Remembering Laura MacArthur

A commenter to the post about the house being torn down for construction of the new Laura MacArthur Elementary asked the question, “Who is Laura MacArthur anyway?”

Laura MacArthur was an elementary and junior high school teacher and principal in West Duluth for over four decades.

Born in England, she came to the United States with her family at around the age of 10. She attended high school in Wooster, Ohio, and graduated from the College of Wooster.

She came to Duluth in the spring of 1896, where she was assigned to teach Latin, algebra and civics to ninth graders at Longfellow School.

In 1915, when the first Denfeld High School was built on Central Avenue, Irving School became Duluth’s first junior high. Miss MacArthur became principal at Irving that year, serving until 1926.

When the modern Denfeld High School opened in 1926, the old Denfeld became West Junior High. It was located next to Ely Elementary School, and MacArthur was named principal of both schools. She retired in June of 1935 and was honored with a public reception at Denfeld.

She served on the board of education from 1937 to 1940. In 1944, she established a camp-ship fund to Camp Wannikiwin for a West Junior High School girl each year, and in 1945 a similar fund to Camp Miller for boys.

She served as president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club from 1921 to 1923. In 1950, the club established a scholarship fund in her name for Duluth high school graduates. In 1957, she was chosen “Woman of Achievement” by the club.

She was also an active member of the Duluth branch of the American Association of University Women, she directed the women’s residential division for the Red Cross fund drive in 1946, and she was a member of St. Luke’s Hospital’s building fund committee.

She lived at Devonshire Apartments, 1321 E. First St., and was a member of Pilgrim Congregational Church.

Laura MacArthur Elementary School was built in 1957 at 727 Central Ave. to replace the Ely and Longfellow schools. Miss MacArthur was unable to attend the dedication due to illness, but in 1959, at the age of 88, she toured the building and spent a morning talking with students.

She died June 18, 1964, at age 92.


The Big E

about 15 years ago

She attended high school in Wooster, Ohio, and graduated from Wooster College.

That's the College of Wooster, technically.


about 15 years ago

When they gonna give Bob Burrows a school?

Barrett Chase

about 15 years ago

I wonder if she always lived at 13th East even when she worked at Irving in 1915. That was a long commute in those days.

In 4th grade at MacArthur/West, one of my classmates used to insist that it was "Laurel MacArthur," because they'd never name a school after a girl.

Paul Lundgren

about 15 years ago

Big E, it was called Wooster College when Miss MacArthur attended, but you're right that using the present name is less confusing, so I switched it.

The Big E

about 15 years ago

I guess we've gotten more fussy about it since then, heh.  Never mind me.


about 15 years ago

Longfellow school was three doors down from my house.  Only the steps were left.  You can't tell where Pfister house is based on the old photo, but it was right next door.

Goodbye old velvet auditorium chairs....

ann klefstad

about 15 years ago

My mother attended Ely in the early 30s and used to tell this story to illustrate how respectful students of that era were to their teachers (and principals). Supposedly Miss MacArthur came into the girls' room when my mother was washing her hands, and when she emerged from the stall and stalked in splendor out the door, my mother noted that she had tucked the back of her skirt into her bloomers. Paralyzed with a mixture of horror and awe, little Helen could say nothing. But she wondered, all the rest of her life, how long it took Miss MacArthur to notice.

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