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Miss Christine has intrigued me from the beginning, even before I knew her name. When I first opened the box of photos that would ultimately become The Schoolyard, I saw her right away. How can you not be intrigued by that face? Those hats?!
After a little digging, I have learned a little bit about the woman in the fabulous black hats. Class, meet Miss Annie Christine Reudelhuber. Miss Christine was the principal of Smith School from 1882 until her death in 1920. Smith School, originally opened in 1872 as the Market Street School, was the first school built and owned by the School Board. The name was changed to Smith School in 1878 to honor Thomas R. Smith, a member of the Board of Education. After Miss Christine’s death in 1920, the school was again renamed, this time as Christine School. The Christine School continued on until the building was razed in 1964 to make room for a Sheraton hotel.
According to The Christine Story, Miss Christine was the daughter of John D. and Evelyn Wilhelmina Reudelhuber, immigrants from the Rhine provinces of Germany. Originally settling in New Orleans, they had five sons and two daughters. After relocating to Memphis, the children attended public schools and the First Presbyterian Church. By 1887, when a family sketch was published in the History of Shelby County and the City of Memphis, the two girls were the only surviving family members, with Miss Christine as principal of Smith School (“the largest school in Memphis”) while her sister, Miss Pauline, served as the principal of Merrill School.
Miss Christine was probably best remembered as a strict disciplinarian. In 1980, when a historical marker was placed at the site of the school, Abe Plough recalled, “Miss Christine was a wonderful disciplinarian, fair and just. She was a stickler for strict obedience. Her word was law and no one had the temerity to gainsay her…”
I know I wouldn’t mess with her.