UGA Heritage:

Elizabeth “Ma” Hale

Rebecca Evans Stone, ’59,BSED, has compiled biographical information about her aunt, Elizabeth “Ma’ Hale who spent 27 years at the Gilbert Infirmary on campus. The biography appears in full below:

UGA’s “Ma” Hale

 

by Rebecca Evans Stone*

Known to some as “Lizzie”, and to others as “Auntie”,  from 1924 to 1951 Elizabeth Hale was known to countless University of Georgia students as “Ma”, a term of endearment and respect.  Born on April l, 1870, in Clarke County, Elizabeth lived an extraordinary life.  She graduated with the first class of Athens’ St. Mary’s Hospital Nursing School and was on hand to put the first patient to bed in the old St. Mary’s in 1906.  She nursed at St. Mary’s and privately until she finally accepted the invitation of the University of Georgia to work as a member of the nursing staff at the University Infirmary in 1924.

 

In January of 1951 as  a result of a fall “Ma” suffered a broken hip and was hospitalized.  William Tate, then Dean of Men at UGA wrote a letter on her behalf thanking her many well wishers.

 

            “ ‘Dear Ma. … I was indeed sorry to learn of your accident and trust that this finds you well on the road to recovery … I shall never forget or cease to be grateful for your kind and inspired professional care of me and your other boys during the flu epidemic of 1918. …’ Written by a Georgia graduate who first met Elizabeth ‘Ma’ Hale thirty-three years ago, the message above is typical of hundreds of notes which have poured in to cheer the convalescence of one of the University’s best-known and best-loved figures.

             Ma’s convalescence has not been a  lonely one, for as Athens’ oldest resident nurse and as Infirmary nurse for almost 27 years, she boasts innumerable friends throughout Georgia and the South. …When the flu epidemic of 1918 swept the ranks of the students, she came to the aid of the University and took charge of Candler Hall where 500 men were hospitalized.  Six years later, she accepted the repeated invitation of the University and became a permanent member of the Infirmary staff.  From 1924 till the day of her fall, she was on the job---doctoring a cold here, scolding a student there, keeping a finger on the pulse of Infirmary activities---always active despite her eighty-one years.” [1]

 

 

 

* Great-niece of  Elizabeth Hale and daughter of Robert Hughes and Beulah Lilly Evans

           

 

 

Dick Brooks writing for the Red and Black, in February 1951, said,

 

            “Among many gifts showered on the lovable Ma Hale was a Valentine sent by the Athens Business Women’s Club - a purple heart filled with chocolates and a message that said, ‘Wounded in Action’.

            ‘That’s a Valentine I’ll never forget,’ Ma said.

            Visitors were always dropping in while Ma was being interviewed.  Dean William Tate’s two small sons came by her room and gave her a bunch of jonquils.  ‘Dean Tate was one of my favorite patients when he was a student,’ Ma said.” [2]

 

When “Ma” joined the Infirmary, she was only the second nurse hired. She joined the Head Nurse, Miss Lillian “Sis” Wynn. They were the Infirmary Nursing Staff for years and worked together harmoniously, dividing the 24 hour duties between them. 

 

Mary Louise Cobb described their team in an October 3, 1949, article in the Red and Black :

 

            “For longer than most students can remember there has been a joke that wafted its way around the campus whenever anyone mentioned the Infirmary.  It went something like this:  ‘Boy, It really is stormy over there in the Infirmary!  They’ve got plenty of ‘Wynn’ and a lot of ‘Hale’.’

            And everyone smiled vaguely at the pun, for they understood that the guardians of the Infirmary were nurses ‘Ma’ Hale and ‘Sis’ Wynn and that the ladies had been there for a long, long time.

            This week the joke passed and there was a touch of sadness, for the ‘Ma’ Hale and ‘Sis’ Wynn team was breaking up.

            After twenty-four years of twenty-four hour duty at the University’s  Infirmary, Lillian Wynn was resigning to take care of an aging father and sick brother. She won’t be serving as the school hospital’s head nurse any more.” [3]

 

It has been estimated that in their twenty-four year service at UGA Infirmary both “Ma” and “Sis” nursed  over 100,000 students including Dean William Tate, whose  ankles were taped weekly for his track meets.  He always promised a box of candy if he won.  They both said the candy was never forthcoming, but that he did win every race.  They also nursed many other boys while attending the University who became

leaders and prominent men such as Governor Ellis Arnall, James Melton, singer of radio and opera fame, John B. Wilson and Francis Gilbert, in whose memory, in part, the Gilbert Memorial Infirmary was built. 

