Solar Energy Project at Smith

June 15, 2011

With all the talk about renewable energy sources these days, and the current projects at Smith including the solar panels on top of the Campus Center, and the hands-on student work on solar houses in the Physics department and the Center for Design and Fabrication, the College Archives thought it would be interesting to look back at other junctures in Smith’s history where solar energy was utilized.

A 1948 solar house was designed and built by architect Eleanor Raymond in Dover, Massachusetts .  Raymond was a graduate of the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which was formally associated with Smith College between 1934-1946.  The house was the only existing home heated solely with solar energy systems designed by Maria Telkes, a metallurgy researcher at MIT at the time.  The design lasted 2.5 years before corrosion and erosion of the tanks used to maintain the system took its toll.

In December 1949, Gladys A. Anslow, professor of physics, and a number of interested Smith alumnae took a tour of the Dover House.  The trip was designed to show the work and design of the house, and to garner support for establishing an Institute of solar design at a woman’s college.  Anslow, naturally, wished it to be housed at Smith and hoped the Board of Trustees would agree.  In her report to President Benjamin Fletcher Wright, she noted that the sponsoring group of women “…selected this institution because of its recognized interest in science, the existing graduate program, and the desire to have the prestige that will go to the sponsoring institution come to the alma mater of several of the sponsors.  It is believed that in addition to the prestige…there will eventually be income from patents similar to the income now enjoyed at many of the larger universities and institutions in this country.”  Other Smith women involved with the sponsoring group were Ruth H. French, ‘1902, Eleanor Raymond, CSA, Janice Tarlin, ‘1931, and Laura Cabot (Hodgkinson), ‘1922. [report by GAA, December 17, 1949]

The report was presented to the Board of Trustees in early 1950, and after further investigation and lengthy discussions, the idea was voted on, only to have the motion lost.  This did not deter Anslow or her colleagues in the Physics department from their investigations of solar energy.  In 1952, Nora M. Mohler, chairperson of the Physics department presented on “Our Unpaid Servant, Energy” at Alumnae College.

Unfortunately, this is where the trail ends in the College Archives documenting  Smith’s involvement with the Solar Energy Project of the late 1940s and early 1950s.   If you have any additional information about Smith’s involvement, we’d love to hear about it!


Archival Collaborations 2011

April 14, 2011

A number of students participating in the annual COLLABORATIONS event on Saturday, April 16, 2011 have once again utilized information and materials from the Smith College Archives.  This year, in addition to the more traditional research sessions, these two science poster sessions display the research of students using the College Archives:

Heidi Waugh ’12J and Sophie Mettler-Grove ’13 “Gendered Boundaries in the Discipline of Engineering” (associate professor Donna Riley) and Laura Leung ’14 “A Century of Physics at Smith College” (professor Malgorzata Pfabe).

Students involved with the Archives Concentration program have based a number of their capstone projects on College Archives materials including:

Stefania Gawron  ’11 “Making History Public: LGBT Activism at Smith and Nationally”

Olivia Mandica-Hart ’11 “Coming Out: Unearthing Queer Histories from Smith’s Archives”

Anna Eisen ’11, “Niche Narratives: Student Life at Smith Through Scrapbooks”

Gwen Gethner ’11 “The Ladies of Grecourt: Smith and the First World War”

Alex Korn ’11 “A Selected Archive of MFA Dance History at Smith”

Lori E. Harris AC ’11 “Maintaining a Culture of Liberal Conservatism” The 1970 Smith Student Strike”

Olivia Mandica-Hart ’11 and Amanda Lineweber ’11 “‘The Revolution Has Been Archived’: The Creation of a Queer Archival Exhibit”

Students who are researchers for the Smithipedia project, supervised by president Carol T. Christ and college archivist Nanci Young are also presenting:

Natalie C. Sargent ’12 “A Vast Amount of Personal Effort”: President Herbert John Davis and the British Refugee Children at Smith College, 1940-1943″

Natasha Zuniga ’13 “The Emergence of UNITY at Smith”

Kaitlin Hovanes ’12 “Smithipedia”

In addition, Amanda Lineweber ’11 is also presenting her work titled “From Northampton to Florence: the Legacy of Ruth and Clarence Kennedy.”  Gwen Gethner, a participant in this year Kahn Institute project “Why Educate Women?” will present her work on ” The College Girls, Women’s Education and the Smith College Relief Unit”

The College Archives is pleased that these students have chosen to work on topics about Smith, using Smith College archival materials.  We wish them all the best for their presentations, and look forward to hearing about their findings and experiences!

