Charles Duncan McIver, a native of what is now Lee County, was one of the foremost supporters of education in North Carolina during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Especially dedicated to women’s education, McIver helped found and served as president of the first college for women in North Carolina: the State Normal and Industrial School for Girls. The college, the predecessor to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was developed as a teacher-training school for women in 1891. McIver served as its president until his death in 1906.
Original Date Cast:
Born on September 7, 1860, Charles McIver came from a wealthy family in the Sanford area of what was then Moore County. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1881 and while there studied with other prominent figures who would leave a mark on North Carolina education, including Charles B. Aycock and James Y. Joyner. After graduation McIver worked as an educator in Durham, first at the private Presbyterian Male Academy and then in the public school between 1882 and 1884.
Following his work in Durham, McIver worked at schools around North Carolina, developing a strong interest in the education of teachers. He was elected vice president of the North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly in 1886 and used his position to advocate for the improvement of women’s education. At the time there was a strong impetus for the development of normal schools, which focused on higher education.
In 1889, the North Carolina General Assembly abolished the eight normal schools for whites, leaving open the six for blacks, and replaced the schools with county institutes for teacher education. McIver and fellow education reformer Edwin Alderman were installed as institute leaders. The institutes helped to improve teacher training, but ended all other higher education for white women in North Carolina by closing the former normal schools. After two years, the legislature approved the establishment of the State Normal and Industrial School for Girls which was designed to “prepare young women to earn a livelihood in teaching or in business.” The school opened in October 1892 with McIver as its president.
McIver served the State Normal and Industrial School for Girls from 1891 until his death in 1906. During that time, the school prospered, despite obstacles that included a typhoid fever epidemic in 1899 and the destruction of the main dormitory by fire in 1904. As well as serving as president of the school at this time, McIver also served as the president of the Southern Education Association and was a University of North Carolina trustee. Upon McIver’s death in 1906, Julius Foust became president of the school. McIver is a hero of education, especially women’s education, with statues in his honor at both the State Capitol and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Rose Howell Holder, McIver of North Carolina (1957)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 151-152—sketch by Elisabeth Bowles
Samuel Bryant Turrentine, A Romance of Education (1946)
Elisabeth Ann Bowles, A Good Beginning: The First Four Decades of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (1967)
James L. Leloudis, Schooling the New South: Pedagogy, Self, and Society in North Carolina, 1880-1920 (1996)