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1940-1945 Central High

By 1940, Bonnie Cone had built such a notable reputation as a math teacher in South Carolina that Central High School Principal Elmer H. Garinger wanted her to teach at his school in Charlotte. Cone enjoyed teaching a range of concepts, so during her interview for the position, she declined Garinger’s offer to teach either plane geometry or algebra unless she could teach more than one subject. She was hired by Garinger on her terms and began working at Central High.

But 1943 offered something different. World War II was underway, and there was a shortage of male teachers for Duke University’s V-12 program. Duke was one of many schools that held such programs to teach servicemen, and the chairman of the Mathematics Department, John Gergen, contacted Cone for help. Positions typically held by men were filled by women during the war, and Cone's skills were needed. With the understanding that she could return to Central High later, Cone supported the war effort and became the only woman to teach the men attending Duke's V-12 program.

Bonnie Cone stands in front of a slide rule, January 27, 1958

Bonnie Cone stands in front of a slide rule, January 27, 1958.

Cone’s skill at teaching math continued to attract attention, propelling her further from a typical path for a female schoolteacher during this time. In 1945, Cone was called on to work in Washington, D.C., with the Statistical Division of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. Until the war ended a year later, she worked with mine actuation data used in the detection and laying of mines. Cone was ready to return to her students at Central High, but she was not quite finished with her work educating servicemen.

Bonnie Cone photographed at her desk, January 27, 1958

Bonnie Cone at her desk, January 27, 1958.

1940-1945 Central High