Della Irving Hayden

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Della Irving Hayden, from an 1893 publication

Della Irving Hayden (1851-1924) was an American educator. She founded Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute in Virginia in 1904.

Early life[edit]

Della Irving was born into slavery and raised by a grandmother in Tarboro, North Carolina until she was reunited with her mother Charlotte Irving in 1865, after Emancipation. She attended school in Franklin, Virginia, and graduated in 1877 from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.[1] At Hampton she knew fellow students Booker T. Washington and his first wife Fannie Smith Washington. Della Irving spoke at Hampton's graduation exercises in 1877, on "Our Work as Women", and won a cash prize presented by the First Lady, Lucy Webb Hayes.[2]


Della Irving began teaching in rural Virginia in 1875, during a break from her studies at Hampton.[2] In 1881 Della Irving Hayden was elected principal of a school in Franklin, a position she held for nine years. In 1890, she returned to her alma mater to serve as "lady principal" at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.[1] She was also "lady principal" of the State Normal School at Petersburg for thirteen years.[3] In 1904, she organized the Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute, and was its principal.[4] By 1916 Franklin had buildings and a land to run a small farm and board dozens of women students, funded mainly by donations solicited by Hayden. "I have been trying to teach my people to help themselves. It has been my heart's desire to help elevate my race," she wrote.[2]

She led local chapters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Home Missionary Society, as well as presiding over the Virginia Teachers' Temperance Union.[5] She was active with the Young Women's Christian Association. She also held officer positions in the county's Sunday School Union.[1]

Personal life and legacy[edit]

Della Irving married a school principal and fellow Hampton alumnus, Lindsay Hayden, in 1880; he died within a few months after their wedding.[1] She died in 1924, aged 73 years, in the first known fatal automobile accident in Franklin.[6] A large monument was erected in her memory at Southview Cemetery in 1927, and in 1953 Hayden High School in Franklin was named for Della I. Hayden[7] (the site is now the Hayden Village Center, a residence and community center for seniors).[8] In 2016 Della Irving Hayden was included as one of "The 15 Most Influential People in Western Tidewater History" by Progress magazine.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d L. A. Scruggs, Women of Distinction: Remarkable in Works and Invincible in Character (Scruggs 1893): 241-247.
  2. ^ a b c Della Irving Hayden, "A Graduate's Reminiscences" The Southern Workman (January 1917): 59-63.
  3. ^ "Work of Mrs. Hayden" Annual Reports of Officers, Boards and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1893): 337.
  4. ^ "School in Franklin Helped Blacks" Daily Press (February 28, 1983): 14. via Newspapers.comopen access
  5. ^ James H. Johnston, "Virginia Teachers Association" Report of the Virginia Department of Education (1891): 158-159.
  6. ^ a b Stephen H. Cowles, "Della Irving Hayden: Educator Taught, Inspired Thousands of Students" Progress 2016 (February 27, 2016): 28-29.
  7. ^ Hayden High School, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form (United States Department of the Interior 2013).
  8. ^ "Hayden Village Center Groundbreaking" Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia.

External links[edit]

  • Veronica A. Davis, Inspiring African American Women of Virginia (iUniverse 2005). ISBN 9780595347308
  • A 1909 display advertisement for the Franklin Normal and Industrial Institute, from the Times Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia; from Newspapers.comopen access.