Hallowe’en Revels – UA 10.3.35 Irma Thompson Papers

26 10 2018

Irma Thompson, circa 1900. (People 2687)

A collection less than one cubic feet that highlights life on the campus of M.A.C. at the turn of the 20th century is the Irma Thompson Papers. Irma was born in 1880 in Van Buren County, Michigan. While still in high school, the Thompson family moved to Lansing so Irma would have the opportunity to attend college. She entered Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University) at the age of sixteen, one of forty-two women to major in the new Home Economics program. Although an off-campus student, she was very active in campus extracurricular activities. She was class secretary, vice-president of the Art Club, and a member of the Themian Literary Society. She graduated in 1900. In 1905, she married Mark L. Ireland, ‘01, whose name appears occasionally on her dance programs.

In her collection are a program and scripts related to a play she was involved in during her senior year. The play, Hallowe’en Revels, was performed in the Armory on November 10, 1899 with an audience of 300 students and faculty members. It was the first production by the “College Dramatic Club.” The play was a mixture of burlesque and vaudeville styles. Today, most people think of a burlesque show as a strip tease, which is partly true, but burlesque also means “an absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody.” (Oxford Dictionaries) That definition properly describes Hallowe’en Revels and in the M.A.C. Record reminder a week before the play was to be performed, an editor wrote, “It will cost you but 10₵ to ‘see yourself as others see you.’”

The backdrop for this play was the M.A.C. campus, making fun of real people on campus, mostly faculty members and a group of men. Included was a prologue and six acts: the trial scene, the rhetorical class, the advanced German class, the cooking class, the midnight spread, and the Calethumpians.

For the trial scene, students acted out the roles of the professors, who were also portrayed as animal characters, such as Miss Kellar representing a dragon and M.A.C. President Snyder as a sheep. In the trial scene, the animals/professors are judged for their bad behaviors/breaking the rules, such as smoking, not attending church, attending too many dances, climbing up a tree, and wandering outside the college grounds by an escort not approved by the Dean. While these “bad behaviors” do not seem to be an issue today, early students had several rules imposed upon them, such as a set amount of dances they could attend, mandatory attend at chapel, and strict curfew times.


“The Calethumpians” from the 1900 Wolverine yearbook, page 170.

The last act of the play was “The Calethumpians.” This act is interesting because we can’t verify if this was a true society or not; it might have just been a group men calling themselves that. The Calethumpian Society is listed in the 1900 Wolverine yearbook and it doesn’t list actual names for the six male members, just their nicknames. From the yearbook, “The Calethumpians are a society of high spiritual and physical intentions, having for their object the betterment of the moral and athletic conditions at M.A.C.” and their motto was “never work between meals.” (page 170) For the play, all women played the roles of the males and in the program it stated, “The Calethumpians is a society with high moral purpose whole by-laws prohibit profanity, and work between meals, and whose yell requires athletic training.” In the act, the midnight revels of the Calethumpians in Wells Hall are revealed. Obviously, the women were poking fun at the men.

Along with the play, a poem written in the style of Dante by Harriette Robson and read by N. A. McCune, entitled, “The Abbotiad,” described the storming of Abbot Hall by the nightshirt paraders. The Nightshirt Parade happened at the end of the school year, with the men dressing up in their nightshirts parading around campus. Usually they would stop by faculty member’s homes asking them to serenade the group and/or hijinks would ensue between the classes. According to the M.A.C. Record, “the program ended with ‘A Scene in Hades,’ in which all the characters of the play appeared in costumes weird and grotesque.”


M.A.C. Juniors pose after the Nightshirt Parade in the Chemistry Lecture room, June 1899. (A004617)

Between the acts, the audience was entertained with lantern slides of original drawings, depicting life on campus, by Irma Thompson and S. J. Kennedy, ’01. A few illustrations by Thompson and several by Kennedy appeared in the 1900 Wolverine yearbook. It seems that the play was a success, but really long.

Thompson Illustration

Illustration by Irma Thompson, depicting the race between the Seniors and Juniors to publish the 1900 yearbook. Unfortunately for the Seniors, the Juniors were the winners. This illustration appeared in the 1900 Wolverine, page 105.

