Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Literary Work

Two women in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 , Inez Adams and Alice McCammon, were selected for best grades in literary work. Unlike Irene Bragdon, who was honored in the best grades for regular work category, they did not venture into the male domain of oratory, but read essays, apparently the preferred feminine mode of expression.

Inez Adams Commencement Photo 1907

Inez Adams

Inez Adams was one of the older members of the Class of 1907: nineteen at graduation. She came from a working class background; her father Martin was a foreman in a printing plant. So it was fitting, perhaps, that the cautionary title of her essay was “The Tendency of Luxury.”

“Wealth and its co-worker, luxury,” she proclaimed, “have made states, countries, and nations yield to them since the dawn of history.” She went on to condemn those who pursued riches, as an aristocracy contributing to downfall of America. Coming at the end of the “Gilded Age” this sentiment is understandable. She concluded forcefully with this warning, “if we cannot destroy the luxury that is ruining us, America will soon become like Rome was before her downfall.”

alice-mccammon-commencement-photo-1907

Alice McCammon

Alice McCammon was even older than Inez — she graduated at the age of twenty — and lived on a farm in Greenfield Township, where she had been born. Her essay was “Fashion vrs. Reason,” and like Miss Bragdon’s warnings about the dangers of pursuing wealth and luxury, hers was a cautionary tale about becoming a slave to fashion. She warned about following the crowd, and concluded by declaring that “one thing is always in fashion, good health.”

So what happened to these two young women? Inez Adams, like Irene Bragdon, never married. Soon after graduation, her family moved to Minnesota, where she began a life-long career as a stenographer with an insurance company. In her essay, she disparaged the pursuit of wealth, in her life, she followed her own advice. [3]

Alice McCammon also appears to have followed her own advice. She continued to live in Greenfield Township after graduation, becoming a teacher in a local school. In 1915 married a local farmer, and spent the rest of her life as a farmer’s wife. [4]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[3] From the Inez Adams person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Alice McCammon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

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Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Regular Work

In my post, Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907, we learned that instead of remarks by a respected member of the community and a Valedictorian and Salutatorian, eight members of the Class of 1907 were selected as class speakers. Two of those eight were Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon, chosen for best grades in regular subjects.

arthur-young-commencement-photo-1907

Arthur Young

Arthur Young, president of the class, delivered a “splendid oration” on “The Masterful Man.” According to the Norwalk Evening Herald, Mr. Young was a natural orator, with a with a fine speaking voice.

“The man is a thousand times more important the man’s work,” he proclaimed, and then went on to add that more important than what a man accomplishes is what obstacles he overcomes. One of these obstacles, according to Arthur, was the pursuit of wealth.

Interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Young’s address is about the masterful man? In that age, women were not expected to strive. I wonder what his teacher Minnie Cleghorn thought about that. As we saw in my Athletic Girl series of posts, she had encouraged her female students become strong and confident women.

irene-bragdon-commencement-photo-1907

Irene Bragdon

The other class speaker selected for best grades in regular subjects, Irene Bragdon, seemed to have taken Miss Cleghorn’s guidance to heart. The other female students who spoke that night read essays, but Miss Bragdon broke with that tradition and followed the lead of her male counterparts with an oration. Her subject was “The Power of Prejudice.

“It is our boast as American people that we are free minded,” she said.” But is this so? In church and in state we are prejudiced, and this prejudice is growing.” She went on to blame the growth of prejudice on newspapers, and leaders of religious and government leaders in terms and words that I think would resonate with modern readers. Words of a confident young woman? I think so. [1]

So how did they turn out, these two high achievers in their high school class? Arthur was one of the few who went on to college. He married and went into banking, rising to become a Vice President at National City Bank in Cleveland, apparently, finding that wealth was not such an obstacle after all. [2] Irene Bragdon became a teacher, like Minnie Cleghorn, who had been her inspiration. Unlike most of her fellow students, she never married, spending the rest of her life in Norwalk, living in the same home as when she graduated.

That’s it for these two speakers. In my next post, we’ll check out the two students selected for best grades in literary subjects.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Arthur Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Irene Bragdon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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