“Community Houses are more or less a new idea in this country and we know that they have come to remain, for they meet a real human need. It is up to us and to others who are pioneers in this field of activity to set our standards and ideals high. These ideals can be made practical only with the help of each and all. The grown ups cannot do it alone, the young people cannot do it alone. If the people of the community continue to pull together, as they have begun, toward the goal of health, happiness, and service, this community will become more and more as one upon a hill, which lets its light shine in rich blessing to others.” (Gertrude Coursen, April 1926)
The Waverly Community House Archives would like to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year– we have a lot of exciting events planned for 2018 and cannot wait to share them with all of you! Today’s Community Member Feature will be dedicated to Gertrude Coursen, a very ambitious, enthusiastic woman who remains present in spirit, especially through our Archive and educational programs at the Waverly Community House.
Gertrude Coursen was born in Scranton on July 16th, 1882; she was just in her late twenties when she began her career as Community House Secretary in 1920. In this role Miss Coursen, as she was known, supervised daily operations at the Comm; her tasks included but were not limited to: helping organize the Annual Fair, providing Annual Meeting reports, conceptualizing new programs, and much more. Although she was very passionate about all of her tasks, her greatest joy, evidenced in her archival recollections, was undoubtedly her role as kindergarten teacher. Coursen cared strongly about the children of the community and was constantly seeking ways to enrich their lives in both educational and recreational aspects. Likewise, as evidenced through her Annual Meeting reports, she was dedicated to conducting research in order to seek innovative ways to enhance the Comm’s Kindergarten program. From 1930-1931, Gertrude Coursen took a sabbatical from her duties at the Waverly Community House and spent several months studying social welfare work and traveling to other community houses throughout the country; some of the places she visited included New York City, Chicago, and areas abroad in Europe. While there, she observed kindergarten classes in order to determine how the Comm’s program measured up. In a 1931 letter, she assured the Board of Trustees that the curriculum, as well as the operations of the Waverly Community House as a whole, were as advanced as those in larger cities. When she returned, she remained passionate about her role as kindergarten teacher and she frequently sought out new ways to aid the children on their journey of becoming well rounded adults; her Annual Meeting reports were filled with quotes and research conducted from various publications such as the National Education Magazine. Throughout her time teaching, she not only focused on education, but insisted on dedicating ample time for recreational activities as well as evidenced in this quote from the 1932 Annual Meeting: “Children have a right to health, to normal growth and development, to security, and to the happiness which comes from true play.” Constantly striving to make the community a better place through education and recreation was a passion of Miss Coursen and it showed throughout her work as both Comm Secretary and Kindergarten Teacher; those who wrote of her in archival publications spoke of her, and the program’s success fondly and often. Henry Belin Jr. III, wrote of Coursen and the Kindergarten in 1938 as follows: “The kindergarten, under the direction of Miss Coursen, assisted by Miss Eynon and Mrs. Doud has maintained the usual high standard that we have been accustomed to in Waverly. It is a great satisfaction to all of us to realize that people from as far away as Scranton prefer to have their children attend the Waverly Kindergarten. Miss Coursen has ably carried on the duties which are required of her at the Community House, which has run smoothly under her able guidance.”
While highly successful in her instructional duties, Gertrude Coursen’s significance cannot simply be measured in that regard however; Miss Coursen was one of the first creators of what is now an entire archival collection housed at the Waverly Community House. Beginning in 1920, Coursen meticulously collected each and every newspaper article, photograph, and report regarding the Comm; she then organized them into scrapbooks arranged by date and year. These books were added to regularly until the late 1940’s when Coursen left and other methods of collecting materials by her successors began. The Waverly Community House Archive would not be complete without Miss Coursen and for that we are grateful. We will close out today’s post below with a memorable quote from her 1922 Annual Meeting report.
“We as a community have a big place to fill in serving– many other communities are hoping and working so that they may too have a community house. In a measure, they are looking to us. May we always remember that its the spirit which counts– that the Waverly Community House may be one of true happiness, example, and service.”
In other news, the Waverly Community House is currently accepting donations of materials in preparation for our centennial anniversary. If you have any memorabilia, photographs, news articles, or materials relating to the Comm and Waverly that you would like to donate, please contact us at: (570) 586-8191 ex. 7, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to be able to feature your memories in our centennial!