Voter Fraud: the Presidential Mock Trial and Election of 1904

Suffragettes demonstrate voting procedures at Polling Place, ca. 1917. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives

In November of 1904, Frances Hope Purdon (Barnard College class of 1905) addressed her peers: “Friends and fellow citizens of this great and glorious country, after observing politics for many years with calm and deliberate criticism, we have come to the conclusion that campaigns as conducted by men are run in a very inefficient manner.”  Purdon was speaking at an extremely serious mock presidential debate held before the election: political cartoons and pictures of Roosevelt and Parker were pasted to the walls, two parades were held, and now, different members of the Barnard classes would debate each other in the personas of Roosevelt and Taft to defend their positions.  Though American women were still 16 years away from participating in the popular vote, Barnardites were already sharpening their tongues for the inevitable arguments that come with political involvement.

With Elizabeth Warren crushing Scott Brown in the Massachussets Senate race last night, Tammy Baldwin’s election as the first openly gay Senator, and women now comprising one-fifth ( a ground-breaking, if pathetically low, proportion) of the Senate, reporters are dubbing 2012 the “new Year of the Woman” which–as any Barnard woman whether present activist or past suffragist would agree–is a disheartening, patronizing term.  Purdon didn’t participate in the mock debates because she knew that feminist efforts would culminate in a single year when successful political women would be hemmed in by newspaper jargon.  A woman in office should be an unremarkable thing.

We hope all of you voted yesterday, that you will continue to be politically involved, and that you keep in mind the Barnard women who stand behind you as they stood at the podiums in Barnard Hall in 1904: Dean Virginia Gildersleeve (more battleship than the S.S. Barnard) who opened the mock trials; Agnes Ernst, the famous suffragist who decried Roosevelt’s bully-for-you war hungry political tactics; and the undergraduate women who futilely cast their pretend votes in strong favor of Roosevelt.  Barnard forever, America forever, congratulations Mr. Obama, rah rah rah!

-Johana Godfrey, BC ’13


Haunted Library

Archiving is a spooky job.  The Barnard Archives are located in a windowless basement room of the college library, where the air is still and the temperature dial is twisted past cold and into the “tomb” register.  The collection is housed on sliding shelves that could easily crush a careless researcher; visitors to the stacks are followed by the eyes of a couple of 17th century Dutch portraits; an imposing iron bust of Virginia Gildersleeve blankly gapes into the main work-room, as if vowing to one day fall and brain an irreverent student worker; and recently my bosses spent an hour in a dirty underground vault that looked more likely to house un-dead students from years past than the works of art they were tasked with cataloging.

Three costumed students in a 1904 production of “La Farce de Maître Pathelin.” Image Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Archivists preserve personal objects and papers, bolstering physical ephemera–and the personalities they belonged to–against the long fade from collective memory to dust.  The subjects’ spirits rest, not in the ground, but in their relics, and the dialogue created between researcher and relic in the archives grants the subject a second kind of life.  In Henry James’ “Aspern Papers,” the unnamed narrator embarks on a morally dubious quest to procure the personal papers of the deceased poet Jeffrey Aspern from his ex-lover; he believes that by reading Aspern’s private documents and letters, he will have a more developed understand of and become closer to the poet.  Archivists are favored with the opportunity to come as close as possible to understanding the long-dead without actually knowing them.  We familiarize ourselves with their writing styles, values, and personalities while reading their letters, temporarily become their contemporaries while reading newspaper clippings, and unravel their thought processes and analytical styles while pouring over their annotated manuscripts.  Each archival subject–though confined to a shadowy stasis by the selected materials housed in document boxes–becomes almost alive for the archivist during the familiarization that occurs during the conservation process.  I imagine the sliding shelves of our archival room as overcrowded tenement buildings.  Down here, Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Duer Miller live kitty-corner, and ladies from the American Woman’s Association lift up their skirts and step delicately around circles of student activists, still staging their sit-ins long past the academic protests of 1968.

