Tuesday, June 17, 2008


During the year she taught in rural South Carolina, Tantie had to contend with cold one-room schoolhouses in the day, bedbugs at night and the ever present loneliness and longing for home.

In the letter below, Tantie mentions a Mr. Pendergrass, reminding Uncle Teddy that she has other potential suitors. It also is the first indication that she and Teddy were contemplating the idea of a studio.

Cades, SC
c/o Mr. W.L. Fulmore
January 3, 1916

My Dear Teddy,
This is the first letter this year and it must be a short one as I am sleepy, tired and my eyes hurt considerably.

Arrived O.K. Folks met me and took me home for breakfast. You see my train got in at 8.15 A.M. sooner than I expected which was very fine. The lunch came in good nevertheless. Thought of you while unwrapping it, could hear you say "You’re not going to take this cake?" – see you enjoy it -- but now I think of it – did you eat the pineapple? I don’t remember when you did.

Did not only think of you at that one time, have scarcely thot of else. If I were to write the thot [that] comes to me at this time you know what it would be. You are so exceedingly kind, too kind, so kind that I hardly know wether to come home for the [Roland] Hays-[Will] Lawrence Recital or not. You see dear I am taking advantage of my privilege (being leap-year) and am inviting myself as your guest, and being wholly your guest you know how much trouble and worry the trip will cause you, it is up to you. Say the word – and I’ll be down with bells on.

Gee whiz! but I nearly boo-hooed! If I had started crying you could not have stopped me. Am not far from it now but am determined I will not.

Met Mr. Pendergrass again who asked the privilege of calling on his next trip home. O they do make me tired. Well dear, dearest boy, I must quit. Say "howdy" to "our" Studio. And a kiss for the best boy alive.

Truly your very own
Little Lady

By the summer of 1916, Tantie was back in Charleston working as a seamstress at the Union Millinery & Notion Company. (In the photo above, she is standing to the far right in front of the business, which was located at 469 King Street.) Besides missing Teddy, she probably wanted to come home to be near her sister Marie, who gave birth to her first child -- my mother -- Gussie Louise Harleston, on September 28, 1916.

Uncle Teddy was growing increasingly frustrated. As an art student in Boston, he had been free to visit art museums, galleries libraries and other public spaces. But in Charleston, racial segregation meant he could not set foot in the city's only museum, the Gibbes.

Although he viewed himself as an artist, his primary occupation was as an undertaker at the Harleston Funeral Home, a job he took at the urging of his father. Teddy was deeply unhappy with this line of work, but he had a strong sense of duty, and so not long after Tantie returned to Charleston, Uncle Teddy was headed to New York to enroll in the Renouard School of Embalming.

Monday Oct. 9, 1916
At work

Disappointed? Well, I guess so. It seems such an age. I would not come to the store early but waited until I knew the mail had gone so I could hear the girl say "Yes, a letter from N.Y." Then I would hurry oh! so fast to get here. Please write me tonight! Ted I’m missing you more every day.

Well you see, since you left I have not been attending any affairs, there haven’t been many, but what there have been, I have used "Marie" as an excuse to stay home. Now that that excitement is over I feel foolish telling folks I prefer staying at home. Friday evening there was a small affair for the benefit of St. Marks in "our" Hall and I went down at about 10 O’clock. It kept up until 12 but I went up just before the last dance.

This is the second affair Dr. McGill has asked me to go to and each time I’ve had an excuse but while I went last Friday evening I did not go with him but alone and when he called me to account I simply said I had changed my mind. But you know Ted, none of these men are going to take me places unless they are allowed to call evenings and calling evenings means getting better acquainted, and affectionately so.

There are several reasons why I do not wish to become too closely attached to any of them. Firstly and mainly – none of them appeal to me, secondly For three years I have been using one brand of xxxxx and don’t want any substitute. Thirdly I work too hard days and need to sleep nights. etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday Evening the Owls give a card party & dance. I have accepted Dr. McGill’s invitation to that. Will wear my blue dress – remember it? Will fix my hair "a la Billy Burk." All frizzly around the face. I am pretty that way.

Mr. Scott the artist is in town again for an indefinite stay. Much attached to Carrie. By the way haven’t you written her yet? Shame on you boy! We are great friends. She, Robbie and I were to visit Mr. Scott’s rooms to view his work or at least some of it. I haven’t "met" Mr. Scott yet, but I would surely like to shave his chin.

Bob Morrison just left interupted me two hours. Brought me some ice cream. ...

Strange – the people that we like go miles and miles away. And those we do not like we see most every day. If that man doesn’t let me alone I’ll give him a scrubbing.

Am going to dinner now.

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