Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stephens: A Look Back - 1958

On the shelves in the Office of Advancement, the 1958 Stephensophia sticks out. It’s oddly shaped—longer than the other volumes and doesn’t quite fit on the shelf just right.

Now we know why.

This is a very unusual edition of the Stephensophia. It’s a gorgeous volume full of interesting (and sometimes risqué) photos and images of extremely interesting Stephens Women. The book’s theme is “The Woman” and throughout the pages are images of important artwork depicting all sorts of female figures, as well as female drawings. 

The Stephensophia staff explains its reasoning:

When we held our first and only formal staff meeting last spring, we decided that our book would not follow the pattern of yearbooks in the past. Rather than a repetitious record, ours would be a portrait of the Stephens College, and, in her profile, a picture of Woman. We use the subdivision pages to present her physical beauty. ….The shape of the book has been changed to fit in with the trend in our society to lengthen and streamline its products. We have enjoyed creating the Sophie. Through the months, we have worked to produce more than good journalism. We have worked to produce a book of the years, an aesthetic and memorable portrayal of you, the Woman.
Later, we learn more about yearbook editor Jan Rivard “whose spirit inspired a yearbook.” We learn she is a model who would rather buy a book on painting than a pair of shoes (and then only desert boots will do), that she’s part French, part camera tripod and that she’s an artist who “paints her own life in splashes of vivid coral.” 

We were delighted to discover that Jan, now Jan Attridge, hasn’t changed much. Today, she’s a figurative painter, graphic designer, astrologer and teacher--and you can view her website here

You might recall, the chapel opened last year, more than a decade after Stephens students began raising money for it. Times have changed. Women are starting to question the College’s requirement that all students attend services. In fact, we’re told, it’s the “issue of the year,” followed by a lengthy point-counterpoint. One student argues that freedom of religion is one of the basic principals of democracy and that requiring religious attendance violates that right. She argues that college women are adults and should form their own ideas. “Yet where religion is concerned we are denied the choice of decision. This required religious attendance is not only undemocratic, it is also an insult to the students, a threat to the growth of personal beliefs, a prompter of dishonesty and a policy which is conducive to hypocrisy.” She then challenges administrators to bring it to a student vote.

Yet another student argues that the College makes clear the requirement to attend non-denominational Burrall classes and that students cannot honestly say they were unaware of that stipulation. As adult women, students should realize that they would be expected to follow the laws of a community, the counter-point argues. She then challenges that making it a choice opens up the chance that a student could later argue she doesn’t want to learn English and shouldn’t have to take English classes.

Regardless, Burral Classes are as popular as ever, and religion this year remains a vital part of the Stephens experience.

We first met Donna Ensign in 1957. This year, she is Civic Association President who also represents the Ideal of Forcefulness. 

As we told you last week, Donna Ensign Marshall has served Stephens generously over the years as a trustee, donor and friend. So her letter to the student body really foretells her future dedication to the College:

You are a Stephens woman and always will be. People see and admire it in both your speech and actions and you can be proud that you are the possessor of such a distinction. This is a characteristic in your make-up that no one can take from you; the combination of knowledge, sound philosophy of life, strong religious convictions, the quest to be thought of as different! After all, aren't we all secretly glad that, to coin a phrase, "You can tell a Stephens girl anywhere"? You are not a member of an ordinary College Student Body. You are a member of the Stephens College Civic Association. In this capacity you are not a follower, but a leader in your own right…Whichever is your pathway to follow, you will have the memories of the "togetherness" we enjoyed here and the wonderful, enduring Spirit of Stephens College. You have made this spirit endure.

The 1958 yearbook also includes more photos of Columbia and MU than in the past, including this interesting drawing of Stephens Women superimposed over a photo of an MU football game. 

To Stephens Women, football games were not a time for T-shirts and tailgating. Here’s how the yearbook staff describes football season:

You cheer for the Tigers in spicy shades of autumn wool, worn with the casual smartness which typifies that Stephens style. After the game, you slip into a sheath of sophistication, the basic black. A touch of pearls, crisp white gloves, and you’re a fashionplate for fun—be it frat house or nightclub. Your date is waiting…

And about coming to Stephens for the first time:

You sit by a window, watching the miles dissolve into the past…your thoughts racing with the wheels that rumble beneath you…thoughts of home and the boy friend who kissed you goodbye…of the girl beside you who looks like a fashion magazine ad…and of the future…Stephens waits.

This is also the first year Stephens Women have designated a “Susie Sweetheart.” This year, John Mitchell, midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy earns the “petticoat world approval in the King of Hearts Contest.”

The yearbook starts out describing some of the more popular creative majors at Stephens and profiles a student in the program. In music, we’re told Lynn Blair “laughingly tried out for a part in a high school operetta and to her surprise was cast in the lead role.” She continued her studies at Stephens and became Lynn Blair Cohen, an opera singer.

There’s also a poetic account of Sonja Ulsaker’s life in Japan included in the Stephensophia. 

“Through Rice Paper Panels” stems from the three years she lived there while her father was stationed in the Army. It’s set during WWII and describes a Japanese soldier returning to see his family before going back into combat…and with a chilling end.

He ran into the temple grounds. Beads of sweat ran down his face. His uniform smelled of grease, work. He rushed up the stairs of the shrine and halted. He stood reverently before Buddha. "Hear me, Oh Buddha. I came before you to pray for my life. I know now what I must ask. I shall die, willingly. It is my duty, my privilege. But my plea, Oh Buddha, is that you will protect my wife and child. Although I shall never see them again in this life, I will be assured of their safety in your care. Buddha, if you will . . . keep them safe . . . safe, here in Hiroshima.

Sonja went on to be Sonja Ulsaker Peterson, an author and poet.

A few more examples of the notable women of 1958:

Anna Sitton, who this year is Appreciation of the Beautiful, became Anna Hays, first managing editor of Sesame Street Magazine and later developed original Sesame Street books. You can read more about her here.

Vivian Eynatten, who is Cheerfulness, is Vivian Benedict, Leadership Academy Coordinator for the MO Association of REALTORS.

And Peachy Fort, senior class president, is now Peachy Horne, also a REALTOR in the Greater Atlanta Area.

Some other interesting photos from 1958:

No comments:

Post a Comment