Mary Caroline Crawford.

The college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is online

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ing, for the college does not oblige a girl to be a
resident of a dormitory. But none the less it re-
mains true that Smith is democratic, just as its
founder desired it should be. Latterly, too, there
has been a tendency to bring all the students inside
the college bounds, and to this end a number of
new and very beautiful dormitories have recently
been established. Still another noticeable and in-
teresting change has been the trend from a majority
of women teachers. About fifty per cent, of the
faculty are now men. It was perhaps as a return
compliment that the men among the trustees lately
voted to admit women to the privileges of the gov-
erning body. Three alumnae are accordingly mem-
bers of the Board at the present time.

At Smith, as at nearly every well-regulated
woman's college, the health of the students is very
carefully supervised. Almost all the girls take daily
exercise, independent of favourable weather condi-
tions. Long walks and mountain climbs, as well

12 The College Girl of America

as boating on near-by Paradise, and early morning
canters on horseback through the lovely meadows
of the Connecticut Valley are favourite diversions.
In gymnastic work and out-of-door games the in-
terest is likewise keen. Aside from the required
exercises, there are gymnastic electives for the
junior and senior classes, and these are notably
well attended. Yet always at Smith the line is
drawn on the side of good taste. Consequently,
there are no intercollegiate athletic contests here.
" Valuable as such contests may be for men," Pres-
ident Seelye has said, " they do not seem suitable
for women, and no benefit is likely to come from
them which would justify the risks."

In its well-equipped gymnasium, however, class
contests in basket-ball and other games are greatly
enjoyed by the students. Hockey, too, first intro-
duced into American colleges by Miss Constance
Applebee, of England, has been very cordially re-
ceived at Smith, and there is no pleasanter sight
to be met with on the campus than that of two
rival hockey teams, striving with all the strength
and skill they can command to make their difficult

There was a time when Smith College girls
played baseball, after supper, in trained dresses, but
this was before the days when basket-ball was














Smith College 13

adopted. Now there is no college where this new
and splendidly scientific sport for women is pursued
more intelligently than at Smith. The enthusiasm
culminates at the end of the winter term with the
contest between the two lower class teams. Al-
though the second class, with its year more of prac-
tice, generally wins on this occasion, it is never safe
to predict; and the audience which fills the running
track of the gymnasium is always as full of interest
and gay-coloured excitement as cheers and banners
can express. The line-up, before this game, is
one of the characteristic things at Smith, fanciful
legends and curious banners being prominently dis-
played by both sides,, as they patiently await, for
hours, entrance to the scene of the contest. Once
in, the game is to see which class shall get its mas-
cot first on the floor.

Similar enthusiasm is manifested over the tennis
tournament held every spring. This event calls out
friends from far and near, the back campus blos-
soms with ribbons and gay gowns, and a general
good time is always enjoyed. Each class has its
champions, and these play scientifically and well.
Moreover, the visitor rather enjoys being waved
back into place by the coloured wand of a girl-
beadle; and the rows of bright faces and flaring
flags against the background of river and hills

14 The College Girl of America

seldom fail to impress. At the apple-tree entrance
twenty-five cents a head is demanded, the proceeds
going to the treasury of the Athletic Association,
a carefully governed body, which has a friendly
oversight over the boating on Paradise, the tramp-
ing and running and general athletic sports of the

Every October, Smith has its Mountain Day,
especially set apart that the students of the college
may become very familiar in the course of their
four years at Northampton with the famous beauty
of that part of the Connecticut Valley. Tramps to
Mt. Tom, Holyoke, Whately Glen, and Sugar Loaf
are also indulged in as the months roll by, some
groups of undergraduate enthusiasts often walking
twenty miles in an afternoon.

The college year at Smith opens with an im-
promptu dance known as the Freshman Frolic.
Then, in October, comes the reception given by the
sophomores to welcome the entering class, — and
incidentally to express womanly scorn of hazing.
The new girl is escorted to this freshman festivity
by an upper class partner, who, in addition to filling
out her dancing-card and sending her flowers, sees
that she meets the right person for each dance,
entertains her during refreshments, and " sees her
home." The seriousness with which the whole

Smith College 15

affair is taken is almost comic. For the invitations
are daintily engraved, and the girls " asked out "
dress with the greatest possible care. The escort-
ing sophomore, on the other hand, is scrupulously
polite throughout the evening, obviously realizing
the grave responsibility of her office. A dance of
the same sort is given later by the juniors, as a
farewell to the senior class.

