Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1945

The Stephens Look

It’s 1945 and Muriel King is hired as director of the Fine and Applied Fashion Department.

This is a big deal.

King was one of America’s first well-known fashion designers, working as an illustrator at Vogue before opening her own salon. She designed personal wardrobes for Katharine Hepburn and film clothing for Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers.

In the 1945 Stephensophia, we’re told: “In order to acquire the personal assurance and poise that are fast becoming a part of The Stephens Look, President Wood this year brought to campus Miss Muriel 
King, one of America’s leading fashion designers. Miss King now is the director of the Fine and Applied Fashion Department which offers a program of courses in Personal Appearance, Clothing and Fashion Design.”

Of course, this is the foundation on which our School of Fashion and Design was built. In fact, the student designer fashion show, The Collections, just celebrated its 70th anniversary Saturday (you can read a recap of the show here).

Another female pioneer, Dorothy Thompson, visited Stephens this year  “interpreting the news of the moment as she saw it.” 
Dorothy Thompson, right, talks with Paul Weaver.

For those too young to remember or not interested in journalism, Dorothy Thompson is a big deal, as well. She’s essentially the “first lady of American journalism” and was once named Time Magazine’s second most influential woman (second to Eleanor Roosevelt). Her visit was sponsored by the Foreign Relations Club.

Foreign relations is a key theme of the 1945 Stephensophia, which would have been published in the spring, meaning World War II was still raging throughout the school year.

The book is dedicated to “a spirit of fellowship, democracy and cooperation among the nations of the New World…Through fellowship among faculty and students, democracy in student leadership and religion and sincere cooperative efforts, it is our hope that Stephens students, individually and collectively, may exemplify those qualities of citizenship essential to constructive Pan-American relations and the ideals of world peace.”

W.W. Charters remains director of research this year and pens a strong letter to students. He begins by quoting a letter from the mother of a Stephens student. She wrote: “My husband and I are deeply grateful that our daughter who lived under Nazism for seven years can attend Stephens while such a tragic war is going on. She appreciates her privileges as an American in America. I hope that every Stephens woman comprehends to some extent, at least, the great blessings which she possesses.”

Charters goes on to warn Stephens women not to be selfish. He writes: “She who accepts gifts without a commitment to improve them is a parasite who accepts all and gives nothing. If Stephens women achieve the aspirations of their alma mater they will be known in their spheres of life as participants in all movements to maintain the heritage of the young of America. They will watch the efficiency of democratic processes; they will cooperate with their neighbors in improving the methods by which American ideals are realized. They will forever remember that every individual is a person of worth who must be given a democratic opportunity to develop the best of which he is capable; be the amount great or small. They will vote; they will drive for better things; they will cooperate; and they will enjoy the life which they help to build. Stephens women should be nobly characterized as those who give more than they have received.”

As in the past couple of years, Stephens seems torn between holding on to pre-War gender roles and allowing women to take advantage of new opportunities.

On one hand, President James Madison Wood is still urging women to remember that when the men return from war, they’ll return to roles of homemaker. And Henry Bowman is still stressing that being a wife and mother is a woman’s “basic role in life.”

Meanwhile, Stephens women are taking advantage of the aviation program, which includes flight training in college-owned planes, ground school training and drafting for use in aviation manufacturing plants.

We suspect the women of 1945 found their own paths, be it professional or in more traditional roles. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1944

It’s 1944 in our Look Back series, which is a significant year for Stephens. This is the year the aviation flight program began and the year the annual student designer fashion show started. The latter is celebrating its 70th anniversary this weekend with three showings of The Collections.

Neither is given much attention in the 1944 Stephensophia, however. 

We are told the aviation department has been expanded to include flight training, ground school training and drafting for use in aviation manufacturing plants, and that the program is sponsored by an advisory board composed of the chief executives of the major airlines to assure girls that the courses are providing real value.