We recently began processing the explorer/writer Jeannette Mirsky’s collection of maps, personal correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs.  Archivists want to neaten, logically arrange, and condense material, and this impulse also leads us to (unintentionally) invade the privacy of,  judge, and reprimand a dead woman: we deem her storage practices dubious, trash certain fragments that were important to her, and eagerly read tender, private letters from her ex-lovers.  It’s good that we don’t actually summon spirits in the course of our work–how dreadful to be confronted by a screaming suffragette skeleton every-time you throw out a crumbling envelope!

Happy Halloween from the paranormally inclined Barnard archivists!

Barnard/library related Links of Terror for thrill-seekers:

–Johana Godfrey, BC ’13

Roof Golf and Aquacades: Barnard Athletics Through the Years

As the 2012 London Olympic Games continue past preliminary rounds, it’s time to talk about athletics at Barnard, from the glory days of the 1940s, when admiration for pageant-like displays of athletic prowess necessitated an extensively choreographed “aquacade”-a swimming carnival complete with lights, music, and mermaid costumes-to now, when Barnard’s athleticism lies less in sequins and glitter and more in archery and crew.

Barnard students play badminton in LeFrak Gynasium in the 1940s. Image Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

Because Barnard is a small women’s college and was founded in the late 1800s, it initially had no physical education department.  Ladies could either take their exercise by strolling around the grounds, or they could cross the street to Columbia, where they found male escorts who would walk them up and down Riverside in the evenings.  The first recreational sport clubs were a bicycle club, founded in 1896, and a student taught, student run dancing class founded in 1898.  To help these fledgling organizations survive within a student body without a physical education department, the Athletics Association was founded as a branch of the student government in 1900, with the creation of the Physical Education Department bringing further legitimacy to the association in 1904.  The first gym class offered at Barnard was a mandatory lecture in personal hygiene for students.  In the late 1910s, classes on relaxation and posture were introduced.  The two classes were remarkably straight forward and self guided: sleepy girls in matching pajama sets dozed in perfectly made beds set up around the gymnasium, while posture students swanned gracefully in figure eights while balancing their copies of  “Candide” on their heads.  These mandatory activities were attempts to cultivate “mens sana in corpora sano,” grooming the young ladies for positions in society and fortifying them against anxiety and mental unrest.  While they are “non-sports,” I doubt that Michael Phelps—one of Team USA’s most decorated Olympians, and known for the stooping, duck-like amble that he adopts on land—would be able to medal in “Posture.”

A student undergoes posture evaluation. Image courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

Barnard is a small campus, so classes doubled up in the gymnasium and parts of campus were re-purposed for sport.  Students practiced golf on the roof of Barnard Hall, swung tennis rackets on the old courts that used to stand between Milbank and the Jungle, played quoits on the lawn during a resurgent interest in old-timey folk games, and bowled in the basement of Riverside Church.  During the early 20th century, athletics at Barnard were reduced to pleasant lawn sports.  The expansion of the physical education department at Barnard parallels the expansion of Olympic sports in which women were allowed to participate—both grew during the 1900s, a period in which gender roles were being redefined.   At the 1900 Olympic Games, the committee cracked and allowed women to participate in golf, tennis, and croquet (though one “woman sailor”-scandal!-participated in a mixed event).  These were athletic areas where women were allowed and expected to succeed.  The establishment of the 1983 Columbia/Barnard Athletic Consortium made it possible for students at Barnard to participate in the Columbia athletics program, and sports such as softball, basketball, and volleyball became popular.  Now, classes offered by the Physical Education Department focus on current workout fads-cardio crunch, yoga, and aerial acrobatics.  However, Columbia’s highest-ranked athletic programs today harken back to the old, prep school, New England atmosphere that the school cultivated so carefully in the past. Barnard’s most recognized athletes participate in sports that garnered popularity in the 1940s, such as fencing, crew, archery, and swimming.

Many Barnard athletes have made it to and through Olympic tryouts.  The most recent medalling alumna is Erinn Smart, class of 2001, who won a silver medal in the group fencing event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  We wish luck to Barnard alumna and affiliates who are participating in this year’s Games, and hope that they work on their posture.