The scientific teas at Smith are immensely amus-
ing and original. " Perhaps the card has read, ' A
Chemico-physic Afternoon.' When one goes, one
finds Lily Hall transformed by flowers. The ush-
ers' wands are glass rods tied with ribbon; coffee
and lemonade, filtered into Florence flasks, are
served in beakers, and drunk through glass tubes;
wafers are passed in crystallizing dishes. In the
hall a white-frocked girl may be seen drawing a
wedding-march from a harp of wooden reeds. Elec-
tricity, meanwhile, does * stunts ' in the dark-
room." ^

Another highly important annual affair at Smith
is the Junior Prom, now held each year in the
Students' Building, especially decorated for the oc-
casion. During the afternoon of Prom Day, a con-
cert is given on the back campus by the glee, banjo,

* Harriett C. Seelye in Century Magazine.

i6 The College Girl of America

and mandolin clubs. But the dancing of the even-
ing is the thing, — that and the driving next day,
with one's " Prom man." Every horse within five
miles of Northampton is booked months ahead for
these day-after-prom drives.

The high-water mark of social diversion is
reached, however, in the senior dramatics which,
each spring, usher in the college's Commencement
festivities. For years it has been the custom to
present a Shakespearian play at this time under the
direction of a member of the faculty and of a pro-
fessional coach. These plays have been given at the
Academy of Music, Northampton, with every possi-
ble theatrical advantage in the way of scenery and
make-up. The costumes are usually designed by a
member of the class, and for the colour scheme and
scenery another senior is ordinarily responsible.
After this elaborate fashion, valuable from the
intellectual as well as the dramatic viewpoint,
"Midsummer Night's Dream" was given in 1895;
"As You Like It" in 1896; "Merchant of Ven-
ice" in 1897; "Much Ado About Nothing" in
1898; "Winter's Tale" in 1899; "Twelfth
Night" in 1900; "The Taming of the Shrew"
in 1901 ; and "Romeo and Juliet" in 1902; and
" Love's Labour's Lost " in 1903.

The earnest spirit and serious effort that go into

Smith College 17

these senior dramatics have never failed to produce
imposing results. In last year's play not a little skill
was shown in making the text fit our own times.
Without discarding anything of the original, the
satire was made to possess universal human appli-
cation. The scenes were given practically in the
order of the folio text, with suitable cuts, — the
death of the father of the princess being retained,
however. A very beautiful pageant at the close of
the last act lent to the performance the charm
Smith girls so well understand how to impart to
their theatricals. For then Spring and Winter came
on in chariots drawn by four graceful maidens clad
consistently with the seasons. And while all the
characters — soldiers, musicians, and so on — were
grouped on the stage, Miss Frances McCarroll, of
Brooklyn, New York, as Spring, and Miss Alice
Butterfield, of Brattleboro, Vermont, as Winter,
recited the charmmg lines which, so long as English
literature survives, will stand as the most beautiful
poetic characterizations of these seasons. How
those hundreds of daintily-gowned girls in the audi-
ence applauded the lines celebrating the month —

" When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver white
And cuckoo buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight ! "

i8 The College Girl of America

an exact description, as they one and all recognized,
of the fields about Northampton at that very time.

The senior play is the very biggest feature of
a senior year, and the most noticeable of all Smith
events to an outsider. To the girls themselves these
theatricals are likewise of immense interest and im-
portance, not only because of the careful training
in voice culture, easy bearings and intelligent ap-
preciation of Shakespeare they entail, but also be-
cause of the delightful comradeship that must result
from week after week of the necessary rehearsal.

