Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stephens: A Look Back - 1900

Students from the Stephens College Class of ’00 had a request for those who would go back and read their history—be kind, realize they’re just “jolly school girls” and enjoy their story.'

That’s a greeting from the 1900 Stephensophia, the Stephens yearbook. I’ve been skimming the yearbooks for various purposes (thanks to the Missouri Secretary of State, the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Missouri State Library and the Missouri State Archives, they’re all online, making them easy to access). And it dawned on me just how rich in history this collection is. The yearbooks really show just how far ahead of the times Stephens has always been. So, I decided to share some of that history with you.

Each Wednesday, I’ll bring you “Stephens: A Look Back,” highlighting information and photographs of Stephens from every year between 1900 and 1965 (that’s when the online collection ends. The Stephensophia continued after that, but it would be much more difficult to share the images and features with you from the bound yearbooks).

The Stephensophia editors:

According to a list of faculty, women on campus that year were studying history, economics, ethics, psychology, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, modern languages, science and Latin. Interestingly enough, psychology remains a pretty popular subject at Stephens, although it doesn’t get the attention of some of our other programs. The advantages of studying psychology here, students have told me, are the small class sizes and the unique opportunities to conduct research alongside faculty.
The yearbook also gives a glimpse into some of the social norms of the day. I love this graphic in the front of the book:

It says:
Who is this maid in cap and gown
Who unescorted goes down town
Why, she’s a senior ! !
Behold these maids who jeer and laugh,
And privileged seniors try to chaff.
Oh! They are Juniors!
No need to ask who reckless waves
A handkerchief to youths, and braves
The dreadful Faculty !!
No Eves are these but Freshmen two
“Devotion to books is known to so few.”

If you can’t see it, there’s also a small sign posted in the grass saying “No Boys Admitted.”
The 1900 yearbook also doubled as a literary publication, with several short stories throughout the book. There’s also a list of “who’s who”—from the “Most Sarcastic,” to the “Happiest,” “Smoothest” and “Biggest Flirt.”

Stephens had a variety of interesting clubs in 1900, including the D.D.D. and Alpha Omega sororities, the Texas Club (membership qualifications included having lived on a prairie in Texas for at least 16 years) and the Old Maid Club (officers include the “Mistress of Cats,” and the group’s favorite song was “We’re going to live single, we’re going to live free”). Stephens also had a tennis association at the time.

The 1900 Stephensophia is laced with intricate drawings. Here’s one of my favorites:

Of course, the online collection is available to the public, so you’re welcome to browse Stephens’ past on your own. Otherwise, check in again next Wednesday for a look at Stephens College circa 1901.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating introduction... Indeed, a very unique "history lesson." I'm looking forward to reading them all!