Read the rest of this entry »

Composita of Smith

February 4, 2011

Composita of 1886

The Story of Composita Ocgenta-Sex

In the winter of 1885/1886 a group of Smith College women created a tangible symbol of their college friendship.  The forty-nine members of the senior class had their individual photographs taken.  The negatives from these images were then merged at a local photography studio to create a single composite portrait of the class.  Given her own identity/name “Composita”, the Class of 1886 carried the image of this woman and “classmate” with them throughout their long and rich history, until the final member of the Class died in 1964.  What is the story of Composita, and how does this single act of creating an individual identity from many tell us about friendship within the Class?

A Bonding We Will Go

The Class of 1886 entered Smith with 69 students.  While they represented states as far away as Michigan, Maine, and New Jersey, the majority of students were from the New England region.  By 1885, the beginning of their senior year, the total number had been reduced to 49.   Throughout their four years together, the class found countless ways to express their solidarity and friendship.

Class meeting minutes provide evidence of the various ways they bonded.  Beginning with their first class meeting in September issues of class identity were addressed.  Discussions about the color of class sashes, the calophon of class stationary, and the design of their class pin lasted for several months.  These manifestations of class identity were continually debated for a two-year period.  While the color of a sash might seem like an unimportant issue to us today, for Smith women it was not.  The official color of Smith is white, and each class is now assigned red, green, yellow, or blue as their class color.  The early classes were responsible for deciding their own colors.  This act of decision-making early in their career at Smith assisted with their formation of class-identity.

A strong, overall class identity was fostered also by self-governance.  A president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer governed the class.  Class meetings were held regularly throughout the year and attendance was always high.  Throughout their four years, no single set of individuals moved to the forefront to become the core leaders of the class.  Numerous opportunities were given to different class members to take leadership roles.  Organizing extra-curricular entertainment took up a vast amount of their time.  The class sponsored a series of teas and dances for the senior class, including an “English High Tea” for the seniors in 1884 where ushers and waiters were expected to dress up as Oxford students, ie., men.  They organized sleigh rides and evening serenades with beloved professors, young and old.  They debated the desire for a class pin, an official class photograph (not Composita), and subscriptions to regional and international newspapers.  All of these activities provided ’86ers with the opportunity to work on committees and a vast majority of them chose to do so.  When the class decided to have an official group portrait taken they invited ex-members of the class to join them in the photograph.  If there had not been such solidarity for being a member of the class, why would the ex-members be invited to return?

Another way of defining their class identity came through the housing system at Smith.  One of Smith’s unique aspects is its residential system of small houses instead of large dormitories to house students.  This system grouped student houses around a large academic building. Each house had a separate dining room, parlor, kitchen, and “lady in charge” who was the social and moral arbiter of student life.  In the promotional literature of the College, the system is described as a way for “young ladies [to] enjoy the quiet and comfort of a private home, and at the same time, the advantages of a great [literary] institution”.  Such a setting would alleviate the fears of parents who had difficulty in sending their daughters away from home, and who were fearful that these young women would end up thinking more about careers than preparing for marriage.  But the College did not want to encourage the development of house cliques, and so provided a large social hall in the academic building, for “the purpose of bringing together as often as may be deemed profitable, all members of the College and their friends, in social intercourse.”[1] Not only did the members of the Class of 1886 have opportunities within their own class to bond, but through major social events they regularly socialized with other Smith students.  Yet the bond they shared among their class was especially strong and is seen most concretely in the composite class portrait the woman named “Composita.”

The man with the camera: John Tappan Stoddard

John Tappan Stoddard, Professor of Chemistry and Physics

The first time Composita is mentioned is in the class meeting minutes of October 23, 1885.  There is it noted that, “the question of the composite photograph was raised: it was stated that Hardie & Lovell [the local photographic studio] would take it at their own risk, and it was voted that we have it taken.”[2] The “risk” for Hardie & Lovell most likely refers to the fact that composite photography was still in its infancy during this period and did not become a popular form of photographic expression for the lay person until the early 1890s.  Scientists argued in their journals that composite photography was best used as a tool for ethnographic work centering on the identification of racial and individual characteristics. Smith students would have been aware of this type of photographic work through their physics and chemistry courses.

