Mary Caroline Crawford.

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

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number of performances a year. Thus the sopho-
mores have one play, the juniors two, and the seniors
two, annually. All the plays must, however, be ap-
proved, before presentation, by a standing committee
of the faculty, to see that in the matter of costume,
and so forth, they are all that they should be. The
plays are generally acted outdoors on Prospect Hill,
or in the gymnasium, where there is a good stage;
and though there is little professional training, the
dramas offered afford universal enjoyment to the
audiences, frequently revealing, too, not a little
talent on the part of the performers.

On May-day, for three years past, in the wooded
amphitheatre of Prospect Hill, have been given old
English plays and pastimes of no little literary im-
portance. The Elizabethan audience, as well as
actor-folk, here appear, games of the period also,
contributing to the charm and colour of the occa-
sion. A quaint spectacle, certainly, for these modern
times, is presented by the procession which, on
May-day morning, winds up Prospect Hill from

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Mt. Holyoke College 87

the gymnasium. Preceding the May queen are
lordly heralds, and while Robin Hood and his
merry men escort the damsel fair, Little John and
Fair Maid Marian follow close behind. Beruffed
and powdered ladies and gallants of Queen
Elizabeth's court are also here, as are morris-
men, milkmaids. May-pole dancers, and many other
fanciful and grotesque characters. When the pro-
cession reaches the Pepper Box, as the curious little
lookout at the top of the hill is called, it halts and
divides, forming into two lines, between which the
May queen rides in state to the Box-steps, where she
is helped by Robin Hood to dismount, and is sol-
emnly crowned. Then follow the May-pole dances,
performed by Britanny fisher maidens, to the shrill
music of the hornpipe ; a Rainbow Dance, or the
Daisy Dance, symbolic of the season, wdth twelve
seniors gowned in yellow to represent the middle of
the flower, twenty-four in white for the petals, and
twelve in green for the stem. Music for this fan-
tastic tripping- is usually furnished by the Mandolin
Club. On one occasion, the quaint morality play,
" Noah's Flood," was presented after the dancing,
with an exact model of the old miracle stage, and
with the unruly and boisterous Elizabethan audience
duly in attendance. By six o'clock everybody has
a good appetite for supper, served in picnic fashion

88 The College Girl of America

on the green. Then the evening opens with Eliza-
bethan lyrics, sung by the choir. These are, in turn,
followed by another play. Sometimes this has been
the Florizel and Perdita portion of " Winter's Tale,"
sometimes a scene or two from " Midsummer
Night's Dream." This year the May celebrations
were deferred until June, and the Ben Greet com-
pany secured as performers.

In accordance with the original plan which Mary
Lyon's far-seeing wisdom devised, Mt. Holyoke
has always been a family, as well as a school. It
has a beautiful and really distinctive home atmos-
phere. Mary Lyon believed in the democratic ideal,
and there is still absolutely no favouritism at Mt.
Holyoke. The rooms are distributed by lot, so that
even the poorest girls have their chance to get into
the most attractive residence hall, Mary Brigham,
in which the president lives. Every girl has, like-
wise, a perfectly equal opportunity to sit at the
president's table, and meet the many distinguished
people who come to Mt. Holyoke in the course of
the year. Dinner at Mary Brigham is the function
of the day. When the president enters, escorting the
guest of honour, she finds each girl at her place,
looking very fresh and attractive. All remain stand-
ing until the blessing has been pronounced. Then
girls who have been appointed quietly withdraw to

Mt. Holyoke College 89

take their part in the domestic arrangement. The
service at the tables is excellent, the plates being
changed, the courses brought on, and the meal from
soup to crackers and cheese conducted with admi-
rable precision. Meanwhile good talk, college jokes,
and sparkling repartee go on, Miss WooUey from
her stately chair, presented in memory of President
McKinley's visit to Mt. Holyoke, gently leading the
conversation or listening appreciatively to a bright
story which some one down at the end has volun-
teered to tell. After dinner the girls frequently come
in to the president's pleasant parlour for coffee and
an informal chat before separating for their evening

A great deal might be said of the admirable
courses at Mt. Holyoke. But it seems feasible to
discuss here only two or three of the more remark-
able departments. Under this head should certainly
be included the work carried on in the Dwight Art
Building, under the able direction of Miss Jewett,
who came to Mt. Holyoke a few years ago straight
from advanced work with Benjamin Constant,
Julien, and LeFevre in Paris. The building is on the
site of the one hundred years' old Dwight homestead,
and, if only because of its glorious view toward
Beulahland and the Mt. Tom and Mt. Holyoke
ranges, should inspire those who work in it to

go The College Girl of America

artistic appreciation. An especially attractive course
given here is that in the history of art, with practice
in drawing to help the girl to an appreciation of the
masters studied.

