Scrapbooks

Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke's Scrapbook from 1940-1942

This past week I have had the privilege of researching a few scrapbooks, made by the women of Mary Washington College themselves.  Glued and taped to the fading and worn pages of these seventy year old books, were unique glimpses into the lives and feelings of these students. In particular, the scrapbook constructed by Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke, turned about to be a veritable gold mine of information pertaining to this project.  In her scrapbook she taped report cards, class schedules, and test papers, as well as invitations to dances, and articles from “The Bullet.”

Today, the University of Mary Washington’s “Undergraduate Course Catalogue “is over 250 pages long[i], a stark contrast from the college’s seven-page catalogue

Course Catalogues from 1940 and 2012

from1941. The catalogue is indeed so thin that is was easily glued into a scrapbook later made by Burke. There may not have been as many classes as we have today, but there was a decent range of subjects (fourteen in all)[ii] for the women to choose from.  Most of the course subjects would be familiar to students today (like math, history, and foreign languages), but a few, such as “Dietics and Home Economics,”[iii] are a little different from the kinds of classes UMW students today are used to.

Burke's Test from 1940. Note the Honor Pledge signed in the center of the page.

One of the most interesting things Burke put into her scrapbook was a paper she had written for one of her classes on August 6, 1940. Clearly proud of her work (she got an A- on the paper), she was also quick to note that the class this paper was written for was no walk in the park, writing next to the paper “what a tough course!”[iv]

One final piece of Burke’s MWC history that was taped into her scrapbook was her report card. This “Quarterly Grade

Burke's 1940 Report Card

Report,” dated June 8, 1940, is a great way to see not only what classes students could have taken, but how they chose to pair them to make their schedule. During this quarter, Burke (then Collins) took six classes: Survey of American Lit (Eng 263), American History (His 153), History of Civilization (His 263), Latin (Lat 113), Survey of Music (Mus 113), and General Psychology (Psy 219).[v] Who knows, maybe one of these classes from 1940 will be the one HIST 328 will recreate in 2012.

From Burke's Scrapbook

While these class schedules, test papers, and report cards will be invaluable when it comes time to recreate a typical classroom experience (the unlimited goal of this project), there was one aspect of life that was mentioned in every scrapbook from the 1940s I looked at. While it was not directly related to classes, there is no doubt that it had a profound effect on the students.  I’m speaking of course about World War II.  In Burke’s scrapbook, she taped an article from the Bullet about Hitler vs. U.S. Presidents and their viewpoints and captioned it “December 7, 1941 -That momentous day!” [vi]  Much like 9/11 dominated the topics of conversation in and outside the classroom, the attacks on Pearl Harbor, would certainly have affected life in the classroom for MWC students.

"If you want them back- Back them!"

One of the scrapbooks I looked at, entitled “Victory,” was completely devoted to the work of the “Mary Washington College Defense Program.”[vii]  This program’s mission was to help the men fighting in the war through the sale of war bonds.  The women had drives to help sell the bonds, asked faculty and staff to make pledges, and even a contest for a “Bond Queen.”[viii]  The amount of success they had in their efforts was astonishing.  Between 1942 and 1945, the women raised $45,173.64 for the war bond effort. Women working at a War Bond drive at the college were even featured in a Treasury Department Bulletin entitled “A War Savings Handbook for Colleges at War.” The women were pictured standing around a sign saying “If you want them back- back them!” [ix]In 1945, Mary Washington College was even presented with a certificate from the United States Treasury Department  “For distinguished service rendered on behalf of the War Finance Program.”  [x]

These scrapbooks have, both directly and indirectly, brought us one step closer to being able to recreate a true classroom experience.

 



[i] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[ii] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[iii] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[iv] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[v] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[vi] Emma Elizabeth Collins Burke. UMW Archives, Scrapbook 1940-1942.

[vii] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.

[viii] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.

[ix] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.