The first composite portrait of Smith students was taken by John Tappan Stoddard, a professor  of chemistry and physics at Smith College between 1878-1919.  Stoddard, a handsome, native son of Northampton, was one of the students’ favorite professors.  Whether teaching chemistry labs  or playing tennis with undergraduates on the lawn in front of one of the student residences, Stoddard was a popular professor.  A graduate of Amherst College, Stoddard went abroad to complete his graduate education, and returned from Germany to teach at Smith beginning in 1878.  He was the author of many standard textbooks in the fields of general and organic chemistry.  He was also an avid billiards player and wrote a popular book called the Science of Billiards with Practical Applications (1913).  A true renaissance man, he was interested in science and literature, and found in photography a new teaching tool.  He was one of the first faculty members on campus to use a camera to teach optics and refraction in his physics classes.

Like many of his day, Stoddard’s interest in photography merged with theories of identification and race into what today we call eugenics.  In 1883, the scientist Francis Galton, published a volume titled Inquiries Into Human Faculty and Its Development; a compendium of articles he wrote about his work between 1878 and 1881 exploring the influences of heredity on the physical, spiritual and moral nature of man.  In this volume, Galton discusses his use of composite photography as a tool to assist in identifying traits shared between family members, criminals, inmates of asylums, and members of different ethnic ‘racial’ groups.   Galton also wrote an article published in Nature magazine about composite photographs that furthered his ideas about employing photographic evidence of ‘typical group’ portraits via composite photography.  It is very likely that Stoddard read Galton’s work and became interested in composite photography through these publications.  Stoddard wrote a number of articles about the use of composite photography for popular and scientific magazines, such as Science, and Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine.  A published image of Composita first appears in the July 1886 issue of Science. In this issue, Stoddard discusses the use of composite photography as a tool for locating the “pictorial averages of groups.”  In his second article published in 1887 for Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, he discusses the process by which he created the composite photograph and the similarities and differences each image produced.  Not only did he take the “Composita” portrait of the graduating seniors of the Class of 1886, but he also took images of members of his Physics class, and a sub-set of other classes, which he then made into composite images.  Another interesting point is that while much scientific literature on composite photography focused on images of scientists, working class men, criminals, the insane, and soldiers, only Stoddard’s work appears to have an entirely female group as its focus.

While Stoddard ‘s interest in composite photography appears to be one of purely scientific interest he opened the door for members of the Class of 1886 to use it in a completely different way.

Composita Ocgenta Sex: the Play

The influence of Composita and photography with the Class of 1886 is manifested in a variety of ways.  Copies of Composita are found in numerous photograph albums of the women, attesting to their desire to have this visual keepsake of their time at Smith.  One extremely interesting appearance of Composita was as the lead character in the Class of ‘86’s senior class play: Composita Ocgenta Sex: A Drama In Three Acts by one of her Components. It was written by class member, Zulema A. Ruble who came to Northampton in 1880 to prepare at the Mary A. Burnham School, which stood directly across the street from Smith College.  Her friendship with another future Class of 1886 member, Henrietta H. Seelye began there.  In her tribute to Ruble in the 1934 necrology entry in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, Seelye described her in this way:

“Her greatest interest in those two years [at the Burnham School] was the study of Greek with Miss Burnham.  In College, Zulema continued her faithful work in the classical course and brought honor to Eighty-Six by writing for Senior Dramatics the play “Composita.”  Its name still binds us all together.”[3]

Composita Ocgenta Sex,is the story of a young woman named Composita who has caught the attention of the Judges of Hades because of her unique composition.  As the embodiment of “these many souls into one being” Composita  must convince the Judges that she is pure and worthy to set out into the world; that the knowledge she gained and friendships she made at Smith will sustain her throughout her lifetime. In the Hall of Justice in Hades, Composita successfully deflects questions from the Judges of the Lower World,.  At a reception for her held by her patron Persephone, a series of philosophers, poets, political and religious leaders move through the Hall of Justice where Composita continues to display her knowledge.  She holds her own with Euclid, Sappho, and Plato, until the men of science, Isaac Newton and Baron Leibnitz, both interested in optics and refraction, come to visit her.  They seize upon her with an intense interest and dare her to allow them to refract her back into her “forty-nine elements.”  If her soul is pure, they argue, there is not the slightest danger to putting her back ‘together’ again.  Newton is successful in refracting Composita with a prism, and shows the Judges her 49 elements.  But when she is brought back together again, she is not the same.  A small flaw in her character, that of the sin of ‘cramming’ has turned her into a statue, much like Lot’s wife.

