“Whooo Did It?” Halloween at Smith College

October 29, 2009

Halloween at Smith is a much anticipated and complex holiday event.  Someone in the Class of 1920 received this hand-made Halloween card on her door:

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Whooo Did It?? Halloween card

What does it mean?  The pumpkin doesn’t look at all happy; the cat is just watching, as is the owl.  Who, or what,  is the young woman running away from?  Will the witch bat her over the head with the broom?

Student letters are filled with references to Halloween activities on campus.  One hundred years ago, Gertrude Barry, Class of 1910 wrote to her mother about Halloween events:

“Last night the Sophs entertained the house for Hallowe’en.  We all went in fancy dress to dinner and then left town on a special car for the Country Club club-house in Florence.  The house is rustic and was trimmed with corn-stalks and pumpkin lanterns gave the only light…for refreshments we had cider, dough-nuts cookies & apples.  Our programs were little black witches.  But the costumes were more fun–an old-fashioned gentleman and lady…Little Riding Hood…Martha took off one of the faculty, a dapper young man who has just grown a mustache (she was killing in a Prince Albert coat),…gypsies…Roman youth…and a Smith Girl as seen by the newspapers.”

14 Green Street Halloween party 1896

Halloween at 14 Green Street, 1896

In 1895, Grace Wiard, Class of 1897 writes to her mother that she was preparing to be the pilgrim Priscilla, explains all the details of procurring/making her dress, and includes in her letter a hand-drawing of it.  Her costume was a success, as she writes, “When I took my seat at the table the first thing Miss Peck said to me was ‘How do you do, Priscilla?’ so you see, I was guessable.” [editor’s note: Ludella Peck was professor of elocution, 1882-1913]

The Smith houses were turned into Halloween ‘scare sites’ with ghost stories being told in dimly lit basements, and other strange happenings taking place there.  Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence, Class of 1883, writes in 1880 that a ‘spiritual seance’ took place in the Hubbard House parlor, with a ‘huge white spirit’ visiting them at 11 o’clock.  Alumnae Gymnasium was decorated for a Supernatural Party with lighted jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, toads and snakes cut out of black paper waving at you “from all the walls and spectral hands pointing your way.”

Halloween group 1897

Halloween Group, 1897

Halloween still affords an opportunity for students to dress in costume and enjoy foodstuffs:

Halloween group 1986

Halloween 150 Elm Street, 1986

150 Elm Halloween cake 1991

150 Elm Street Cake, 1991

What will this year’s Halloween events bring to the Archives?  We’re looking forward to seeing/hearing/reading about them.

To learn more about past Halloween celebrations at Smith, plan to visit the College Archives!

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Father’s Weekend to Family Weekend

October 22, 2009

This weekend we celebrate the gathering of Smith student families on campus in what is billed as “Family Weekend”.   The first such weekend occurred in May of 1951 and was designated “Father’s Day.”  The Smith College Associated News described the day under the banner “Our Hearts Belong to Daddy!–Smith Program for Pops: An All-Play-No-Work-Day” for dads.   The day scheduled trips through Physical Plant (something EVERY Dad would want to view), various sporting activities against their daughters, such as tennis, baseball and as in this case, volleyball:

Father's Day Competition, 1953

Father's Day Competition, 1953

as well as time to sit in on classes; and meet and greet faculty members.  Over the years, the program expanded.  It included entertainment by the Glee Club and a faculty play.   While Father’s Weekends were in general meant as a time of playfulness, there were serious moments to some of them.   In 1968, the student organization RACE (Response through Action, Commitment and Education) asked father’s  and daughters to contemplate the civil rights movement and take action toward improving race relations.  Fliers were posted on campus and a discussion session was offered.

By 1974, the name shifted to Parent’s Weekend,  and mothers were invited to join in the festivities.   The nomenclature changed once again when in 1992 Parent’s Weekend became Family Weekend reflecting the changing nature of ‘family’ in the U.S.  Activities were offered including an inter-faith chapel service with a family choir, forums for parents, forums by parents for students, a Debate Club contest, dance performances, as well as  a boat race called the “Foot of the Paradise.”  Other changes happened as well: the weekend shifted from being held at the end of April/early May, to being held in late October.  Because it was a transition year, 1994 had 2 Family Weekends: one in April and another in November.

This weekend parents can join in the life of a Smithie by attending open classes, taking tours of campus, watching athletic events, theatrical productions, and taking in the Pops Concert by the Glee Club.  Whatever its title, this is one weekend where everyone can enjoy Smith.  Welcome families!

To learn more about the history of Family Weekend, please visit the Smith College Archives, Level A, Alumnae Gymnasium.