UCA Women’s History: Constance Mitchell & Dr. Ada Jane Harvey – “Constant Companions” Part II

“Any college undoubtedly has pioneers worthy of respect by students and faculty, but certainly, Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Harvey were two faculty members who helped to lay a solid foundation of scholarship for State Teachers College…” –LaNell Compton, former student.


This edition of From the Archives highlights two important women within the UCA community.  When the University of Central Arkansas was the Arkansas State Normal School (ASNS), Dr. Ada Jane Harvey headed the Foreign Languages department, and Constance Mitchell taught English courses.  This week concludes the series with Dr. Ada Jane Harvey.

Dr. Ada Jane Harvey, born in 1890, earned her bachelor’s degree from Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA).  She earned her master’s degree from the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), and her doctorate from New York University (New York, NY), additionally she attended the University of Paris (Paris, France), the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM), and the University of San Marcus (Lima, Peru). 

Dr. Ada Jane Harvey.

Dr. Ada Jane Harvey.

Dr. Harvey taught French and Spanish with the Little Rock School District, specifically Little Rock High School, where she met fellow teacher, Constance Mitchell in 1918.  Approximately two years after Dr. B.W. Torreyson offered Constance a position with the ASNS, Dr. Harvey accepted a post within the foreign languages department.  Mitchell and Harvey shared an apartment before purchasing a house together, located at 703 Donaghey Avenue, for approximately $3000.00.

Dr. Harvey taught French and Spanish courses and served as sponsor for both the French and Spanish clubs on campus.   

A unique example of Harvey’s dedication to teaching through immersive experiences was her 1935 creation of an immersive summer camp, Le Camp Français, at the newly completed Petit Jean State Park.  According to former student and camp attendee, Anna Loe Russell, credit for courses at Arkansas State Teachers College (ASTC, formerly Arkansas State Normal School) was given upon completion of Le Camp Français.  Dr. Harvey taught classes in the living room of her cabin, students spoke French at all times–in class, on walks, while swimming, and during meals.  In addition to Le Camp Français, Harvey volunteered to chaperone an annual trip to New Orleans

Anna Loe Russell's, Le Camp Français scrapbook.

Anna Loe Russell’s, Le Camp Français scrapbook.

Le Camp Français at Petit Jean State Park.

Le Camp Français at Petit Jean State Park.

Former student Flora Martin Walher Cox recalled that Dr. Harvey’s immersive pursuits extended to the Spanish Club; Dr. Harvey would plan a biennial reenactment of the Running of the Bulls on campus as part of a more immersive experience while learning a foreign language.  The event included authentic costumes and performances of traditional songs.  Flora stated that the vigorous learning experiences provided practical use on her farm, where she “was able to communicate with 30 men during the cotton picking and chopping seasons who had come from Mexico…”

Grace Vineyard recalled two summers spent in Mexico with Dr. Harvey and other students, “Ada Jane MADE everyone go places and learn to speak Spanish.”  While attending courses at the University in Mexico City, one specifically took Dr. Harvey and the students on trips to “hospitals, poverty areas…” in order to truly experience the city as a local instead of as a tourist. 

Beyond her contributions to the foreign languages department, Dr. Harvey actively participated in the Conway chapter of the American Association of University Women.  The purpose of AAUW was to provide opportunities for the advancement of academic pursuits for women. Harvey served as president in 1946, shortly before ASTC alumnae became eligible for membership in 1951, according to Hanna Eloise Rhode.   Constance and Ada were honored for their contributions to the Conway branch with a “Fellowship named in their honor, which meant that Conway Branch AAUW contributed money to the Fellowship Fund.”  

From the Log Cabin Democrat, Monday, April 10, 1972.

From the Log Cabin Democrat, Monday, April 10, 1972.

Considering Ada and Constance frequently provided room and partial board to female students attending what would become the University of Central Arkansas, participation in this organization aligned with their personal philosophy which manifested in their frequent acts of kindness and generosity.  

Former student Ruby Coxsey Huie recalled that not only did Dr. Harvey display incredible patience towards her in the classroom, Harvey also offered her room and partial board during a financially difficult time during the 1936-1938 school years.  “In May Dr. Harvey asked if I planned to go to summer school.  Before I could tell her that I could not afford it, she said: “Ruby, Dr. Mitchell will be away this summer, and I plan to keep three college girls.  Why don’t you stay with me…If you can buy your lunch and pay your college expenses, we’ll manage.”  Ruby’s parents covered her expenses, and with Dr. Harvey’s offer of room and partial board, she earned six more hours of French courses.  When faced additional struggles to obtain her degree, Ruby recollected that Dr. Harvey “arranged for me to get credit for a tutorial in French novels.  We met weekly and I made reports and took tests as in a regular class.”

Dr. Harvey’s legacy extended beyond the foreign languages department on campus; found within a collection of anonymous remembrances of Ada and Constance, one entry stated that:


Ada Jane founded the Faculty wives club…they would buy books for their library, the club women would read them first, then they were placed in the UCA library.  This was the first fiction in the library…because the school budget didn’t include fiction.  They built a remarkable collection.  


Ada & Constance's car, dubbed "Nicolette."

Ada & Constance’s car, dubbed “Nicolette.”

Though Dr. Ada Jane Harvey retired in 1955, she and Constance continued to travel to Constance’s family cabin, abroad to London and Paris.  According to Constance she and Ada would travel “as long as the money holds out.”  Ada and Constance also hosted the Bridge World Olympics, during which Ada won a prize.  The duo also attended races at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, traveling in the automobile they co-owned, dubbed “Nicolette.” 

When the pair stayed in, they hosted lunches and dinners, some of which had themes coordinating with the type of cuisine served.  “If it was a French menu, they put out French dolls from Paris” as table decoration.

Le Camp Français at Petit Jean State Park.

Le Camp Français at Petit Jean State Park.

LaNell Compton recollected seeing Dr. Harvey at Contance’s funeral, “ I noticed her sitting there, but they didn’t want anyone to try to speak to her at the funeral for fear that she would get confused again and go through a lot of distraction and pain, etc.”  Ada seemed to suffer from dementia and had “reached the point that she could hardly remember anything.”  Constance bequeathed to Ada a trust for the maintenance of her dear friend during her lifetime.  

Approximately four years after Constance’s passing, Dr. Ada Jane Harvey died March 13, 1980.  Ada willed the money she received upon Constance’s death to Constance’s estate to be “divided among her legatees.”  An excerpt from her funeral meditation describes the special bond the two shared and their legacy left in those they helped:


Ada has gone to join with Constance in the Church Triumphant…we gather to thank God for the life of Ada, as we did for Constance…a life that was full of joy, of sparkle, of exuberance, a life that was optimistic, that looked for the best.


Burial plot of Dr. Ada Jane Harvey, Constance Mitchell, and Constance Mitchell's parents at The Historic Oak Grove Cemetery.

Burial plot of Dr. Ada Jane Harvey, Constance Mitchell, and Constance Mitchell’s parents at The Historic Oak Grove Cemetery.

The “constant companions” were inseparable while living, as well as in death.  The two women share a family plot, where one will find Dr. Harvey, Constance Mitchell’s parents, and Constance Mitchell at The Historic Oak Grove Cemetery located on Bruce Street, Conway, Arkansas.


For more information about Dr. Ada Jane Harvey or Constance Mitchell, see:  M89-28, M89-29, SMC 148, and SMC 1647. 

Author:  Shelbea Gentry

Contributor:  Danielle Kraus (research)

Editor:  Daniel Klotz