Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas L. McHaney - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Pearl McHaney

Third Advisor

Dr. Beth Burmester


After a long struggle, the State of Mississippi founded and funded the Industrial Institute and College in 1884. The school, located in Columbus, Mississippi, was the first state-supported institution of higher education for women in the United States, and it quickly became a model for similar schools in many other states. The Industrial Institute and College was distinguished from other women’s colleges in the nineteenth century by the fact that its graduates were expected to be fully prepared to support themselves. This curriculum required students to complete coursework in both liberal arts and vocational training. There was much conflict and controversy between factions that wanted the school to focus exclusively on either vocational training or liberal studies. Pauline Van de Graaf Orr served as Mistress of English from 1884-1913. Under her leadership, the Department of English set a high standard for its students. While there was considerable attrition among the students, many of whom were as young as fifteen and most of whom had no adequate secondary preparation, the Industrial Institute and College also graduated students, such as Blanche Colton Williams and Rosa Peebles, who went on to distinguished academic careers. Frances Ormond Jones Gaither was the best fiction writer the school graduated. After finding some success as a writer of children’s books in the 1930s, Gaither wrote a trilogy of novels about the Old South in the 1940s. Follow the Drinking Gourd (1941) follows the establishment and development of the Hurricane Plantation in Alabama. The Red Cock Crows (1944) addresses the then-unexplored topic of a slave revolt in antebellum Mississippi. In Double Muscadine (1949), a best-seller, Gaither explores the causes and consequences of miscegenation.