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Placing value on education

During a time when many women received no education, Kate C. Shipp opened her own school.
“She was innovative in a time when women were thought to be a cook or a cleaning lady or a producer of children,” said Darrell Harkey, Lincoln County historical coordinator. “An education was basically looked upon as a waste of time.”
Shipp was born in Hendersonville, but she spent a great amount of her life in Lincolnton. She first lived in the city while attending a prepartory school where she was taught by Mary Wood Alexander.
After attending Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, she taught in both Raleigh and Charlotte.
When she decided to open her own school, however, she did so in Lincolnton and named it after her former Lincolnton teacher.
The Mary Wood School was opened in 1900 by Shipp and her sister, Anna C. McBee. The private school had both male and female students and accommodated boarding and day students.
“This school was very important,” Harkey said. “It was one of the best schools for young women getting an education.”
Because Shipp’s own education was important to her, the school closed for several years in order for Shipp to earn her college degree from the Teachers College of Cambridge University in England.
In 1907, she opened a high school preparing them for entrance into college. For seven years, she and her sister taught at the Fassifern School.
During these years of teaching, Shipp had a complaint about the City of Lincolnton. When she marched her girls to town to eat, there were no sidewalks for them. Because of this, the girls had to lift their skirts to keep the mud off.
“When they did that, boys would be around there, and boys would whistle,” Harkey said.
Shipp found this so intolerable, she demanded sidewalks be built. When they weren’t, she accepted an offer to move her school to Hendersonville, her native city.
After the move in 1914, the school continued to flourish. When Shipp’s sister died in 1924, however, Shipp sold the school and returned to Lincolnton where she remained active in local organizations including the Jacob Forney Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
She died on Nov. 12, 1932 and was buried in the Shipp plot in St. Luke’s graveyard in Lincolnton.

(This is the third story in a four-part series celebrating Women’s History Month)

by Sarah Grano

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