Isabella Cannon Collection
Scope and Contents
The contents of this collection primarily focus on Isabella Cannon's role in establishing various programs at Elon University, Cannon family genealogy, personal collections she had at her home and where she donated them, milestone birthday celebrations, her role in the Raleigh, N.C. community, and biographical information. The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material into eight series, and then by date in each series. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; and Printed Material. The correspondence series has materials that focus on Isabella Cannon's contributions to Elon University such as the creation of the endowed Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows Program, the Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies, and the Isabella Cannon International Studies Pavilion. Additionally, there are quite a few correspondences relating to where she donated much of her African and Asian art pieces, as well as her father's textile/linen collection. Some of the older correspondences are letters from her father to her brother and other family members discussing financial issues and work in various textile mills. The financial documents series contains expense lists documenting money her father loaned to various family members. Both the financial documents and legal documents series mostly contain materials that are confidential. However, a few items are not confidential, such as a copy of Isabella Cannon's birth certificate (3:7, 3:8). The list series has information relating to the celebration of Isabella Cannon's 95th and 97th birthdays, as well as items in the textile/linen collection. There are many essays and reminiscences written both by Isabella and about her within the literary productions series. Isabella started writing her life story, and chapters from that unpublished manuscript can be found in this series. In relation to Elon, a copy of her commencement address from 2000 is included; in addition to various essays she wrote documenting specific events and time periods at Elon including the Great Depression and the robbery at the local town bank in 1928. The map series contains one map of grave plots at St. Mark's Cemetery in Claremont, N.C. where Isabella Cannon is buried. The minute series contains minutes from the Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board in Raleigh, N.C. in which various parks and green spaces were named in honor of Isabella Cannon. Newspaper and magazine clippings make up a majority of the documents in the printed material series. Invitations, schedules, announcements, and programs can also be found in this series. Many documents in this series contain biographical information about Isabella Cannon and her contributions to society.
- 1944 - 2009
Conditions Governing Access
Some restrictions may apply to collection. Please consult the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for restriction information.
The nature of the Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research of otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
Biographical / Historical
Involved in public service most of her life, Isabella Cannon made history in 1977 when, at age 73, she became the first woman elected mayor of Raleigh and to a large metropolitan city in the United States. Known as the "little old lady in tennis shoes," she had never run for office before her election. Working 16-hour days and using a no-nonsense style, she developed a comprehensive plan that still guides the growth of the city. Born May 12, 1904 in Dunfermline, Scotland, Cannon emigrated with her family to the United States at age 12. She graduated from Winecoff High School in Concord, N.C., before graduating from Elon in 1924. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Elon in 1978. She married Claude (C.M.) Cannon, Elon's registrar and business manager, in 1924. His subsequent career in diplomatic service took the couple around the state and the world. They lived in Liberia, West Africa and Iraq before returning to Raleigh, where Claude Cannon died in 1954. Isabella Cannon held jobs in a variety of fields related to education and community service. She was a teacher at Elon College High School and Burlington Business College, served as assistant registrar and manager of the bookstore at Elon College, and was a bookkeeper and payroll manager at WRAL radio station in Raleigh. She also worked in Washington, D.C., as a supervisor with the French Supply Council and as an interviewer with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Cannon was also active in many community organizations and a member of the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh. Cannon's commitment to service earned her recognition and accolades around the state, nation and world. In 1999, she was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor Jim Hunt for her dedicated service to North Carolina. She was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998. She was devoted to her alma mater and served Elon in many ways. In 1999, her $1 million gift endowed the Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies at Elon, which offers extensive study abroad opportunities for students and recruits international students and visiting scholars to campus. She also endowed two scholarships; the Isabella Cannon Room, which serves as the university's art gallery and formal meeting space; and the Isabella Cannon Leadership Program, which identifies and prepares students to share their leadership skills with others. She received Elon's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983 and was awarded the Elon Medallion by President J. Fred Young in 1991. Cannon was a frequent visitor to Elon and loved to meet students and talk about their life plans. In 2000, at age 96, she delivered the commencement address at Elon, reflecting on her life's experiences. She urged graduates to think globally and act locally, getting involved in their communities and neighborhoods. Please see Isabella Cannon's partial resume below for specific organizations and honors. PARTIAL RESUME Birth: * May 12, 1904 in Dunfermline, Scotland Education: * 1920, Winecoff High School, Concord, N.C. * 1924, Elon College, Bachelor of Arts (English and Science Majors) * Elon College Post-Graduate