Many a girl who does not in the least know how
to draw upon registering for this course comes
through, as a result of careful teaching, with a de-
cided sense of form, as well as with a serviceable
knowledge of the masters and periods covered.
Instead of an examination, there is, at the end of the
year, an imaginary trip to the galleries of Europe,
with a certain number of cities and a certain number
of pictures covered. A satisfactory showing in this
test implies ability to do original description, as well
as such familiarity with the books read in the course
of the year as enables a girl to cite a characteristic
quotation from the critics. Thus the art work at
Mt. Holyoke is all related to history and to life in
a fashion at once fine and inspiring.

Similarly, a debating society, more or less con-
nected with an American history course, really dis-
cusses current politics. What is more, a regular
political campaign is carried on at Mt. Holyoke
every four years! This custom was instituted at
the time of Lincoln's election, and ever since it has
excited much outside interest. The college repre-
sents the nation, and each campus-house a State.

Mt. Holyoke College gi

Party organization is modelled directly on political
lines; the national Republican and national Demo-
cratic committees order the campaign; State con-
ventions, regularly called, elect delegates to the
national. Armed with badges and credentials, the
delegates, often escorted by enthusiastic constituents,
present themselves at these conventions held in the
gymnasium, which is hung with flags and bunting
for the occasion. The speeches then made are per-
fectly serious, and reflect a remarkable familiarity
on the students' part with political figures and
party protestations. The last time the mock-con-
vention was held, the New York delegation was
especially prominent, each of the ten girls which
made it up having the words New York arranged
diagonally across their breasts. When the platform
as adopted at the regular Republican convention was
read, all listened patiently, duly applauding sound
money, and loyally hissing democracy and free
silver. Then this declaration with all its " planks "
was promptly accepted; and, as the ten o'clock bell
had sounded, the delegates scampered home to bed.
Next day a ratification parade was enjoyed, the
village bass drum, five transparencies, and fifty
torch-bearers being in line. The captains of the
evening wore red, white, and blue uniforms, while
the other girls, who carried Japanese lanterns swing-

92 The College Girl of America

ing on sticks, were in sailor suits. Stump speeches
were made at intervals and red lemonade and pea-
nut balls were served between the acts. The voting
itself was done regularly later, ballots being printed,
booths set up in Assembly Hall, and the specified
hours observed.

At Mt. Holyoke, as at Smith, the biggest event
of each year is the " junior prom," the last function
of the Washington's Birthday season, to which the
juniors invite the senior class. The gymnasium,
transformed for the night, by the decorator's art,
into a hall of unusual and delicate beauty, is
thronged by the two classes and their friends. But
forlorn, indeed, as one may see from this " Junior's
Lament," in a recent Llamarada, is the girl who
lacks a man guest on this occasion :

" My gown is spread out in all its glory,
Just a frou-frou of ribbons and lace ;
I've the newest of gloves and of slippers,
Yet there's nothing but woe on my face.
There's no joy to be found in my toilet,
Though my hair has its prettiest curl,
For to-night is the night of the Junior Prom,
And I am a manless girl.

" Through the first and last proms and the supper
I must sit in my sadness alone,
Ah, men are uncertain mortals,
And mine has a heart of stone.

Mt. Holyoke College 93

He ' regrets,' and has sent me roses
And a dear little pin of pearl ;
But what do I care for such trifles
When I am a manless girl ?

" I'd rather be called on in Ethics,
Or make up my cuts in the gym.
Or be flunked in my major subject
And sat on by faculty grim ;
'Twere better to struggle with daily themes,
Though they set my poor brain in a whirl,
Than at the event of the season
To appear as a manless girl."

