ALICE CARTER SHERA

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

ALICE CARTER SHERA

Teacher, Arts & Craft; Housemother at Laurel House, 1934-1935
Teacher, Art & Weaving 1935-1936


TAGS: Alice Carter Shera ; Caleb A. Shera ; Miami University ; George Munns Shera Jr. ; August Angel ; Road over Pine Mountain ; Glyn Morris ; art teachers 


In 1934 Mrs. Alice Carter Shera from Oxford, Ohio made the (AP) news along with her second son George Munns Shera. Both graduated from Miami University at Oxford. The news report noted that Mrs. Shera was a mother of 3 sons and also a grandmother at age 57. Declaring that she was now ready for her “career,” Alice received her bachelor of science in fine arts and her son, the bachelor of arts degree. She had received her first Bachelor of Arts degree in 1898, and both degrees, completed 36 years apart, earned honors for the brave and energetic woman.

While this story would not have made the news today, in 1934, Alice was ahead of her time. The news account notes that her second college degree was accomplished while she “…did her own housework and prepared meals. Housework frequently required her time up to 10 p.m., said the report. After that she studied.  As she put it, ‘… young people of today are far ahead of their parents…. [and] a person should not sit down and waste away at 50.'”

On May 7, 1934, Miss Elizabeth Hamilton, Dean of Women at Oxford University in Miami, Ohio, wrote her requested referral for Mrs. Shera to work at Pine Mountain:

“… [she] is an interesting type person, whom I have known rather thoroughly through a long period of years. She married the son of an esteemed Oxford [Ohio] family and brought up her own family, living the natural life of a home-maker through a period of years. During these years she has always shown intellectual and artistic interests that made her a colorful personality. Later a trouble that arose in another branch of her husband’s family was assumed financially by them all, and she buckled down to the business of helping earn the family living. …

... I know of no one who would have shown such resourcefulness and practical good sense … you could not easily find anyone who has a larger contribution to make to such work than Alice Shera. She has no theories to unlearn on the soft theoretical side of life, but she is ready immediately, it seems to me, to enter understandingly into such a work as you are doing in your school and to carry along the eager groups of boys and girls to whom she will impart her enthusiasm. Her teaching is done in that spirit rather than with the formality of any didactic method, and I believe, therefore, that it is all the more effective for that reason.”

In the summer of 1933, the year before she sought employment at Pine Mountain,  Alice Carter Shera and her youngest son, Caleb,  embarked on a 300-mile journey from Oxford, Ohio, to a place that was unlike anything they knew but one that won their hearts. That first visit to Pine Mountain was to have a profound impact on Alice and her son. 

ALICE CARTER SHERA – First Visit to Pine Mountain

Alice’s goal on this first trip was to visit Pine Mountain Settlement School as a representative of a women’s church group that was sending books, clothing, and money to the School. Alice had likely read of the work of Miss Katherine Pettit and Mrs. Ethel de Long Zande. Later, In her application for a PMSS teaching position, she wrote “I have been watching [the School’s] development for about ten years. [I] do not remember how I became interested in it. Possibly through reading.”

She decided to visit the School not only to make an informed report to her Oxford women’s circle but also to apply for a job at the School.

At the time, Alice was pursuing a degree in art at Miami University in Oxford, the same college her son, George Munns Shera Jr., was also attending. Both were friends with August Angel, another Miami University student and one of George’s fraternity brothers. August describes his relationship with the Shera family in his memoir, Trivia & Me, 2007:

The Sheras were a well-known family in Oxford. Mr. [George Matson] Shera was a member of the Oxford Bank and Mrs. Alice Shera was prominent in women’s and church circles. They owned an attractive home on a large wooded lot that was fenced off and set back from the highway. … Mrs. Shera invited me to spend weekends, holidays, and school breaks with Munns at their home. The home was beautifully furnished. … I was very proud and comfortable with the Shera family and felt as if I were one of the family.

Alice asked August to drive her and her son Caleb, then age 13, to the School in August’s new car, a gift from his mother. Having just graduated and seeking work as well as adventure, August readily accepted. In his memoir he wrote:

[Mrs. Shera] also had a self-interest in the visit, wanting to personally apply for a job at the School. It was an era of much female fascination with social work done by women pioneers -– especially with the underprivileged of Appalachia.

