F – Sanitary FOUNTS

In 1918 and 1919 thirty-seven young women, friends and neighbors of my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner were members of the Edelweiss Club in Montgomery, Alabama. These are snapshots from their lives, place and times.

Day Street School is were our Edelweiss Hostess for today, Gwendolyn Lewis, taught. Day Street School was first mentioned in the Montgomery Advertiser in 1898. It was added to the other two public schools for African American students. Day Street School was a two story frame building. There was no light except that which came in through the windows. Heat was from stoves.

In March of 1918, the principal, teachers and the Day School League raised between four and five hundred dollers for improving the school grounds. The school yard was graded and sodded. A concrete wall was built from the street to the front door and the sidewalk was improved. A new flag was purchased by the students. In December of that year sanitary toilets were installed to replace outhouses and a sanitary drinking fount was installed.

Day Street School had twelve teachers in 1918. Five of them – Alice Snow, Gwendolyn Lewis, Sadie Gilmer, Lorene Farris and Jesse Freeman, were associated with the Edelweiss Club.

Gwendolyn, Hattie and Fannie 1919 Detroit, Michigan

Edelweiss Club Meets

The last two meetings of the Edelweiss Club were held at the homes of Miss Madeline Abercrombie on High Street, and Miss Gwendolyn Lewis, on Tuscaloosa Street, February 7th and 22nd respectively. Delightful repasts were served on each occasion. Miss Madge Brown was the guest at the meeting at Miss Lewis’s. Whist was played. The first prize was won by Miss Winefred Nixon; the guest prize by Miss Madge Brown.

Weather Forecast: Probably local rain Friday and Saturday. Montgomery temperature: highest 50; lowest 35

Gwendolyn Lewis was born in 1895, the youngest of the two children of George W. and Venus (Hardaway) Lewis. Her brother Lafayette was three years older. Their father was a postal carrier, the first and only black carrier at the time. Their mother graduated from Fisk University and taught school for several years before her marriage.

In May of 1900, their house burned to the ground. In 1906, when Gwendolyn was eleven, her father was arrested on charges of stealing mail. There was stolen mail found on his person and in his house. He was bound over for trial. His $500 bond was paid by Nathan Alexander, a member of the same church and a respected African American businessman. In 1908, George Lewis died.

After her husband’s death, Venus went back to teaching and taught until 1922. In the 1910 Census the family was living in a house they owned free of mortgage. Brother Lafayette was working as a florest. Gwendolyn was a student and Vensus was teaching.

Gwendolyn graduated from State Normal School in 1912. Other Edelweiss members in that class were – my aunt Daisy, Gwendolyn’s cousin Juanita Davis, Sadie Gilmer, Isolene Hunter and Winifred Nixon.

Gwendolyn began teaching at Day Street School the following year and taught until she married my grandfather’s best friend, Clifton Graham, in August 1918. They moved to Detroit soon after.

7 thoughts on “F – Sanitary FOUNTS

  1. Venus Hardaway Lewis is another woman I would have loved to meet. From what you have written, it seems that some of the Edelweiss women came from generations of strong and accomplished women before them. What a legacy!

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