Sadly, the University Archives does not have any photographs from this play. Luckily, in Irma’s papers, we do have the play program and scripts from three of the acts. Even though this collection is only one box, it highlights the time of the first women who enrolled in the Home Economics Program. Irma’s scrapbook contains a few photographs, several illustrations she created of her time on campus, and clippings. She kept in touch with her class mates, keeping a record of their lives. She also wrote her own memoirs about her college experience near the end of her life.

Hallowe’en Revels is a unique play that was written by the students of M.A.C., reflecting their life at that time. Even though it wasn’t performed at Halloween, the play does an amazing job of highlighting the spirit of Halloween by allowing the person to become somebody/something else for a brief moment of time.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!


“At the College,” from the M.A.C. Record, Vol. 5 No. 9, November 7, 1899.

The Calethumpians: A Play, circa 1899, Box 761, Folder 29, Irma Thompson Papers, UA 10.3.35, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

The Faculty Meeting: A Play, circa 1899, Box 761, Folder 30, Irma Thompson Papers, UA 10.3.35, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

The Faculty Trial: A Play, circa 1899, Box 761, Folder 31, Irma Thompson Papers, UA 10.3.35, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

“Hallowe’en Revels,” from the M.A.C. Record, Vol. 5 No. 10, November 14, 1899.

Hallowe’en Revels: A Play, November 10, 1899, Box 761, Folder 32, Irma Thompson Papers, UA 10.3.35, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Midnight Spread Scene: A Play, circa 1899, Box 761, Folder 33, Irma Thompson Papers, UA 10.3.35, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Wolverine Yearbook, 1900. Pg. 170. Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Written by Jennie Russell, Assistant Records Archivist

Women’s Work: How the Women of M. A. C. Contributed to World War I

14 05 2018

The needs of the war effort were vast and varied, which meant that there were plenty of ways to help that were opened up for women and women’s departments. Whether staying home or travelling the country and the world, women found a way to help.

In the fall of 1918, two young women joined the Red Cross in order to serve as army nurses.  Alice Latson, ‘09, and Elizabeth Palm, ‘11, became nurses in order to help with medical needs.  Latson was trained as a dietitian in Asbury Hospital in Minneapolis and would be stationed at Camp Gordon in Georgia while Palm would train at Camp Custer’s base hospital.

Mary M. Harrington of the class of ‘18 moved from Flint, Michigan to Fort Riley, Kansas to become a Red Cross dietitian at the U. S. A. Base Hospital. She worked to help feed 2,100 patients, all suffering from influenza. Harrington noted that there were “several other dietitians here, but none are from M. A. C.” In her letter to the newspaper, she asked for a copy of the Record to keep up with her Alma Mater, for “Michigan seems quite far away when one is out here.”


canning participants

Canning Course Participants, 1917

The home economics department stepped up during the war in the whatever ways they could, especially when it came to teaching the community how to help in crucial ways at home: “Fifty senior girls are taking a special course in canning this term, most of them with the idea of offering their services this summer as demonstrators when the canning season opens up.” During the summer of 1917, the home economics department made two food talks and canning demonstrations available for the East Lansing community. The July talk was available to women with two years of training from the home economics department and would later be volunteer canning demonstrators. The August class was open to everyone. The classes were taught by former home economic students who were contacted with emergency registration cards asking “the amount of their training and experience, whether they were available for summer or winter emergency work, and the approximate amount of time that could be devoted to the work.” The ladies were also asked if they would be willing to help “without remuneration or with expenses only.” All over the state, former M. A. C. women agreed to volunteer their time and energy into helping teach “kitchen thrift” to the East Lansing community. The talk in July had 3,419 attendees, and the August demonstrations had 3,000.


The women also gave their time and money to help everyone, soldier and victim alike.  In order to help, “about 200 co-eds” volunteered for the Red Cross Association, using their time to knit “helmets, wristers and scarfs for the navy.” When sickness began to take its toll on the student soldiers, the co-eds of M. A. C. didn’t have any access to the new gym during the influenza epidemic. It was where Company B was housed as everyone was moved around and buildings were used as bunks for the sick.

