Mary Caroline Crawford.

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

. (page 5 of 18)
Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 5 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lege life in general taken off as often as possible."
The Tree Ceremonies, like those of '' Trig," be-
long to the sophomores. Whatever else they lack,
they are supposed to have the fascination of mystery.
On some auspicious night, at the time of the dedica-
tion of the class-tree, the sophomores, in costume,
meet by secret and march v/ith lanterns to the
chosen spot where the solemn rites appertain-
ing to the dedication of an elm, already chosen, are
to take place. One year the girls will be darkies;
another, animals going into the ark; again, vestal
virgins in sheets and pillow-cases. The freshmen
usually find out about the ceremonies and try to
interfere. Afterward both parties get amicably
together and enjoy the food part of the entertain-
ment, careful preparations for which have usually
been made well in advance. On one occasion a
diversion was supplied by waxworks in which the
various college dignitaries were imposingly repre-
sented. Members of the faculty at Vassar can stand

68 The College Girl of America

jokes at their own expense. Witness this in a recent
Vassarionr. " None but professors may talk aloud
in the library."

The Junior Party was for years a Hudson River
trip, to the accompaniment of music, on a steamer
chartered for the occasion. Latterly, however, it
has sometimes been a lawn party. One year it was
a hay-making frolic, the guests raking hay by moon-
light on the campus, and seeking in each pile of the
sweet-savoured grass the dainty souvenirs and
prizes hidden away by their hostesses. There is
always fun, too, at Hallowe'en and on St. Valentine's
Day. But perhaps the best times of all come as
a result of the cosy private spreads, with their crack-
ers, jelly, olives, and similar indigestibles. Many of
these are held at the time of the Ice Carnival, a festi-
val observed on the lake at night to an accompani-
ment of bonfires and Chinese lanterns with bright
costumes, fancy skating, and good music from the

From all that has been said here about the various
forms of pleasure and sport at Vassar, it must not
be thought that the academic side of life is ever long
lost sight of. Vassar girls are really hard students.
One of their professors has been credited with say-
ing, in whimsical criticism of them : " Young

Vassar College 69

ladies are much pleasanter to teach, and they are not
intellectually inferior to men in any way, but one
thing they cannot learn — they do not know how
to flunk; it seems utterly to unstring them if they
fail in a recitation." From which it may be in-
ferred that since Vassar girls are fairly happy and
poised, they do not often " fail in recitations."

Each subject taught at this college has its own
special room, and almost all departments have their
allied clubs. Thus there is the Shakespeare Club,
the Contemporary Club, the Marshall Economic
Club, and many others. Consumers' League en-
deavour, it is interesting to note, is particularly
active here. So, every day of every week is healthily
filled with work and play. Sundays are times of quiet
and peacefulness, with morning service conducted by
divines of different denominations who come from
all over the country to preach, and an evening Bible
lecture and a prayer-meeting, led by the president of
the college. The old chapel in Main, whose floor
has been worn rough by three generations of Vassar
girls, is this fall (1904) to be abandoned for a
splendid new building, very imposing with its
Gothic interior and its rose windows, its granite
walls, and its well-proportioned dome. But the
lowly and reverent spirit in which daily worship is

70 The College Girl of America

conducted will be the same, and in the years to come,
as in the past, these girls will say to themselves,
" The graduate of this college dare not let her life be
a failure; she is under bonds to do things in the



" Mt. Holyoke College is the product, not of
the Zeitgeist, not of any impersonal evolutionary in-
fluence, not of merely cosmic forces ; but it is rather
the vital personal embodiment of the thought, life,
and love of a multitude of thinking, living, loving
persons of whom Mary Lyon was first and chief."
In this remarkable sentence of a recent Founder's
Day oration, President Hopkins of Williams Col-
lege summed up, as no one else has ever done, the
explanation of the college at South Hadley. There
is probably in all American history no other woman
precisely like Mary Lyon ; and certainly there is in
our country to-day no other institution which pos-
sesses exactly the characteristic features of Mt.
Holyoke. Further, these two truths are one.

