Mary Caroline Crawford.

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

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her pupils the sisters of James Russell Lowell and
many another member of distinguished Cambridge
families. Lowell himself and Edmund Dana at-
tended here for a term as a special privilege. Sophia
Dana was married in the house August 22, 1827,
by the father of Oliver Wendell Holmes to Mr.
George Ripley, with whom she afterward took an
active part in the Brook Farm colony.

Delightful reminiscences of Fay House have been
furnished us by Thomas Wentworth Higginson,
who, as a boy, was often in and out of the place
visiting his aunt, Mrs. Channing, who lived here
with her son, William Henry Channing, the well-
known antislavery orator. Here Higginson, as a
youth, used to listen with keenest pleasure to the
singing of his cousin, Lucy Channing, especially
when the song she chose was *' The Mistletoe Hung
in the Castle Hall," the story of a bride shut
up in a chest. " I used firmly to believe," the genial
colonel confessed one evening to Radcliffe girls, in

io6 The College Girl of America

reviving for us his memories of the house, " that
there was a bride shut up in the wall of Fay House
— and there may be to-day for all I know." Very
happy times were those which the young Wentworth
Higginson, then a college boy, living with his mother
at Vaughan House (now one of the Radcliffe build-
ings also), was privileged to share with Maria Fay
and her friends. Who of us does not envy him the
memory of that Christmas party in 1841, when
there were gathered in Fay House, among others,
Maria White, Lowell's beautiful fiancee; Levi
Thaxter, afterward the husband of Celia Thaxter;
Leverett Saltonstall, Mary Story, and William Story,
the sculptor? How pleasant it must have been to
join in the famous charades of that circle of talented
young people, to partake of refreshments in the
quaint dining-room, to dance the Virginia reel and
galop in the beautiful oval parlour which then, as
to-day, expressed ideally the acme of charming hos-
pitality! ^

From among the present writer's own memories
of pretty happenings in Fay House parlour, the fol-
lowing is selected as typical of Radcliffe life:
During one of Duse's tours of this country, the
famous actress came out, as many a distinguished
personage does, to drink a cup of tea with Mrs.

» " The Romance of Old New England Roof-Trees."

Radcliffe College 107

Agassiz in the stately old parlour, where Mrs.
Whitman's famous portrait of the first president
of Radcliffe College vies in attractiveness with the
living reality, graciously presiding over the Wednes-
day afternoon teacups. As it happened, there was
scant attendance at the tea on this day of Duse's
visit. She had not been expected. And so it fell
out that some two or three girls who could speak
French or Italian were privileged to do the honours
of the occasion to the great actress whom they had
long worshipped from afar. Duse was in one of her
most charming moods, and she listened with marked
attention to her hostesses' laboured explanations
concerning the college and its historic home.

From the enthusiastic girl-students' point of view,
however, the best of it all came when the dark-eyed
Italienne said farewell. For, as she entered her
carriage — to which she had been escorted by this
little group — she took from her belt a beautiful
bouquet of roses, camellias, and violets, and, as the
smart coachman flicked the impatient horses with
his whip, threw the girls the precious flowers. Those
who caught a camellia felt, of course, especially de-
lighted, for it was as the Dame aux Camellias that
Duse had been winning for weeks the plaudits of
admiring Boston. My own share of the largesse
consisted of a few fresh, sweet violets, which I still

io8 The College Girl of America

have tucked away somewhere, together with one of
the great actress's photographs bearing the date of
her visit to RadcHffe.

With another distinguished foreign actress, no
less a person than Bernhardt, my college memories
are also very pleasurably connected. For it was dur-
ing my sophomore year at Radcliffe that the wonder-
ful Sarah, at the suggestion of the French depart-
ment of the university, gave a special performance
of Racine's " Phedre " for the Harvard men and
Radcliffe girls who had just been reading the play
in their French courses. Never have I shared in a
more brilliant evening. To see a tragedy so sublime
as is this one performed by the leading actress of the
world, just at a time when every word of the text,
every nuance of the author's meaning is familiar,
implies such intellectual delight as comes to one but
seldom in a lifetime. Something like the same
exj>erience was vouchsafed to Radcliffe when
" Athalie " was given at Sanders Theatre with the
Mendelssohn music supplied by the Boston Sym-
phony Orchestra. On this occasion, moreover, the
girls' college had a very vital stake in the perform-
ance, for two of the prominent parts were taken by
Radcliffe undergraduates.

