Last week, I had the opportunity to go to my grandchildren’s open house events at their elementary schools. The halls were hot with excitement…..seriously, hot! All those little bodies, hand-in-hand with parents and welcomed by teachers and administration crammed the buildings. Youngsters and parents carried bags full of paper, folders, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, and Kleenex to organize their desks and supplement teacher needs. Anxiously, my girls met all their teachers and got acquainted with their surroundings. When we left over an hour later to a much cooler outdoors, they retained that excitement; albeit, they felt a bit relieved that the unknown was out of the way now.
When I taught high school so long ago and later post-secondary, I remember those “first days.” New students mostly oozed hope for success, while those veterans of the system made promises for the betterment of everyone’s future. I, too, hoped for a good year, and I remember the heat that penetrated our old building on hot, muggy afternoons.
As I get ready for two upcoming presentations about Reverend Mary MacNicholl, the first woman fully-ordained in the Methodist Church in Minnesota, I wonder about her excitement, apprehensiveness, and fear as she traveled from New Jersey to teach at the Navajo missions in New Mexico and later in Florida at another mission for Black girls. Up to her employment with the Methodist Missions, she had felt dismayed because she had had no offers for employment from local schools in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Money was tight during the Depression, and with WWII on the horizon, she needed to support herself. I am sure she hoped she would be an effective teacher as well as getting prepared financially to attend Drew Seminary in the future. Mary MacNicholl taught what she knew, and when she became a minister, she impressed and encouraged others to serve in any capacity they could. I know of some who became ministers, nurses, social workers, and teachers, as I did, to help those who needed help and to serve in their communities.
If you want me to bring Reverend Mary’s story to your community, any and all of my novels in the Minnesota Main Street Women series, or Around Clearwater, contact me at books@cynthiafrankstupnik.