Composita the play is important because it is her debut to all faculty, family members and friends attending the Commencement performance.  Prior to this performance, Composita was known only to a limited number of individuals: the members of the Class of 1886, the photographers Hardie & Lovell, and to John Tappan Stoddard.  This was the first public affirmation of the identity of the Class, and how the bonds they formed at Smith would last a lifetime.  Throughout the play Composita recognizes that she is the composite of a collective identity when she comments: “there is no stability about this compound,” (pg 13); and “By what axiom can I prove my whole equal to the sum of all my parts?” (pg20).  In a scene taking place in a college classroom, she relates a series of collective memories provided by all the members of the Class of 1886 ranging from regional dances like the Virginia Reel, to readings of philosophy, Latin, and science from her four years.  She experiences the exhilaration of joy, and the confusion of self-doubt.  She realizes that she is indeed the sum of all parts of the class.  When she runs into trouble she calls upon the collective, “Oh dear, my equilibrium is almost gone, but we’ll [italics mine] rally…” (pg 17).  The play is a tour de force representing the education that the members of the class experienced at Smith.  As Composita remarks to Homer, who has been sent by Persephone to bring Composita down to Hades, “I am the product of the higher education of women.” (pg17).  The play also acts as reminder of the memories of their four years together.

Two other examples in the Class of 1886 records show how Composita and her photographic visage pervades the language of the Senior Class.  The published version of their Commencement activities contains a Class Toast and the Class Statistics.  The toast is titled, “The Class of ’86 Composita” and was written by Mary Eastman, who also happened to play Composita in the performance.  The toast throughout comments on Composita, but stanzas 4-8 are particularly eloquent proof of her influence over the members of the Class of 1886,


“But who has before heard of bits that were human,

Being clustered together and forming a woman,

Producing results that quite silenced the critics,

And raised the demands for Dramatic’s fine tickets.


We give her our best, we give her our worst,

The last gives no more and no less than the first.

We give her expression and feature and tone,

A bit of ourselves–and we feel her our own.


“In Union is strength,” is a saying that’s trite,

And yet the ethical principle’s right.

We’ve proved it with four year’s experience dear,

Should Composita shake now, Ah wont it be queer!


Then bound firm together we’ll buffet the storm,

We’ll laugh at all weather, be it cold, be it warm,

Let it rain, let it shine, we’ll sink or we’ll swim,

But we’ll hold fast together, heart to heart, limb to limb.


The years of our quiet College life are now numbered.

The lessons are over, the bond must be sundered,

Composita is scattered with rustle and whirl,

And yet where’er flying, we parts of our girl.”[4]

In addition to the toast, these words from the Class Statistics also confirm Composita as the vessel by which the Class of 1886 will forever be known.  “We are said to have a passion for detail.  That passion has been gratified.  The negatives (and positives) have been in turn exposed to the sensitive plate which now portrays the character of ’86.  Here is a nature so complex, its phases baffle even while they charm.  Fleeting expressions therefore must be lost.  Her features alone are here.  The sublter charm of varying emotions all you who know her must supply.” (pg 53).[5] The class statistician then describes the class’s wide-ranging attributes.  Composita is embraced as the desire not to be separated from college life or one another.

Throughout their advancing years, members of the Class of 1886 kept in touch with one another through annually published Class Letters.  This series of Class Letters, dating between 1887 and1948, provides a wealth of information about their post-Smith lives, but also provides us with an indication of their own sense of being a part of the Smith community.  Composita is often mentioned in individual entries, such as this one from Bertha A. Chase in 1887: “It is with the anticipation of great pleasure that the communications of the forty-eight are expected by the forty-ninth of Composita Octogenta Sex.”[6] Composita appears in reunion meeting minutes, as well as in the July 1921 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly where a report of the Alumnae Assembly, a post Commencement activity, includes this description: “Anna Russell (Marble) represented the Class of 1886 and announced with Composita at her side [italics mine] that the Class had achieved their 100% participation in the AlumnaeFund, and were donating an additional $500 in commemoration of their reunion with which the purchase of 150 books of medieval Latin writers, ‘for Composita was devoted to Latin’ known as Migne’s Pathrologia Latina would be made.'”[7] So, as they celebrated their 35 year reunion, Composita still resonated strongly with the members of the Class.  Composita appears in images of the Class through their 45th anniversary in 1931.  At this reunion the Class read a poem to the newly graduated Class of 1931.  It read:

“When we were in college and about your age

Composite photography was all the rage;

So we had our pictures ‘took’

You can see how we look,

Don’t you think we were “pretty and sage”?