But of course it is in Commencement Week that
g^aiety at Mt. Holyoke reaches its climax. Two fea-
tures of this only will be described. But these,
because peculiar to the college, are distinctly interest-
ing. The first is the grove exercise on Monday
morning, when the seniors, all in white, bearing
ropes of laurel and bunches of forget-me-nots, make
their way through the stately trees from Safford
Hall to the quiet grave of the founder of Mt. Hol-
yoke. With tribute of song and flowers, they place
their wreaths upon the simple white monument
which reads on one side:

" The founder of Mt. Holyoke Seminary, and for
twelve years its principal; a teacher for thirty-five

94 The College Girl of America

years, and of more than three thousand pupils.
Born, February 28th, 1797. Died, March 5th, 1849."
And on the other side : " There is nothing in the
universe that I fear, but that I shall not know all
my duty or shall fail to do it."

The second annual feature is the step exercise.
In the late afternoon before Commencement Day,
the seniors gather upon the steps of Williston Hall,
revered by college custom as their peculiar property,
and there, in the presence of friends and under-
graduates, make known their last will, duly attested
and signed; sing again familiar college songs, and
finally, at the last verse of the senior step-song, re-
move the academic cap, the symbol of their seniority,
and slowly and reluctantly resign the steps to the
juniors. To the junior president the senior presi-
dent, as she passes, gives cap and gown, receiving, in
return, an armful of her own class flowers.

Yet the pangs of the beginning of the end have
really been experienced some time before in senior
Mountain Day. For more than thirty years each
class has held its farewell festivity at the Prospect
House on top of the mountain from which the col-
lege takes its name. Thither on an afternoon early
in senior vacation, barges carry the whole class with
its baggage. And then for a day and a night a
good time is enjoyed. Toasts follow each meal, and

Mt. Holyoke College 95

dancing and " stunts" (the latter comprising selec-
tions from all the famous enterprises both of the
class and of its individual members) occupy the
evening, until the hour comes for the midnight class-
meeting with its rapid review of college years.
Next morning the typical Mt. Holyoke girl is up to
see the sun rise. And it is the thought of this, her
last glorious experience upon the mountain, that
the senior carries off with her as the most precious
of her college memories.


The chief claim of Radcliffe College to the atten-
tion of feminine America lies in the fact that it pro-
vides for girls Harvard courses conducted by
Harvard instructors. President Eliot himself has
been pleased to call the work carried on at Fay
House, Cambridge, " the most intelligently directed
effort in the country " for the higher education of
women. Thus, though in the nature of things
Radcliffe girls must forego many of the pleasant
social features that give decided charm tO' student life
at other colleges for women, they have their reward.

It is now more than twenty-five years since the
first steps were taken toward opening the privileges
of Harvard University to women. In the autumn of
1878 it was proposed that the instructors of Harvard
University should unofficially give to women some
opportunity for systematic study in courses par-
allel to those of the university. Cambridge, like
many other communities, had been feeling for some
years the pulse of the movement toward the higher

education for women, and in the decade preceding



Radcliffe College 97

1880 the pressure became considerable. This move-
ment had made such rapid progress in other parts of
the country as to throw open to girls the privileges
of many a large men's college. But in New England
its advocates were not able to force their convictions
upon the trustees of colleges for men. And Har-
vard was especially conservative in its attitude
toward the subject.

It is not easy to say who first dared suggest that
women ought to be admitted to full Harvard privi-
leges. We do know, however, that, before her
marriage, Mrs. Mary A. Livermore sent in an appli-
cation to the Harvard corporation for permission
to study in the college. It goes without saying that
her request was refused. None the less, efforts to
break down the barriers were constantly repeated
during the next forty years. Nothing definite was
done, however, to smooth the path of the ambitious
girl student until, in the year 1878, the admirable
progress made by Miss Leach — who, after under-
taking systematic work in Cambridge under certain
Harvard professors, acquitted herself with such
credit as soon to win the Greek chair at Vassar
College — showed, with arresting clearness, that
women could pursue Harvard courses successfully.
This emboldened a group of ladies and gentleman,
already interested in the subject, to try and arrange