For the spring of 1904 a very interesting depar-
ture was taken, for, instead of a Shakespearian
play, the Hindoo drama '' Sakuntala," by Kalidasa,
was given. This work, never before given on the
American stage, is the masterpiece of India, and
ranks high in the literature of all countries. It was
first translated from the Sanskrit in 1791, and soon
after was produced in Germany. It has been given
once In England, and is being widely discussed at
the present time by dramatic critics all over this
country. The acting version, used at Northampton,
was made by Miss Alice Morgan Wright, a senior,
after carefully studying existing translations, and
deciding that none of them would do. Smith girls,
you see, accomplish things themselves when put to
it. Last spring they erected upon the lower campus








Smith College 19

a students' building which cost about $38,000.
And for the house-warming — and to swell the
fund — two of the largest societies of the college,
the Alpha and the Phi Kappa Psi, presented '' She
Stoops to Conquer." In this building are club-
rooms and the editorial quarters of the Smith Col-
lege Monthly, the excellent literary and news mag-
azine of the college.

Just here, because it gives a fair idea of the qual-
ity of this magazine, as well as because it shows
the admirable good sense of the representative
Smith College girl, I want to quote a paragraph
from an article contributed to the Monthly of May,
1903, by Fannie Stearns Davis, Smith, 1904. The
contribution is called " Against the Flirtatious Short
Story," and begins : " I desire to condemn the
average sketch of a love-story produced by the
average college girl. I desire to condemn those
clever shapes of literary whipped creami and spun
silk that represent the literary kisses of the college
love-tales. ... I desire to condemn such love-
stories from clever beginning to inevitable ending,
for three very excellent but possibly personal rea-
sons : first, because they bore me ; second, because
I believe them to be perfectly untrue to a reasonable
sort of life ; third, because, after due consideration,
I cannot arrive at a sight of any benefit done by

20 The College Girl of America

them to the person who spins the shiny cobweb of
them, or to the one who tumbles through the thin-
ness of them. . . . Why should a girl cheapen her
self-respect by writing of the ignoble sides of things
when the noble is perfectly attainable ? To demand
solidity and sobriety of every smallest written word
were a demand for a continual church attendance,
and as unreasonable as that; but to ask for a thing
not utterly transient, not threadbare of human truth^
not extolling what should be scorned; to ask an
underlying nobility of motive in any imagination
of the mind which is given any fixed abiding-place
by means of ink and paper, is not too much tO' re-
quire of the youngest and most merrily irresponsi-
ble of human creatures."

Now it is just that sincerity for which this under-
graduate here earnestly pleads which seems to me
to characterize the Smith College girl generally.
My friend, Miss Elizabeth McCracken, in writing
of this trait, has called it " sweet gravity." A
stimulating sense that the college girl may and
should do something fine with her life seems ever
present in the minds of the girls here. This may
very well be the result of the high Christian spirit
in which the college was conceived and in which
it has always been conducted. Attendance at chapel
is by no means compulsory at Smith, but every

Smith College 21

morning the large hall is well filled with worship-
pers, and no visitor who has been privileged to
share in the uplift of Sunday vespers ever forgets
the experience. Wearing their best clothes and
shining Sunday faces, the girls come to this service
in groups of twos and threes, after an afternoon
of writing home, and they listen to the exhortations
of the president, and join in the singing of the
hymns with an earnest reverence distinctly impres-
sive. The Christian Association has a secretary of
its own here at Smith, and in a quiet way much
active Christian work is done during the years of
a college course, — so much indeed that about
twenty per cent, of the girls who may have entered
college without definite Christian affiliations express
themselves upon leaving as decidedly interested in
one or another of the church bodies in Northampton.
A very important department at Smith is the
Students' Aid Society, which has now been estab-
lished for over five years, and is of constantly in-
creasing service to those who lack the means to
continue their education. This society offers loans
without interest to needy and worthy students of
the three upper classes, allowing them three to five
years for the payment. By means of its good of^ces
many a girl, who must otherwise have left college,
has been enabled to stay on and complete her edu-

22 The College Girl of America

cation. There are more scholarships, too, at Smith
than at many colleges of equal standing. Last year
about seventy-five hundred dollars in sums of fifty
dollars was available for help in this direction. Of
Smith's fine buildings pages might easily be written.
With its mtusic-hall, its art-gallery, its observatory,
its plant house, its alumnae gymnasium (with swim-
ming tank), and its fine library, it has, of course,
every equipment for a modern and complete educa-
tion. Its tuition, too, is low, — only one hundred
dollars, — while the charge for board and a fur-
nished room in any one of the fifteen or so college
houses is but three hundred dollars a year. And
even the rich girls, it is worth while to note, live
in these three-hundred-a-year cottage homes.