[x] Mary Washington College Defense Program. Victory. UMW Archives, Scrapbook.

the “Bayonet”

The "Bayonets" from the 1940s

When students leave for college today, there is one word used to describe the upcoming college experience that is talked about more than any other- freedom. For many, the idea of leaving home for a world in which there are no parents watching and controlling every move they make, is one that trumps all the other excitements that come with enrolling in college. It was therefore very interesting to find that the Mary Washington College students of the 1940s had a very structured life within the college.  There were strict curfews and study hours, mandatory meals, stringent guest policies (especially when it came to male visitors), and rigorous policies on what one could do off campus.  It is safe to say that a current University of Mary Washington student would have found the “Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia” of the 1940s almost unrecognizable.

The ultimate goal of this research project is to be able to recreate a classroom experience of Mary Washington students during a particular decade. However, understanding what life was like at the college outside the classroom is essential to understanding the way students would have acted inside them. To do this, this past week I have researched all of the student handbooks (known as the “Bayonet”) from the 1940s, more specifically I focused on the “Rules and Regulations of the Student Government Association”[i] portion of the handbook. This outlined the policies and community standards that all Mary Washington College students were held to.

At the start of the decade the “Rules and Regulations” were divided into ten sections; “School Work,” “Class Organization,” “House Council”, “Dorm Life,” “Meals and the Dining Hall,” “Dates,” “Riding,” “Week-end and Holiday Visits,” “Trips to Town,” and “Miscellaneous.”[ii]In the “Dorm Life” section, there were several rules that would directly affect the classroom experience of students. Not only was there a curfew of 10:30pm, quiet hours that began at 10:45, and lights out at 11pm, there was also a study hall period that began at 7:15 (7:30 on Fridays) and ran until 10:15. During the study hall period,

Opening pages of the 1939-1940 "Bayonet"

students were required to be in their own room doing schoolwork. The fifteen minute period between the end of study hall and curfew were considered “recreational periods” in which the students could visit each other’s rooms, but they were expected to be back in their own rooms promptly at 10:30. These tightly regulated and required study periods would have, in some part, increased how prepared students were for class, which would certainly add to the overall classroom experience. [iii]

It was not only Dorm Life that was strictly regulated by the college. In 1940, all meals were compulsory for all students (with the exception of breakfast for Seniors everyday and all other students on Saturdays and Sundays) and most extra curricular activities, including trips to town, dates, and weekend trips, could only be done with “special permission from the Dean of Women.”[iv]  Dates in particular were heavily regulated. All male callers were required to be on the “Calling List” before they could call on a student (out of town boys could only be added to the list after written permission was granted from the student’s parent) and upon arrival at MWC, they would have to pick up a “Calling Card” from the Dean of Women.[v]

Campus Map taken from the 1939-1940 "Bayonet"

As years passed in the decades, there were some subtle changes in these rules. Most significant changes came between the 1945/1946 and 1946/1947 school years. Since the first handbook of the decade all students had gained the right to skip breakfast any day of the week and ride bikes without parents permission. In 1946 however, students were allowed to begin hanging things on their walls, bring electronic devices other than a lamp into their room, and skip any meal at any time.[vi] The lights out time was also moved back from 11pm to midnight on Saturdays and “two or more Seniors with approved escorts” were allowed to go to the movies on weekends.[vii] While students did gain many liberties over the decade, some new rules were also put in place during that time period as well. Rules about smoking and electronic devices in the rooms were added to the handbook during the decade.

While it is true that many present day Mary Washington students would find life at the college in the 1940s unimaginable, it is important to note that some values have stayed consistent throughout the years since 1940. Even then, students were required to sign the honor pledge on all of their graded work and the honor code itself was still regarded as one of the most important aspects of life at the college. [viii]

A rule from the "Trips to Town" section of “Rules and Regulations of the Student Government Association”

[i] Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[ii] Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[iii]Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[iv]Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[v]Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[vi] Lelia Marsh, Miriam Riggs, Ellen Campbell eds., The Bayonet, 1946-1947 (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[vii]Lelia Marsh, Miriam Riggs, Ellen Campbell eds., The Bayonet, 1946-1947 (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).

[viii]Juanita Carpenter ed., The Bayonet, 1939-1940  (R.A. Kishpaugh Print, Fredericksburg, VA).