The query letter
At a time when few women held positions of prominence, Mary Julia Baldwin achieved recognition for her outstanding courage, intelligence and fortitude as principal of Augusta Female Seminary, which survived the Civil War years and ultimately became Mary Baldwin College.
“During the war years, there were few men to offer protection from marauding soldiers, stragglers, and thieves. On at least one occasion, at night when the panicked cry of ‘A man, a man!’ arose, Miss Baldwin chased the intruder into the yard, raised a poker which she was carrying as though it were a gun, and ordered him to leave. He did, speedily.” —From
To Live in Time, a historical account of Mary Baldwin College by Patricia Menk
Staunton, Va., was a prime target for federal forces during the Civil War. A railroad center, the town of 4,000 was located halfway between the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy” and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Grain from the Shenandoah Valley was shipped through Staunton to feed troops in the South.
Fear of invasion forced most of the schools in Staunton to close. Only one remained, Augusta Female Seminary, and it faced certain collapse in 1863, when the principal resigned. A young woman, Mary Julia Baldwin, became the principal, although women were not usually assigned such prominent positions. Through her persistence and wise management, the school survived. Her struggle to keep the school operating during the next three years of war, while developing a curriculum equal to that offered young men at the University of Virginia, marked her as a heroine. Especially interesting are the stories of the ingenious efforts of students to thwart attempts to confiscate food when Staunton was invaded.
Eventually, in 1895, the seminary was named for Miss Baldwin, and in 1923 it became a four-year college. Today, MBC continues to thrive as one of the finest residential colleges for women in the nation and a leader in personalized, transforming education.
My fiction, nonfiction and poetry have been published in children’s magazines, including [Blank], [Blank], [Blank] and [Blank]. My book, You Can Do It, Mary Julia!,
would supplement the fourth-grade [Blank] history curriculum; few inspiring stories about women during the Civil War are available. I enclose several chapters, an outline and my bibliography, which includes excerpts from diaries, written memories of those who attended the seminary during the Civil War, and letters from Mary Julia Baldwin.
Please use the enclosed SASE to inform me of your interest in this project.