Mary Belle Sweet’s predecessor as the University of Idaho’s head librarian was Margaret McCallie Moore. A U of I alumna, Moore was one of the first students to enroll at the University when it opened its doors in 1892. The administration building had not been completed when she arrived, and the classes met in the midst of construction. Rooms didn’t have desks yet and students sat on boxes, the floor, and windowsills. After graduating with the second class, she embarked on a career in education and was recognized as a benefactor of her alma mater.
Born in Tennessee, her family rode an emigrant train to San Francisco and from there took a boat up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to Almota, Washington. There they rented “hack and horses” to complete their journey to Moscow. Her father, Dr. John McCallie, was Moscow’s first dentist.
When she enrolled, she was placed in 2nd year preparatory school before continuing on to her collegiate studies. She was skilled in elocution and participated in dramatics. At the urging of Lt. Chrisman, the first Professor of Military Science and Tactics, she organized a women’s drill unit for a public event in Moscow. Named “captain” of the unit, they were dubbed C Company for their calico dresses. They also found blue Civil War surplus caps to complete their uniforms. Rafe Gibbs in his U of I history book, Beacon for Mountain and Plain, wrote that their marching routine impressed a visiting Fort Sherman colonel.
After graduating in 1898 with a bachelors degree in chemistry, she spent a year as a U of I English tutor before being hired as the University head librarian in 1900 replacing the retiring Stella Allen, an alumna from the first graduating class. During Moore’s tenure, the Library grew and obtained a reading room. She refined the search for items through cross-cataloging: adding subject headings, cross referencing, etc. to make it easier to find things in the card catalog.
Two years after the founding of the U of I Alumni Association, Moore was named chair of its executive committee in 1900. After seven years as the head librarian, she moved to Chicago for graduate school at the Columbia School of Expression. Wishing her a successful future, the Argonaut wrote that Moore had been connected with the University longer than any other person.
When she left, she donated her piano to the University. Regrettably, the instrument was lost when the administration building burned in 1906.
After graduate school, she was in Spokane, Washington and continued her alumni work, helping form an Idaho alumni chapter and being elected its president. She organized and donated early documents and photographs to UI Special Collections and Archives and her husband’s mining library to the then School of Mines.
In 1968, University President Hartung awarded her a certificate for her years of interest in and support of the University and its programs. She was recognized by the Eastern Washington Historical Society as Pioneer Woman of the Year. Moore was one of the oldest living graduates when she accepted the position of honor guard chairman for the 1970 Annual Alumni Fund Campaign.
During her academics career, she introduced supervised reading (akin to independent study) in Washington and Idaho public schools, taught dramatics, public reading, and speech. When she passed away in 1972, memorials were requested to be sent to the U of I Margaret McCallie Moore Student Loan Fund. She once wrote, “I feel a certain satisfaction in knowing that I made some efforts in my early, active life, that were of permanent value to the alumni.” Dedicated to pedagogy and the furthering the college, Margaret Moore never forgot the University of Idaho.
Thanks to Elaina Pierson, Latah County Historical Society (LCHS) for her assistance with this blog post.
Beacon for Mountain and Plain Records, 1889-1962, MG049-1-5.
Getty, Annette M. “When the Campus was Mine,” LCHS Archive SC PET-6.
Hook, Robert D. “The University of Idaho Library,” 1972. MG 050 Box 21-718
Martinson, Sandra. “The University, The Library, and Miss Sweet: History of the university of Idaho Library, 1892-1948,” 1963. MG 050 Box 21-718.
“Miss Margaret McCallie, ‘98.” Boise Evening Capital, May 16, 1903.
“Mrs. Moore Dies at 96; was Benefactor of UI.” Spokesman-Review, Feb 26, 1972.