 

Stelljes Nichols described “Ma” Hale as follows in a June 25, 1943, Red and Black article:

 

            “She was seated in a rocking chair behind the infirmary, sewing quietly.  Uniform, hair, stockings, rocking chair, and even thread - a harmonious study in white.

            ‘This is my nineteenth year with the University  … And I want to say that I have a special feeling for all Georgia students, good or bad,’  Nurse ‘Ma’ Hale stated.

            Her gruff voice has bullied many a student into recovery.  ‘Nonsense! There’s nothing the matter with you.  Drink your milk now. No, you can’t leave until the Doctor says so.  I don’t care where you’ve got to go: stay in bed!!’ ” [4]

 

Joy Barnett, in the Atlanta Constitution on March 28, 1945, observed and quoted “Ma” Hale as follows:

 

            “Standing in the shadow of the proud new Gilbert Memorial Infirmary, now being used by the Navy Preflight School, the tan and mustard brown stucco Crawford Long Infirmary looks, according to ‘Ma,’ ‘like a dirt dobber’s nest.’

            ‘You know, an old dirt dobber will start out with just one nest and when children come on, he keeps adding to it,’ grinned the nurse, who has been busy waiting on ‘sick folks’ for 39 years.

            Since the old Infirmary was built in 1907, it has grown from two rooms to its present facilities for approximately 60 students. …

            ‘Yes, they are trying the same old tricks to get out, or sometimes, to stay in the Infirmary,’ said Ma. ‘They still hold thermometers near radiators when they want to stay in a while longer, and they still dodge the cough medicine.  But by and large they’re much better than they were when I first came.’

            ‘My worst experience?  It was here during a campus-wide epidemic of measles, complicated by flu’ she replied.  ‘We lost two boys then, the only two students who have died in the infirmary.  It was a bad time.’

            Her neatly manicured nails and curled silvery hair attest to the aptness of a student’s description of her .. ‘hale and hearty,’ though she treats 15 or more patients in a day, and for everything from broken bones and pneumonia to sore throats and chicken pox.”  [5]

 

 

Writing for the Red and Black on January 7, 1949, Bill McGrotha observed: 

 

            “If you ever get laid up with mumps, chicken pox, measles, or some other malady and are forced to lie abed at University Infirmary, you can write home to Ma and tell her ‘Ma’ Hale is taking care of you. ….

            ‘Ma’ Hale, this venerable old lady who is now 78 years old, has become an institution with past infirmary patients.  Students who have been patients during the last 20 odd years still remember her well.

….

            Although she does a little of everything nowadays, Ma serves primarily as dietitian.  She canned 1,000 quarts of food for the University last year, and expects to pass that goal this year.” [6]

 

Author of The History and People of St. Luke A.M.E. Church, Ruth Roberson Hughes, recently told me that she helped “Ma” Hale can hundreds of quarts of tomatoes one year.  “Ma” took great pride in showing off the Infirmary kitchen pantry shelves stocked with hundreds of quarts of canned foods waiting to be served.

 

Claude McBride quoted “Ma” in an April 7, 1950, Red and Black article thusly:

 

            “When asked what man she admired most in her life, ‘Ma’ answered, ‘I don’t like to brag about my family, but I think my second cousin, Henry W. Grady, is the most wonderful man I have ever known.’

            A lover of football, Miss Hale explains that the greatest football thrill of her life was when Georgia beat Tech the year George Morton was captain of the Georgia team.  Tech was ahead 13-0 at the half, but in the second half Georgia came back and scored two touchdowns and made both extra points.” [7]

 

 

Ma was nursing at UGA when her nephew, Joe B. Martin, who grew up in the Reed Creek Community near Hartwell, Georgia, received a four year scholarship to Georgia to play football from 1925 to 1929.  He not only played football, but also played basketball and baseball for the four years. “Ma” surely must have attended to  him from time to time during his four years playing multiple sports.  His son, Joe Martin, Jr., who played football for Decatur High School also received a four year scholarship to play football at Georgia from 1959 to 1963.