History has proven the courses were, indeed, of value. One student, a Francis Jenkins—who in 1944 represented the Ideal of Service—would go on to be Francis Jenkins Holter, would go on to be employed as an aeronautical engineer by North American Aviation in California and later an engineer at Bendix Aerospace in Ann Arbor where she was the project engineer of the Apollo lunar rover and a principle engineer on the Apollo lunar module for the moon landing program.

Way to serve, Francis.

Among other notable 1944 graduates is Jean Clinton, president of the Civic Association.

It’s fitting we recognize her this week, as she would go on to be Jean Clinton Roeschlaub, a former Stephens trustee and president of the AAB. 

This weekend at Celebrate Stephens Reunion Weekend, the Jean Clinton Roeschlaub ’44 Alumnae Service Award will be presented to another outstanding alumna.

We’re told Jean, or “Clint” as she’s referred to, “has given constant and devoted work. She is never too busy to be friendly. Her genial ‘hello’ and her amiable and contagious smile are known to everyone on campus.”

The 1944 Stephensophia is dedicated to the “Stephens of today and to the Stephens of tomorrow; to the world of the present and to the world of the future. Aided by expert craftsmen and guided by our Ten Ideals, we have drawn our personal blueprints of the future. In doing so, we hope we have contributed to those larger blueprints…the design for the Stephens of the future and for the new order of the world of tomorrow. As Stephens women, we look forward with courage and optimism.”

The war  has influenced clubs and classes at Stephens this year. We’re told the foreign language division is growing and that the study of “foreign language is perhaps more important today than at anytime in our history. Now that we realize that our world is really a community of nations, either in war or in peace, we are living closer to our neighbors in other continents.”

Guests visiting campus this year included Hilda Yen, a leading Chinese American diplomat and aviator.

War has changed the way Social Studies is taught, as well. Program head Dr. John A. Decker says: “In the past we have been especially concerned with the national, state and local problems which young college-trained women had to face as alert members of their home communities. Today horizons have expanded. The social problems of American life can no longer be separated from the problems of the international community. In harmony with the needs of a new era, the Social Studies Division has been forced to enlarge its aims. Our goal today is to train Stephens women for citizenship in the new world community.”

A new Army Anchor Brats club is formed for daughters of military fathers, an organization that began at the University of Texas. The German Club strives to promote a better understanding of the German culture with post-war reconstruction in mind, and the senior class is selling war stamps and hosting “singing suppers” to contribute to the War Peace Organization’s efforts.

Perhaps the best summary of 1944 at Stephens is found in a message from W.W. Charters, who is back from his work in Washington, D.C. He writes from a letter written by a Canadian flight sergeant who crashed to his death in action a year earlier. 

The letter says: “If there is any message which the coming generation should have from mine, let it be the message from us who have fought and died to make future generations of human beings possible. Let the message be this: ‘We have cleared the site and laid the foundation. You build.’”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1943

It’s 1943, World War II is in full force and Stephens College is seeing the ripple effects of a changing social landscape.

Throughout the 1943 Stephensophia yearbook, it almost seems administrators and faculty don't quite know how to respond. On one hand, they're writing messages directly in the yearbook to students stressing that the ladies are going to want to return to roles as homemakers when the war is over. 

At the same time, Stephens is clearly educating women for new opportunities.

It's almost as though Stephens this year has one foot in the past and the other in the future.

For example, President James Madison Wood’s message. It reads: 

“In the past year women have moved into more responsible positions in the conduct of the nation’s affairs than they have ever before occupied. This situation has been induced in part by the demands of the emergency and in part by the increasing competence of women to share the social and economic responsibilities which have been traditionally allocated to men. This enlarging scope of activity, however, does not mean a lessening of the fundamental responsibility of women for safeguarding the integrity of the home and fostering those ideals of service that are essential in a democratic society. After the war, the majority of young women, as now, will still look forward to assuming the duties and privileges of homemaking and motherhood. Our angle of vision must be broad enough to include education for peace as well as education for the immediate exigencies of war. The long view in education is the best guarantee against confusion of thought and distortion of purpose.”

