North Carolina State University named Winslow Hall, along Pullen Road on the university’s North Campus, for Arthur Winslow, a surveyor who lobbied North Carolina’s General Assembly to establish the school in 1887. But the Hall was also the site of two notable women in the university’s history. Susan Carroll (1849-1901), the college’s first matron, and Ellen “Ella” McGuire (1861-1946), a nurse, cook, and laundry worker, called the 1897 building their workplace. Both showed strength and resourcefulness in response to the school’s poor employment practices, but students who memorialized the women used gender and racial stereotypes that downplayed their fortitude.
During Carroll’s and McGuire’s times, the building was the school’s infirmary (although McGuire started working there after Carroll’s death). Everything from smallpox inoculations to appendix operations occurred within its walls until 1943, according to President’s Reports. The Bureau of Mines inhabited it 1943-1956, and the Alumni Association headquartered there 1956-2006. Since 2021, Winslow Hall has held administrative offices.
The Board of Trustees elected Susan Carroll college matron in 1889, before there was even an infirmary. Her duties, they wrote in meeting minutes, involved “care of the dining and bed rooms, linen.” Carroll was used to overseeing household tasks; “keeping house” was her occupation on both the 1870 Federal Census when she lived with her parents in Turkey Creek, NC and on the 1880 Federal Census as a married thirty-year-old in Magnolia, NC. It is unlikely, however, that she labored physically: her father owned nine human beings according to an 1860 US Slave Schedule, and her husband employed a thirteen-year-old Black servant in 1880.
Carroll was not used to overseeing infirmaries, as Chancellor John Caldwell later noted in a tribute, but the Board of Trustees granted her charge of the new hospital anyway in 1899. She succeeded, for alumni honored her with a plaque, according to a 1902 North Carolinian. Morning Post (MP) reported the school cancelled classes the day after she died, and the Buildings and Grounds Committee renamed the infirmary after her in 1940.
In all their tributes, students and newspapers primarily honored Carroll’s nurturing. The 1903 Agromeck reminisced that she comforted homesick students, while a 1902 Red and White, a 1918 Alumni News, and the 1904 Agromeck, all called her “motherly.” That “devotion” to the all-male student body gave her “womanly charm,” according to her MP obituary. Students also remarked on Carroll’s Christianity, recalling in the 1903 Agromeck how she told sick students to trust God. The male reporters portrayed Carroll in the same way the media and leading thinkers of the nineteenth century venerated women for piety and domesticity. As historian Barbara Welter argued, “women were expected to dispense comfort and cheer” as wives and mothers in order to achieve “True Womanhood.” Memorializing Carroll as their devoted, Christian, comforter helped the students and media excuse some of Carroll’s less “True Womanhood-like” qualities: the 1903 Agromeck admitted she looked “rugged” and her speech was “blunt,” while MP said she had “a strong personality.”
No students mentioned that Carroll’s strong personality was probably necessary after her husband’s death in 1884, according to an obituary. She may have entered NC State’s workforce, then, to support her eleven-year-old son. But the school wanted her to be a mother only metaphorically. Minutes show the Board of Trustees were reluctant to allow her son to stay with her, charging him board and ruling he must leave after one year. Carroll circumnavigated rules by enrolling him in the school at fourteen, according to the 1894 Academic Catalog. She used the same resourcefulness to help students get jobs and financial loans, as the Red and White and Caldwell recalled. Alumni repaid her with a plaque calling her “a student’s friend,” although it hardly acknowledged her logistical skills.
Students also reduced Ellen McGuire to a caricature, but racism influenced their descriptions as much as her gender. Technician articles from 1925 and 1939 noted she had been the school’s seamstress, laundress, and cook since its opening. However, the reporters forgot to mention the 1922 city directory called McGuire a nurse.
Even worse, Technician reporters referred to McGuire as “Aunt Ella,” and made the “horrible editorial decision to depict her voice in a demeaning dialect,” as University Archivist Todd Kosmerick noted in a blog post about the 1925 article. Technician staff praised her for a “cheerful disposition,” for “faithfulness,” and for “being willing to do anything for the boys.” Their word choice evoked what American Studies scholar Kimberly Wallace-Sanders called the “standard” image of the Black “mammy:” a “jolly presence” speaking “ungrammatical ‘plantation dialect’” whose “devotion to her white family reflects her racial inferiority.” In the 1910s and 1920s there was a “surge in popularity in faithful slave narratives,” noted historian Micki McElya, including stories with mammies. She argued narrative techniques like those the students used exposed Southern nostalgia for the legally sanctioned white supremacy on antebellum plantations. McGuire, however, was an entrepreneur and community member, not anybody’s “mammy.”
