When discussing the topic of high-quality newspapers in Richmond, Virginia, many titles come to mind, like the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader. What often does not come to mind is the high school newspaper published by the students of John Marshall High School, the Monocle. This publication exceeded the expectations of a high school newspaper, and its success was primarily due to its founder and faculty advisor of almost 25 years, Miss Charles Anthony.
Starting the Monocle on March 1, 1929, Anthony oversaw the development of the six-page, five-column student paper from its inception. Anthony’s weekly newspaper was strictly managed and she allowed only those with high English skills to be a part of its editing team. Anthony herself had an impressive educational background, with a bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, a Master of Arts from Columbia University, and several credits fulfilled at Harvard University.
The article “What Are We,” printed in the first issue of the Monocle, explained that the purpose of the paper was to enrich the school with unbiased news and give students a place where they could sell uniforms, announce club meetings, and suggest school changes. There was also an outline of content for the Monocle detailed in the first issue: “Our front page will offer the most up-to-date news items, while, through our editorial page, you can keep in touch with the foremost questions for discussion, as well as the latest in poetry, books, and humor.” The remainder of the inaugural issue was full of school news, with announcements about dances, the school’s opera roles, movie reviews, a sports section and advertisements for local businesses. It even included the article, “Sept. Double Shift Rumor is Denied,” squashing a rumor circulating throughout John Marshall at the time.
Anthony wanted to be transparent in the work that her students were doing to create a paper for John Marshall. In her second issue, she had the Monocle‘s editor at the time, Frank J. McCarthy Jr., write an article to inform readers about the chaotic creation of the newspaper, which started by asking the question, “Do you know how much work it takes to publish an issue of a newspaper? We didn’t until we began to collect copy for the first issue of the Monocle.” This very same editor later became a reporter for the Richmond News Leader and then went on to become a Hollywood producer.
What is most interesting about the Monocle was that Anthony had her students include a wide array of current news in its issues. For example, the Monocle printed a story about the mistreatment of Jewish citizens in Germany in the early 1930s, even before some other daily newspapers were doing so. It directly mentioned the persecution of Jewish people in Hitler’s Germany for the first time on April 11, 1933. “Hitler has succeeded in bringing the scorn of all nations upon himself for his unjustified harsh treatment of the Jews in Germany,” the article explained, “To ‘cease the propaganda’ that was being spread by the Jews (according to Hitler) this newest dictator closed shops owned by Jews and passed a law excluding them from public offices. His attitude resembles middle-age prejudices, really for no good reason.”
After nearly 25 years of creating a successful newspaper for the Marshallites, the May 28, 1953 issue of the Monocle announced, “Miss Anthony, Founder of the Monocle, To Retire.” The article included stories from past and present students talking about their time working with and learning from Anthony. Some of them, including Rhea Talley, Sidney C. Dixon, Ann Auckerman, Bill Hatcher, and Ed Ferguson, to name just a few, shared fond recollections of Anthony. Talley, a freshman at the school in 1929 who served on the first editorial team, said on her retirement, “The educational spirit of the school will be poorer for her departure.” On the next page of the same issue, an article titled “The Old Order Changeth,” also addressing Anthony’s retirement, stated, “To the Monocle, Miss Charles Anthony will become a legend.”
Charles Anthony and the Monocle‘s success extended outside the walls of John Marshall, as the Monocle and its editorial staff won numerous awards throughout the years under her guidance. Even the Richmond News Leader highlighted her impressive work, printing a lengthy piece in its June 3, 1953 issue after the announcement of her retirement. “The high school editors and reporters took things into their own hands and brought out their final issue for the term as a tribute to their advisor, who is retiring at the close of school,” the News Leader piece reported, “A complete surprise to Miss Anthony, the issue already has become one of the most memorable.”
News of Miss Anthony's retirement featured in the RICHMOND NEWS LEADER, 3 June 1953.
Anthony had a vision for the students of her beloved high school and created the Monocle with the “great hopes that John Marshall will never again be newspaperless.” She empowered her students to create a professional paper that is still considered one of the most high-quality newspapers produced by a high school. Anthony was the hidden figure behind the curtain of the Monocle, pushing her students and newspaper staff to exceed expectations and create a publication that was as dignified and as well-composed as those professional dailies and weeklies found at the local newsstand.
Anthony’s story came to a close when she died on April 29, 1966 at Walnut Hill, her home in Campbell County, Virginia. The Monocle released a remembrance article on May 13, 1966 for Miss Anthony, “Founded Paper — Monocle Sponsor Passes On.” Included in the article was a beautiful quote from one of Anthony’s most successful students, Sidney C. Dixon. In his remembrance he wrote, “Into it (the Monocle) went her fine talent for writing, her enthusiasm, her spirit, and most of all, her skill to teach, to inspire, to foster those qualities which make a Marshallite hold his head a little higher, walk a little surer, and recall even her reprimands with gratitude.” Her students cherished the time they had to learn from her and spoke with the highest regard of Miss Charles Anthony.
The Library of Virginia houses a nearly complete collection of original and microfilmed issues of the Monocle dating from 1929 to 1973, all of which have been digitized and can be viewed on Virginia Chronicle.