Paper Trails: "Devotedly Yours"

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Paper Trails:

This interactive map illustrates the correspondence between Louise Withers Sloan and her longtime, persistent suitor, William Holt Richardson. During this time from 1911-1921, Louise was working as a teacher in Clarkton, North Carolina as well as spending time in Davidson, North Carolina and the Charlotte Sanatorium for health reasons. While many of these places no longer exist as they did in the early 1900s, this virtual representation of her letters shows the permanence of paper trails and how they represent Louise's well-documented and paper-preserved life today.

How To Use It: 

Click on the link in the top left corner that says "View Fullscreen." Then click on one of the titles on the right hand side of the map or click on one of the blue shaded dots to begin. Read the letter and then click away to view the route. You can zoom in and out using your mouse or using the controls in the top left hand corner. 

Background:

William Holt Richardson, Jr. was born in 1888, four years Louise's senior. He worked as a journalist for the Raleigh Times, a newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is unclear how they met, but it seems as though it happened through mutual friends when she was in Raleigh. What is clear is the intensity of their courtship and Louise's indecision throughout the relationship. At times she is responsive to his flirtations and then at other times, she does not respond for weeks. Their flirtations and courtship lasted for nearly six years and off-and-on for nearly ten years.

One letter in this collection does not seem to fit with the rest—it is a letter from Marie (Louise’s older sister) from 1914 telling Louise about her options as an unmarried woman in her mid-twenties: “Teach or be married.” This letter fits in the collection because it references her courtship with William and her options. Louise hated teaching and clearly was not entirely sold on the prospect of marriage. It is clear that Louise had a devotion to her family and was inundated by the social norms of her time. However, the rest of the decisions she made in her life reflected that she was an independent minded woman who wanted something more before settling down and starting a family. While it is unclear what transpired between William and Louise, she never did marry and became a colorful character in the town of Davidson. She eventually went on to own a real estate business that rented properties in Charlotte and Davidson, North Carolina which was unusual for women in the 1930s and 40s.

 

All letters, images, and background information were generously provided by the Davidson College Archives.