Longform

BY THE BOOK

part 2 of 2
In the last quarter of her junior year Pauline was ready to quit, this time for good. It wasn't just the prejudices of a few misguided people that wore her down. Working and studying was a drain; there was never enough money, and she was ashamed of the old clothes she had to wear.

One day Fachkt invited Pauline into her office. Laid out on a chair were three dresses.

"These are some old dresses of mine that I was going to get rid of, but I thought that you might like to have them," Fachkt said.

Pauline looked at the dresses and back at Fachkt, a heavy woman she had never known to wear such fashions. The dresses looked new and had Neusteters tags in them. When Pauline tried them on her thin frame, they fit perfectly. She looked at her counselor and thanked her. Neither said aloud what they both knew was the truth. But if her counselor was that willing to help, Pauline would repay her by staying in school.

At the end of Pauline's junior year, she was accepted to DU law school. Once again, Fachkt stepped in. "The legal profession is already hostile to women," she told Pauline. "And it will be even more hostile to you. Why don't you think about library school?"

Much as Pauline loved books, she'd been so focused on getting a law degree that she'd never given any thought to library work as a career. But she also trusted Fachkt's opinion, and she said she'd think it over.

Then economics dicated that Pauline leave school again. When she returned to DU in 1941, it was to complete her degree in the Department of Education. Seniors there were required to take a practice teaching assignment with Denver Public Schools before graduation. The head of the department handed out notecards, asking the students to indicate what grade they wanted to teach. Pauline wrote that she preferred to teach sixth grade.

Two days before the seniors were scheduled to begin their teaching assignments, the department head, Irwin Addicott, asked to see Pauline in his office. She knocked on his door and announced herself as she entered. He had his back to her and stayed in that position for several minutes without acknowledging her presence.

Suddenly, he whirled around in his chair. "Miss Short," he said, "I'm from Texas."

Confused and a little miffed, Pauline replied, "I don't care where you're from, but if you're interested, I'm from Oklahoma."

"Well, I know that you know there is such a thing as prejudice and segregation," he continued, "and if you want to do practice teaching, you will have to do it in the first grade at Whittier Elementary School. There is only one teacher in Denver that will accept Negroes to do practice teaching, and that is the one at Whittier School."

Pauline had nothing against Whittier, but she wasn't going to let this man tell her that her options were limited because of the color of her skin. She said she wasn't going to teach first grade.

"You asked us to write down our preference," she reminded Addicott. "If you refund my tuition for the four years at the university, you can tell me where to teach."

With that, she left his office. Two days passed before she was summoned back.
"Miss Short, you will do your practice teaching in ninth-grade algebra at Grant Junior High School," he said, obviously believing he was handing her a most unpleasant assignment.

But Pauline had her answer ready: "Why, in order for you to make that assignment, you would have gone to the registrar's office and checked my transcript and have seen that I have had Algebra 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and received straight A's."

As the administrator's face turned the color of a ripe tomato, she thanked him and left his office.

Waiting in the hall was a white male student. "Pauline," he said, "I know why he gave you that assignment. He wants you to fail." Then he laughed and added, "Of course, I'm glad it was you and not me."

But it turned out the student had also been assigned to practice teaching at Grant, and he told Pauline, "If you'll meet me here every day, I'll give you a ride."

Pauline was a little worried about what he might expect in return. But on the first day of student teaching and all the days that followed, he was a perfect gentleman and even refused her offer to pay him for the rides.

It was a lesson she would never forget. For every person who tried to beat her down because of her race, there were more--like Fachkt and the young man--who would make the effort to lift her up. She vowed that whenever possible, she, too, would help young people, regardless of their race.

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