Father’s Weekend to Family Weekend

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.

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