Now it is because Radcliffe is always given a
generous share of such splendid opportunities as








Radcliffe College 109

these, — besides having her part in the work-
aday aspect of Harvard's Hfe, — that the college
is not in the least disposed to quarrel with the uni-
versity. Some anxiety has been expressed by eager
advocates of women's education because Harvard
has never made a formal contract with Radcliffe,
specifying in what way it will exercise its powers,
enumerating the privileges it will give to women,
or at least fixing a time during which it will surely
abide by the present arrangement. But the want
of definite articles of agreement is by no means a
ground of apprehension to those who know the his-
tory of the Annex, and appreciate how fully it is
already a part of the university, through adoption by
the faculty. When, some twelve months ago, Mrs.
Louis Agassiz felt obliged, because of advancing
years, to resign the active presidency of Radcliffe, —
which office she had so graciously and ably filled, —
it was the most natural thing in the world for Dean
Le Baron Briggs of the Harvard faculty to be
chosen President Briggs of Radcliffe College; nor
was there any question whatever about his acceptance
of the honour and responsibility. Though the cor-
poration of Harvard College has never agreed to
bestow the Harvard degree upon Radcliffe, the
President of Harvard University is always present
at Radcliffe Commencements, and the degree which

no The College Girl of America

is bestowed bears the Harvard, as well as the Rad-
cliffe, seal. Moreover, President Eliot there certi-
fies in formal Latin over his own signature not only
that the student receiving this distinction is qualified
to be admitted to the rights of a Bachelor of Arts,
but that '' the degree is in all respects equivalent to
the one to which, in like case, we admit our [Har-
vard] students." In numerous ways the interests
of the two colleges are clearly recognized as iden-
tical. Examinations, exactly alike for both institu-
tions, are held in the two colleges at the same time.
The themes of Harvard men are sometimes read at
Radcliffe, and on at least one occasion the theme of
a Radcliffe girl was read to a class of Harvard men,
and by them cheered to the echo. The Harvard
Graduates^ Magadne gives large space to Radcliffe
College affairs, and at the present time, because of
peculiar circumstances, one Harvard College scholar-
ship is actually being used for the education of a girl
at Radcliffe.

The social and academic life which Radcliffe
shares with Harvard is but small, however, in com-
parison with the student interests and diversions
of the girls by themselves. The Idler Club, to which
all Radcliffe girls belong, has theatricals every two
weeks; the Emmanuel Gub presents one or two
original plays a year on the stage of Fay House;

Radcliffe College iii

there are annual athletic meets in the fine new gym-
nasium (equipped with a magnificent swimming-
pool), and each Thursday afternoon there is a tea
at Bertram Hall, the college's one hall of residence.
Of hockey, tennis, and basket-ball, the college has
its own good share. The spacious and imposing
new Students' House, the college's memorial to Mrs.
Agassiz, which is now approaching completion, will
provide a lunch-room and ample accommodations
for clubs, as well as a real theatre. This last acquisi-
tion will seem strange indeed to those girls who, all
through their undergraduate years, produced plays
on the cramped Auditorium stage, where the problem
of adequate setting, as well as of sufficient space
in which to act, was an ever-present one. Still the
very limitations of the old days resulted in aston-
ishing exhibitions of resource. Once, when there
was a woodland scene to be staged, and no sylvan
scenery at hand, the girls on the Idler committee of
the day went themselves to a neighbouring bit of
forest, chopped down some evergreens, and rode
triumphantly back to Cambridge in the express-
wagon which bore their booty. Even when con-
fronted with the necessity of providing the interior
of a Chinese palace upon an allowance of $2.50, they
were not nonplussed. The '* palace " was a success,
which proves again that primitive conditions evoke

112 The College Girl of America

their own acts of power. Class pride, scarcely less
than necessity, is a mother of invention.