War often leaves orphans, but some of the women of M. A. C. decided to do something about it. They adopted two french children whom they raised money to care for. It cost $36 a year to care for each child. With an average donation of 40 cents per person, the women raised $130 for the care of the children. The extra money was “used to buy delicacies for the convalescent soldiers.”

They also took over the jobs that typically went to men. With all of the secretaries for the class of ‘17 in the men’s sections serving in the war, a young woman named Lou Butler took over for the entire class as long as the war lasted.

With so much needing to be done, women were able and willing to help in any way they could. The ladies of M. A. C. sacrificed and gave whenever they saw an opportunity, and their creativity in finding where their help was needed is admirable.

Written by Catharine Neely

“Two M. A. C. Girls Entered Red Cross,” MAC Record, 30 September 1918, vol. 24, no. 1, pg. 3.

“From Mary M. Harrington,” MAC Record, 25 October 1918, vol. 24, no. 4, pg. 7.

“News and Comments,” MAC Record, 8 May 1917, vol. 22, no. 28, pg. 7.

“Home Economics Department Active in War Work,” MAC Record, 28 September 1917, vol. 23, no. 2, pg. 3.

“MAC Coeds…,” MAC Record, 22 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 8, pg. 3.

“Two French…,” MAC Record, 1 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 5, pg. 3.

“For Class Secretaries of ‘17,” MAC Record, 1 November 1918, vol. 24, no. 5, pg. 5.

“Some of those in Attendance at the Canning Course,” MAC Record, 17 July 1917, vol. 22, no. 34, pg. 7.

Morrill Hall Reminiscences

19 03 2013
Morrill Hall, circa 1913

Morrill Hall, circa 1913

The Department of Nursing was established at Michigan State College in 1950.  The program was an immediate success.  In 1954 the first 10 graduates earned the highest scores on the State Board of Nursing Exams in Michigan.  During its first decade of existence, classes were held in Giltner Hall, which was home to the College of Veterinary Medicine.  Conditions were not ideal as there was no available space to hold demonstration classes and a large number of sick and dying animals were housed in Giltner, a problem exacerbated by the lack of ventilation.  It was decided in 1961 to move Nursing to Morrill Hall. The following excerpt is from the book Nursing at Michigan State University, written by Dr. Isabelle Payne, Dean Emeritus of the School of Nursing:

After many conferences with the staff in the Office of Space Utilization, the program was moved to the basement of Morrill Hall in 1961.  It wasn’t the best solution, but the faculty were all on one floor and several offices were available for single occupancy.  There were adequate classrooms and space for laboratory demonstrations and practice.  Morrill Hall had originally been a dormitory, and when one prospective student came for a pre-admission interview, she remarked, “My grandmother told me that she lived in this building when she was a student at Michigan State College.”

Although the animal noises and odors were no longer a problem, the faculty was now challenged by bats.  Because Morrill Hall was constructed for use as a dormitory, fireplaces were located in each room for heat.  When the building was remodeled for office and classroom use, the chimney shafts were not closed.  Occasionally, a bloodcurdling scream was heard and one could be sure that a faculty member had encountered a bat.  Students were amused when a bat approached a faculty member.  If a student was attacked, however, it was a different story.  Regardless of the bat’s prey, the screaming, the running to escape, and the general confusion were the same.

Morrill Hall had limited storage space, and, just as when one moves from one house to another, excess accumulation of “stuff” needed to be sorted and disposed of.  The faculty was so spread out in Giltner Hall that it was difficult to consolidate and sort the equipment before the move took place.  This did not seem to bother most of the faculty, but Helen Penhale and Isabelle Payne decided to take matters into their own hands.  They returned to Morrill Hall one evening to sort and dispose of materials that could no longer be used as teaching aides.  One of the dilapidated articles they came upon was an old Chase doll (almost everyone remembers Mary Chase).   After weighing the pros and cons of the situation, they decided to dispose of the mannequin by placing it

Mrs. Mary Chase, source of the misunderstanding. Chase dolls were used to train health care workers.

