Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stephens: A Look Back - 1913

James Madison Wood would go on to become a key part of Stephens’ history.

But it didn’t take him long to make an impact on the College. The 1913 Stephensophia staff dedicates the yearbook to the then-new president. The dedication reads: “To our beloved president James M. Wood who in his first year in Stephens has won the admiration and confidence of the entire student body.”

Sounds like another Stephens president. I wasn’t here when Dr. Dianne Lynch took over five years ago, but I know from covering the College for the Tribune that her impact was quick and significant.

But I digress. Welcome to the centennial edition of “A Look Back.” Although this is only the sixth installment of my series, this week we’re examining Stephens exactly 100 years ago today.

This also marks Wood’s first year as president. Here’s a portrait of the man back in the day.

Wood was apparently as youthful in spirit as he was in appearance. In the calendar section of the yearbook, which again doubles as a record of events, students tell us that a Miss Montgomery had to report them to the new president on Halloween that year.

Oct. 31
“Bell rings promptly at 11:30 p.m. All lights off. Girls rush madly into halls serenading teachers with beautiful music on instruments such as dust-pans, dish pans, scrapbaskets, chafing dishes. etc. Miss Montgomery ’phones to Mr. Wood, ‘Come right over, Mr. Wood. The girls are erying to attract attention of men.’ Mr. Wood comes but seeing no cause for immediate alarm returns home and appreciates the joke more than others.”

Good for Mr. Wood! No wonder Senior Academs declared: “We believe Mr. Wood is the ideal man.”
As opposed to, say, a certain Mr. Irion, aka the Stephens’ Scrooge. According to the senior class history:

“Our class was not without a heroine. It was near the Christmas holidays, and a lengthy petition had been sent to Mr. Irion, asking that we might go home early. This had not been grated and, oh, how “blue” we felt about it! But that very evening at dinner Mr. Irion announced that our beloved Junior Sister, Florence Crockett, had contracted a slight attack of measles and of course it would be best to leave the College at our earliest possible convenience. (!)”

The Stephensophia describes the 1913 senior class as consisting of 13 women and one man, a Mr. Hoffman. There’s no photo of him in the class photo section, nor any explanation as to why a man is enrolled in the all women’s college. He is noted only one other place, within the pages of the music department.

I’ve told you in the past the early Stephens yearbooks are rich in poetry, prose, plays and music. I wanted to include one poem this time because it’s so rich with Columbia history. It’s called “Senior Farewell” by Ruth Saunders.

Well Columbia, goodbye, I am going
Back Home, I have finished this year
And it’s no more than’s due to inform you,
I’ve enjoyed my experience here.
I’ve gone to your college called Stephens,
And learned, and grown and pined,
And tried all kinds of classes,
From the “soft snap” to the “grind.”
I have gone to your various churches,
Both in line and otherwise,
Uniformed as a “College lassie”
And in strictly civilian guise,
I viewed your grand old buildings,
And the columns that are your own.
I’ve watched the Knights of Saint Patrick
A-kissing the Blarny Stone
I’ve attended the Fair of the Farmers,
(To the Mock Trial we couldn’t go).
I’ve been to the Star in the evening
And eke to the nickel show.
I’ve eaten at the Missouri Store
A rare-rare luxury this.
Aye, aye, and I turned not seldom
Down Waugh Street toward Harris’.
I’ve stopped alone and in bunches
In your busy marts of trade.
I’ve walked (within walking limits
As the Student Government said).
I’ve sat on the banks of the Hinkson
And ‘thunk’ and ‘thunk’ and ‘thunk’.
I’ve paused at the spring called Rollins
And drunk, and drunk, and drunk.
I’ve splashed its muddy puddles
And nibbled the watercress;
I have slipped from the treacherous footing
And dabbed my snowy dress.
I’ve climbed the stile by the snake den,
And scrambled to Balanced Rock.
I’ve gone to Botany field trips
And met the track men with a shock.
I’ve gone to the Wabash station,
I’m going there now, you know,
For that’s the place for such students,
As my homeward route would go—
Oh City of Mighty Learning
Oh City of Flame and Smoke
Where the life of the average student
Is both serious and a joke
I am leaving now, Oh City
But remember, unless I am dead
I’m coming back sometime Columbia,
And then I shall be a Co-ed!

I love that I know some of the places referenced in this poem written by a Stephens woman 100 years ago! And I love “The City of Mighty Learning.” I’m thinking that would be a good tagline for Columbia.

Here’s a sentence in the 1913 yearbook also worth mentioning: “Columbia is one of the small towns having opportunities for hearing good music, which many cities do not possess.” The exact same thing could be said of 2013.

There were four sororities in 1913, but the old state clubs seem to be vanishing. In previous years, I saw Texas and Colorado represented, but this year, Oklahoma is the only state with a club (although Kansas City has one).

Student Government continues to grow and this year celebrates its newly acquired joint executive power pertaining to student life. The yearbook tells us: “Here, at Stephens, Student Government means more than mere control of offenses, it means more than having the government out of the hands of the Faculty. It means loyalty of student to student; it means a high standard of right and wrong, and finally, it means all those ideals for which, in every way, Stephens College stands.”

This is one of few drawings in the 1913 yearbook. For the first time, the book lacks some of the intricate drawings of previous years.

Blame these ladies. Here’s a photo of the Stephensophia staff that year:

Perhaps the most interesting historical nugget in this century-old record book comes in the form of a calendar note.

Dec. 5
“Mr. Hudson’s talk to the Y.W. on Womans Suffrage. Girls all decide they want to vote.”
That’s it. The women of Stephens on Dec. 5, 1913, decided they wanted to vote. Seven years later—93 years ago this week, as a matter of fact—they’d get the chance.

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