Character for the reenactment

My name is Betty Jo Braithwaite (an actual student’s name from the 1952 yearbook). I am a student from Salem, Virginia. I grew up on a farm and am the first in my family to attend college. While at Mary Washington College, I want to learn how to be a lady and (hopefully!) earn my MRS degree. My hobbies including knitting, crocheting, and cooking. I hate cleaning but I’m trying to learn to love it.

Class Content group discussion 4/5/12

Class possibilities
The class will be 30-45 minutes
Not going to be entirely lecture-based.

  • Debate (home ec class? education? history?)
  •        – as 1950s college students – whether women should work outside the home?
  •                    good because could be framed within multiple disciplines
  • Upper vs. lower level
  •         – upper level would have more detail, potentially be better for this class
  • Potential topics
  •         –  Korean war
  •         – Red scare/learning Russian/McCarthy
  •         – home economics

Things that people are doing

  • John – doing more background research on the topics we have chosen or are considering
  • Nicole, Brooke, Kathleen – figuring it out and posting to Facebook by tonight?


Class Content group notes

  • Registration/introduction to college
  • Combination of registration and Discovery Day-type events with professors & students advocating for particular classes/departments/majors.
  • Discussion/leading a class
  • Home ec class: “care and feeding of a husband”



[4/5/12 8:47 AM: ETA – Comments were being held for moderation before. I think/hope I have changed the settings so comments will appear immediately.]

MWC Memories: the Page

The group page for our decade, the 1950s, discusses several facets of the life of a Mary Washington woman throughout that decade. The website explores academic aspects of life at Mary Washington, including the role of technology in the classroom and notable faculty members; social aspects, including traditions and the all-important theatre experience. Please feel free to peruse our site and consider what events and moments would have marked a young woman’s four years on our beautiful campus in the 1950s.

Research Log 4

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, (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, (Accessed  February 19, 2012).
  2. Alumnae Newsletter of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, February 1952, at the Internet Archive, (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, (Accessed  February 19, 2012).
  5. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.
  6. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.
  7. Alumnae Newsletter, February 1952.
  8. Alumnae Newsletter, Spring 1957.

Research Log 3

Faculty minutes have proven themselves to be an invaluable source of information, not only on the academic setting at the time, but also on the external pressures that informed the course of study for Mary Washington women. The most notable example of external pressures affecting the course of study of women in the 1950s is reflected in the faculty minutes from the meeting of September 15, 1952. At that time, Dr. Alvey “urg[ed] the faculty to stress the importance of the study of Russian in these critical times.”1

The faculty minutes additionally show several differences between student life in the 1950s and today. In May of 1950, the faculty proposed and adopted a motion in which “the privilege of week-end visits…is withdrawn from those who are failing or deficient in their work…it is further recommended that the parents… [be] notif[ied] of such probation.” 2 In contrast, the parents of today’s students are not directly informed of any academic issues with the student unless the student goes out of his or her way to ensure that the parents are informed. Additionally, in this day and age it is only at conservative religious schools such as Liberty University that students’ weekend movements and ability to leave campus are restricted.

The role of technology was, of course, very different than it is today; in the 1950s, typewriters were the height of modern technology. However, unlike today, computing technology was not readily available to all faculty members. During the same May faculty meeting in which faculty discussed and adopted harsher penalties and parental involvement, “Mr. Woodward announced that the College had some typewriters that were available to the faculty for office use.” 3 That speaks to the difference in technology accessibility and dependence for Mary Washington in the 1950s: if the faculty had such limited access to technology, then students likely had much less access to technology and likely handwrote much of their work, which is a far cry from the academic setup of today.

  1. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, September 15, 1952, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  2. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 8, 1950, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  3. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 8, 1950, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Reading Response week 4

The similarities, more than the differences,  were what struck me about the black and white women welfare reformers. The similarities in morality–or, indeed, in moralizing–of those women was perhaps the most striking to me. Despite what Gordon calls differences in orientation, and even despite differences in beliefs regarding married women’s working and other moral-political issues, the emphasis on female purity remained the same. That makes the differing approaches to rape and rape culture so shocking–I honestly had a hard time believing the approach of white women to rape; while that of African-American community was an entirely logical approach, that of white women seems absurd–although in keeping with the times, I suppose.

Group Meeting, 2/9/12

We had a group meeting on February 9th to discuss our blog!


  • Had a hard time deciding on URL; finally decided on a fairly dry URL (mwc1950s)

Pages we want:

  • What courses were available
  • Popular courses.
  • “Machine classes” & technology in the classroom.
  • Popular majors
  • Changes in majors—what majors have been integrated into others or separated from others, what majors exist now vs. then (Home Ec) how those relate to older majors (ex: Dramatic Arts & Speech major’s relationship to Theater major now).
  • Interdisciplinary major that’s basically American Studies.
  • Types of classes
  • Lectures
  • Machine classes/technology classrooms
  • Arts, crafts, “feminine arts” (ie. Home Ec)
  • Talk about the most significant departments and their importance.
  • Odd regulations at the university


  • Autofocus 2.0.2 by Allan Cole
  • Custom Community by ThemeKraft
  • Expose Child Theme 1.0.1. by StudioPress
  • Manhattan Child Theme 1.0 by StudioPress
  • Minimatica 1.0.8 by One Designs

Research Log 2:

This week I gave the Digital Archive a break and ventured into the Special Collections room for the first time, to take a look at the faculty files. At UMW, the faculty files include different things for different professors, depending on how significant a role they played in shaping the school, their tenure here, and the body of work published by or about them during their time here.

Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Before I began looking at specific faculty members’ files, I decided to take a look at some of the minutes from faculty meetings  to get an overarching sense of the direction the school was taking in the mid-1950s. I looked at the final meeting of the 1953-1954 academic year, to see how the faculty prepared for the longest break of the year and the completion of another academic year. The minutes, dated May 10, 1954, provide a glimpse into the changes that were overtaking the school at the time. At that faculty meeting, a new committee was created (the Faculty General Co-Operative Committee), and a new, verbosely titled “Constitution of the Inter-Institutional Faculty Committee of State Supported Institutions of Higher learning of the Commonwealth of Virginia” was proposed, voted on, and adopted.1 Within the minutes from the faculty meeting were some fascinating insights into daily life at Mary Washington, circa 1953. For instance, six girls’ names were proposed for nomination for the Kiwansis Award; student Elizabeth Mason was chosen to receive the honor at Class Day, and the information on the unsuccessful nominees was to be destroyed. The faculty had to move to approve the graduation of the candidates eligible to receive their degrees at that May’s convocation, “subject to certification by the Registrar.” 2 Most fascinating to me was the last entry in the meeting minutes, largely because of their mundanity: “Dr. Alvey wished a happy summer to all, and adjourned the meeting.” 3

In order to figure out whose files exactly I wanted to explore, I began by looking at the Faculty Roster.4 The Roster was organized not by department, as I expected, but by Administrative Staff and then, simply, everyone else, alphabetically. In order to simplify, I decided to focus on faculty in the History Department. I decided to focus on Dr. Oscar Darter, Head of the History and Social Science Department, and his colleague Almont Lindsey. Once I decided who to focus on, I switched over to the faculty files themselves.

Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Dr. Darter’s faculty file featured a brief biography of the man and his contributions to the school and to college-level academia on the whole.5 Darter headed the History and Social Science department for twenty-nine years, during which time he also co-sponsored numerous history, faculty, and student interest clubs on campus, taught fifteen hours per week at Mary Washington and numerous extension classes in addition, and authored a variety of works on the history of Fredericksburg. The “Personal Notes” summary of Dr. Darter was an interesting display in contrasts: while the majority of the piece focused on Dr. Darter’s professional career, his contributions to the school, and his tenure more generally, there were two very notable breaks from that professionally-focused summary. The first came in the middle of the summary, surrounded by the typical discussions of his good works, and read simply: “Member of the Masonic Lodge, a Democrat and a Baptist. Taught the College Sunday School Class at the Baptist Church for many years.”6 While Darter’s involvement in the College Sunday School Class linked those facts to the history of the school as a whole, the information on Dr. Darter’s political and religious views seemed out of place and surprising. Even more surprising was the yet more blatant break from professional objectivity, with the closing remark that Dr. Darter was “still going strong; never wears a hat nor an overcoat unless the temperature drops to near zero (has not had a cold in thirty years); takes Marye’s Height like a youngster of sixteen summers.”7 The remainder of Dr. Darter’s file consisted of his writings, including “Colonial Fredericksburg, VA: Its Impact on American History” and a tract regarding iron’s role in Fredericksburg’s history.

Dr. Almont Lindsey’s file provided an intriguing contrast to that of his employer and coprofessor Dr. Darter. Perhaps because of his shorter tenure or less notable position within Mary Washington, or perhaps due to clerical error or administrative oversight, Dr. Lindsey’s file did not contain a file containing “Personal Notes” summarizing the life and collected works of Dr. Lindsey. What his file did contain, however, was fascinating in a different way: a collection of summaries, editorials, and reactions to Lindsey’s controversial political works, including Socialized Medicine in England and Wales and his article “A Review of the British Health Service,” both of which portrayed socialized medicine as a more positive endeavor than it was portrayed in the media at the time; indeed, Free Lance-Star journalist William Lakeman noted that Lindsey argued the beneficial aspects of the British healthcare system and bemoaned its vilification at the hands of American media.8 Although much of Lindsey’s collected body of files is from outside the 1950s, he was a significant figure at Mary Washington throughout the 1950s, and his blatant politicization of his beliefs is thus germane and a fascinating look at contemporary boundaries.9

  1. Faculty Minutes of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, May 10, 1954, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  2. Faculty Minutes.
  3. Faculty Minutes.
  4. Roster of Faculty and Department Staff, 1955-56, of the Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  5. Personal Notes, 1, Faculty File of Dr. Oscar H. Darter, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.
  6. Personal Notes 1.
  7. Personal Notes 2.
  8. William Lakeman, “Lindsey Book is Due Amidst Medicine Debate,” The Free Lance-Star, May 23, 1962, 19.
  9. Faculty File, Dr. Almont Lindsey, in Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Research Log 1

For my portion of our group project on UMW in the 1950s, I am going to be working mostly with the alumni magazine (the Mary Washington College Alumnae News) and “faculty files.” As of now, I am planning on working more with Alumnae News than I am with faculty files, although as the semester progresses I’ll continue to try and work with faculty files as much as possible.

I’m excited to be working with alumni news for a variety of reasons. First, it’s always in a school’s interest to put its best foot forward when addressing alumni, so a new course, department, or addition to the faculty is definitely going to be highlighted in the Alumnae News. While other aspects of the magazine will be less useful for our project–things like newly-built or renovated buildings, or a recent celebration (nonetheless, the requisite discussion of Devil-Goat Day will, I’m sure, make it into our final project), they still provide important context about what was going on on campus outside of the academic departments and classrooms. Also, because the alumni magazine is geared towards providing a sense of context to alums who have left the school (potentially a great while before the magazine’s publication), context within the school is provided in the alumni magazines in a way that it would not necessarily be in a yearbook or newspaper. That will, I hope, make the information I find more readily accessible from a modern standpoint, and help me to see in 2012 what Mary Washington was saying in 1950.