98 The College Girl of America

for women some systematic courses of Harvard in-
struction. When President Eliot was consulted in
the matter he not only did not discourage those ad-
vocating this departure, but was even willing to give
advice as to methods. Many Harvard professors,
also, were ready and glad to repeat their courses to
women. Thus the committee in charge was able to
issue, Feb. 22, 1879, a preliminary circular, signed
by Mrs. Louis Agassiz, Mrs. E. W. Gurney, Mrs.
J. P. Cooke, Mrs. J. B. Greenough, Mrs. Arthur
Gilman, Miss Alice M. Longfellow, and Miss Lilian
Horford, — with Mr. Arthur Gilman as secretary,
— which contained the following statement :

" A number of professors and other instructors
of Harvard College have consented to give private
tuition to properly qualified young women who
desire to pursue advanced courses of study in Cam-
bridge. Other professors, whose occupations prevent
them from giving such tuition, are willing to assist
young women by advice and by lectures. No ifp-
struction will he provided of a lower grade than that
given in Harvard College.'*

In the promise of this last sentence lies to-day, as
at the beginning, Radcliffe's chief claim to the con-
sideration of scholars. From the very first the
faculty of the new institution — sO' soon to be
known as the Harvard Annex, in spite of the fact

Radcliffe College 99

that it was early provided with the imposing title,
" The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of
Women " — comprised many of the best-known
members of the Harvard faculty. And to-day
there is scarcely any course offered at Harvard
which cannot be had at Radcliffe, if desired by even
a small number of young women. Harvard in-
structors having thus agreed to give the teaching,
the practical arrangements for the lectures were
undertaken by several Cambridge ladies, under the
lead of Mrs. Louis Agassiz, who, from that time to
the present, has been the always-efficient head of
this undertaking.

As the Annex from the first was to depend for
its success largely on the benevolence of Harvard
instructors, it had to be located near the college.
And as it had a very small sum of money, as well
as few students at the start, it set up housekeeping
in two rooms of an unpretending wooden residence
in the Appian Way, Cambridge. The name of this
thoroughfare is delightfully satiric, in that the short,
narrow, scantily-shaded street bears no resemblance
whatever to the classic Via Appia. But one advan-
tage it certainly does have, it is within a stone's
throw of that most important of Cambridge land-
marks, the Washington Elm. And because its first


100 The College Girl of America

home was in the Appian Way, Radchffe now owns
one of the most valuable corners in Cambridge.

Probably in all the history of colleges in America
there could not be found a story so full of colour and
interest as that of the beginning of this woman's
college. The bathroom of the little wooden house
w^as pressed into service as a laboratory for physics,
students and instructors alike making the best of
all inconveniences. Because the institution was
housed with a private family, generous mothering
was given to the girls when they needed it. And
every hour of the working-day found the little rooms
occupied. For though the classes were all small, —
averaging only three or four members, — there were
very many classes even at the first.

In the early days each Annex student knew every
other student by sight, if not personally, and the
sociability that resulted from this necessarily close
contact knit many an enduring bond of friendship.
It was then practicable for any one of hospitable
intent to entertain the whole body of students at
once. " We all," Miss Helen Leah Reed has written,^
" have long-lingering remembrances of afternoon
teas and other pleasant hospitality extended to the
women by the ladies of the management, or by the
wives of the professors. In this way the girls were

"^New England Magazine »

iRadcliffe College loi

given many opportunities of meeting their instruct-
ors socially, and of making the acquaintance of
Cambridge people in general. No Commencement,
however brilliant the future of Radcliffe College may
be, will have for the older graduates the interest of
that first Commencement, held in the beautiful house
of those warm and ever-lamented friends of the
Annex, Professor and Mrs. Gurney. Only second
in interest was the later Commencement when Mrs.
Agassiz threw open her house to students. And, in
1890, Miss Alice Longfellow, who had often before
entertained Annex students within the charmed
doors of Craigie House, gave the girls and their
friends the pleasure of a Commencement in Long-
fellow's home."

