Carrie Victoria Dyer

Carrie Victoria Dyer (1839–1921)

Carrie Victoria Dyer was a key founder of Hartshorn Memorial College, an African American Baptist women's college in Richmond that later merged with Virginia Union University. Dyer, who spent her early years in Michigan and Vermont, initially taught black students in Providence, Rhode Island, and Nashville. She and Hartshorn co-founder Lyman Beecher Tefft believed female students were better served by single-sex education, which led to the establishment of the new institution. The college opened in 1883 with Dyer as principal and second in command to Tefft, who served as its president. Dyer also acted as an instructor and spent twenty-nine years as the treasurer of the Rachel Hartshorn Education and Missionary Society. She took over Hartshorn's day-to-day operations for the 1905–1906 term while Tefft was ill. Dyer became dean in 1912 and served for two academic years before she gave up the position to teach one final session. In 1926 money bequeathed by Dyer's estate to the Woman's National Baptist Convention Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., was used to establish the Carrie V. Dyer Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. MORE...

 

Dyer was born on March 11, 1839, in Constantine, Saint Joseph County, Michigan, and was the daughter of Thomas M. Dyer, a farmer, and Catherine Dyer (whose maiden name is unknown). After the death in 1852 of her mother, who had taught her to deplore slavery, Dyer lived for seven and a half years in the Vermont home of her uncle, an abolitionist who aided runaway slaves. By 1860 she had returned to Michigan, where she finished her education and taught for six years in public schools. Recommended by the pastor of her Baptist church, Dyer was hired late in the 1860s to teach at a school for black children in Providence, Rhode Island. She did not marry.

In September 1870 Dyer became an instructor at the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (later part of LeMoyne-Owen College), a Tennessee school for black men and women. Initially the only resident teacher, she supervised the boarding department and guided students in personal as well as academic pursuits. In 1873 Dyer received a missionary appointment from the new Woman's Home Mission Society of Michigan, which provided financial support as she continued her work in Nashville. She spent summers speaking to northern church groups about the needs of blacks in the South. During her thirteen years at the institute, Dyer and her colleague Lyman Beecher Tefft, a Baptist minister from Rhode Island, concluded that female students would be better served by single-sex education. When Tefft secured funding from a fellow Rhode Islander, Joseph C. Hartshorn, to establish a school for black women in Richmond, Virginia, Dyer canceled plans to undertake foreign missionary work and joined him in the enterprise.

Hartshorn Memorial College opened in November 1883 with Tefft as president and Dyer as principal. Sponsored by the American Baptist Home Mission Society and chartered on March 13, 1884, by the General Assembly, the school emphasized moral instruction and offered normal, industrial, college preparatory, and college courses. As second in command, Dyer gave public presentations about the college and its financial needs, attended Baptist mission board meetings, founded on-campus organizations and clubs, conducted prayer meetings, and cared for sick students. At various times she taught the Bible, English, history, and physiology. She served the school as treasurer of the Rachel Hartshorn Education and Missionary Society from 1886 until 1915 and of the College Temperance Society during the 1886–1887 academic year. Dyer managed daily operations on the eight-and-a-half-acre campus after Tefft became incapacitated by illness during the 1905–1906 session, by which time there were four buildings, twelve teachers, and 159 students. Hartshorn women participated in programs with the male students of neighboring Virginia Union University, but opposition to coeducation led Tefft and Dyer to resist a formal merger, even as fund-raising became increasingly difficult. The schools united in 1932, after Tefft and Dyer had retired, and the Hartshorn campus was later demolished.

Dyer became dean of Hartshorn in 1912 but resigned the post two years later. She continued teaching for one more year and retired after the 1914–1915 session. She then moved to Cranston, Rhode Island, and lived in the home of Lyman Tefft and his daughter. There Carrie Victoria Dyer died on January 13, 1921. Using funds bequeathed by Dyer, members of the Woman's National Baptist Convention Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., an African American organization, established the Carrie V. Dyer Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1926.

Time Line

  • March 11, 1839 - Carrie Victoria Dyer is born in Constantine, Saint Joseph County, Michigan, to Thomas M. Dyer, a farmer, and Catherine Dyer (whose maiden name is unknown).
  • 1852 - After the death of her mother, Carrie Victoria Dyer moves to Vermont, where she lives for seven and a half years with her abolitionist uncle.
  • Late 1860s - Carrie Victoria Dyer is hired to teach at a school for black children in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • September 1870 - Carrie Victoria Dyer becomes an instructor at the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute, a Tennessee school for black men and women.
  • 1873 - Carrie Victoria Dyer receives a missionary appointment from the new Woman's Home Mission Society of Michigan.
  • November 1883 - Hartshorn Memorial College, an African American Baptist women's college, opens in Richmond with Carrie Victoria Dyer as its principal and Lyman Beecher Tefft as its president.
  • March 13, 1884 - Hartshorn Memorial College receives its charter from the General Assembly.
  • 1912 - Carrie Victoria Dyer becomes dean of Hartshorn Memorial College.
  • 1914 - Carrie Victoria Dyer resigns as dean of Hartshorn Memorial College, but continues to teach there until her retirement in 1915.
  • January 13, 1921 - Carrie Victoria Dyer dies in Cranston, Rhode Island, in the home of Lyman Beecher Tefft.
  • 1926 - Using funds bequeathed by Carrie Victoria Dyer, members of the Woman's National Baptist Convention Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., establish the Carrie V. Dyer Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia.
  • 1932 - Hartshorn Memorial College and Virginia Union University unite into a single institution.
Further Reading
Durham, Suzanne K. "Hartshorn Memorial College, 1883–1930: A Forgotten Legacy of American Women's Education." American Baptist Quarterly 22 (2003): 142–157.
Kierner, Cynthia A., Jennifer R. Loux, and Megan Taylor Shockley. Changing History: Virginia Women Through Four Centuries. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2013.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Loux, J. R., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Carrie Victoria Dyer (1839–1921). (2013, October 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dyer_Carrie_Victoria_1839-1921.

  • MLA Citation:

    Loux, Jennifer R. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Carrie Victoria Dyer (1839–1921)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Oct. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: October 9, 2012 | Last modified: October 19, 2013