The Technician cheerfully reported McGuire hand-laundered clothes for twenty-six students a week. They did not explain the income supplemented her poor pay as “hospital washer and cook.” In their May 1909 minutes, the Board of Trustees appropriated $72 and board for her annual wage--$228 less than they appropriated for the white hospital matron and $110 less than the poorest Black laundresses made in the 1900s, according to historians Lorenzo Greene and Carter G. Woodson.
Reporters did not mention McGuire was a landlord. From 1929-1936, she rented out the house she and her husband lived in before he died in 1906, according to cemetery records and realty company receipts. A 1930 building permit demonstrated she earned enough to build a second home.
McGuire was a longtime member of Oberlin Village, a neighborhood where African Americans owned land since the 1870s, according to architectural historian M. Ruth Little. Although Technician reporters said she “had no plans for the future” in 1925, report cards, envelopes, and receipts show she was simultaneously active in Oberlin School, Oberlin Baptist Church, and The Daughters of Oberlin lodge. She also corresponded regularly with her son, a New York City-based World War I veteran.
Winslow Hall holds important stories about women’s labor—and the silence around women’s struggles and successes.Bibliography:
Original Source References
1860 United States Slave Schedule, Turkey District, Sampson County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "John Colwell," FamilySearch.org.
1870 United States Census, Turkey Township, Sampson County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Susan Colwell," FamilySearch.org.
1880 United States Census, Town of Magnolia, Duplin County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Susan Colwell," FamilySearch.org.
“Aunt Ellen McGuire Saw College Begin.” Technician (Raleigh, N.C.), September 29, 1939. Technician (Raleigh, N.C.) (LH1 .N6 T4), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v20n3f-1939-09-29.
“Colonel J.C.L. Harris.” Alumni News (Raleigh, N.C.), April 1, 1918. North Carolina State University, Office of Alumni Relations Publications (UA010.200), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/ua010_200-001-bx0012-v1-006.
“Death of Mrs. Sue Carroll.” Morning Post (Raleigh, N.C.), September 7, 1901. https://newscomnc.newspapers.com/image/58167949.
“Editorial.” Red and White 3, no. 3 (January 1902): 6. Red and White (Raleigh, N.C.) (LH1 .N6 R4), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/LH1-N6-R4-v3n3.
“Have You Ever Met Aunt Ella McGuire?” Technician (Raleigh, N.C.), November 6, 1925. Technician (Raleigh, N.C.) (LH1 .N6 T4), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v6n9-1925-11-06.
Hill Directory Co., comp. Hill Directory Co.'s (Incorporated) Raleigh, N.C. City Directory. Richmond, VA: Hill Directory Co., 1922. https://lib.digitalnc.org/record/25780?ln=en
North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Agromeck. Raleigh, NC: 1903. North Carolina State University, Agromeck (LD3928 .N75), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries, https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/agromeck1903nort.
North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Agromeck. Raleigh, NC: 1904. North Carolina State University, Agromeck (LD3928 .N75), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries, https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/agromeck1904nort.
North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Sixth Annual Catalogue. Raleigh, NC: 1894. North Carolina State University. Undergraduate catalog (LD3928 .A22), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/LD3928-A22-1894-1895.
North Carolina State University, Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, UA 001.001, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Committees, Physical Environment Committee Records, UA 022.008, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Office of the Chancellor Annual Reports, UA 002.002, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Office of Finance and Administration, Facilities Division, Construction Services Records, UA 003.004, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Office of Public Affairs Records, UA 014.001, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, University Archives Reference Collection, University Buildings, Sites, Landmarks Files, UA 050.004, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
"North Carolina Certificate of Death," s.v. "John McGuire" (1887-1953), FamilySearch.org
PC.2061, Samuel Patrick and Ella McGuire Family Papers, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.
“Students Honor Her Memory.” North Carolinian (Raleigh, N.C.), September 4, 1902. https://newscomnc.newspapers.com/image/57858204.
Secondary Reference Sources
Greene, Lorenzo Johnston, and Carter Godwin Woodson. The Negro Wage Earner. Washington, D.C.: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc., 1930.
Kosmerick, Todd. “Honoring the Caregivers of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, Part 1.” Libraries News – Special Collections. April 10, 2020. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/news/special-collections/honoring-caregivers-1918-flu-pandemic-part-1.
Little, M. Ruth. “History of Oberlin Village.” Friends of Oberlin Village. May 2012. https://legacy.friendsofoberlinvillage.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/History-of-Oberlin-Village.pdf
McElya, Micki. Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007.
University Architect, Office of the. “Winslow Hall (Active Building).” Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina State University, 2021. Emailed to author, 9 April, 2021.
University Architect, Office of the. “Winslow Hall (004).” Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina State University, 2021. Emailed to author, 9 April, 2021.
Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
Welter, Barbara. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." American Quarterly 18, no. 2 (1966): 151-174.