Artsy Miss Floy
“Many of our smaller schools have unique features, and I feel that one of the unique features of the Maryland school is our art department. We have in Miss Doub a lady who has been with us for over 30 years, and who has given her whole life to the study of art. I hope that you have given some attention to the exhibit that we have of our art work in the art workroom. If you have not, I would like to call your attention to that exhibit.”
This was an introduction given for Florence W. Doub at the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf held in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on June 27th, 1923. It was spoken by Doub’s boss, Ignatius Bjorlee, superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf from 1917-1955.
Miss Doub could not attend this important event in person as her only sibling was seriously ill back home in Frederick. Instead, her paper on art curriculum for deaf students was read by a colleague named Miss Elizabeth Anderson. (Note: I’ve included a transcript of Doub’s paper at the end of this article.) She was not only one of Frederick’s most talented artists, but Florence Doub was an extraordinary educator, one who would spend her entire teaching career of 51 years in the confines of Frederick City.
Florence W. Doub
Known locally as “Miss Floy,” Florence Doub was born on August 27th, 1851. She was the daughter of William H. Doub and wife Marietta Staley. Miss Doub would reside on N. Market Street all her life, save for one move at the age of one, from 344 N. Market Street to 413.
Mr. Doub was a wholesale and retail merchant of dry goods and groceries, and ran his business out of the family home on the southwest corner of N. Market and E. 4th streets during the 1850s and 60s. He survived the Civil War era, but eventually would file bankruptcy in 1868. That same year, Florence would have her name in the local paper for a much more positive achievement as she was recognized for her artistic talents while a student at the Frederick Female Seminary.
Florence went on to graduate from the Frederick Female Seminary in spring 1868. The following November, a published list of premium winners at the recent Frederick Agricultural Society’s annual fair would give testament to Floy’s early talent. Her acquisition of ribbons and prize money at the Great Frederick Fair would continue throughout her lifetime. Miss Doub would eventually be asked to help design the annual arrangement of the Art Department for the fair years later.
A biography of Miss Doub states:
“Early on, amidst the natural beauty that was abundant in the community, she developed a love for nature and art that reflected it.”
She is said to have taught art to locals beginning with the children and grandchildren of her prominent uncle, James H. Gambrill, Sr. Mr. Gambrill was married to Floy’s maternal aunt, Antoinette Frances Staley (1838-1894). An ironic connection is that the famed mill on Carroll Creek that was built and operated by Mr. Gambrill, and his son of the same name, would become synonymous with local art as the home of the Delaplaine Arts Center on Carroll Street.
She would perfect her talents in art and instruction over the next few years. In 1878, she took up employment at a state school that had been founded here in Frederick a decade earlier for deaf children. Originally known as the Maryland Institute for the Deaf & Dumb, Miss Doub would be associated with this specialized place of higher learning until her death. Here she managed to work art and sketching into the curriculum.
Floy’s talents became more and more sought by the local population leading her to open an art studio out of her family residence. Miss Doub also taught art to children in her own studio and added parents and other adults to her student roster. One young student recalled that Miss Doub permitted her pupils to study only one component of art at a time, with extensive practice of the techniques and study of the development of that element before she would allow them to advance. Inspiration, cooperation, joy, and happiness in the studio described Miss Doub’s character and approach to teaching.
Within a few short decades Miss Doub would be regarded as one of the finest artists in Maryland. It would not be long before her “old school” would come calling. In 1893, Floy began a 27-year tenure as head of the Art Department at the Woman’s College of Frederick. She found herself teaching art in the building that formerly housed the Frederick Female Seminary and was named after the founder of that school Hiram Winchester. Today, Winchester Hall on E. Church street in downtown Frederick, serves as the seat of Frederick County Government. In 1893, the former female seminary came to be known as Woman’s College of Frederick under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Henry Apple. This institution would take the name of Hood College in 1913.
Florence Doub kept busy with her three jobs in teaching art. She would never marry and continued to live with her mother and brother, Cornelius, a year younger than she. Her father had died in 1894, and was buried in the family plot next to the Gambrill family in Mount Olivet.
It has been said that Miss Doub wanted to give back to her beloved Frederick in a way that would expand an appreciation and understanding of the arts among women. In the late 1890s, she approached her friends with the idea of starting a local art club. She received an enthusiastic response and a group was formed with the goal of “expanding the knowledge of the arts among club members, and to use art to encourage the Frederick community to absorb the beauty that surrounded it.” The year of 1897 marked the birth of the Frederick Art Club. Florence would serve as the club’s only president for 35 years up until the the time of her death.
Florence would continue as Frederick’s leading female authority in the field of art over the next three decades. During this time, she would help mentor a young artist named Helen Smith, also buried within the confines of Mount Olivet. Miss Smith would graduate from the Maryland Art Institute in 1916 and shortly thereafter accepted a job here. Helen Smith would eventually follow in “Floy’s” footsteps as chair of the college’s art department, and her career would be just as storied as that of our subject.
Florence and her brother, Cornelius Staley Doub, assumed co-ownership of the family home upon the death of their mother in 1914. She is a woman equally recognized for her kindness, compassion and generosity, as Miss Doub has been regarded as an inspiration to many. Her opportunity to be recognized on an international stage came in early 1923 as she was chosen to present a paper on the importance of art instruction to deaf students at the 23rd Meeting of the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf to be held June 25-30th, 1923 in Canada. This honor in front of a group of peers from across the country, Canada and other countries throughout the world would take place at the Ontario School for the Deaf located in Belleville, Ontario.
Unfortunately, Floy’s duty to family would take precedent as she had to remain home to care for her dying brother. Cornelius Staley Doub would pass six weeks later in August. Floy would handle the burial arrangements as well as her brother was placed in Area C/Lot 173.
At the onset of this story we mentioned the paper/speech Miss Doub had prepared for the conference. Here is a facsimile of that program.
Florence herself was getting older, but was just as active as ever. She continued teaching and participation in civic duties such as the women’s suffrage movement. She stayed active in art and all other pursuits until the afternoon of Saturday, January 16th, 1932, when she was felled with a paralytic stroke. Miss Floy rallied that particular Saturday and is said to have apologized to her friends and family around her that evening that her physician had forbidden her to resume her teaching duties for the upcoming week.
Florence W. Doub would pass in the confines of her life’s home on N. Market Street in the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 19th, 1932.
As her body was laid to rest with other family members at a very well-attended funeral service, those on hand likely thought that this humble woman’s life work and influence was a much greater masterpiece than any of her single art pieces or associated prizes. A memorial tribute was published by the Frederick Art Club in the form of a pamphlet shortly after her death claims:
“Though her life was confined to Frederick, she held a wide-ranging view of what constituted art and felt that everyone had some sort of creativity if it could be identified and nurtured.”
Miss Doub's position with the Frederick Art Club would be filled by Miss Helen Smith. The club continues to go strong, now in their 125th year.
(Author's Note: I was unsuccessful in finding Florence W. Doub's middle name. Secondly. I could not find any visuals of Miss Doub's artwork, but am sure that many residents and repositories such as MSD and Hood College have valuable pieces within their collections. Feel free to send me jpgs of her work and I will add these to the story for further enhancement. )
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