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McRae, Emma Montgomery (1848-1919) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: McRae, Emma Montgomery (1848-1919)


Historical Note:

Emma Montgomery McRae, born February 12, 1848, at Loveland, Ohio; died September 21, 1919 at Newton Center, Massachusetts.

Mrs. McRae was born at Loveland, Ohio, and at five years of age she moved with her parents to Indiana. Her early education was obtained from private tutors, among whom her father, who was a Methodist minister, held a prominent place. Later she attended private and public schools, and finally took a course in Brookville Academy. She was granted the degree of Master of Arts from Wooster College in Ohio. Mrs. McRae began teaching in the public schools of Vevay. From there she went to Muncie, where she served as principal of the high school from 1867 to 1888. It was in Muncie that she married Hamilton S. McRae, who was superintendent of Muncie schools. In 1887 she came to Purdue to take the position of professor of English Literature and lady principal. Mrs. McRae spent twenty-six years at Purdue. In 1913 she retired under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation, where she made her home with her daughter, Mrs. S. Hardy Mitchell of Newton Center, Massachusetts.

In addition to the work Mrs. McRae did in the classroom, she deserves special mention for what she did among the teachers of the state. She was a pioneer in the work of the institutes. She was the only woman so honored in Indiana to be chosen the President of the State Teachers' Association.

Socially she occupied a very high position. She was a delightful hostess and was never so happy as when her apartments in the Ladies' Hall were the scene of some social gathering. Her annual Easter Monday reception was always brilliant and the invitation list was always large.

No one had more devoted friends among the people of Lafayette. But, naturally, it was at Purdue that her influence was strongest. Her fine literary sense, the very essence of her idealism, was always in evidence; her wonderful judgment was always ready, and her sympathy was swift. As a public speaker, she won not only by the power of her thought and the eloquence of her manner, but also by the sweetness of her soul.

Her funeral was held in Muncie at the home of Miss Elizabeth Willard. It was the same home that had received Mrs. McRae when she went to Muncie as a teacher.

President Stone represented the University and began his address with the words: "At this moment the flag at Purdue University hangs at half-mast in memory of Mrs. McRae."

And this, it must seem to all of us, is the heart of the whole matter, silence - more eloquent than words - and the flag at half-mast - the flag that she had lived to see thrice assailed, thrice triumphant.

Mrs. McRae loved the flag, loved her country. She loved the State of Indiana - she was proud of being a Hoosier. Mrs. McRae loved Purdue, and when she found last June that she would not be able to come to us, she wrote: "It breaks my heart not to be with you." And we know that Mrs. McRae died with the Purdue love in her heart.

From her son-in-law we have the account of her last conscious utterance. He had performed some kindly service for her, and she had rallied for the moment: "O, bless your sweet soul!" And thus passed out of her midst this gentlest and sweetest of souls, that had walked with us and talked with us, as teacher and friend.

This was taken from the Memorial for Mrs. McRae, written by Dean Carolyn Shoemaker, and appeared in The Purdue Alumnus, vol. 7, no. 1, October 1919, p. 5.






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