-Written by Johana Godfrey, BC’13.

Waterworld: Highlights from the History of the Barnard Pool

Gymnasium Pool, circa 1920s. Credit: Sigurd Fischer. Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives, Lucy O. Lewton '22 Scrapbook Collection.

With the recent news of the impending demise of Barnard’s swimming pool in mind (Columbia Spectator, “Barnard Likely to Close Swimming Pool in 2013”), we’d like to take this opportunity to present choice episodes from the pool’s almost-century of history.The Barnard Pool opened in 1918 with the completion of Students’ Hall, now known as Barnard Hall (the building was renamed in 1926).  After the opening, students and faculty alike were in raptures: the 1919 Mortarboard contains a poem in praise of the new building, where “down in the depths the blue-green pool / next greets our wondering eyes, / so clean it is, so clear and cool, / ‘tis quite the best surprise (1919 Mortarboard, 110).  In her report to the president of Columbia University on the academic year 1917-1918, Virginia Gildersleeve observes that “the beautiful swimming pool has been perhaps the greatest source of delight for the undergraduates” (1918 Dean’s Report, 6).

Barnard Swim Team, 1922. Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

The students took advantage of their new natatorium by quickly forming a swim team and competing against the team from Teachers College—whose gymnasium and pool Barnard students had used before the construction of Students’ Hall—in an annual swim meet.The pool continued to delight: a December 1932 issue of the Barnard Bulletin printed the following verses, “Pool Poem No. 2,” exhorting students to make use of the wonderful facility:

Breathes there a girl with soul so dead
She can’t recall that once she said,
“See, I can almost stand on my head!
Look, mother, see!”?

Gone is the skill of yesteryear,
But love of stunting still is here
And you may stunt again, never fear.
It still may be.

On this next Friday there will be
Stunts to be done and stunts to see,
Stunts for the clever and stunts for she
Who is a fool.

Come then at four and join the fun,
Be you beginner or be you done.
Come and be young, everyone—
In Barnard Pool. (Bulletin, 13 December 1932, 3)

In 1934, the Bulletin proclaimed, “Since you came to college to learn the Arts and ‘to broaden your abilities,’ you should feel that your education is not complete until you have accomplished the Art of swimming. The pool and the instructors are always at your disposal” (Bulletin, 20 March 1934, 4).

Synchronized swimming: rehearsal for “Snowball Bounce,” the pool, Barnard Hall, December 1951. Credit: Manny Warman, Columbia University. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

That same year, Barnard inaugurated the Water Carnival, an aquatic festival featuring, at least in its first year, “a maritime grab-bag, a tango, a spot-light chorus, a fashion parade of beach finery, and a diving exhibit”; later years featured synchronized swimming routines, water dances, skits, and novelty swim races.  In 1941, the Water Carnival presented the wedding of “Miss Hortense Hydroxyl” and “Mr. Horatio Hydrogen” (Bulletin, 11 March 1941, 1).  According to the Bulletin, “the bride wore a gown of white lastex with a white veil of cellophane,” and after the nuptials, “a toast, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, was gurgled to the newlyweds by the guests” (here’s Johnny Cash with that old favorite) (1).  The Water Carnival continued into the 1950s.

In 1956, students created the Barnard Barnacles, a synchronized swimming club.  The Barnacles practiced in the Barnard Pool and performed at Water Carnival, eventually becoming serious enough to gain membership in the Inter-Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Association.  In the fall of 1960, three Barnacles left their home waters and journeyed to perform at that Association’s conference for Northeastern schools (Bulletin, 27 April 1961, 1).

Students practicing lifesaving skills in the Barnard Pool. c. 1990s. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

As early as 1958, the Barnard Pool provided an aquatic respite not only to students and faculty, but to members of the surrounding community as well.  A November 1958 Bulletin article on Barnard’s community outreach mentions that “the physical education department gives swimming classes for children in the college’s pool” (Bulletin, 18 November 1958, 1).  These community classes continue today: both faculty and neighborhood children use the warm, friendly Barnard Pool for swimming lessons.  Barnard and Columbia students have long taken advantage of the Barnard Pool’s welcoming atmosphere to learn to swim or lifeguard at a more advanced age, as well.