Long after their graduation, Composita and photography played a major role in their lives, one that they wished to pass on to newly graduated Smith women.


The history of Composita as a visual desire of class identity and friendship is strongly linked with the interests of a single professor at Smith College, the philosophy of education and residential system at Smith College, the self-governance of the Class of 1886, and with issues of heredity and race at large. We have seen Composita and photographic language pervade the photograph albums and printed words of the Class of 1886.  By all of their actions, over the four years at Smith, the Class of ’86 strengthened their identity within the confines of academic rigors and residential regulations.  For some, it would be the first and only time they could control their own destinies, so these four years had further special meaning.   It is certain that inter-class rivalry fostered many of the decisions the Class made concerning their identity, whether deciding about the color of a class sash, or designs of a class pin or stationary.  In the creation of Composita, the act of sitting for a photograph expanded from individual to group conceit.  That the Class of ’86 wanted to share their post-Smith life with Composita, by returning her to reunions, is another indication that Composita was a true reflection of the Class.  By taking their composite photograph and imbuing that image with a collective personality, by keeping Composita “alive,” the memories of the Class remained viable and their experiences at Smith validated.

Perhaps an equally interesting testimony to the influence of Composita and the Class of ’86 is that they spawned a minor tradition of other classes taking their own composite portraits.  The College Archives has composite photographs for the Classes 1887, 1889, 1890-1892.  While it does not appear these classes has the same intense relationship to their photograph that the Class of ’86 had, it is interesting to note that these ‘daughters of Composita’  were made at all.

Composita and the Class of ’86 remain forever linked, and her meaning is as individualistic as it is collective.  Or in her words, “Such fortune never came into my wildest earthly dream!”

[1] Annual Circvlars 1883, p 14.

[2] Class of 1886 Meeting Minutes, October 23, 1885

[3] Smith Alumnae Quarterly, no.4, August 1934, p 439

[4] Class of 1886 Toast, in Smith College Commencement Exercises 1886

[5] Class Statistics, Class of 1886 in Smith College Commencement Exercises.

[6] Bertha Chas class letter 1887,pg 7.

[7] Smith Alumnae Quarterly, July 1921

Smith Archives in 2010

December 22, 2010

We’ve had a banner calendar year here in the Smith College Archives!

Our class presentations have expanded to include many new First Year Seminars, as well as our ‘standard’ classes in such departments as American Studies, Exercise, Sport Studies, History, Sexuality & Gender, Landscape Studies, Art History/Studio Arts, Geology–to name a few.  There are also quite a few other classes that use our materials, but in a more ‘stealth-like’ manner: we often see a group of students come in on their own, and after some quizzing, we realize that their professor has sent them on an independent mission to ‘see what’s in the Archives.’   While we feel more interaction with the faculty member and the Archives staff could benefit the students more, we’re glad they are coming to the Archives on their own!

This year we decided to focus on reaching out on the web a bit more with a number of web exhibits, including a celebration of the William A. Neilson Library (our parent Library), a history of the Black Student Alliance student organization, an exhibit on Molly Rogers, Class of 1905 who founded the order of Maryknoll Sisters, and an audio piece of President L. Clark Seelye reading from the book of Psalms.  More exhibits are in the making–so check the site regularly!

Ongoing projects, like Smithipedia, made strides with student researchers adding to our growing collection of on-line resources for Smith history.  We celebrated, along with the Josten Performing Arts Library, the publication of ‘new’ songs of composer John Duke, who taught at Smith between 1923-1967.  The College Archives presented a slide show before the annual Otelia Cromwell Day celebration on women of color at Smith.  We continue to work with students and faculty in the Global STRIDE Fellowship program to bring the historic connections between Smith and the world alive.  Just recently, we met with a group of emeriti faculty members who are wondering just how they are going to weed out their professional files.  Many questions and surprises await all of us in that regard!