 

Joe, Jr. recently stated that the coaches still told many stories when he was there about being treated by “Ma” at the Infirmary.  One such story was that a player was injured in a weekend escapade which required stitches to his arm.   “Ma” as the story goes,

 

“having a very firm grip on him as the stitches were being made without the benefit of an anesthetic, offered no sympathy saying to the injured player, ‘You shouldn’t have been out misbehaving’. ”

 

The last three paragraphs of her obituary, Special to The Atlanta Constitution, December 16, 1954, succinctly and accurately sum up why she was held in such high regard by the University of Georgia and the students she served.

 

            “She retired as chief nurse four years ago, due to ill health. She was a member of the Methodist Church, and the Business Girls Club of Athens. She had never married, and her interest throughout her long career lay in the students at the University, whom she served both as nurse and mother.

            She patched up both their clothes and their love affairs, sewed on buttons, loaned them money when they needed it, and gave them verbal what-for when they needed that, too.

            She was a great friend of all the athletes, and exercised her most tender care in patching up bruised and battered football players.” [8]

 

Early Years and Family Background

 

Elizabeth was the only surviving child of her mother’s first marriage to William Charles Hale, but had four half-sisters by her mother’s second marriage to J. H. Frederick Moseman: Katie Dean, Virginia Pearl, Fannie Mayne, Annie Lillian, and one brother, John Henry Moseman.* She was known as “Lizzie” to her many friends and acquaintances , but to her large family circle, young and old, she was always affectionately called “Auntie”.  Having never married she became the absolute “hub” of her family circle.

 

 

*  John Henry Moseman married Mary Pope Morris, a native Athenian, the daughter of noted Methodist Minister, Reverend James V. M. and Mattie Dillard Morris and a first cousin to  Georgia Senator, Richard  Russell.

 

 

 

Elizabeth grew up with her parents in their antebellum home on the Whit Davis Road, less than a mile from the intersection of the Lexington Highway (U.S. 78).  The home on one hundred three acres was left to her mother, Martha E. Thompson Moseman, upon the death of her mother’s second cousin, Frances Susan “Fannie” Dean who died on December 20, 1923.  On November 23, 1852, Fannie was born in this home which was the home of her paternal grandparents, Abner and Martha F. Thompson Graham. 

 

The following is a typed transcript of a quote from an undated Banner Herald  interview with a Mrs. Pittard found in the Francine West Reid Genealogical Collection in the UGA Hargrett Library regarding the Old Athens Cemetery.

 

            “Andrew Graham, who came here from Rowan County, North Carolina, built a store on what was afterwards the National Bank site.  It was the largest store in Athens at the time.  Mr. Graham died in 1830, and sleeps in the old cemetery.  Abner Graham, his brother, who also sleeps here, owned the fine old plantation which is still known as the Graham place.  Mr. and  Mrs. F. Moseman lived there for a long time and it is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Evans.  Abner Graham was the grandfather of the late Mrs. W. H. (Fannie Susan) Dean, and the writer has often heard Mrs. Dean say that she first saw the light of day in the “back parlor” of the beautiful old Graham house.”

 

Elizabeth’s step-father, Fritz Moseman, actively  farmed the land. The house was very large.  Much hard work and cooperation was required of everyone.  She would have helped her mother care for her siblings since she was eight years older than her nearest sibling and though some help was hired, there was water to be drawn, oil lamps to fill and keep clean, washing clothes by hand in outside tubs, livestock to be tended and slaughtered for food, milking and churning , canning and drying fruits and vegetables, dusting and sweeping wide spans of wood floors, cleaning multiple large windows, gardening, gathering and preparing meals for family and hired workers.  Her ninety year old niece, Lillian Evans Lord, who is my aunt, recently remarked,

 

“There was always work to be done.  Once after working all week, I had thought that Saturday was going to be a day off, but Papa came in and said ‘We must plant these potato slips today.’ ”

 

However, the Sabbath was strictly observed with no work except for tending animals and preparing the noon meal.  The meal was put on a long table covered with white table clothes and the food that was left was covered with another white table cloth.  At  supper time the top cloth was removed and everyone there was invited to partake.