Mary Lyon never talked much of woman's rights ;
she said very little, if anything, of woman's sphere.
But she believed in, and loved to dwell on, the great
work a woman may do in the world. And she was
thoroughly convinced that to do that work well a
girl must be educated. " Oh, how Immensely im-


72 The College Girl of America

portant is the preparation of the daughters of the
land to be good mothers ! " she used often to say.
" If they are prepared for this situation, they will
have the most important preparation which they can
have for any other/' Repeatedly she asserted, with
wisdom far in advance of that of her time, that
it seemed to her much less of an evil that farmers
and mechanics have scanty stores of knowledge, such
as our common schools give, than that their wives,
the mothers of their children, should be uneducated.
With this splendid thought in her heart, she and her
friends came together and laid the corner-stone of
Mt. Holyoke Seminary, October 3, 1836, having
secured by arduous and well-nigh heroic labours
the nucleus of the fund necessary to the launching
of her high enterprise. Yet, though her heart was
fixed, her spirit was humble; we read that she
stooped down and wrote upon the corner-stone:
" The Lord hath remembered our low estate."

After another year which represented such un-
selfish devotion to her prospective school as may
be read in the annals of no other educational institu-
tion, the seminary was opened for the reception of
pupils. Often then^ and later, Mary Lyon said of
Mt. Holyoke, " Had I a thousand lives, I would
sacrifice them all in suffering and hardship for its
sake. Did I possess the greatest fortune, I could

Mt. Holyoke College 73

readily relinquish it all and become poor, and more
than poor, if its prosperity should demand it."

From the very first, Mt. Holyoke has had in its
make-up respect for household labour. It is interest-
ing to observe that even in the beginning this was
considered a great objection by many friends of the
seminary. Miss Lyon, however, defended it warmly.
She used to say that it was her desire, not to teach
domestic duties, but rather to help girls to take,
each one, a daughter's part in the household, and
thus promote the happiness of the family. " All
are to take part, not as a servile labour for which
they are to receive a small weekly remuneration, but
as a gratuitous service to the institution of which
they are members, designed for its improvement
and elevation. . . . An obliging disposition is of
special importance in forming a lovely social and
domestic character. Young ladies at school, with
all the conveniences and comforts which they should
have, and with all the benefits of study which they
should enjoy, can have but little opportunity for
self-denial. The domestic work done in the
varied and mutual duties of the day furnishes
many little chances for the manifestation of a
generous, obliging, and self-denying spirit, the
influence of which, we trust, will be felt through
life. It also helps to give a sense of obligation.

74 The College Girl of America

Domestic life is little else but a continued scene of
conferring and receiving favours. And how much
of happiness depends on their being conferred with
the manifest evidence of a willing heart, and on
their being received with suitable tokens of grati-
tude! These two lovely traits go hand in hand, not
often to be separated. The formation of a character
that can he grateful is an object of special impor-
tance in a lady's education."

Tliat, even in Mary Lyon's time, however, there
were other things at Mt. Holyoke beside study,
prayer-meetings, and housework, one finds from
this delicious bit of circus reminiscence supplied
by Mrs. Amelia Stearns of the class of '49 : " We
were admitted to the show at half-price, after
having been especially advised by Miss Lyon
to improve this opportunity to see the elephant
and other rare specimens of animated nature.
She made but one restriction. We were not to
stay to witness the performance, but when we
should see any teacher moving toward the exit we
were to follow her at once. After viewing the
animals we took seats while the elephants marched
around the amphitheatre. One with a howdah on
his back was halted near us, and the manager called
for ladies to mount and ride. Two or three misses
started forward and then drew back timidly, until a

Mt. Holyoke College 75

young lady of the senior class, with head erect and
fearless mien, walked to the front, climbed the
ladder, and seated herself as if she were an Eastern
princess accustomed to take her airing in this man-
ner. There was a whispering among the juniors :
' What a bold, bad action for a missionary's daugh-
ter ! How dare a senior set us such an example ? '
Some said she would surely be suspended, — perhaps
expelled. Others thought she might be let off with
a public reprimand if duly penitent. It was believed
that the sentiment of the seminary would certainly
demand some heroic measure.

