Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 17

Day 17
Westray Battle Boyce cont.
I took the photos and the identification information down to the digital lab. I then began working on writing up the collection report for the finding aide. About halfway through I made another fascinating discovery. There was the one photo from when Westray Battle had visited UNCG to give a speech. The photo had her, the then current Dean and two women. The woman on the left of the photo was identified by her husband's name and her full maiden name that she attended the school under and the year she graduated. The other woman, who was cropped out of the photo when it was printed in the Alumnae News was only identified as Mrs. Dickenson. Not enough to go on to get a fuller description so that was what I sent downstairs. Going through the letters for biographical information, I discovered a reference to Mrs. Dickenson and the comment to Westray that she would remember her as Lula Martin McIver. The last name rung a bell in that some of the various references to other Westrays and Battles were found in the digital Charles Duncan McIver Papers. 

A quick online search for "Lula Martin McIver" returned results from our own library and digital collections including a photo. This photo was of her mother, Lula her father being Dr. Charles Duncan McIver, the first President of the school. His daughter contributed many of the papers that make up the school's collection of papers relating to her father. And, this was the person that was cropped out of the photograph when printed and being further obscured by being identified only by her husband's name!

Writing Westray Battle Boyce's biography shared a similar problem with Rachel Brune's, there is almost too much information written. I also discovered another problem, inconsistent reporting of dates and such. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Women's Army Corps (WAC) were frequently used interchangeably. They are also inconsistent with capitalization rules in regards to referring to the organization and referring to the women themselves. Boyce attended Woman's College in their Commercial Program, a one year course and not as part of a four-year degree. Almost all of the references to her in the alumnae publications and such appended "com. '19" to her name instead of "class of..." Thus many outside references to her draw attention to her attending but "not graduating". Inconsistencies in the dates of her enlisting and retiring from the service also occur. Depending on the source, three different months are given for her enlistment: July, August, and September. This may be partly a case of them referring to at least two different things: when she started Officer's Candidacy School and her first commission as an officer of the WAAC. The different biographies also relate her retiring from the service either in March or May, 1947. In this case, born out by actual news clippings relating to her being named as national representative for National Society for Crippled Children and Adults, Inc. around April and May of the same year, March makes more sense. Although, again it is possible the conflict of dates arises out confusion as to what the dates refer to. She had to step down from being director of the WAC due to illness. It is conceivable that this happened in March while her official exit from the military itself was in May. In the time between the two dates, she had arranged for her post military career in a cause that was dear to her, making the dates overlap. However, both cases are mere speculation on my part here. As part of the biography for the finding aide, I plan to leave it more vague. It will be up to the future researchers to iron out the discrepancies of the accounts found in the papers here. As I already noted, one of the sources listed the source of her name as being the NC physician Dr. Westray Battle. However, other sources make note that Westray comes from the surname of a family married into the Battle family and the name of "Westray Battle" is a recurring one in the family. It is possible that both are true. Another source referred to her receiving the Legion of Merit medal by a different name.

In reading through the various articles and biographies, I was struck by some of the latent sexism. Almost all of the sources list her various marriages and what happened to them as if it was entertainment news. I know of her height (or lack thereof), her prematurely graying hair, her soft-spoken voice, details that don't come up very often in articles covering men. Almost every article also makes note of her daughter of the same name, her nickname "Webbie", her age and what school she goes to. In one, I even find out that her daughter is similarly height challenged, has blue eyes and the longest lashes seen in a while! I struggled about including her marriages in the biography. I originally decided to include the first simply because it defines where the "Boyce" of her name comes from, the last name she carried for most of her military career. The third I included because that is her last name at the time of her death and shows up as her last name for some collections. The second marriage becomes included mainly for completion's sake. It is also the only marriage for which our particular collection includes news articles reporting and is her last name during her work with the National Society for Crippled Children and Adults.

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