It was not until the year 1894 that the Annex
entered into a declared connection with the uni-
versity. It had by this time become plain that the
departure had passed the experimental stage, and
was, therefore, entitled to some formal recognition.
What shape this should take was, however, a ques-
tion with many difficulties. No' one wanted to in-
corporate the Annex bodily into the university, and
mingle its students with the young men. It was
plain that the girls must be separately cared for by
a board composed in part, at least, of women.
Furthermore, Harvard was unwilling to undertake

10^ The College Girl of America

the care of another enterprise. Because of these
considerations, a separate organization, formally
independent, and bearing its own title, Radcliffe
College, was finally evolved.

The choice of this distinctive name came as the
result of an interesting coincidence. In 1641 the
colonists of Massachusetts sent to England a com-
mittee, which, along with other business for the
colony, sought contributions in aid of education.
One member of this committee, the Rev. Thomas
Weld, inscribed in his report, under the heading,
" What I received for the College and for the Ad-
vancement of Learning," this entry : " The lady
Moulshan gave me for a scholarship £100, the rev-
enue to be employed that way forever, for which I
.entered covenant and am bound to have it per-
formed." By a curious mistake, however, this
money was paid into the treasury of the colony, and
it was not until 17 13 that the college succeeded in
securing entire control of it. Then the whole mat-
ter slumbered, and the fund fell into desuetude until
January 30, 1893, when, by vote of the president
and fellows of Harvard College, the sum of $5,000
was put apart for the Lady Moulshan scholarship
fund. The lady herself was identified about this
time as the wife of Sir Thomas Moulshan, Lord
Mayor of London, and her maiden name was found

Radcliffe College 103

to be Ann Radcliffe. Both she and Sir Thomas,
her husband, seem to have been remarkably benevo^
lent and worthy people. Sir Thomas had been born
in the latter part of the sixteenth century at Har-
grave, and had married Ann Radcliffe in 1600.
Their one daughter, Mary, had died in infancy, and
the couple, left as they were without children of their
own, were filled with a great zeal for the advance-
ment of the education of boys and girls. In 1624
Sir Thomas was chosen sheriff of London, and in
1627, having prospered in his business, he founded
at Hargrave, his birthplace, a chapel and school.
This school, " for the instruction of youth in gram-
mar and virtue," is still in existence, and has been
incorporated in the government school system of

Lady Moulshan and her husband lived quietly
in London from 1608 until 1638, and toward the end
of this time (1634) the worthy lord mayor was
knighted at Greenwich. In 1638 he died, leaving
to his wife half of his fortune after his debts had
been paid. Thus the wealthy widow could very
well afford to give Thomas Weld the generous gift
he bore back with him. But it is far more interest-
ing that she wished to help Harvard, than that she
was able to do so. By the original terms of the gift.
Lady Moulshan was to have had a voice in the ap-

104 The College Girl of America

pointment of the beneficiary, but, so far as known,
she never took advantage of this right. She was
buried Nov. i, 1661, beside her husband, in the vault
of St. Christopher, within that square mile in Lon-
don which may be said to dictate the finances of the
world. A wise, prudent, and generous woman was
Ann Radcliffe, and it is a fitting tribute to her mem-
ory that two hundred and fifty years after her
scholarship gift to Harvard, the first ever made to an
American college by a woman, the Harvard Annex
should have adopted for its title her maiden name.
The seal of the girls' college, it is further interesting
to note, bears a very close relationship to the Rad-
cliffe arms.

Provided with a name, and having already ob-
tained a local habitation in beautiful Fay House, —
purchased in 1886 when the hired rooms on Appian
Way no longer sufficed for the growing classes, —
the college was now ready really to fill the place for
which it had amply qualified. It was inevitable that
its social life should now expand and become con-
stantly more gracious. For Fay House is exceed-
ingly picturesque, and, though not colonial, has
every appearance of so being. One room has an
historic value even for Harvard students! For
within its walls Rev. Samuel Gilman, while a guest
of the house, composed, in 1836, the words of the

Radcliffe College 105

song " Fair Harvard," which, set to an old Eng-
hsh melody, was at once adopted as the Harvard
College song. Of other treasured memories Fay-
House has many. Edward Everett lived here for
a time, and here the granddaughter of Chief Justice
Dana, our first minister to Russia, kept a boarding
and day school for young ladies, numbering among

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Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 6 of 18)