 

The family, members of Tuckston Methodist Church, attended services regularly.  As I was told, my grandmother, Katie Evans, played the piano and in winter, “Auntie” went early before the services to build a fire in the potbellied stove. This environment of working together to provide and care for the family was excellent training for her future as caregiver for all her family and  later as a nursing caregiver and dietitian for the UGA Infirmary.

 

Elizabeth inherited the antebellum Graham home and the surrounding acreage in the will of her mother, Martha E. Moseman who said:

 

            “I give, bequeath and devise in Fee Simple to my daughter, Elizabeth Hale, all of my estate, real and personal, of every description and kind whatsoever, including the amount left me as a legacy under the terms and provisions of the last Will and Testament of my dear relative and life long friend, Mrs. Fannie Susan Dean, the same being Twenty Five Hundred Dollars ($2500.00).

 

            “In justice to myself and my other children I wish to state that I have been actuated in leaving my entire estate to my daughter Elizabeth for the reason that during all of these years she has given of her time and substance for my comfort and happiness.  For years prior to her step-father’s death when he became feeble by reason of old age and unable to support his family as he had formerly done, my daughter, Elizabeth, gave freely of the fruits of her own labor that her father and mother might not suffer in their old age, and as she has continued to care for me and to support me, and as all of my other children are able to physically to support themselves, I deem it right and proper to leave this pittance to my daughter Elizabeth, knowing that she will preserve the same and will in the future, as she has been doing in the past, give more of her own substance and the fruits of her labor to sisters and brother than she expends upon herself.”

 

Sadly, the Graham home which had been passed down through the years, housing seven generations of my family and last known as the Evans’ home  was destroyed by fire on January 7, 1965.  At the time of the fire, the home was owned by Homer Fleming.  The home was unoccupied  and  the cause of the fire was believed to be lightning.

 

Though, she was “Ma” to thousands of UGA students during her 27 years nursing at the Infirmary, she was “Auntie” to dozens of family members, brother, sisters, nephews, nieces, great-nephews, and great-nieces.   She continued her caring nature with them as she had her parents.  They were all treated alike with attention and gifts as their needs required whether they lived in Athens or another community or state.  There seemed to be little or no rivalry for her gifts and attention.  All knew from experience that their share of her kindness and generosity would come just when it was needed.

 

My Aunt Lillian remembered that

 

“when ‘Auntie’ decided she no longer needed her Roadster T-Model, it was given to the nephew whom she determined needed it most rather than any of the other nephews who would have prized it. The  third floor of the family home was storage for numerous items such as household articles, clothing, many books and toys that ‘Auntie’ kept and recycled as needs arose.”

 

I also remember, as a child, climbing the second story stairwell to the third floor, hoping no one would notice, to peer into some of the boxes of toys. 

 

A great-niece, Elizabeth Evans Edwards, namesake along with three other great-nieces, Elizabeth Collins Yates, Elizabeth Davis Johnson, and Elizabeth Moseman, remembers “Auntie” bringing gifts when she visited family members as well as many times bringing prepared food.  Her date-nut loaf was a favorite and the recipe is treasured.  Elizabeth Edwards treasures the gift of “Auntie’s” pin with her initials on it.  She remembers Auntie making a shroud for a dying person, but by the time it was needed, the corpse had lost so much weight that the shroud was too large.

 

 How times change.  Elizabeth Hale lived and worked in an environment when times were slower and less regulated, so she was able to share and use resources consistent with her caring and loving nature.  When we had a sore throat or a scratch or other minor ailments we went to “Auntie” at the Infirmary for advice and help.  I remember as a second grader falling at school which caused a minor gash on my knee cap that needed several stitches.  “Auntie” was able to take care of my need.  She promised that if I didn’t cry, she would take me to town for a treat.  As we walked across the campus to a drug store, each student we passed said, “Hello, Ma”. At the drugstore on the corner of College and Clayton, I chose a box of red Ludens cough drops.  My choice surprised her and she asked me about another choice, but I insisted I wanted the cough drops so that was what she purchased for me.

 

On another occasion on a Sunday afternoon my twin brother fell down the rock steps of our home with a coke bottle in his hand.  The bottle broke and cut an artery on top of his foot. Our father put pressure on the artery and he was rushed to Auntie who helped get the immediate attention he needed.