Not long ago a very handsome building, named
Plymouth Hall, was erected just outside the campus.
It was — and is — a pile of masonry as far as pos-
sible removed in spirit from its good old Puritan
name. " It conveys the impression,'' as a bright
girl has said, " of having wandered to Northampton
from New York's Fifth Avenue or Boston's Back
Bay." It has to recommend it, however, all the
modem conveniences, from steam heat and electric
lights to an elevator presided over by a boy in
buttons. There is even a tradition that the girls
living here always wear evening gowns for dinner!

Smith College 23

But Plymouth Hall is not succeeding as its promot-
ers believed it would. The girls who could afford
to live here soon came to realize that for all this
paraphernalia of hotel existence they would b€ sac-
rificing something very much more precious. And
since no college girl wishes to get out of touch with
the democratic spirit for which American colleges
stand, Plymouth Hall bids fair to become an awk-
ward white elephant on the hands of Northampton
real estate men. The real Smith dormitories are
wonderfully attractive and homelike, presenting
more the appearance of a group of well-kept dwell-
ings than of a seat of learning.

The actual flavour of the place one can taste only
by repeated visits to Northampton. Here we find
the unique spectacle of a college woman's town.
Smith has given to its students large personal lib-
erty, and Northampton fully appreciates the reflex
privilege this implies. On all sides, therefore, it
makes ingenuous bids for student patronage. Even
the upholsterer near the campus drops into poetry.
As witness :

" Halt ! you maidens, and attention bestow
To this little shop of mine.
If ever you find your furniture cracked,
Or if you've got any that'll have to be packed,
Why ! that is right in my line."

24 The College Girl of America

A Smith girl might do ahnost anything in North-
ampton, and the townspeople would smile indul-
gently; but as a matter of fact she never does do
anything in the least inconsiderate or discourteous
or overbearing. Wearing a pretty white gown —
even in winter — she comes often in the early
evening to enjoy the good things one of the leading
restaurants provides for her and for her sisters ; but
she is never unpleasantly pervasive, even at Boy-
den's. Not only does it seem to be true at North-
ampton that a Smith girl can do no wrong, but
also that a Smith girl does do no wrong. She
enjoys the finest kind of liberty because she has
shown that she knows how to enjoy it.

In the same way there is at Smith nothing of
the traditional antagonism between the students and
their teachers. At the Academy of Music one even-
ing this spring, I looked very hard and long at a
body of Smith girls, to discover which of the group
could be the chaperon. I did not find her. But I
know she was there. In dress and bearing she was,
however, just one of the girls for the time being,
enjoying the play, as they were, with simple, de-
lightful, well-bred enthusiasm. Smith's women in-
structors are all like that, which may in a way
account — don't you think? — for the fine, sane
womanliness of the Smith girl.

Smith College 25

No one ever accused a Smith girl of being dull,
however. She, of all persons, knows thoroughly
how to have a good time while living her under-
graduate life. Naturally there are as many kinds
of good times as there are girls. The Smith stu-
dent may take part in bazaars, tableaux, and plays
for churches and city charities ; she may do regular
work in the Home Culture clubs (founded by
George W. Cable) ; she may sing to forlorn old
women in hospitals ; visit her friends in near-by
towns; witness a performance by Nance O'Neil,
Irving, the Ben Greet Company, or Mrs^^ Fiske, at
the Academy; watch the football struggle between
Harvard and Yale ; attend junior " proms " at
neighbouring colleges; or just stay inside the
Smith campus and study — as she pleases.

