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Class Notebook of Effie S. Pierce, 1881-1883

Effie S. Pierce enrolled in the Western State Normal School in 1881. She was from Boothbay, Maine and 16 years old when she began her classes at the school.

Her notebook contains notes from her classes, mathematical equations, and her own illustrations. Although many of the first pages of the book have quotations from a print publication pasted over the handwritten text, other pages are well-preserved. Among the subjects she studied were the nervous system (most likely part of lessons on psychology at that time), United States History, education, physics, mathematics, geography and music.

Most fascinating are the tiny inked illustrations she included among some of the information covered in her lessons. Effie seemed fond of doodling and found History particularly challenging. The section on History commences with an image of a tearful “little girl after studying United States History.”

Her notes on the Civil War included an even more detailed drawing of the siege of Petersburg. The Confederate fort with armed soldiers on the ramparts is on the left and General Grant is seated before his army camp on the right.

There are also notes on teaching geometry, including a speculation as to how best to teach geometric shapes, and even more copious notes and equations for Algebra. Effie may have used her mathematics knowledge to her advantage after she left the Normal School. When she died, she left a considerable estate, including a life insurance policy and $1,200 in stocks in the coal and wood business Pierce and Hartung of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Near the end of the notebook is a heartfelt entry by Effie’s classmate, Cornelia, written on January 12, 1883:

My dear Effie: --

Perhaps when you read this you will be far away, I want you not to entirely forget the schoolmate who had been your almost daily companion for three whole terms.
“I would that the power were mine, Effie,
To utter some simple song,
That might bless you and guide you,
Through all your life
Through its dangers, and cares and sorrows
And strife ---
And guard you and save you from wrong.”

Believe that this is the sincere wish of your loving schoolmate
Cornelia J. Wood

The following entry, (perhaps also by Cornelia), references shared experiences during their time at the Normal School:

Always remember the B Term. Things to remember now and then. The first day of our D Term and the newness and greenness of the class. Miss H and “Webster’s Unabridged.” "School Economy” and that fearful Geometry. The C Term – Remember your seatmate! That Herbarium, and, oh such fun getting specimens. Our Bluff Picnic and those ferns, “Dry Opteris”. Our Pleasant Botany Class. – But of course we will mention the subject of Physics and also Mr. Harper’s patience with our frequent mistakes. I could say a lot more but will not now. C.

Cornelia, who was from Farmington, attended the Normal School from Fall Term 1881 to Winter Term 1882, but did not graduate.

Effie graduated from the Normal School with the second class of 1883 on July 6. She taught 32 weeks. She became a telegraph operator in Boothbay, Maine, where she lived until her death from tuberculosis in 1914.

Sources: Notebook of Effie S. Pierce, c. 1882; First Quarter-Century, 1864-1889. State Normal School Farmington, Maine, George C. Purington © 1889; Farmington State Normal School Admissions Record Book, 1864-1891; Farmington State Normal School Attendance Records, 1874-1891; Probate records, Estate of Effie S. Pierce, Lincoln County, Maine (Ancestry Library)