Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971
In part because of its large number of German and Jewish immigrants, Goldsboro was ahead of much of North Carolina in the establishment of public education. In 1881, the town opened its first public school, modeled on the advanced German system. As a student, Gertrude wrote for the school newspaper, belonged to the Sigma Phi Literary Club, and participated in the social welfare work of the Ladies' Benevolent Society.
Luckily for Gertrude, Henry and Mina Weil prized education for girls as highly as they did for boys. In 1895, when she was 16, they sent Gertrude to New York City's Horace Mann School, the preparatory high school and teaching laboratory for Columbia Teachers College. Not only was it rare for Southern children—particularly girls—to attend school outside the region, but the co-educational Horace Mann was one of the most progressive high schools in the nation. Its rigorous course of study and the opportunities and examples it provided its female students challenged many of the traditional expectations for late 19th-century women.
Weil made the most of her two years at Horace Mann. The fact that she had close family in New York offered her parents some degree of reassurance, but she roamed the city relatively freely. In addition to studying math, English, science, Latin, Greek, German and drawing, she played sports, listened to lectures, and helped to operate a kindergarten for poor neighborhood children. Her numerous letters home to her "dear ones"—her mother required her to write home at least three times each week—were filled with descriptions of these activities and of the countless museums, plays and concerts she attended. Weil also related her impressions of the rabbis and services of the synagogues she visited regularly.
- Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman, "The Emerging Political Consciousness of Gertrude Weil: Education and Women's Clubs, 1897-1914," MA thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1986, 7-8, 11-14.
- Letters from Weil to her family in the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.