‘Our Own Celebration’: the World War I Armistice Parade at Barnard College

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.”

"Our Own Celebration" clipping from November 11, 1918 Barnard Bulletin.
“Our Own Celebration” clipping from November 11, 1918 Barnard Bulletin.

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.]

Aerial view of Barnard College campus with the "Jungle," an area of trees on Barnard's campus, in the foreground, circa 1918-1919
Aerial view of Barnard College campus with the “Jungle,” an area of trees on Barnard’s campus, in the foreground, circa 1918-1919

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.”

Barnard students gathered at Columbia University parade.
Barnard students gathered at Columbia University parade.

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


Sex, “togetherness,” and this bit of nonsense: Letters from the Dorms

Among the collection of materials housed in the Barnard archives are the correspondence and personal writings of the young, lively, and more often than not, cheeky, Barnard students who walked our halls years past. These materials paint a picture of engrossing conversations, keen perspectives, and close friendships that resonate with all of us who are still learning, growing, and forming close friendships today. Much has changed, but so much is still familiar. Here’s an entry by Bobby, a student at Barnard College during the late 1930s, where she offers a picture of her friends, their conversations, and a hint of the cultural backdrop of their time.

Jan 8, 1938

Leonore’s Room 661

Hewitt Hall

8:30 to 9:30 P.M.

Leonore at desk studying the NRA for government. Bobby lying on bed doing History of Education. Adelaide Murphy walks in as I begin to write. After this concentrated study we burst into chatter, starting off with the movie “Life of Emile Zola” and the Dreyfus case, and the play “Soldier Boy”. The conversation turned into well-worn channels, and we covered topics already chewed to rags yet still scintillating and all-absorbing for us. We decided that we would remain unmarried or rather in state of singleness for life and spend our lives in constant and mutual “togetherness”. Since we both are only children and shall eventually be left alone in the world, on as maiden aunts to the children of our other dear friends, Ruth, Edna, Phyllis, Helen et al.

The conversation dragged on about questions of sex and promiscuity and the advisability of pre-marital intercourse. Phyllis R. is leaning on me and consequently my writing is reaching its worst stage. It can’t be any worse says Phyllis biting me turie [?] in succession.

Leanore fights for chastity and I brought out arguments for and against; we both agreed that it is permissible for individuals who know and are sure of marriage at a later date or have reached a stage of mutual love and understanding. Incidentally the whole question of romantic love recurred and in view of Patti’s positions and our greater wisdom (being Seniors) we agreed that this motif was and is overdone in our culture; marriage can be happy minus a foundation in romantic love provided it rests on other foundations as intellectual equality (approve) [?], personality adjustment, friendships + psychological understanding.

We strained every effort to go back to our studies. Adelaide is here, doing NY of [?] work. Phyllis reminded us not to forget to come to her room to hear the Toscanini broadcast at 10 o’clock.

Adieu and let’s hope to see this bit of nonsense in 10 years.