" The great beast went around with its burden,
the senior descended safely and resumed her former
seat, unabashed. Directly a tiger leaped from its
cage and rolled over and over with its keeper in
frightful play. The performance was well under
way or ever we were aware, and we had seen no
teachers moving. Bless their kind hearts! Was
it that they in their innocence did not know when it
was time to start, or were our eyes turned away from
our chaperons and holden, that we should not see
them? When all was over and we went out with
the crowd, we spied a teacher standing near the gate,
apparently watching for stragglers, but we passed
by on the other side without a challenge. At supper-
time all the lambs were secure in the fold, and not

76 The College Girl of America

a wolf among them. We never heard that the auda-
cious senior met with the sHghtest reproof nor lost
caste for her rash exploit. Miss Lyon, wise as Solo-
mon, knew when to keep silence and when to speak."

For the second year of Mt. Holyoke Seminary,
a hundred girls were admitted, while to several hun-
dred Miss Lyon was obliged to say, " There is no
more room." Every year since, the same thing has
been repeated to large numbers of girls, and this
in spite of the fact that there are many college
houses, where in the beginning there was only one.
The trustees feel that it is quite as well that Mt.
Holyoke should not grow to be too large. To-day
there are seven hundred students, and to develop
high Christian character in seven hundred girls is,
perhaps, all that may well be undertaken by one
humble-minded institution in learning.

Are you wondering why, with so many other
colleges vainly bidding for students, Mt. Holyoke
has to turn scores of girls away each year? It is
a fair question. What is it, then, that this place of
ancient and worthy name now offers the bright
young girl who is deciding where she will spend
the four years which are to give her an all-around
education and a degree?

At its inception, of course, Mt. Holyoke cher-
ished three ideals, — first, to give the highest and

Mt. Holyoke College 77

most thorough education possible; second, to com-
bine with cultivation of the intellectual powers the
no less careful cultivation of the spiritual life, basing
such culture on the Bible, and teaching that all
duties should seem holy, and that all things worth
doing should be done thoroughly; third, to offer
advantages at such a modest sum that girls of slender
means need not be turned aside from seeking them
by money considerations. Well, the Mt. Holyoke of
to-day is dominated by the very same ideals. Two
generations have witnessed, not a complete re-crea-
tion, but a gradual expansion. The old Mt. Holyoke
held all the possibilities of the new. The institution
which Mary Lyon founded had within it the germ
of to-day's splendid twentieth-century college. Mt.
Holyoke of old was able, therefore, to expand with-
out friction, without revolution, without upheaval,
into the composite Mt. Holyoke of to-day. The
seminary was built upon Christian ideals and self-
abnegation. The college rests on exactly the same
eternal things.

Of course times have changed, and the piety of
1904 is by no means the same in its exterior aspect
as the piety of 1840. But no one who has attended
the morning service in the chapel has failed to
understand the spirit of the place and to know it for
the same spirit which Mary Lyon long ago im-

78 The College Girl of America

planted in the hearts of Mt. Holyoke girls. When,
to the deep, rich tones of one of the best organs in
Massachusetts, the seniors, stately and reverend in
their sombre symbols of academic rank, take their
seats in the centre of the chapel, with the members
of the faculty at the left, and the main part of the
big room given over to the undergraduates, — and
the sweet and beautiful president, in a rich academic
gown, bows her head in silent prayer, one feels Mt.
Holyoke to be the same to-day as yesterday, despite
external changes. Thrilling indeed is it when the
students rise and sing, with wonderful heartiness,
the " Holy, Holy, Holy " hymn. Then there follows
a collect or two, and then the stirring missionary
anthem, " We March, We March to Victory."
Responsive reading, a Gloria, a Scripture lesson, and
an extemporaneous prayer referring to the Bible
message of the day, come next. The short service
closes with the Lord's Prayer, in which all share.
After that the seniors file slowly out to the strains
of an inspiring recessional. The beauty of this
service, its peace, its sweetness, its strength, fill
every visitor to Mt. Holyoke with reverent delight.
A wonderful thing is it to begin day after day of a
college year with such an exercise, in the chapel of
the noble hall named after Mary Lyon.