We made a number of special presentations, including talks at the First Year “Smith By Design” Orientation program, the Bridge program, and Rally Day–all were a hit.  Our scheduled tea talks took place in a number of houses we had never been to before, as well as some ‘oldies but goodies.’  We also spoke with the Archives Concentration students, a Learning In Retirement group, and an archives class from the Simmons College Graduate School of Information and Library Science about the archives profession and the collections in our care.

Independent studies on women in the Philadelphia area who came to Smith and their influence back home after graduation; and the history of lesbian and transgender students took top billing this semester.  Last spring, a student thesis on the history of Smith College’s sustainability efforts over time kept us hopping!  Many of the sessions at the 2010 Collaborations celebration featured work completed by students in the College Archives.

These projects, in addition to our standard reference services (both on-site and via email),  orders for photographic reproductions, media reformatting, and donor relations keeps the staff in the Smith College Archives busy! Oh yes–and we work with the College offices too, supplying folders and boxes for materials that come to the Archives; hands-on visits in support of work done by the administrative assistants;  retrieving and making available files for offices, at their request.   With major building renovations this summer, we fielded many calls from offices that needed to relocate for the summer and then relocate either back to their original location or to other places on campus.

I’m glad that when we go home at night, all of us in the Archives are tired.  It means that we continue to do a good job; we expose more and more people to the possibilities in the Archives, and they provide us with more information about what we have in the thousands of linear feet of our holdings.

All of us in the Smith College Archives, Debbie, Susan, Leslie and Nanci wish you a restful end-of-the-year, and we look forward to bringing more news about the history of Smith in future blog entries in 2011!



Thanksgiving at Smith

November 24, 2010

Over the years, the celebration of Thanksgiving Day at Smith has taken a variety of forms.  In the early days of the College, Thanksgiving day itself was the only day the students had as a recess day.  In later years, the Wednesday and Friday surrounding Thanksgiving was given to the students.  Those who were able to often traveled home for those days.  Others remained behind and created their own Thanksgiving holidays with faculty, house-mothers, staff or other students.

This image is of Thanksgiving Day 1900 at Washburn House shows fellow Washburn-ites sharing a meal.  A similar photograph revealed the parent of one of the students dining with them.  Unfortunately, that image was too dark to reproduce here:

Thanksgiving Day at Washburn House, 1900

The College Archives has many letters written by students relating their Thanksgiving Day activities.  Here are a few excerpts from some of those letters:

From Madelaine Wallin, Dec 3, 1894:

“…College closed Wednesday P.M.  last week and since then I have been doing a variety of things…There was a big dinner at Thanksgiving–eleven courses!  About twenty of the girls stayed instead of going home and it was a time of general jollification.  We had oysters on half shell (big, fat ones), tomato soup, turkey, potato, etc.  then chicken pie by itself, quail and toast, salad and ice cream or rather, frozen pudding with candied fruits, fruit, candy and nuts.  Then we went into the parlor for coffee…”

Fanny Garrison, Class of 1901, on Nov 25th reports:

“I have had a most happy Thanksgiving, and quite contrary to my expectations.  Friday, all day long, I was about as blue and anxious for home as I could be, but by night, I settled down, and ever since I have been on the highest pinnicle of bliss.  There were practically eight of us…and we went to Mrs. Southwick’s little parlor and sat around talking and playing games or reading.  I cuddled up to Mrs. Campbell.  It seemed something like being near Grandma…After a while–about seven–we changed back to our old clothes and went out for a tramp in the snow–for the rain of the morning had turned to snow…”

In 1899, the faculty and president voted not to extend the Thanksgiving holiday more than the official day itself.  This decision, not surprisingly did not sit well with the students, who rebelled.  Katharine F. Berry, Class of 1902 wrote to her parent on Oct 29th after the announcement was made:

“…There has been great excitement in the college this past week, for Prexy got up and announced without stating special reasons…that Thanksgiving recess would be limited…He said Thanksgiving is not what it used to be, and that the spirit of it had changed, Christmas having been substituted for it.  Now but very few girls can go home, and it will be hardly worthwhile then, and the great majority must stay; such a disappointment.”

