Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stephens: A Look Back - 1924

Perhaps the best glimpse into life in Columbia circa 1924 is found on page 204 of the 1923-24 Stephensophia. 

The scene is Broadway and the “dramatic personae” comes from a “leisurely Stephenite in a contemplative mood."

It’s 5:45, we’re told, and “the Stephens College Parade is headed eastward. Pretty girls—some of them. They believe in keeping that school-girl complexion—the most usual method being to protect it carefully—from sun and wind and public gaze. 

"Everyone wears a scarf—the brighter the better. Skirts are getting shorter. Popcorn seems to be in favor. It doesn’t strain one’s allowance. There’s a girl with her date. Hurrying. They must be late.”

The writer goes on to describe “rather inane looking” men in striped bow ties and yellow shoes. Deep in her thoughts, she almost gets hit by a truck and questions where the traffic cop is. 

She then passes a bakery and wonders: “If Eve yielded to an apple, how can her daughter pass by that bakery window? Calories and a short allowance aren’t sufficient arguments against such tempting cream puffs.”

Later, she passes some university girls. “Strange how they can be distinguished from college girls so easily. They say it’s in the quantity of rouge and the kind of clothes. But I believe it’s a difference in attitude—if you understand.”

I’m not sure whether the MU or Stephens girls would have been the ones with the most rouge and distinctive clothing, but these photos might give us a hint. Here are some Winter and May Queens and attendants dressed to the nines.

But Stephens women, as you know, are more than clothes and make-up, and the ladies of 1924 are no exception. 

They’re serious about politics, and the Junior League of Women Voters on campus strives to promote “cleaner politics” and better citizenship. An International Relations Club is hosting lectures by prominent professors, many of which come from MU. 

And campaign week is fierce as you can tell by this photo of posters around campus.

Elizabeth Palmer Baker of Kansas City is President of the Civic Association this year.

We’re told the senior class of 1924 has adopted two of the Ten Ideals: Honesty and the Willingness to Discipline Oneself. 

We learned last week about the “health cards” that outline daily exercises and meal requirements. This year, the Art Club creates a booklet of “Dos and Don’ts,” providing fashion rules for different types of girls. “Illustrating the booklet were clever sketches showing such things as the absurdity of a fat girl in ruffles and the pathos of a slender girl in vertical stripes.”

Snow is mentioned several times in the calendar of events, which is written as a student’s journal. Although she doesn’t call it “thundersnow,” she notes that thunder accompanied snow on Feb. 2 and by Feb. 8, students were “up to our necks in polar weather.”

On Feb. 14, she muses “I wish I were a florist, I do, I do. Or that Mr. Whitman Sampler were in love with me.”

The 1924 Stephensophia is dedicated to Jessie Logan Burrall who continues to spread Christianity on campus. Her Burrall Bible Classes are still attracting 1,000 some students from Stephens and MU and is said to be the largest Sunday School class of its kind in the world.

Burrall, we’re told, is “our sincere and beloved friend whose personal inspiration and lessons in practical Christianity have given us new ideals of service and Christian living.”

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