Headline from an April Fool's edition of the Barnard Bulletin, 1 April, 1952. Bulletin Digital Archives.

The pool has always been slightly out of the way, and from reading old Bulletins, it’s clear that the student body thought most about its depths around the first of April.  In 1939, the student paper joked that the Columbia Crew team would henceforth hold its practices in Barnard’s pool, remarking on the sudden popularity of canoe classes among Barnard undergraduates (Bulletin, 28 March 1939, 3). April 1952 saw an article on the drowning death of “beautiful, but unathletic” fictional socialite “Parkus Karcus,” and nine years later, in April 1963, students got into the spirit of the Sixties by with a “passive resistance movement” against a purported new “five year gym plan” (Bulletin 1 April 1952, 2; 28 March 1963, 1).  Students allegedly planned to “sit in the swimming pool until” the administration “abolishes the new requirement. ‘Sink or not swim’ is their motto,” joked the Bulletin (1).In 1980, the Bulletin outdid itself: not only did the issue reveal that the college intend to offer a new course in “aquatic invertebrate zoology” to study the different forms of life which have been known to inhabit the Barnard Pool,” but it also broke the story of the disappearance of six students into the pool’s “murky” depths (Bulletin, 31 March 1980, 4; 8).  According to the article on the disappearances, “students claimed to have sighted what they described as a ‘long brown tentacle’ or a ‘giant eel or snake’ moving across the pool bottom” (8).

Jokes aside, the Barnard Pool has provided students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community a pleasant and convenient place to play and exercise for the past 96 years.  If it does indeed close after the 2012-2013 academic year, the pool will be gone but, at least in the Archives, not forgotten. —Julia Mix Barrington, BC ’12

Read the Bulletin articles mentioned in this post.

Mary Harriman Rumsey, Class of 1905

Note: This is part of a series of profiles about Barnard alumnae. These profiles were originally posted on the old Barnard Archives website. 

Trustee, social justice pioneer

Mary (Harriman) Rumsey (Class of 1905) attended Barnard at a time when very few women pursued higher education, and she continued to break barriers throughout her life. Rejecting the convention that the affluent should remain within their elite circles, she founded the Junior League to mobilize young, upper-class women to help the underprivileged. Continue reading

Lucyle Hook: Barnard Emeritus Professor, Globe Trotter

The Barnard College archivists have recently finished inventorying the Lucyle Hook Collection, 13 boxes of personal documents and photographs that tell the story of Mrs. Hook’s life.  The collection is so personal that I had to continually stop myself from referring to her as “Lucyle” in this post.

Lucyle Hook, a Texan belle with a taste for travel, was one of Barnard’s most distinguished and interesting faculty members.  Hook was appointed as Professor Emeritus of English at Barnard on July 1st, 1967 after 21 years of service at the school.  She specialized in seventeenth century literature and drama, and was ever departing for Greece or London on research trips.  Her personal notebooks, left to the Barnard College Archives, filled with edits and additions, are clearly the work of a woman with a tireless and engaged mind.

Hook was born in Quanah, TX, on October 29th, 1901, where she grew up reading the “six-foot-shelf of books” which sparked her lifelong interest in exploring literature, drama, and the English language.  She came to Barnard after a stint of teaching high school in Scarsdale.  She didn’t intend to stay.  Hook was on a one year visiting professorship, filling in for Barnard legend and drama professor Minor Latham.  After spending a year at Barnard, however, she deferred her plans to leave–Barnard felt right.  Much of her past was intertwined with the Barnard/Columbia microcosm.  Hook had received her masters degree at Columbia, and her husband, Fred Rother had taught there.  Furthermore, Barnard was flexible enough to permit her travels and breaks for research.  The English department became her home until retirement.