Mrs. Mary Chase, source of the misunderstanding. Chase dolls were used to train health care workers.

in the trash disposal bin outside the building.  They carried the mannequin out with no difficulty, but because its joints were not functioning properly, it was hard to manage the legs and arms; it took some creative maneuvering to cram all four extremities into the bin.

Apparently, someone driving by saw the women stuffing a “body” into the trash receptacle and contacted the police to investigate.  Before the task of disposing of the “body” was complete, several police cars with lights flashing and sirens screaming came into the parking area between Morrill Hall and Olin Health Center.  By then, the two culprits realized what was happening and were literally consumed with laughter.  They had great difficulty explaining the situation to the policemen, who in turn were doubled over with laughter.  By then a crowd had gathered and it took some time to explain that no one had been murdered and an attempt was not being made to dispose of a “body.”

The police dispersed the crowd and laughingly suggested that when another “object” or “body” was to be disposed of Physical Plant personnel be asked to assist.  Fortunately, neither The State News nor late night TV scooped the story.


Works Cited

Payne, Isabelle. Nursing at Michigan State University. East Lansing: University Printing, 1994.

Breaking Barriers: First African American Students at Michigan State

28 02 2012

As Black History Month is coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the first African American students at MSU that broke barriers changing the way the University and its students perceived the presence of African American students on campus. The following three individuals were among the first black students to be a part of the Michigan State community.

Myrtle Craig arrived at MAC after graduating from a small school in Missouri. Craig was not only a woman enrolling at MAC, but was the first African American student to attend the university. She faced many obstacles during her time here.  Not only was the Women’s Building too expensive for her, but she was not allowed to live there because of her race. When she first began at MAC, she lived with Addison Brown, the secretary to the State Board of Agriculture and cooked as a way to pay off her rent. She then moved in with Chance Newman, an Assistant Professor of Drawing and worked as a sales clerk, in a clothing store, and as a waitress to make ends meet. On May 31, 1907 she graduated and received her diploma from United States President Theodore Roosevelt. For the next forty years she devoted her life to teaching African American students.

Gideon E. Smith was also a very influential figure in the history of Black individuals at Michigan State. Starring at left tackle for the Aggies during the 1913, 1914, and 1915 seasons, Smith was the first African American to play football at MAC. He was one of the most influential players on the team and contributed a lot towards winning seasons of football. However, like all other African American students before 1930, Smith’s name and picture were not included in the men’s societies’ pages in the yearbook. Despite his involvement in sports and other societies on campus, there was no visual record of Smith due to the way that African American’s were perceived in society. Despite his struggles to gain credibility among the college community, Smith graduated with a BS in Agriculture in 1916. He went on to become one of the first professional football players and he served in the military during World War I. He then dedicated the rest of his life to teaching and coaching African American youth.

Everett C. Yates, the first African American to play in the college cadet band and orchestra, also paved the way for future Black students here at Michigan State. Yates was a percussionist in both of these organizations that provided music for the parades and dances at that took place on campus.  He graduated with fellow classmate Gideon Smith in 1916 receiving a BS in Horticulture. Even though the two men graduated together, it was not until recently that Yates’ legacy was recognized. After graduating from MAC, Yates went on to become a very successful teacher, teaching music in schools around the country.

These three individuals, Myrtle Craig, Gideon Smith, and Everett Yates, were some of the first African American students to break color barriers on campus. Through their persistence in their respective and highly visible activities, they paved the way for future Black students at Michigan State.

Accomplished Women Graduates of MSU

22 03 2011

47, 131 students currently call MSU their home and approximately 480,000 alumni hold degrees from the home of Sparty. Needless to say, Michigan State has provided educations to a diverse population and many graduates have gone on to become accomplished citizens. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we would like to highlight some of the most accomplished women graduates of MSU.

Each year a theme is chosen by the National Women’s History Project that highlights achievements by distinguished women. This year the theme is “Our History Is Our Strength.”  This theme emphasizes the importance of learning about women’s tenacity, courage and creativity throughout the centuries. It also pays tribute to the millions of women who helped create a better world for the times in which they lived as well as for future generations.