The trip there was slow and long, but not strenuous. As we passed through town after town, we noticed a change in building styles and began to sense that we were traveling in an area unlike that which we left. …

The boarding school was situated on the north side of the geological fault labeled Pine Mountain. To traverse the mountain road at the time of my first visit was mainly on foot, mule back, or on a narrow-gauge logging dinky. Few cars drove over the rough, rocky, narrow, winding, steep road with hairpin curves that crossed the mountain. My Ford roadster was one of the first cars to drive over Pine Mountain to the school.

After traveling all day, the three of us arrived on the school grounds, which were deserted apparently because classes had recessed for the summer. I parked the Ford roadster on the gravel road opposite Aunt Sally’s cabin — the original, one-room log structure that was built by Sally and William Creech, donors of the land and advocates for a better community.

During their visit, Glyn Morris, then PMSS Director, saw an opportunity to enhance his staff with these well-educated visitors. In the course of their conversation, Glyn Morris offered August a teaching position at the School. Alice was, in turn, interviewed and also hired, but she was to begin once her studies at Miami University were completed.

In the meantime, Alice completed the required forms necessary to apply for a PMSS position. These application materials provide further insight into her character and motivations. In response to one of the questions on the application blank, she wrote that her primary interests were musical and creative arts and other interests were social service, literature and travel. To the question “Are you dependent upon a room to yourself?” she answered:

I do not mind sharing my room but my roommate might object to my Lares & Panetas [personal effects]: drawing boards, paint pots & brushes, filing cabinet, portfolio, reference books, drawing instruments, etc.

Alice’s application to PMSS indicated her education as “English System College Preparatory, Oxford College. Miami University.” She also studied flute and piano at the Conservatory, Oxford College.

According to her letters of recommendation, as indicated above, Pine Mountain was about to hire a competent and energetic worker. One writer paid tribute to her “fine record in teaching the blind in the vicinity of Cincinnati” and management of a craft workshop under C.W.A.* in Oxford.

Another reference, then President of Miami University, wrote the following on April 16, 1934:

…I have known Mrs. Shera rather well for a number of years since she has resided in Oxford during her entire married life. A few years ago when her children were old enough to permit her to do so, she resumed college study, taking advantage of the developing of the School of Fine Arts here in Miami University. She will finish this course for her degree in June.

Mrs. Shera has an active and alert mind and a very considerable talent in the field of art. She has enormous energy and great enthusiasm, and must always be very busy about something. Her particular delight is in working with people….

A year later, both Alice at age 55 and her son, George, graduated from Miami University. Alice received a degree of bachelor of science in fine arts with a major in design, and her son a bachelor of arts degree. Thirty-six years earlier in 1898 she had earned another degree,  — one that she always returned to —— a bachelor of arts degree.

*NOTE: The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was a short-lived U.S. job creation program established by the New Deal during the Great Depression to rapidly create manual labor jobs for millions of unemployed workers.

ALICE CARTER SHERA – Housemother & Art Teacher at Pine Mountain

As Alice and Caleb had planned, they made a second trip to Pine Mountain, this time driven there by George, her elder son, and this time to stay. Alice started work and Caleb, her youngest son, began his sophomore year at the boarding school.

Pine Mountain Settlement School’s first contract with Alice, dated July 24, 1934, stated that she was to be engaged as housemother at Laurel House for the school year of 1934-35, with a two-week paid vacation at Christmas time. Her salary would be $45 a month and maintenance. Caleb Shera would be enrolled as a PMSS student during his mother’s stay, with no charge for his tuition and enrollment. Alice Carter Shera and her son had found a new home at the School. 

Almost a year later, In a letter dated May 18, 1935, Glyn Morris, then PMSS Director, informed Alice of her duties for her next school year, 1935-36:

...[Y]ou will have charge of the grounds as you have this year, and charge of Open House.

You will help Miss [Susan M.] Brooks with the color planning and designing for the weaving, and oversee all the types of furniture which are made in the school, and there will be extension classes at Big Laurel [Medical Settlement] several nights a week. At Pine Mountain, you will teach art in its various phases to those who are interested and if possible a few classes in the day time at the school house, in art.

