Monday, August 4, 2014

A Report Card Can Reveal So Much More Than Mere Grades (August 4, 2014)

Anna Carpenter Garlin Spencer ( 1851 - 1931)

Anna Carpenter Garlin is my 1st cousin 3X removed.  Her mother was the older sister of my great great grandfather, Samuel Carpenter.  Her grandparents, Joseph and Nancy (Bullock) Carpenter, are my 3X great grandparents.

Anna was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts in April 1851 and she died on February 12, 1931 in New York.  I have written about her previously here at The Prism.  A review of that earlier post will convince you that she was indeed a remarkable woman and I wish I could have met her.

Anna was an active suffragette, the first female ordained minister in Rhode Island, a professor at Columbia University, an academic author in sociology, and one of 19 women and 42 men who signed the "Call for the Lincoln Emancipation Conference in 1909" (later known simply as The Call).  The Call was a manifesto signed by a group of prominent African American and caucasian civic leaders and it is generally credited as being the founding document for what became the NAACP. Anna was a committed, activist woman and remarkable for her time or any time.

In May 1863, Anna Carpenter Garlin was twelve years old and she was attending Fountain Street Grammar School in Providence, Rhode Island.  She was a handful of years away from beginning almost two decades of employment as a writer for the Providence Daily Journal and six years away from four years of private college tutoring in Providence schools.  Below is the report card that Anna brought home for the grammar school term ending in May 1863. It is an interesting and revealing document about a pre-teen girl who was to become a noted social activist, academic and leader in the liberal religious and international peace movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

There were 21 students or "scholars" in Anna's class in May 1863 and she ranked 16th for the term ending that May.  Her "Percentage of Scholarship" was a mere 62% for the first half of the term and an even more disappointing 55% for the latter half of the term. Not exactly a budding academic!

But . . . one must read the report more closely to discern the additional information provided in the top half of the report. Anna missed a total of 34 days (almost seven weeks!) of the school term that ended in May 1863. So far there is no known record of the reason for the absences, but one can assume she must have been ill with a series of illnesses or a serious health crisis that took her out of school for a long block of time.  The report card tells us from her "Excellent" grade in Deportment that she was not absent due to some dislike or fear of school; it was something else and it was not because she had to struggle with the learning -- indeed it was quite the opposite.

Anna's teacher provides the proof that Anna was an excellent student and performed at the top of her class -- when she was present!  As the teacher stated, "Anna is a fine scholar & for the time she was present ranked one -- her percent being 98." 

This report card provides an elegant example of why we must read fully and deeply any historic genealogical document we come across.  There are many clues and questions just laying there to be found, interpreted and researched further.  From this simple bit of everyday information of 151 years ago, we are able to deduce that Anna Carpenter Garlin probably had some serious illness, series of minor illnesses, or some other complication that kept her from attending seven weeks of school when she was twelve years old.  A mystery awaiting a potential solution . . . 

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Photograph of Anna Carpenter Garlin and scan of Anna's May 1863 grammar school report card from  materials in the Anna Garlin Spencer Papers (DG 034), Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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