During a trip to Turkey, she was made the head of the American College for Girls in Istanbul by Dean Gildersleeve, who was a trustee for the school.  She took a three year leave of absence from Barnard.  During her time in Turkey, she traveled throughout the Middle East and Africa, keeping detailed journals in which she drew parallels between Marrakesh markets and her the Bartholomew Fair of her beloved Jonsonian drama.  Hook’s life was especially well visually documented at this time.   Photographs show her standing on the wing of a bi-plane, replete with large sunglasses, red lipstick, and a head scarf; in the desert with a Camel; and on a safari, watching a lion devour a gnu.  After her retirement from Barnard, Hook spent most of her time either in England or continuing her treks across the globe.

Barnard students today remember and thank Lucyle Hook for the endowment made in her name–the Lucyle Hook Travel Fund, for those students whose research calls for as many adventures as hers did–and for her early publication “the Research Paper,” which can considerably shorten the long, desperate hours spent in Butler and Lehman.

Lucyle Hook at her desk in Barnard College. Image courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

Barnard Fraternity Ban of 1913

Ever wondered why you have to slog over to Columbia in your micro-mini and pearls to find a suitable sorority to rush? In 1916, Barnard banned sororities (then called fraternities) for good.  The issue of fraternities was first raised in 1910 due to growing dissent among non-fraternity members who thought that the organizations promoted snobbishness and exclusivity.  At the time, Columbia University was in talks over whether or not to abolish their orders as well.  In 1910, the rush process was restricted to non-first years only.  In 1913, the Faculty Committee on Student Organizations invited four alumnae and four undergraduates to join the board to hear testimonials from both sides of the debate and make a decision about the continued existence of fraternities at Barnard.  After a three year suspension of fraternal activities in 1913, students at Barnard voted by 244 to 30 to abolish fraternities on campus.

During the six year period of debate, students, faculty, and alumni wrote in to both the college paper and alumni magazine to voice their opinions on the matter.  Telegraph wires were ablaze with messages to and from Sorority sisters and alumni attempting to save the place of their beloved sisterhoods.  Some fraternities tried to change the bylaws of their organizations to sidestep complaints–in 1912, Chi Omega re-released a mission statement that put new focus on “sincere scholarship,” keeping girls active in at least two other realms of the college, and having rich members do more service work to “connect with the disadvantaged.”

Those in favor of fraternities held that the organizations helped undergraduates make friends, created a close-knit and welcoming social environment, and allowed younger members to be mentored by alumni.  Those against fraternities claimed that they fostered snobbishness, established race lines, created “artificial barriers against natural intercourse,” caused emotional distress to those not invited to rush, and distracted members from academic achievement.  Among the dissenters was then-Dean Gildersleeve, even though she had been a part of a fraternity during her undergraduate years.

Fraternities had existed at Barnard since the school was first founded.  The Alpha Omicron Pi society was started by two Barnard students, Jessie Wallaces Hughan and Stella George Stern Perry.  Defying the popular notion that girls involved in fraternities were less academically able than their peers, the two went on to become relatively well-known public intellectuals–Hughan ran for a seat in the US Senate and founded the War Resisters League in 1898, and Perry became a well known art historian.

What did Barnard lose and gain by disbanding fraternities?  We did, perhaps, do good in supposedly placing “intellectual pursuits over social polarization” and regaining focus on academia.  (Margaret Mead, popularizer of anthropology and Barnard alumnus, was once turned down during a rush event for membership of Kappa Kappa Gamma at DePauw University for being “too frumpy.”)  But in 1915, Dean Gildersleeve admitted in a New York Times article that the social world dearly missed the fraternities, and that she was scrambling to introduce new social organizations/environments for Barnard girls to flourish in.  I do think we can still feel the effects of the ban today, when we realize that Barnard women wishing to pledge sororities go over to Columbia, and that the social life of these students becomes less centered around Barnard as their time spent across Broadway lengthens.

Written by Johana Godfrey, BC ’13

Five members from the Barnard classes of 1889 and 1890. Virginia C. Gildersleeve is second from the left while still in her fraternity days. Courtesy of Barnard College Archives.

A sketch of the gold pins that members of the Delta Delta Delta Society were required to display on their blouses at all times. Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.