Will you please read the enclosed paper by Miss [Abbie.] Winch] Christensen using this as a guide for your work on the grounds. [This is, by some accounts, the master landscape plan of the School of 1913, first described by Hook and then updated by Abbie Winch Christenen.]

August Angel’s memoir mentions that she worked with John A. Spelman, “the new volunteer art instructor” who became well-known for his prints and paintings of Kentucky mountain scenes.

Sadly, Alice’s time at Pine Mountain Settlement School was cut short. Within two years of arriving at the School, she was diagnosed with breast cancer which moved to her lungs. By April 8, 1936, she died in the Harlan Hospital at the age of 57.

A service for Mrs. Alice Carter Shera was performed during Vespers at the Chapel on April 26, 1936. A prayer in her memory describes her as she would be remembered by the School:

….We call to remembrance her courage and good cheer…. We bless Thee our Father, for her life of activity and service and for the place she has made in our hearts by her willingness to see always the bright side of everything. We bless Thee for her effort to interpret for us, and to make us conscious of the beauty of form and color; we bless Thee for her patience with those of us who were her students; and we bless Thee for that quality in her which enabled her to see beauty and good in everything and in everybody; we bless Thee for her generosity, her untiring effort to make her life one of abundant service — and for the lesson she has left us all — her own example of unceasing effort to do whatever task was hers to do, perfectly….Amen.

ALICE CARTER SHERA – Her Background

Alice Mary Carter Shera was born April 13, 1879, in Rosedale, Indiana. 

Alice married George Matson Shera in Rockville, Indiana, on June 8, 1899. George (born 1877 in Ohio) was an insurance agent and banker. They had two other children besides Caleb Ashbury Shera (born c.1920): George Munns Shera Jr. (born c. 1914) and Phillip C. Shera (born c. 1905). All were born in Ohio.

By the 1930 U.S. Census, George Matson Shera was not listed as part of the household and she was recorded as the head of household. George Matson Shera died in 1951 at the age of 73.



See Also: 

ALICE CARTER SHERA Correspondence

CALEB SHERA Biography


Title

Alice Carter Shera

Alt. Title

Alice Shera ; Alice Mary Shera ; Mrs. George M. Shera ; Mrs. Shera

Identifier

https://pinemountainsettlement.net/?page_id=44609

Creator

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Alice Carter Shera ; Caleb Shera ; Alice Shera ; Alice Mary Shera ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Caleb A. Shera ; women’s circles ; donations ; Miami University ; George Munns Shera Jr. ; August Angel ; Road over Pine Mountain ; Glyn Morris ; art teachers ;  John A. Spelman ; Phillip C. Shera ; Oxford, OH ; George Matson Shera ;

Subject LCSH

Shera, Alice Carter, — April 13, 1879 – April 8, 1936.
Shera, Caleb Ashbury, — March 11, 1919 – May 19, 1994.
George Matson Shera, — 1877 – 1951.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.

Date

2017-07-08 aae

Publisher

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Contributor

n/a

Type

Collections ; text ; image ;

Format

Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet.

Source

Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

Language

English

Relation

Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections ; Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel.

Coverage Temporal

1877 – 1951

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Oxford, OH ; Rosedale, IN ; Rockville, IN ;

Rights

Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Donor

n/a

Description

Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Alice Carter Shera ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Alice Carter Shera ;

Acquisition

n/d

Citation

“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2017-07-09 aae ; 2019-07-09 hhw;

Bibliography

Sources


Angel, August D. Trivia & Me. London, KY: August David Angel, 2007. Print.


“Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZCF-W4M : accessed 9 July 2017), George Matson Shera and Alice Mary Carter, 08 Jun 1899; citing Parke, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 2,209,421.

“Kentucky, Vital Record Indexes, 1911-1999,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKCM-WZ6V : 1 July 2015), Alice Shera, 20 Apr 1936; citing Death, Harlan, Kentucky, United States, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort. Internet resource. “Alice Shera.” August Angel ; Fern Hall Hayes Correspondence ; Guide to PMSS Workers ; John A. Spelman III ; Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource. “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDPR-BRK : accessed 18 December 2016), Alice Shera in household of Geo Shera, Oxford, Butler, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 71, sheet 10A, line 9, family 264, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1352; FHL microfilm 1,821,352. Internet resource.


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