It was not from the stately morning service, how-

Mt. Holyoke College 79

ever, but from something deliciously, almost ludi-
crously, different, that I gained my own first im-
pressions of Mt. Holyoke. I had just arrived at
the college, and was being shown about, when my
attention was riveted by a bulletin-board covered
with the most extraordinary notices : " Five cents
apiece for live frogs (body three inches or more),
benefit library fund." " Shirt-waists made to fit for
seventy-five cents — for Carnegie offer." *' Sham-
pooing, thirty-five cents, including tar or castile soap.
Others must be supplied." The meaning of these
curious notices on the official bulletin-board of
Porter Hall was soon explained by my guide. They
had been inspired, it appeared, by the students' desire
to raise the rather large sum which Mr. Carnegie
had stipulated as a condition of his generous offer
for a new library. Of course, with such a spirit
as this to help it on, the necessary sum will be forth-

First, last, and always, the college at South
Hadley is hospitable. This the freshman early
learns, for as soon as she steps upon the Holyoke
platform the opening day of the college year, she is
cordially greeted by a member of the Christian
Association's reception committee, helped with her
suit-case, guided down the iron stairway to the
street below, and, ere her new-found friend aban-

So The College Girl of America

dons her, comfortably settled in the car for South
Hadley. When the car stops before Mary Lyon
Chapel, some five miles out of Holyoke city, she is
again greeted by a smiling upper-class girl, under
whose tutelage she registers, receives her appoint-
ment to house and room, and really begins her col-
lege life.

For the first week that life is a veritable whirl,
with its wealth of new experiences, new impressions,
new methods of work, new points of view. But
gradually she finds her place. She has heard a
great deal, of course, about the " housework " phase
of life at Mt. Holyoke; possibly she has kicked
against it rather vigorously. But she learns, when
she comes to face the thing, that her duties are
really of the lightest possible kind, and have been,
so far as feasible, fitted to her individual capabilities.
One student may have two tables to clear and two
to lay ; another may have some post-ofiice service to
perform; others have the care of the halls. But
there is nothing which need occupy more than three-
quarters of an hour a day at the outside. Every girl,
therefore, has plenty of time at Mt. Holyoke for
play, as well as for work, for sociability as well as
for grind. And the slight housework makes it
possible to-day, just as in Mary Lyon's time, for a
hall accommodating seventy or a hundred girls to be

Mt. Holyoke College 8i

conducted quite comfortably with very few servants,
— and hence at a minimum of expense. This is
why a girl can go to Mt. Holyoke for three hundred
dollars a year, a sum at least one hundred dollars
less than the minimum expense in any other first-
class Eastern college for women.

One of the first fine facts which impresses itself
upon the freshman is the realization that she is liv-
ing, not in an oligarchy of faculty, — though, of
course, the faculty have the final authority here, as
elsewhere, — but in a democracy of students. For
she is early told that the simple rules necessary for
the regulation of life in such a large community are
enforced by the undergraduates themselves, that the
so-called students' league, whereof all students are
members, has been given authority by the faculty
in matters concerning chapel attendance, church-
going, quiet hours, and the rule by which lights are
out at ten o'clock. She discovers that the president
of this body organized " to promote unity and
loyalty in the college; good feeling between faculty
and students; and to encourage personal responsi-
bility " is always a senior, that its executive com-
mittee is made up from all four classes, with one
additional member chosen from among the recent
graduates of the college, and that, through the inter-
action of this committee and a committee of the

82 The College Girl of America

faculty, students and professors find a direct means
of communication. Each house has a chairman and
proctors under the general league scheme, and
through them and the rebukes they may be called
upon to administer, when she and her fellow-class-
men wax hilarious, the new girl comes to know what
student government at Mt. Holyoke really means.
Possibly she finds this out by a note reminding her
that she has been habitually absent from chapel.
She hears that after three such notes a girl may be
put off the campus. She hears also that this
measure has never needed to be enforced.

