Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
FORMATIVE YEARS

By the time she finished high school, Susie Sharp had set her course in life. She had decided she wanted to be a lawyer and that she would never marry.

Reidsville High School achieved accreditation with the addition of a fourth year and implementation of a strong college preparatory curriculum in 1919. By the time Susie graduated in 1924, the school could boast a highcaliber faculty for its time and place. The principal and other male faculty members were educated at the University of North Carolina, except for one teacher in the commercial department, who had gone to Elon College. At the time, women were not allowed to attend the university as undergraduates, but many of the women faculty members had been educated at the North Carolina College for Women, which would later become the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.1 All the female teachers except for one, who had attended Peace Institute and taught music, were college graduates.

Susie Sharp was a serious student, although the notes she and her best friend Janie Sands passed in class reveal a perfectly typical teenage sense of humor and silliness.2 Jokes about fellow classmates and teachers, teasing remarks about boys, plans for after school, all the usual topics of teenage girls are there, spiked with the occasional pseudolegalism redolent of the Sharp household: “All allegations not denied are denied.” In addition to Janie, Susie Sharp had other close friends, including Margaret Fillman and Margaret Reid Newnam, forever to be known as “the two Margarets.” Somewhat surprisingly, Susie also got along with one of the prettiest girls in the class, a blonde with bobbed hair and a talent for frivolity named Constance Gwaltney. Still, Susie Sharp was known primarily as a conscientious and responsible person and was never part of the group that hung out downtown after school. “Susie was not a hanging out kind of girl,” as one childhood friend put it.3

As for boys, her relationships were in the context of school and school activities, not after school or on weekends. A perennial member of the Honor

-20-

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