The bonds forged at Mary Washington were without a doubt strong ones, as the alumni newsletters reflect. Class agents from certain classes wrote updates for each newsletter, referring to their fellow graduates as “girls” and “our gals.”1 In some cases, emotional connections to specific Mary Washington women were expressed, particularly using emotional terms such as “Sweet Betty Atkins.” 2 Alumni shared news not only of themselves but also that received in passing from other Mary Washington graduates, and the community was clearly an active one. In fact, in 1956, alumni from at least three different graduating classes (1943, 1949, and 1953) joined together in Hialeah, Florida to welcome home Mary Washington students for the summer and regaled one another with stories of their accidental encounters with fellow Mary Washingtonians.3

A photograph of Dean Hargrove featured in the Spring 1957 newsletter. Alumnae Newsletter of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Spring 1957, at the Internet Archive, http://archive.org (Accessed February 19, 2012).

The 1950s were an important time for Mary Washington. As Dean of Students Margaret Hargrove noted in the Spring 1957 Alumni Bulletin, “We at the College, and…students at the College, have not fully realized that the College is no longer a small liberal arts college.” 4 Hargrove continued on to note that the College needed to increase its emphasis on academics. As Brooke noted in her third Research Log, academics were not heavily emphasized at Mary Washington in the 1950s, and clearly were a weak point that Dean Hargrove was seeking to improve. Although she knew that “the College and the students do derive profit from the auxiliary programs of college life… the intellectual development of our students is our primary concern.” 5 Hargrove then added that through their support of the school, alumni can “assist in training young women in sound learning and good manners, young women who are healthy and happy in body and spirit.” 6 Dean Hargrove was clear in her note of Spring 1957 that the lives of Mary Washington students outside the classroom were important, but that she wished to emphasize first and foremost the academic aspect of the Mary Washington experience. That marks a turning point between the Mary Washington where “finishing” and domestic training were an emphasis and the Mary Washington where academics were of the utmost significance.

Typical social mores are readily visible in the Alumni Newsletters. In the February 1952 newsletters, a call for updated alumni addresses stated that “many of the Alumnae shown have probably married and we are still carrying them on the mailing list as single.” 7 No other potential reason is given for a change of address or other difficulty in finding those women. More surprisingly, Betsy Martin, representative of the Class of 1952 writing in the Spring of 1957, said that she was “sorry to say, but the only thing I’ve added to my name is another degree.” 8 That emphasis (in a college newsletter) on marriage and starting a family over education shows again how Dean Hargrove’s goals of academic emphasis and excellence were new ones for the College.

  1. Alumnae Newsletter of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Fall 1956, at the Internet Archive, http://archive.org (Accessed  February 19, 2012).
  2. Alumnae Newsletter of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, February 1952, at the Internet Archive, http://archive.org (Accessed February 20, 2012).
  3. Alumnae Newsletter, Fall 1956.
  4. Alumnae Newsletter of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Spring 1957, at the Internet Archive, http://archive.org (Accessed  February 19, 2012).
  5. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.
  6. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.
  7. Alumnae Newsletter, February 1952.
  8. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.