In his book Only Yesterday (1931), Frederick Lewis Allen describes the celebrations in New York City after the World War I armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Allen writes that during one of these notable celebrations, “eight hundred Barnard girls snake-danced on Morningside Heights.”
A dip into the Barnard Bulletin, Barnard’s weekly newspaper (available online here), shows that Barnard women did indeed express their joy by parading around campus. The clipping entitled “Our Own Celebration,” with transcript below, from the November 15, 1918 Bulletin describe the festivities of November 11, 1918:
[With New York City bubbling over with enthusiasm, Monday morning, Barnard found it quite beyond the realm of possibility to settle down to nine o’clock classes. Step-singing on the big stairway is very satisfying in normal times, but Monday demanded more, so with a whoop and a bound the girls gathered in Milbank set forth upon a wild snake dance through the Jungle and over the campus. More singing and a gay parade led by the Dean around the edge of the Quadrangle, put a happy end to our own celebration.]
Barnard’s “snake dance,” despite the images of pythons and shimmying that it conjures up, was just a celebratory parade. This snake dance was Barnard’s “own celebration” because they participated in a more formal ceremony on Columbia’s campus earlier that day. According to an article published in the same issue of the Bulletin, “President Butler, members of the Faculty in cap and gown, American and French officers, members of the S.A.T.C., and the Signal Corps, sailors, and students of Barnard and Teachers College” attended. The soldiers then marched the length of Columbia’s campus, up to 120th street and back down to 116th street via Amsterdam Avenue. According to the article, “Barnard and Teachers College formed the rear guard” and eventually “marched with as much precision as the men.”
After the Barnard students were “escorted back to Milbank” they must have had their own idea about what a celebratory parade should look like.
-Alice Griffin BC ’15, Archives Assistant