The Class is at Mt. Holyoke the chiefest '' tie that
binds." In forming the basis for athletic compe-
titions, in presenting plays, in putting through
much of the social life, and part of the literary
enterprises of the college, it is a unit of great im-
portance. It is particularly desirable, therefore, that
a girl shall early come into close relations with the
others who entered with her. The way in which
this is often effected has been interestingly described
by one Mt. Holyoke girl as follows : " Some even-
ing in early fall, as the freshman is ' plugging ' over
her ' math,' she hears the sound of distant cheering;
coloured lights flash across the campus. At the
house next her own a crowd of girls is gathered,
a class cheer rings out clear and sweet on the night

Mt. Holyoke College 83

air, coupled with two names lustily strung on at the
end; another cheer, still another, and finally the
freshman catches the sound of her own class numer-
als, recognizes them with a sudden and joyous sense
of proprietorship, drops the ' math ' books she is still
holding, and dashes down the corridor to find an-
other freshman. The two fling up a window,
excitedly, and lean far out, squeezing each other's
hands with an unwonted feeling of comradeship,
as the merry, stumbling throng of seniors, juniors,
or sophomores, out celebrating their class elections
of the afternoon, hurry toward the broad veranda
steps and again break into an improvised freshman
cheer. Soon after, the freshman attends her first
class-meeting, called by the junior president, and
with that her love of class is fully established. True,
she may not know more than five of her classmates
even by name, and may be distinctly grateful to the
enterprising young woman who suggests that the
candidates for class chairman stand up, that the
freshmen may find out who they are; but, never-
theless, she feels already the passion for making
19 — admired in the college world. And chattering
of this, she links her arm in that of a freshman she
has never seen before, and hurries to make known to
the campus the doings of her class."

So diverse is the life at Mt. Holyoke, that almost

84 The College Girl of America

every girl readily finds scope somewhere for her
particular ability. If she is so fortunate as to have
a good voice, she is early enrolled in the vested
choir, becomes the proud possessor of a cotta, and
inclines to boast a bit, in her letters home, of her
part in that body of one hundred and eighty voices,
the largest vested choir of women in the world.
If golf, tennis, rowing, driving, or hockey be her
favourite sport, she finds opportunity to distinguish
herself along one of these lines, and — what is better
still — is given credit by reason of her activity
toward the four hours of exercise required each

One of the earliest of the many festivals in which
she shares is Mountain Day, in the fall, when the
foliage is at its best and the fringed gentians glori-
ously decorate the green. Peculiarly appropriate is
it that Mt. Holyoke College, which is named after
one of the superb peaks in the Green Mountain
range in western Massachusetts, should, each year,
speedily pay its respects to the everlasting hills.

Tramping has ever been one of the favourite
recreations at this college. The beauty of the region
takes away all the monotony of just going out for
exercise, for within fairly easy reach are a dozen
attractive spots familiar to every Holyoke woman.
Whether the Bluffs, the Larches, Titan's Pier, the



Mt. Holyoke College 85

Pass of Thermopylae, the Notch, the Ferry, Bitter
Sweet Lane, or Mountain Pasture be selected, in-
spiration will result. Included in the college grounds
is Lake Nonotuck, well supplied with boats, which
are in constant demand. The same lake is equally
popular in winter as a skating ground, the slopes
about it being used for coasting and for skeeying,
a much-liked Norwegian sport.

Of course there are at Mt. Holyoke, as at the
other colleges, certain " set feasts," which come with
each returning season. Founders' Day and Thanks-
giving are especial times for receiving and enter-
taining guests. A very pretty custom is that by
which former students come back to their Alma
Mater as to the old homestead for the November
day of solemn thanks. All Hallowe'en is regularly
celebrated by a masked ghost party, which affords
scope for whatever originality the girls possess.
The dining-halls are, for this occasion, made attract-
ive with flowers and autumn fruits, the whole effect
softened by candle-light. In one hall, perhaps,
ghosts of departed days eat their dinners with appe-
tites astoundingly unghostlike. Later, Mellen's
Food babies, nuns, dryads, Quakers, and Canter-
bury pilgrims hobnob noisily in the attic of one of
the dormitories, while alcohol burns on salt to throw

86 The College Girl of America

a weird light and to supply the proper amount of
" atmosphere."

A girl possessed of dramatic ability speedily comes
into her own at Mt. Holyoke. The dramatic inter-
ests of the college are mainly in the hands of the
different classes, to each of which is allowed a certain

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 5 of 18)