The students petitioned the President and the faculty to change their minds.  So loud was their displeasure that the local papers reported later that the faculty backed-off their decision. Headlines in the Worcester Spy read: Smith Girls Win: ‘We do not make war; we arbitrate’ Is the Way President Seelye Puts It–But the Students Get their Regular Thanksgiving Turkey–Faculty Eat Crow.

At other points in time, most notably during the war years (both First and Second), the Thanksgiving holiday was short and spent mostly on campus. 

In some cases today students have already started their travels home or to a place they’ll call ‘home’ for the break.  Walking to work on campus this morning the quiet and lack of bodies on the College’s sidewalks made for a great impression.  Everyone will be back to work come Monday, November 29th, but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation that Thanksgiving Break can give.

Enjoy your holiday with family and friends!

To read more about how Smith students celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, come visit the College Archives.


International Students Day

November 15, 2010

Smith College first celebrated International Students Day on November 17, 1947.  The International Student Congress meeting in Prague in 1945 declared November 17th as a day of remembrance of a group of Czech students who were slaughtered by the National Socialists.  IS Day emphasized the need for students from all over the world to come together and establish an understanding between nations to foster work on common problems–and find solutions.

International Students Day Festival, 1947

The program of events for 1947 included a parade of students from 26 different nations, with flags of each nation in John M. Greene Hall beginning at 8:30am.  The speaker at the College Chapel services was Walter Wallace, the New York regional head of the National Student Association.  The NSA goal is to “equalize education throughout the country on a high level.” A forum on “student political activity in China, Britain, Russia and the U.S.” took place in the Browsing Room of Neilson Library.  A British graduate student, a Smith alumna from China, a current student, and a U.S. citizen who spent his youth in the USSR took turns describing the activities in their representative lands.  A Russian culture exhibit,  and an international fair with wares and food took place all day.  In the evening, Alumnae Gymnasium was alive with dance and music performed by student representatives from England, Brazil, Burma, Czechoslovakia, China, Norway and Greece .  A special chapel service was held at the end of the day in the Library’s Little Chapel with prayers and hymns in several different languages.  The IS Day was sponsored by the Student Government, and several of the political committees on campus.

An editorial in the Smith College Associated News hoped  “International Students Day will become a tradition at Smith, and a yearly celebration in other colleges as well.  Typical of Smith’s leadership in international affairs” the program…was printed on the front pages of the Mount Holyoke and Wesleyan student newspapers.  Kudos were given to the coordinating committee, and “…especially to the foreign students, whose participation gave significance to International Student’s Day.

International Students Day provides an opportunity for Smith students to celebrate thinking and acting globally and to share native foods and culture with one another.

Sarah Anael, GS1962 with professor William van Voris at IS Day, 1961

Students from India prepare a meal for International Students Day in 1982

International Students Day events are happening today, November 15th at Smith College.

For more information about the history of International Students Day celebrations at Smith, and Smith’s history of global work and education, come to the Smith College Archives.

Students and Budgeting c1915

August 5, 2010

As we stare down the last month of summer vacation, many families are preparing to send their children off to college.   It is inevitable that calls, tweets, texts with the general message “I NEED MORE MONEY” will come back home.  This is one of the (in)dependent rites of passage.

In 1914 Smith College studied the spending habits of its undergraduates.  Prompted by the representation in the popular press of college girls devoting a ‘…large part of her time and money to amusing herself…’  Dean of the College, Ada Comstock and Associate professor of economics & sociology,  F. Stuart Chapin led a study that included 1200 students on campus.  These students keep a diary like the one here:

Student expenditures book, 1915

Cover of Expense Account book

Students listed the various expenditures on a daily basis, handing in the sheets monthly to house Presidents who would send them to the Dean of College office, until the entire book was completed.  By the end of the study in 1915, enthusiasm for supplying figures slowed and only 421 students completed the entire booklet.  When the numbers were crunched, the average Smith student spent her budget in this manner87.4% on necessities; 8.2% for pleasure (including dues and contributions to church and charity); and 4.2% on books and stationary. (SAQ February 1916, pg82)   The average expenditure was $765.55.

Ada Comstock was very pleased with the findings.  Chapin presented them in an article for the American Statistical Association in 1916.  More importantly, the popular press was notified of the findings, as evidence in these articles from around the country:

Newspaper articles announcing student budget findings

Undergraduate Budget article by Ada L. Comstock

What would the figures be like if Smith undertook such a study today?

For further information about the project, visit the Smith College Archives!