one of her roommates); Mary Lawrence; Ann Lipscomb (she student taught with her); Mary Sue DuPriest; Dorothy Bevard.

What was the “image” of a Mary Washington girl?
Not sure. Most likely a positive image.

After graduation, did you pursue a career in your degree?
Yes. Taught first grade from 1935-1945. Stopped teaching to raise her family.

Here are two photos of Barbara Skidmore Sheehan at Mary Washington in 1935.  The picture on the left is of her on the bridge leading to Seacobek!

"Barbara Skidmore Sheehan at UMW in 1935." Photograph courtesy of Donna Gladis

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