A.W.S Handbooks and other MSU guides

25 02 2011

“HELLO! — — —

This handy little book is for YOU. Of course it won’t answer all your questions – but it will give you an idea of what goes on around campus. You know, it may even be a life-saver more times than you suspect … so how ‘bout getting acquainted?”

That was the greeting in the beginning of the 1949-50 A.W.S (Associated Women Students) Handbook “Who’s Who and What’s What”. This guide, given to female residents at the beginning of each school year included everything from dormitory regulations such as shower, typing, and radio/phonograph hours, smoking rules, and overnight guests in college residences to traditions at MSC that were the students’ responsibility to uphold. They began distribution in the late 1930s and continued until the early 1970s.

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Each issue (which came out annually) contained generally the same information: a list of board members, greetings from advisers, traditions, the AWS constitution and their bylaws. Every year however, there were special highlighted sections.  For example, the 1940-41 handbook had a “Dear Diary” section which would highlight events going on in a coed’s daily life such as how “the handsomest sophomore walked [her] home” and how she attended sorority tea, the Michigan State vs. Michigan football game, a Coke date at the Union Grill, and the Coed Carnival. The 1941-42 handbook highlights a “Letters Home” section where Joyce sends letters home to Sally Jean. She raves about the activities taking place on campus as well as her dorm, her “super swell” dorm-mates, and her “roomy”.

Campus activities and pieces of advice are also highlighted in these handbooks. For example, the 1946-1947 AWS Handbook warns female students of the so-called “male territories”:

“There is one place in East Lansing that is strictly for members of the opposite sex. Don’t let anyone send you into the Smoke Shop, for it is male territory with no exceptions. The lower lounge of Union building is also a place which men call their own”.

There were even guides of how to dress located on the back of the 1960s handbooks! – Check out the picture below!

The fight song was also included in the booklet for the new students.  It was encouraged that students should “learn them quick like a bunny”! Notice the changes in lyrics over the years:

“On the banks of the Red Cedar – is a college known to all. Their specialty is winning, and those Spartans play football. Spartan teams are never beaten – all through the game they fight. Fight for the only colors, Green and White. Smash right through that line of blue, watch the points keep growing. Spartan teams are bound to win, they’re fighting with a vim. RAH RAH RAH! See their line is weakening; we’re going to win this game! FIGHT FIGHT RAH TEAM FIGHT! Victory for M.S.C!”

The Spartan Women’s League also created etiquette handbooks for female and male students. This book is a definite favorite of mine for it outlines, in great detail, things young women and men should know about the college life. Here are some brief examples of the topics discussed…


“Having chaperons and guests at your parties and dances gives you another chance to know your faculty outside of class situations”

Teas and Receptions:

“At a tea, you are required to remain only long enough to finish your drink, about fifteen to thirty minutes. When leaving, say a few words of appreciation to your hostess and then depart.”


“If you are introduced to someone who holds out his hand, shake the hand, but not too firmly or limply. A good firm hand-clasp is customary among men, but it is an uncommon practice with girls.”

Table Etiquette:

A long list of advice is listed for the table etiquette section. There is everything you need to know from techniques for the use of silverware, to how to eat certain foods, to accessory techniques. My favorite piece of advice is in regards to eating a cherry or grapes with seeds,

“…remove the pit or seeds from your mouth between your thumb and first finger.” (so specific!)

Dating Courtesies:

“Don’t be a public liability by displaying affection which creates distasteful impressions on our visitors…As for petting…do what you feel is according to your moral standards.”

Classroom Etiquette:

“Pity the poor instructor who gets out of bed to come to his eight o’clock class of nodding heads with half-shut eyes…If the lecture is particularly boring, read a book, draw pictures, do the crossword puzzle, that is — do anything but SLEEP or TALK.”

The handbook contains many other tips, but those are just a few of my favorites! These books became very helpful for first year female students on campus and still are a gem today. They are extremely fun to pan through and make me think…if they were to hand out a guidebook to first year females today – what kind of information would be in it?


New Favorite Photo

24 09 2010

As archivists we get to see a lot of different materials in our collections and we certainly have our favorites.  Recently I discovered a photograph that I’m sure I had seen before, but never really paid much attention to it.  Once I looked at the photo, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  The photo shows a group of (mostly) naked, drunk students in their dorm room.  They also appear to be smoking, drinking, and gambling in the photo.  The photograph is dated 1906.

Needless to say, it was against regulations for students to be smoking, drinking or gambling on campus at that time.  What I love about the photo is that the students seemed so confident in their behavior that they actually posed for it.  It is also a great example of how the administration of a school can set up rules, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the students were following them.

What do you think of our photograph?  (Remember kids, after 100 years a photo like this becomes awesome.  Don’t put a current one on your Facebook page!)

MAC students violating all the rules in 1906

Drunk, naked, smoking, gambling MAC students in 1906.