Dr. Henry Bowman, now head of the new Division of Home and Family Life, has perhaps an even stronger sentiment (he was the creator of the “Marriage for Moderns” series), saying: 

“Most women eventually marry. Most married women are homemakers. Most homemakers also become mothers. Therefore, in spite of changing conditions, the activities involved in marriage, homemaking and parenthood are still basic for the majority of American women. At Stephens, we believe that girls can be trained for these activities and that a college should consider that training as one of the major aspects of its program.”

Dr. W.W. Charters, this year on leave to be an administrator in the Training Division of the War Manpower Commission in Washington D.C., clearly understands that this generation would be changing the rules for women in America. He writes: 

“From the capital of our nation, now resolutely pouring all her resources of manpower and money into a fight to defend our self-determined ways of life, I send a message to my good friends, the girls of Stephens…Today when you pass through the archway as a graduate you face more troubled problems than any of your predecessors have encountered. Upon you will rest the ‘setting of a trend’ that will control the future. Each in her own way will do her bit as a well-informed citizen, an intelligent mother, a dependable worker in the fields of life. Neither in panic nor in fear but in confidence and good will you will meet your destiny.”

But the programming at Stephens this year is clearly helping women pursue careers traditionally filled by men. 

There’s a new communications department that is training “the host of girls interested in fields of aviation.” We’re told many of the 19 post-graduates are working for commercial airlines after completing training to become reservation clerks, aircraft communicators or traffic controllers.

And an Aviation Club is organized with 24 members all taking aviation courses. This isn’t the flight program—that happens next year—but the students are making airplane models. They also attracted as a guest Major Alexander de Seversky, a Russian American aviator now known as an aviation pioneer.

Stephens women are also starting to train to become journalists. Stephens Life this year is partnering with the Columbia Daily Tribune, which is serving as a laboratory for advanced journalism students. We’re told they’re given the same assignments as regular reporters. Betty Weaver, editor of Stephens Life, would actually go on to be a reporter at the Tribune.

We're told a lot of media attention has been on Stephens this year, especially for war-peace activities on campus. This is the year that Vogue featured Stephens, as well.

Clubs and organizations are focused on the “war emergency,” with many dedicating service projects toward the effort. A War-Peace Organization is added to the Civic Association, as well.

Speaking of the Civic Association, Rosemary Wilmeth is president this year. She’s quoted as saying: “There’s something at Stephens you can’t put into words. There’s a certain spirit among the girls that has to be felt before you can understand or know what it is.” 

Wilmeth also represented the Ideal of Forcefulness. She would go on to be Rosemary Reeves, a former Stephens trustee and donor who created an endowed scholarship, still given today in her honor.

We’re told the presence of Navy men and Army air cadets in Columbia is shaking things up on campus. More social activities are being held in the Lela Raney Wood ballroom, including regular Saturday night “date dances.”

Eleanor Roosevelt visited Columbia this year, and Stephens students were among attendees.

Also, we found Lottie May Wing in the pages of the junior class. Wing would go on to be the grandmother of one of our incredibly talented students, Kate Rudder ’15.

The yearbook ends with autograph pages and clever quotes such as: “Your autographs and sketches and messages to me will make this book important in 1963.”

Some other great photos from 1943:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1942

The 1942 Stephensophia is dedicated to the “good life at Stephens,” and it’s an appropriate week to look back at this particular yearbook, which has a dreamy, star-themed intro.

The book begins by praising President James Madison Wood “whose dream it has been to see each girl build a way of life which expresses the best not only within herself but in our American culture and tradition.”

In other words, President Wood wanted his students to “dream up”—the new tagline unveiled as part of Stephens’ rebranding unveiled last week.