In recent years a very interesting new depar-
ture has been introduced into the Radcliffe social
calendar in the form of an annual original operetta.
The first of these musical productions, " The
Orientals," was given in the spring of 1898, Jose-
phine Sherwood, '99, having supplied the music and
the lyrics, and Katherine Berry, '98, the librettO'.
The second operetta, " The Princess Perfection,"
was written entirely by Josephine Sherwood, '99.
The third operetta, " The Copper Complication,"
was written by Mabel Wheeler Daniels and Rebecca
Lane Hooper, 1900, and this same excellent partner-
ship was responsible, a year later, for another opera,
" The Court of Hearts." The two last-named works
have since been produced many times throughout the
United States, Miss Daniels and Miss Hooper hav-
ing quite accidentally hit, as has since been shown,
upon an unworked field, — i. e., operetta suitable
for amateur production. It was in the opera of
1902, however, — by Florence E. Heath and Grace
Hollingsworth, then undergraduates, — that the
high-water mark of achievement in stage business
and effective acting was reached.

Yet that there is far more work than play at
Radclifife, is evident from the fact that the majority

Radcliffe College 113

of the graduates take their degrees " with distinc-
tion." Usually from thirty to forty per cent, are
made bachelors of art, cum laude, ten per cent.
magna cum laude, and one or two per cent, summa
cum laude. Though it has not always been so-, more
than half of the Radcliffe graduates nowadays en-
gage in some form of work. Almost fifty per cent, of
them are teachers, though a fair proportion are doing
very good work along literary lines, and some few
are engaged in secretarial and social occupations.

It is worth noting that Radcliffe students, while
they have never been subject to such restraining rules
for personal conduct as prevail at many colleges,
have always conducted themselves with quiet, lady-
like dignity. No word of gossip or scandal from
the outside world has ever been visited upon any
member of the college. Though the girls live their
life in a town swarming with men students, they
have always been able to pursue their pleasures and
their studies without any kind of annoyance or
any undue restriction.

There is this year (1904) graduating from Rad-
cliffe a young woman who will probably do more to
make the college known in history than all the other
members of the alumnae combined. Miss Helen
Keller, who, though blind, deaf, and dumb, has suc-
cessfully pursued the courses leading to the degree

114 The College Girl of America

of Bachelor of Arts, is, indeed, a graduate of whom
RadcHffe may well be proud. In her senior year,
as in one other undergraduate year. Miss Keller was
elected vice-president of her class, a pretty tribute,
though but a just one, to a girl who has obtained
her liberal education only by overcoming almost in-
surmountable barriers of circumstance. In this con-
nection it is interesting to read one of Miss Keller s
daily themes, written by her in the fall of 1900, and
reprinted from the Radcliffe Magazine of March,
1901 :

" There are disadvantages, I find, in going to
college. The one I feel most is lack of time. I
used to have time to think, to reflect — my mind and
I. We would sit together of an evening and listen
to the inner melody of the spirit which one hears
only in leisure moments, when the words of some
loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that
had been silent until then. But in college there is no
time to commune with one's thoughts. One goes
to college to learn, not to think, it seems. When
one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the
dearest pleasures — solitude, books, and imagination
— outside with the whispering pines and the sunlit,
odorous woods. I suppose I ought to find some
comfort In the thought that I am laying up treasures
for future enjoyment; but I am improvident enough

Radcliffe College 115

to prefer present joy to hoarding treasures against
a rainy day. It is impossible, I think, to read four or
five different books in different languages, and treat-
ing of widely different subjects, in one day, and not
lose sight of the very ends for which one reads, —
mental stimulus and enrichment. When one reads
hurriedly and promiscuously, one's mind becomes
encumbered with a lot of choice bric-a-brac for
which there is very little use. Just now my mind is
SO' full of heterogeneous matter that I almost despair
of ever being able to put it in order. Whenever I
enter the region that was the kingdom of my mind,
I feel like the proverbial bull in the china closet. A
thousand odds and ends of knowledge come crashing
about my head like hailstones, and when I try to
escape them, theme goblins and college-nixies of all
sorts pursue me until I wish — oh, may I be forgiven
the wicked wish ! — that I might smash the idols
I came to worship."