work, Religious Education, Dramatics and Speech * 1944-45, Graduate Study, American University, Washington, D.C. * Graduate Study, North Carolina State University (Anthropology and Creative Writing) Employment: * 1924-1925, Elon College High School, High School teacher * 1925-1928, Elon College, Director of weekday experimental school of religious education * 1928-1930, Elon Banking and Trust Company, Cashier * 1932-1935, Elon College Book Store, Assistant registrar and manager * 1936, Burlington Business College, English teacher * 1936-1941, Elon, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C., Volunteer work (church and community/civic activities). Husband's work necessitated several moves to different cities * 1936-1941, Elon, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C., Volunteer work (church and community/civic activities). Husband's work necessitated several moves to different cities * 1944-1945, French Supply Council, Washington, D.C., supervisor with the Department of Statistics (a lend-lease procurement operation, with much contact with both French government officials and U.S. government officials) * 1945-1947, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, Washington, D.C., interviewer for overseas financial clearance for returning and terminating personnel * 1947-1954, Overseas with husband in diplomatic service * 1955-1970, Library, North Carolina State University (NCSU), Office of the Director - budget, payroll, and personnel assistant * 1977-1979, Mayor of Raleigh, N.C. Honors and Activities: * 1978, Honorary Degree-Doctor of Laws, Elon College * 1978, Nominated for Woman of the Year by Ladies Home Journal * 1979, First Vice President of the Women in Business Advisory Council, Inc. * 1979, Served on the Project Advisory Committee for Conserva, Inc. (National Program for Volunteers in Vocational Education, funded by U.S. Department of Education) * 1979-81, Vice President of the North Carolina Senior Citizens Association, Inc. * 1980, Member of the Board of Advocates for the Wake County Y.W.C.A. * 1980, Appointed to Mayor's Committee for the United Nations and served for the Wake County Chapter of the United Nations * 1980-81, Woman of the Year, September Days Club (National recognition through selection by September Days Clubs, Senior Citizens Organization) * 1981, President and Organizer of the University Park Homeowners Association, Inc. * 1981, Member of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina State University Humanities Foundation, Inc. * 1981, Initiator and member of the Hillsborough Street Task Force, Raleigh, N.C. * 1981, Member of the Board of Directors and Governor's appointee for the North Carolina State Youth Council * 1981, Member of the Executive Board of Directors for the Friends of Wake Library System * 1982, President of the North Carolina Senior Citizens Association, Inc. * 1982, Member of the Board of Directors for the Committee on Constitutional Integrity, Inc. * 1982, Initiator and member of the Long Range Study from State Capitol to State Fairgrounds * 1982, Member of the Chancellor's Committee (N.C. State University) for * First Vice President several times for the Precinct #1 in Raleigh, N.C.Uiversity Neighborhood Study of Policies and Programs * First Vice President several times for the Precinct #1 in Raleigh, N.C. * Member of the Executive Committee for the Wake County Democrats (several times) Organizations: * Women's Forum of North Carolina * League of Women Voters * Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce * Delta Kappa Gamma, Honorary Member (National Teachers Honor Sorority) * Mordecai Square Historical Society * Triangle Older Women's League * Raleigh National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) * North Carolina State University Friends of the Library * St. Mary's College Friends of the Library * Beaufort Historical Association * Research Triangle International Visitors Center - Steering Committee * Wake County Democratic Women - Charter Member * Wake County Democratic Men - Associate Member * Wake County Young Democrats - Associate Member * Wake Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals * North Carolina Conservation Council * Elon College Alumni Association - Executive Committee Biographical Sources: Biographical write-up taken directly from the Elon University Isabella Cannon Centre for International Studies website.
1 Linear Feet (1 archival boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection contains original papers from Isabella Canon that have been archived by the Archives and Special Collections Department in Belk Library as well as Jo Watts Williams (Special Assistant to the President of Elon). The collection also contains papers generated by both the Archives and Special Collections and Jo Watts Williams. The papers kept in Belk Library were originally housed in Isabella Cannon's biography file. The papers kept by Jo Watts Williams were housed in her office files and she collected various materials relating to her good friend Isabella Cannon over many years. Some of the papers that were in the possession of Jo Watts Williams were given to Williams by Isabella Cannon from her personal files and collection. The box of addresses that was maintained by Isabella Cannon can be found in box 2. The contents of this collection primarily focus on Isabella Cannon's role in establishing various programs at Elon University, Cannon family genealogy, personal collections she had at her home and where she donated them, milestone birthday celebrations, her role in the Raleigh, N.C. community, and biographical information. The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material into eight series, and then by date in each series. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; and Printed Material.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material into eight series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; and Printed Material.
The collection is located in Belk Library Archives Satellite Shelving at Elon University. Please contact the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for further details about the location.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Processed by Katie Nash, October, 2009
- Encoded by Katie Nash, January, 2010
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