There are a lot of similarities between Stephens circa 1942 and Stephens today. There are even a couple of  references to Stephens students as “stars” in the yearbook this year, although the “star” did not become an official mascot until the early 1990s. The heading above the athletics section says the athletes are “Stars of Sports,” and we’re told in the theatre program that “future stars will never forget” Maude Adams for her “untiring effort.”

And it’s amazing to see just how similar students then and now really are. They recognize a good Stephens president when they see one: Then it was Wood, celebrating his 30th year at the College, and today it’s Dr. Dianne Lynch, celebrating her 5th year at Stephens (and we hope she stays for another 25!). And they also recognize those who work behind-the-scenes. In the Stephensophia, special recognition goes to administrative assistants with a note saying that although students “do not always realize the amount of effort necessary to make the administrative machinery of Stephens run smoothly, they see the results of administrative staff every time they” enjoy the dining hall, enjoy facilities, etc.

We imagine students actually did realize the significance of administrative staff just as they do today—earlier this week, students honored Lita Pistono, administrative assistant, in our Vice President of Academic Affairs office for her tireless commitment to student success.

Dr. W.W. Charters, hired at Stephens in 1920, has returned to Stephens full time this year after splitting his time between Stephens and Ohio State University. Credited with the development of the Stephens’ curriculum and commitment to learning by doing (still practiced today), Charters is Director of Research.

Photos from the academic programs could just as easily have been taken today. A few:


Modern Dance


There’s a new public relations department at Stephens (that’s us!) because of increasing attention to the school. We’re told the staff includes feature writers, photographers and editors, all of whom answer hundreds of inquiries from newspapers concerning students from their local towns. Today, reporters don’t come to us for hometown news; we have a well-run system to let newspapers across the country know when women from their communities have made the Dean’s List, are graduating or have accomplished another type of milestone at Stephens.

A Council of Hall Counselors has been formed this year to offer guidance to students. Counselors help students with “their needs, interests and goals in their general human relations or social adjustment experiences, and therefore gives instruction through out-of-class activities.”

An Apprentice Plan is also new this year for women who want to spend another year at Stephens. These post-graduate students work as assistants to instructors in their fields of interest.

The senior class this year writes that it’s an “exacting task” being a senior, “but any member of the senior class will tell you that the rewards are well worth the effort of heading the various student government divisions, editing the campus publications, sponsoring school improvement and national defense projects and participating in the musical and social service activities of Burrall Class.”

Seniors are also “guardians of well-beloved traditions at Stephens,” which includes sitting in the middle section at events, using right-hand steps and selling green hair ribbons to juniors.

We read about the green hair ribbons in 1941 and get a little more insight into the tradition this year. Apparently, seniors sell green ribbons to juniors in the fall so people can distinguish them. But the juniors tell us that the ribbons should be sold in the spring instead, “when uninformed observers find it impossible to identify who’s who; saddle shoes have given way to conventional dirty gray, sweater sleeves push up above the elbow and slide down again more easily than they did and the feather-edged baby bobs have grown into long-smooth manes. Much more important, however, are changes not so easily visible. New poise and maturity, new spiritual values have become part of the personalities of these Seniors to be.”

Nancy Hertz
A couple of student notes of interest: Joan Smith (who had a twin at Stephens, too) was a correspondent to Mademoiselle magazine for Stephens this year. Janie Eslick is president of the Civic Association this year. And Joanne Sigrist is president of a new Student Congress organized to give a greater number of students a voice.

Nancy Hertz is a senior this year and involved in chorus, leading to a lifelong love of opera, and president of the public speaking club, which began her life of involvement in leadership as a volunteer in the Scarsdale, N.Y. area. Hertz is now Nancy Muskin and wrote us to remind us that a famous bass from the Met, Jerome Hines, performed in the opera Faust.

She also tells us she ended up with the perfect husband and has enjoyed a great life of travel and adventures, children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. “But thoughts of Stephens are happy ones,” she tells us.

It was…and still is…a good life at Stephens.

Do you have memories from the 1940s you’d like to share? Let us know in the comment section or email!