This theme, produced during Miss Keller's fresh-
man days, doubtless very well expresses what
many another freshman has felt during her first
months of college life. But in Helen Keller's
case, and, indisputably, in that of hundreds of other
girls as well, four years at Radcliffe have provided
opportunity second to none to " put the mind in

ii6 The College Girl of America

The one really gay and beautiful affair in Rad-
cliffe's year is the Class Day Reception, which always
takes the form of a garden-party. By the aid of
perhaps a thousand Japanese lanterns strung along
the fence, festooned across the canvas-carpeted lawn,
and suspended from the trees, the appearance of
pKDsitive spaciousness is given to the rather meagre
campus. The soft glow of the lights, the individual
tables spread under the stars, the good music by the
College Glee Club on the balcony of the adjacent
'' gym," or from a bandstand erected in the yard for
the purpose, ideally combine to make a pleasant even-
ing. Then for the first time, perhaps, the Harvard
youths hear that characteristic tale of the Only Man :

" Once on a time a Harvard man
Got a card to a Radcliffe tea ;
And, of course, he was, as all men are,
As pleased as pleased could be.
He was a man who had always said
That nothing could make him quail.
He said that a summons from the Dean
Would not even turn him pale.

" When the day arrived, he dressed himself
In a way both fine and neat,
And with a rose in his buttonhole
He walked down Garden Street.
But when he came in at the door
He almost turned and ran.
For there among four hundred girls
He was the only man.

Radcliffe College 117

" He had faced the Yale rush line;
He'd been captain of the nine ;
He was not afraid to dine
Upon the new Memorial plan.
But oh, he had to flee
When, at a Radcliffe tea.
He was the only only man."

On Class Day the graduating girls receive in
groups of twos and threes in the various lecture-
halls, which, by the aid of cushions, draperies, light
furniture and flowers, have been transformed for
the nonce into quite wwacademic-looking rooms. On
this one occasion, too, men are permitted to share
the dancing privilege at Radcliffe.

Formal Commencement exercises come three or
four days later in Sanders Theatre. Then the presi-
dents of Radcliffe and Harvard sit side by side on the
platform; Radcliffe's Academic Board is escorted
to the hall by Harvard faculty members, and Rad-
cliffe's graduating class receives degrees which Har-
vard's president has signed and stamped with
Harvard's seal.


It has often been said of Bryn Mawr that the place
itself is so beautiful that merely to be there is an
education. As a matter of fact it is the one woman's
college in the country which is architecturally impres-
sive. With the exception of the original adminis-
tration building, — named Taylor Hall, after the col-
lege's founder, — the various lecture and residence
halls are all of Elizabethan architecture, and individ-
ually, no less than as parts of a whole, have distinct
nobility of form. The word Bryn Mawr means
high hill, and the college was named after the town
five miles west in the suburbs of Philadelphia, on the
main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Its site
is four hundred and twenty feet above sea-level, in
the midst of a beautiful rolling country, made easily
accessible in every direction by good roads. The
college grounds cover fifty-two acres, and include
lawns, tennis-courts, a large athletic-field, and
a skating-pond.

If first seen on a quietly brooding spring day,

when the ground is blue with violets, and the blue



Bryn Mawr College 119

and white " fair weather " signal flags are flying
from Dalton Hall, the beauty of Bryn Mawr is a
thing never to be forgotten. Far off in the dis-
tance, over the undulating hills, is a stately white
marble residence with red tiled roof; in the middle
distance is an attractive group of professors' houses ;
somewhat nearer stands out " Low Buildings,"
where the members of the faculty have cozy apart-
ments and live a very serene, happy life; directly
before one are Merion, Radnor, Denbigh, and Pem-
broke, the last-named an imposing structure of gray
stone, with a central arch through which one views
a very pleasant vista of shady green. The newest
residence hall is Rockefeller, just completed this
spring. It adjoins Pembroke Hall West, and its
central tower, known as the Owl Gate, forms, for
foot-passengers, the permanent entrance to the

Bryn Mawr College was founded by Dr. Joseph
W. Taylor, of Burlington, New Jersey, a man who,
though a bachelor, had all his life taken a great inter-
est in the education of women. He died January
18, 1880, leaving the greater portion of his estate
for the establishment and maintenance of this in-
stitution of advanced learning. It was his earnest
desire that the college should be pervaded by the
principles of Christianity held by Friends, which he

120 The College Girl of America

believed to be the same in substance as those taught
by the early Christians, and an endeavour has ac-
cordingly been made to promote this end. In the
social life of the college to-day interesting little
traces of its Friend origin are discerned; there is
never any dancing at Bryn Mawr, for instance.
And its chapel has about it nothing that would dis-
tinguish the room from an ordinary lecture-hall.

