Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stephens: A Look Back - 1909

he 1909 Stephensophia opens with almost Biblical-like prose about the Stephenites and the Christianites (from Christian Female College, the precursor to Columbia College). It reads:
“Now there was in the land a people called Christianites, who dwelt north of the land of the Stephenites, and they were a strong people.

And when the Seniors of the Christianites heard of the fame of the Seniors of the Stephenites they came to prove that it was so.”

It goes on to tell us the Christian Female College seniors came to Stephens, drank tea, heard the students sing and were awed by their wisdom.

“And they turned and went to their own land exclaiming, All hail to the Seniors of the Stephenites: and great was the rejoicing thereof.”

Apparently, there was a little rivalry between the two women’s colleges before the other became co-ed!

One such Stephenite senior was Della Gladys Ford of Kingston Ohio. She was president of the Senior Academs, president of the athletic association, president of the Dramatic Club, a member of Beta Sigma Omicron sorority and is mentioned throughout the yearbook. And this photo of her is absolutely stunning. So basically, Gladys was the Elle Woods of 1909.

Music remained a primary focus at Stephens, and 1909 was the third season of the “Artist Course,” which brought in professional musicians, including a trio from Boston, a Hungarian violinist and a Hungarian pianist.  More than 6,000 people attended Saturday Afternoon recitals held between November and April.
An active student club this year was the Young Women Christian’s Association. The club apparently had a number of guest speakers, and the yearbook lists Jacob Riis of New York as among the most influential. Riis was a journalist whose reports of shabby living conditions helped improve housing in the city.
I love this photo of the YWCA—and this is pretty much the hairstyle of every single woman throughout the yearbook.

Athletics remained popular, and we’re told: “practically every girl in school is more or less interested in some phase of Athletics,” with basketball being the most popular. I love this line from Margaret Moran about sports: “The physical training for the college woman should be more than body training. It should educate and train the body to express the inner self: A woman should be not only strong but graceful, and that grace should come from an inner prompting. The physical being must be able to stand the mental strain, and body, mind and soul become a harmonious whole—one in consciousness, and three in manifestation.”

A calendar of events lists Missouri football games, something called an Annual Nutting Party, a Journalist Day at Missouri University and readings in the parlors. Being an Edgar Allan Poe fan myself, I noticed they also celebrated his centennial birthday on Jan. 19.
The 1909 Stephensophia gives us a list of popular expressions of the day—or at least individual students and their frequent expressions. I was amazed at how many I recognized: “Oh shoot,” “By George,” and “See you later.” Others on the list: “Like the back of a hack,” “O dear, that’s so disgusting,” and “Well! For the love o’ Joe.”
The college joke section this year included a mock classified ad sheet. My favorite: “Wanted: Someone to read Ethics to me while I practice.”
I noticed starting with the 1908 Stephensophia that each ends with a strange drawing between the yearbook section and the advertising section. The 1908 drawing was so surprising, in fact, I didn’t even post it last week for fear we really wouldn’t know what we were looking at. There are no descriptions of what we’re seeing or why, but here’s the image from 1909.

As always, you can browse the Stephensophia collection yourself online, thanks to the Missouri Digital Heritage project. (And if you’re curious about that strange 1908 drawing I mentioned, it’s on page 155. Just remember, that was 105 years ago.)

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