Down the Road: A Journey of 140 Years

January 22, 2016

In this year, we will celebrate 140 years of Prairie View A&M University. The bill establishing the University was signed August 14, 1876 creating Alta Vista Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth. Though the first students to enroll in 1878 were all male, female students started attending shortly thereafter.  It is with great respect that we honor the contributions of women to Prairie View A&M University’s legacy, growth and history.  Very little information is available on the first women known to attend or work at the University.  Most of the information that is available came from the reports submitted annually to the governing board by the principals who governed the University in its early years.  To commemorate the achievements of women, the Women’s Council for Leadership and Service will present each week for the remainder of the semester, a woman who played an important role in the University’s history.

Female staff were employed during the institution’s first year of operation. Lucinda Lee and Maria Lyle are both listed in the 1879 Annual Report as employees. Lucinda was employed as a washerwoman and Maria Lyle was employed as a cook.  Both women earned $15 per month.  It appears the first woman employed as a teacher was Miss M.V. Ewing who was referred to as a “preceptress, matron, etc.and the second assistant, even though the first assistant position was vacant, at a salary of $300 per year.  In this first Annual Report, the school listed 49 students attending.

Maud Cuney-Hare, 1874-1936

Cuney-Hare, Maud, an accomplished musician, author and playwright was born in Galveston on February 16, 1874, to Adelina (Dowdy) and Norris Wright Cuney. After graduating from Central High School in Galveston in 1890, she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music where she graduated in 1895.  She pursued additional study at the Lowell Institute at Harvard University. She taught music at the Texas Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youths in 1897 and 1898; the settlement program of the Institutional Church of Chicago during 1900 and 1901; and at (what was then) Prairie View State College in 1903 and 1904.  In 1898, she married J. Frank McKinley and they had a daughter. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce; their daughter died in childhood. She married William P. Hare in 1906 and they made their home in Boston – though she frequently travelled throughout the East to give recitals and lectures. A consummate artist, Cuney-Hare wrote plays, songs, poetry, and a biography of her father.  She also directed concerts and nurtured the music and artistic talent of young artists.

As a folklorist and music historian, she was especially interested in African and early American music. She collected songs from Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and is credited with being the first music scholar to direct public attention to Creole music. She contributed to Musical Quarterly, Musical Observer, Musical America, and Christian Science Monitor. For years, Cuney-Hare edited a column on music and the arts for The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Cuney-Hare died in Boston on February 13, 1936, and was buried beside her parents in Lake View Cemetery, Galveston.

References:

Anderson, E. (1879-1880). Message Accompaning 1879-1880 Report to Directors of A&M . College Station : Texas A&M University pg. 47

Hales, Douglas. A Southern Family in White & Black : The Cuneys of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed January 15, 2016). Pg. 94-107

Judith N. McArthur, “CUNEY-HARE, MAUD,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcu41), accessed January 15, 2016. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 26, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Great Texas Women . n.d. http://www.utexas.edu/gtw/cuney-hare.php (accessed January 20, 2016).

Pitre, Bruce A. Glasrud and Merline. Black Texas Women . College Station: Texas A&M Press , Press , 1995. Pg. 117,122