Before actual work was begun at Bryn Mawr,
the organization of Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley
was carefully studied. To the Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity, however, is due the academic system which
was finally adopted, a scheme of major and minor
electives in fixed combination, to which Bryn Mawr
gave the name of the group system. In the spring
of 1885 the first programme was issued, and that
same autumn the college regularly opened for in-
struction. From the start Bryn Mawr has main-
tained distinctly high rank. No college women in
the country are more thoroughly trained and have a
more scholarly type of mind than those who take
degrees here. Having said which, one may perhaps
pass at once to the institution's social side, even
though, in so doing, one does run the risk of not
giving a large enough degree of prominence to the
thing which, above all others, makes Bryn Mawr
what it is, i. e., its really austere academic life.

Bryn Mawr College 121

The only kind of hazing ever indulged in at Bryn
Mawr comes early in the year, when the sophomores
try to spirit away the new caps and gowns which the
proud freshmen have just purchased. The game
is for the freshmen to find their precious robes.
When, therefore, they are able to come in to chapel
dressed in their newly-attained habiliments, they are
warmly congratulated by the president " upon hav-
ing successfully matriculated." The girls never
renew their caps and gowns, a senior being justly
proud of a well-worn cap and a rusty gown. Even
at Commencement the same old gowns are worn
over fresh white duck skirts and white shirt-waists.

A question very commonly addressed to the Bryn
Mawr girl by a stranger at the college is, " Why
do you have a lantern on your college pin?"
Acquaintance with the customs and life of the place
makes one concede, however, that the lantern is a
singularly appropriate emblem to be so used. For
almost the first association an entering student has
is with lanterns. And the lantern is likewise linked
with her final impressions of her Alma Mater.

One of the oldest and most characteristic customs
is the Presentation of the Lanterns.^ The ex-fresh-
men then greet the incoming girls with a song, and
present each one with a " lantern to light her steps

* Susan G. Walker in the Century Magazine,

122 The College Girl of America

through the unknown ways of college life," and
especially through the mazes of the group system.
Sometimes much sage advice is given with the light,
and once the unfortunate freshmen won their lan-
terns only after passing an impromptu oral exami-
nation. The form of the affair differs with the
character and resources of the class giving it ; but as
preparations for it are begun in the freshmen year,
the offering is usually both clever and original.

The farewell lantern celebration is at the alumnae
supper given on Commencement evening. Here a
speech of welcome is made to the new alumnae, and
at the close of the festivities the lights are turned
low, and the lanterns, standing at each place, are
lighted from one large lantern that has been burn-
ing throughout the evening at the head of the
table. Holding the lighted lanterns, the alumnae
sing the old college song. Then they slowly go out,
leaving their bright lights still burning on the
deserted board.

A very pretty old English custom has recently
been revived at Bryn Mawr. Early on the morning
of May-day the students search the woods and fields
near the college for wild flowers, with which they
fill dainty baskets that they deposit, a little later,
at the doors of favoured friends. At one particular
May-time, a few years ago, Bryn Mawr conducted

Bryn Mawr College 123

festivities appropriate to the season upon a huge,
though highly artistic, scale. There were then no
less than four May-poles, as well as a number of
plays to raise money for the students' building.
And, following the old English May custom, every-
body — except guests — was in costume, beggars,
peddlers, fortune-tellers, and merry Maid Marians,
chaffering gaily on the mossy greensward with all
whom they encountered. The gowns were carefully
thought out and were historically correct, a feeling
for history so tempering the desire for fun that noth-
ing anachronistic was permitted in the day's exer-
cises. As a natural consequence this May-day is
still remembered with pride by the friends of the

Short as has been the life of Bryn Mawr, there is
already connected with it a wealth of interest and
tradition. Each class has a seal, a dolphin, a beaver,
or some other animal, which every member wears
in ring form, and in the use of the lanterns not a
little originality and ingenuity have been displayed.

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Online LibraryMary Caroline CrawfordThe college girl of America and the institutions which make her what she is → online text (page 7 of 18)