We’ve begun delving into the archival databases and working to form reconstructive biographies on the graduates of the Washington Conservatory of Music from 1910-1914. This unfortunately means that we don’t have a lot of the answers, but we’re using what we can find in newspaper clippings and genealogical databases to piece together parts of the lives of these people. It’s far from the complete story, but there’s still a lot that can be learned from the recordings we can find. For example, I’ve spent most of my week with Ruth Ellen Weatherless, born April 22, 1895 in Washington, DC, to parents Nelson E. Weatherless and Martha E. Brown[1]. She lived in Washington, DC, her whole life, attending the Washington Conservatory of Music and graduating in 1911, where she studied education, piano, and music theory[2]. Shortly after her graduation, she began to be involved with a sorority called Alpha Kappa Alpha[3], which was the first intercollegiate historical Black sorority. They had many meetings where they focused on feminism, and even ran a smallpox vaccination clinic in Pittsburugh, which Ruth volunteered at[4]. She remained active with the sorority for several decades, all the while working as a choral conductor at Cardoza High School. In her teaching career she must have found some respect, as she was a judge for the Oratory Contest that took place over the course of a year. She worked there from at least 1929 – 1939, first appearing as a faculty member reviewing  the contestants of the Oratory Contest[5]. Throughout the course of these years, she conducted a handful of concerts, including a few that were both orchestral and choral[6].

Ruth E Weatherless married sometime between 1935-1940, though her marriage record was not found. The last time she appeared in the Washington, DC city directory as “Ruth E Weatherless” was in 1934[7] before she appeared as Andrew W. Sample’s wife in 1940[8]. However, the marriage didn’t last, as she begins to appear as Ruth E. Cook in the 1949[9], and is eventually buried under that name[10]. One of the challenges I’ve encountered has been finding anything on Ruth in the later years of her life, or an obituary or a grave, which I will hopefully find with time.

Learning the daily routines of people and the mundane elements of their lives has been so delightful. It feels like we’re getting to know these people a bit, and it’s much more humanizing to how they affected their communities on a smaller scale rather than focusing on the national impacts they may have had. Many graduates of the Washington Conservatory of Music, like Ruth Weatherless, were able to promote racial uplift by positively affecting their community in the form of music and educating others.


[1] District of Columbia, Births and Christenings, 1830-1955. FHL Film Number: 2114657

[2] Evening Star, Washington, DC, June 17, 1911, pg. 12.

[3] Evening Star, Washington, DC, May 30 1915, pg 11.

[4] The Pittsburgh Corrier, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jun 29, 1935, pg 11.

[5] Evening Star, Washington, DC, February 7, 1930.

[6] Evening Star, Washington, DC, May 6 1938, pg C-6.

[7] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1934.

[8] Year: 1940; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: m-t0627-00567; Page: 7A; Enumeration District 1-423

[9] Evening Star, Washington, DC, September 15, 1949, pg A-24.

[10] Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.