 

“Auntie” loved to shop.  The merchants of Athens must surely have welcomed her because she would buy a wide variety of goods with so many family members to please.  She also shopped regularly at the “Curb Market” held in the building at the corner of Hull and Clayton Streets.  She loved flowers and wholesome homegrown fruits and vegetables which she served at the Infirmary fresh and canned.  She also bought her share of the famous cakes  Mrs. Cobb sold at the market.  She continued to plan, purchase and supervise the preparing of the meals for the Infirmary until the fall which broke her hip at age 80.

 

My father, Hughes Evans, was her nephew.  His most favorite cake was a spice cake baked by Mrs. Edison who lived and baked in her home down the Gaines School Road from our home.  Each October 12th , his birthday, “Auntie” ordered one of her very large tube pan spice cakes covered with a perfect white icing.  It was dark and filled with raisins.  I remember going with him to pick it up and my anticipation of being served a large slice as soon as we got home.  I regret not getting

Mrs. Edison’s  recipe from her daughter, Elizabeth Allen, who had graciously offered it.  I have never found one to compare.

 

Another memory of “Auntie” is of her sitting by a large window in the kitchen of our family home on Whit Davis Road at each Christmas gathering  with a  bowl in her lap as she peeled and sectioned oranges and grapefruits, grated a fresh coconut which my grandfather had prepared for her to mix with the oranges and grapefruit.  The result was a large bowl of truly southern ambrosia.

 

Her days were busy ones not only with working and shopping , but she found time to visit family and friends and go to parties of friends.  She surely enjoyed serving as chaperone for UGA students’ parties as many such occasions are listed in old “Red and Blacks.”  She visited, partied and played cards with friends and in the evenings crocheted numerous beautiful afghans and did other needle work. Her always beautifully manicured hands seemed to always be busy. One of my most prized possessions is one of Auntie’s afghans given to me recently by my Aunt Lillian. 

 

She did take off from her duties occasionally to go with friends to eat at the Dillard House in Clayton, Georgia, and spent several weeks each year in Highlands, North Carolina.  Pictured here is a postcard of her family sent to her by her sister, Fannie Mayne, while she was in Highlands.

 

My family would visit her on Sunday evenings at her “home” at the Infirmary.  She had a bedroom and bath off a hall and right outside the door to her room she had a small sitting area for guests as well as a tabletop sewing machine which usually had an arrangement of flowers on it. If there was one flower or flowering shrub in my parents’ garden or yard, it was carried to her on these visits.

 

From the vantage point of her sitting area in the hall, she could keep an eye on the entrance to the Infirmary so that she was aware of the comings and goings of people.  She would from time to time have to leave to check on a student or give directions to someone.  When my parents said it was time to leave, she,  more often than not, would invite us to look in a cedar chest or closet in her bedroom and choose an item to take with us. 

 

“Ma” Hale lived life to the fullest serving and caring for others, but she never forgot to occasionally plan and take time for fun and relaxation for herself.  “Ma” now rests in the Cemetery of Tuckston United Methodist Church on the Lexington Highway, near the site on the Whit Davis Road where her family’s home once stood.  



[1]Letter of  William Tate, Dean of Men, UGA, 195l, written on behalf of  Nurse “Ma” Hale,  Infirmary Nurse for the University of Georgia

[2]Dick Brooks, “80-Year-Old ‘Ma’ Hale Gets ‘Purple Heart’ for Valentine” writing for the Red and Black, February 23, 1951

[3]Mary Louise Cobb,  Portraits, article for the Red and Black,  October 3, 1949

[4]Stelljes Nichols,  “Infirmary ‘Ma’ Hale Reminisces Over 19 Years of Nursing Students”, for the Red and Black, June 25, 1943

[5]Joy Barnett,  “ ‘Ma’ Hale, Georgia’s Famous Nurse, Is 75”,  March 24, 1945, Constitution Staff  Writer

[6]Bill  McGrotha, “Sack Time in Campus Hospital Brightened by “Ma” Hale, 78”, Red and Black, Friday, January 7, 1949

[7]Claude McBride, “Ma Hale Recounts Taping Tate’s Ankles Before Races” , Red and Black,  Friday, April 7, 1950

[8]Obituary, Special to The Atlanta Constitution , December 16, 1954,

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