Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1930

After a two-week holiday break, our Look Back series continues with the 1929-30 school year.

The Stephensophia this year doubles as an almanac of famous women with drawings of not only historical figures but also popular women of the day.

In addition to Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, or rather Jeanne D’Arc, the yearbook honors Judge Florence E. Allen, who at this time was in her second term on the Ohio Supreme Court (she’d go on to be one of the first female federal judges), American author Willa Cather and Helen Wills Moody, a popular tennis player of the day described as one of the first American women to achieve international celebrity as an athlete.

Frances Rummell
But there’s another historical female of note hidden in the pages of the 1930 Stephensophia; a Frances Rummell, who at this time was a French instructor. In 2010, Rummell was identified as the author of “Diana: A Strange Autobiography” published in 1939 under the pseudonym of Diana Fredericks. An Oregon Public Broadcasting “history detectives” series discovered Rummell’s true identity, confirming it with a niece. The book is considered the first lesbian autobiography in which two women end up happy (apparently there are others with not-so-happy endings).

This is the first year Stephens has adopted a student handbook. Then known as the “Blue Book,” this organized list of rules and regulations is compiled and published by the Student Government Division so each student knows what is expected of her.

The Student Government Division this year also sponsored a concert in order to start a fund to buy radios for each dormitory. The idea is to furnish the parlors of each hall with a radio to make them more “homelike.” Remember, this was the Golden Age of Radio when stations aired not only news and music but also mysteries and dramas and early soap operas.

There’s also a new Big Sister Movement on campus under the Campus Service Division of the governing association. The idea is to pair new students with older students so they can adjust more easily to campus life.

This is the second year coordinated efforts are being made to unify the residential halls, and a new Hall Presidents Committee is formed. The committee is charged with identifying and resolving any issues that crop up in the residential halls.

There’s a section under “Features” that includes a series of letters from a “princess” student to “royal father” about life not necessarily at Stephens but in America. The section begins with an intro, “Ye Princesse Writeth” explaining that the letters are from “the humble Suzarina” documenting her experiences in the west. This is the accompanying photo—although there’s no caption, the assumption is that the “princess” is observing her more modern peers. The princess goes on to describe New York, the bold attire of college women and one letter asking for money, supposedly mimicking her classmates’ letters to parents.

Speaking of creative writing, The Stephens Standard is enjoying great success. The literary journey repeatedly wins first in the Missouri Interscholastic Association contest, we’re told, and past contributors have gone on to sell poetry and stories to the Christian Herald and a publication called the Manuscript and to win awards form the University of Missouri and Atlantic Monthly.

Stephens Life is in its second year and this year has opened its pages to a Letters to the Editor section.

Performance of Hedda Gabler
The drama program is growing at Stephens this year. Of course, the Curtain Raisers is one of the oldest clubs on campus and continues to perform – this year even presenting the controversial Hedda Gabler, which were told was presented in a “modernistic, impressionistic manner.” This year, the college has added a debate club and is hosting speech conferences, allowing each girl to speak over an “Ediphone,” or dictation machine. The idea? “By hearing her own voice reproduced each girl was able to see clearly for herself some of her careless speech habits.”

Music continues to be popular at Stephens, took with a new Stephens College Octette performing for the College’s radio station.

In what’s become an annual feature of the Stephensophia, “Susie’s Diary about the school year, we’re told that Phi Theta Kappa “wizards of Missouri” flocked to Stephens in November to “exchange views on Einstein’s theories (this was 15 years after he finished his general theory of relativity).

On Feb. 1, we’re told Susie journeyed to St. Louis to see actress Ethel Barrymore.

There are actually a couple of other incidents that happened in the 1929-30 school year not logged on the pages of the yearbook but that are confirmed in newspaper archives online. That Christmas, 63 Stephens students became ill while traveling from Stephens on the train for Christmas break. According to the Jefferson City Post, they apparently had boxed lunches from campus but administrators denied that the illness stemmed from the college’s food. Also that year, several students suffered sprains and cuts after a bleacher collapsed on campus.

The Stephensophia this year includes its usual advertising section but this year, the ladies have extended their reach. This advertisement is for a hotel in Washington, D.C.

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