Pittsburgh Friends Meeting library

“A Leading to Read”
A regular column by the Library Committee reviewing books in the Meetinghouse Library
VIRGIE GOES TO SCHOOL WITH US BOYS by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard; illustrations by E. B. Lewis. Reviewed by Dou‐Yan Yang
The Meeting library was fortunate to receive a copy of this children’s book, signed by the author, as a donation from Ralph Peabody. Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard lives in Pittsburgh, and we were able to contact her to learn more about her and the book.
She is a retired professor who began writing children’s books in later life and has called herself the “Grandma Moses” of children’s literature.
Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys follows the story of Virgie, a young girl with five older brothers: George, Cornelius (“C.C.”), Nelson, Will, and Val. Her brothers attend a Quaker school a seven‐ mile walk from home. Attending school requires walking through woods to reach the school and living there during the week. Virgie is able to convince her parents to let her attend school with her brothers. The story is inspiring and reminds youth of the importance of education and how much people overcame to get a basic education in the past.
Ms. Howard is a descendant of one of Virgie’s brothers (C.C. is her grandfather). She first heard the story from her Cousin Jessie, the daughter of another of Virgie’s brothers, Will. The story of walking through the woods to attend school intrigued her. She went to visit Jonesborough, Tennessee, home of the Warner Institute, a school founded by Quakers. The building on Main Street, which is still standing, went through later incarnations as a Baptist school for boys, a normal school, and a private home.
Ms. Howard’s great‐grandfather Joseph had a grist mill in nearby May Day (a town where the post office closed in 1900). Fitzgeralds still live in the area, and the trip to Jonesborough allowed Ms. Howard to meet her cousin Gentry.
Virgie married a teacher, James Ervin. After her death, Mr. Ervin moved to Texas, where he eventually served as the president of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins. The family continues to have connections to Quakers to the present day. One of their granddaughters, Anne, is a Friend in Baltimore.
We thank Ralph Peabody and Rosemary Coffey for putting us in touch with Ms. Howard.


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