MARJORIE BOOTH BONNET,
Principal of Highland Springs School 1924-1944
By Susan Booth Bonnet Chermside
page 2 of 4
A Legacy Created at Highland Springs
she was at Highland Springs, Mrs. Bonnet designed the
"Highlander" who graced the front of the school
annuals and was blazoned on the school rings. The first
one used was a Highlander in a Tam o' Shanter (a woolen
cap of Scottish origin with a tight headband, wide flat
circular crown, and usually a pompon in the center).
A copy of him is shown on this page, from the 1927 Yearbook.
He lasted for a while and then in 1929 the school’s
Highlander graduated into a representation of a more
formally dressed Scotsman.
Drawing Scotsmen was not all “Mommie Bonnet”—as
she became known—did for Highland Springs. It
was she who introduced the idea of an annual operetta
to be presented by the school. There were many of those
operettas. She had as assistants Miss Elaine Royall
Scott and Miss Thelma Bagley Keene. Mother also directed
the Junior-Senior Play (with help from the same teachers),
trained the Glee Club, and trained the actors in one-act
plays, sometimes taking them to Charlottesville to compete
in the State contests.
For years she spent summer hours juggling cards on which
rising Seniors had listed the subjects they wished to
take in their last year. Mother tried valiantly to arrange
a schedule to suit the largest number of Seniors possible.
She spent many evening hours at the school office working
with parents. I have met, in retirement, a woman who
remembers that her father brought her two unruly brothers
to Mrs. Bonnet many evenings to discuss how his boys
could become better school citizens.
The school was on the streetcar line between Richmond
and Seven Pines. Students, often without permission
from their parents or the school, would take the streetcar
into the city. The worried parents would call the school
to know where their children were. Many nights—sometimes
until the last streetcar that ran at midnight—Mrs.
Bonnet met every streetcar returning from the city to
see to it that those errant students were returned to
their parents safely.
In the high school, she started the Citizens’
Association, which, as its name suggests, sponsored
good citizenship and a clean school, and promoted students
helping families in the neighborhood. She introduced
a course for boys that, similar to home economics for
girls, taught homemaking the boys could use in later
life. A small frame building like a home was built on
the grounds for those classes.
Mrs. Bonnet attended all basketball games and tried
to teach the student body and the neighborhood that
it was un-sportsmanlike to cheer when the opposing team
made a mistake—a stand few today would understand.
She was a leader, a coordinator, a disciplinarian, and
a stickler for fairness.
An Exuberant Class of 1932
My own class (1932) was one so full of excellent people
that it was credited as being the class that had so
many leaders we couldn’t choose class officers.
But with this came exuberance. During our years in high
school, we had only two teachers that couldn’t
handle us in their classes. One was an incompetent male
math teacher. The other was a fine female history teacher
who knew her subject well. But, being young and inexperienced,
she was unable to keep order while trying to impart
to us the wonders that she knew.
When we misbehaved in the math class, Mommie Bonnet
came into the room, removed the teacher, and then scolded
our class roundly. She took over the class and taught
us the math we needed. She sent this math teacher straight
downtown to the Superintendent, and we never saw him
again. When Mother had to come to quiet us in the room
of the knowledgeable but inexperienced young history
teacher, the teacher was asked to step into the hall.
The door was closed. All Mrs. Bonnet said to us was,
“Aren’t you Seniors ashamed of yourselves!”
She stood there a few minutes, looking disappointed
in us. Then she let the teacher back in. There was never
again a speck of trouble in that teacher’s history
Another Challenge for the Principalship
In the spring of 1943 there was another bid to take
the job away from a woman. There were by that time many
more men in the teaching profession than there had been
in the earlier years. Claiming that a woman was holding
a man’s position, the new contender pressed his
case for the Principalship. My father was no longer
around to argue against my mother giving in to the pressure,
and she decided to leave Highland Springs, and to let
the ambitious fellow have the job he wanted. She was
allowed to transfer from the Principalship of Highland
Springs High School to an Associate Principalship at
Glen Allen High School in another part of Henrico County.
The County School Board honored Mommie Bonnet with
a Resolution, which commended her most highly. I have
in my possession a sheet of unruled paper on which several
teachers and many students and alumni of Highland Springs
on that occasion signed the sentiment, “We miss
you, Mommie Bonnet.”
Mother went to Glen Allen School in the fall of 1943
and enjoyed seven years working there with Mr. George
H. Moody, the Principal. In the spring of 1950, nearing
age 65, she decided to retire. My husband, Herbert,
and I had asked Mother to come live with us and help
with her grandchildren. It would be better, we argued,
to retire while the powers were still clamoring for
her to remain than to someday miss signs that she had
overstayed her time. After deep consideration, she agreed
to come to Charlotte Court House, Virginia, to live
with us. There are letters from the Henrico County School
System asking her to remain at Glen Allen School:
A March, 1950, letter on Henrico County Public Schools
stationery and signed by Clyde K. Holsinger, the Henrico
County Superintendent, says “I am very sorry I
could not place your name before the School Board for
reappointment. I feel you are too young and efficient
to deprive us of your valued services.”
Because Mother never mentioned herself and did not put
any pictures of herself in the scrapbook which she made,
I thought it fitting that I should put in this article,
something about her childhood, her education, and how
she got into teaching in the first place.
As Marjorie Booth, fourth child of Henry Judson and
Margaret Iva Coney Booth, my mother was born on the
8th of July 1885, in Columbus, Ohio. At the age of two
she developed tuberculosis which settled in her left
ankle. The doctors called it “a tubercular ankle”.
She was in Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus for many
months and no one in the family was allowed in her room
with her for most of the time she was there.
She used to tell me that she remembered how her mother
would sit for hours in a chair outside her hospital
room and peek at her through the crack between the door
and the jamb. Mother had a decided limp for the rest
of her life, her left leg being much smaller in diameter
than the right.
Little Marjorie finally got well enough to go home.
Her parents and doctors thought it well to have her
spend some time in the mountains, commonly thought in
those days the very best cure for tuberculosis. Her
father was a busy attorney in Columbus, at one time
in the State Legislature. He was able to afford to send
the child for the mountain cure.
Her mother took her to board in someone’s home
in the New York Adirondack Mountains. While they were
there the heavy brace for her leg broke and the doctor
recommended that she try walking without a brace. That
worked and she never wore a brace again. Later she went
with her mother for a short stay in New Orleans before
coming back to Columbus permanently. At that time the
Booth family was living on 15th Avenue in Columbus,
not far from Ohio State University.
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