Or she may work almost all night for the sake of
attending college by day. One girl is noted for the
stylish shirt-waists she makes; another for her
clever newspaper articles. Many, very many, take
excellent pictures, which they sell to their fellow
students at astonishingly low prices ; two of whom
I know teach dancing classes. One student has,
throughout her course, earned her travelling ex-
penses, and fat checks besides, by acting as the
agent of a certain Western railroad, when Easter
and Christmas vacations are being planned. What-

26 The College Girl of America

ever honest means a college girl may adopt to help
her to bear student expenses, she will not cease on
that account to be respected by her college mates.

A recent writer in one of the Chicago papers has
spoken at some length of the " ignominy " suffered
by a girl of limited means at college. If what the
writer says were true, it would indicate a change
for the worse in women's colleges within the past
few years, — a change, however, which I feel sure
has not come about. Says the article in question:

"' The woman who would win her own way
through college has something more to contend with
than a man. First, she has the ignominy of it to
suffer. Yes, the ignominy and the shame. For nine
women out of ten in a college community, with loose
purse-strings, look down with an air of contemptible
patronage on her who has no purse-strings at all.
Her plain clothes, her indefatigable industry, her
poverty, all tend to ostracize her from the so-called
* smart ' set, and to set her apart with only one
or two friends, or no friends at all. She is not
asked to join the fashionable clubs; she is never
permitted to lead; she is rarely elected to office;
she is looked upon as a nonentity, without position
or prestige."

It is, of course, barely possible that in the demo-
cratic West " ignominy " must be endured by the

Smith College 27

college girl of small means. Where fortunes are
made in an hour, and a girl whose father was last
year behind the counter in his own small shop, to-
day flaunts an automobile and is styled a merchant
prince, snobbery must be expected. In our Eastern
colleges, however, quite a different spirit exists.
Poverty of genial friendliness, poverty of warm-
heartedness, poverty of brains, may be condemned,
— pecuniary poverty, never.

That nine women out of every ten in a college
community with loose purse-strings look down with
an air of contemptible patronage on her who has
no purse-strings at all is utterly absurd. In the
first place the " nine out of every ten " have them-
selves " no purse-strings at all." Rich girls do not
yet go to college in any great numbers, and the
few who do show by the mere fact of their being
there that better things than purse-strings or a lack
of them are their concern. Smith is almost the
only college w^here girls of large means are to be
found at all, and the sweetness and generosity which
is the attitude of mind of these girls toward those
who are poorer than themselves is notorious. Very
many actual cases could be pointed out where rich
girls have quietly and unostentatiously given pe-
cuniary aid to their fellow students of small means.

" The so-called ' smart ' set ! " Let those who

28 The College Girl of America

would bring that phrase into the vocabulary of
college life be covered with confusion. Is it not
bad enough to have a '' smart set " staring one
impudently in the face from every page of modern
journalism and from the ubiquitous '* society novel,"
without dragging it in where it has no right to
exist and does not exist? " Plain clothes," we ven-
ture to assert, never yet, in a New England college,
ostracized a girl. As for " indefatigable industry ! "
Well, — " that's another story," as Kipling would

The " grind " is not popular among the girls of
any college set, and since like seeks like, her friends
are ordinarily " grinds " like herself, — creatures
apart from any set. More and more every year
are girls coming to realize that Newman's " Idea
of a University " is the right one. The scholarly
cardinal, it will be remembered, strenuously opposed
the notion that a university is a professional school,
and vigorously maintained that it should always be
held a training-school for the development of the
all-around student. When girls began to go to col-
lege, they went very largely with a definite idea of
fitting for the profession of teacher. This is not
yet changed so much as it should be, but it is, never-
theless, modified in some measure, so that nowadays
there are comparatively few girls who graduate

Smith College 29

from college without a considerable development
in the way of intellectual breadth. Yet in any
college having a share of the elective system, it will
readily be seen that an omnivorous devourer of
Greek, for instance, could pursue her thirst for
abnormal development in that direction unhindered.
She would desire to study, and she would be allowed
to study. A " grind " is not very interesting, so-
cially, and she generally is let alone. Not, how-
ever, because she is poor would this come about.
A rich " grind " is an anomaly, but not an impossi-
bility. Poor " grinds " do not care for society, and

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Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 2 of 18)