Michigan State University has been the school to many accomplished women. These important women graduates have left a legacy for this school to enjoy for future generations. *Listed in alphabetical order by first name

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Barbara Ross-Lee D.O. ‘73

Dean of the Ohio University’s Osteopathic Medicine College. She was the first African-American to head a medical school in the US.

Debbie Stabenow ‘72

US Senator and House Representative for the state of Michigan.

Donna Hrinak ‘72

US Ambassador to Brazil and Bolivia. She was the first female career Foreign Service officer to be named a US ambassador.

Dorothy Delay ‘36

Master violin teacher at the Juilliard School in New York.

Carole Leigh Hutton ‘78

Publisher and editor Detroit Free Press.

Cathy Jaros ‘71

Featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Working for Tappan Capital Partners, she specialized in leveraged buyouts of Food companies.

Florence Hall 1909

Headed the National Women’s Land Army during World War II. This program involved 60,000 women farm workers.

Genevieve Gillette ‘20

Founder and first president of the Michigan Parks Association.

Ingrid Saunders Jones ‘69

Vice President corporate affairs Coca Cola company.

Joan Lee Faust ‘50

Garden editor for the New York Times.

Joan Sills ‘75

President of Colony Hotels and Resorts. She was also the first woman to head a worldwide hotel.

Julie Aigner-Clark ‘88

Founder of the Baby Einstein Company.

Linda Puchala ‘69

President of the National Association of Flight Attendants. She was the only woman to lead an AFL-CIO affiliate.

Lynn C. Myers ‘64 – MBA ‘67

Served as general manager of the Pontiac GMC Division of General Motors. She was named McCall’s/Ward’s Auto World’s first “Outstanding Woman in the Automotive industry” in 1994.

Martha L. Gray ‘78

Co-director of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology at MIT. She was elected to the board of directors of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

Martha Smith ‘74

Played Babs, the sorority blonde in Animal House. She also starred in the TV series Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

Maureen McElheron ‘73

Won an Oscar nomination for the best short animated feature in 1988 composing the music for Your Face teaming with MTV animator Bill Plympton.

Molly Brennan ‘82

Member of the GM world championship team which won the first transcontinental solar car race.  MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 1993.

Nancy Ann Fleming ‘65

Miss America and Miss Michigan 1961.

Nancy Hays Teeters

Graduate study in economics at MSU. She became the first woman member of the Federal Reserve Board. She also served as the chief economist for the US House Budget Committee.

Pat Carrigan ‘50

Served as the first female manager of a GM domestic assembly plant. She also served as chair of the MSU Board of Trustees.

Penny Harrington ‘64

Chief of Police for Portland, Oregon. She was the first woman to head a major US city police force.

Robin Stone ‘86

Executive editor of Essence, a magazine for black women with a circulation of one million.

Sally Macut ‘72 –MA ‘79

Vice President of operations for Northwest Airlines.

Sherrie Payne ‘66

Joined the famous Motown trio “The Supremes” in 4975. She composed 250 songs.

Susan M. Schaffer MA ‘69

Vice President of United Airlines In-Flight services corporation.

Susan Packard ‘77 –MA ‘79

CEO of the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV) she also headed the Food Network and the Do-It-Yourself Network. She was named cable TVs “Woman of the Year” in 1998.

Suzanne Sena ‘85

Host of the Celebrity Homes show on the E! Entertainment Television network

… and of course many others and many more to come.


Source: The Spirit of Michigan State, J. Bruce McCristal

Women’s History Month – Morrill Hall

1 03 2011

March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we will celebrate aspects of the history of Women at MSU.

It was the fall of 1896 and Michigan Agricultural State College began something new, a Women’s Program. The MSC catalogue from 1899-1900 stated that “In this course there is a broader range of studies than in the agricultural course, but the central thought is still the capability of taking firm hold of life on the side of its material tasks. It is an effort to apply science to the work of the household, to simplify and systematize its duties and dignify its labors.” Seventeen young ladies moved into the old Abbot Hall (where the current music building is located) and were to begin their studies of home economics. Within four years, enrollment in the Women’s Program grew exponentially with numbers reaching 60 female students; the college needed a new space.

Morrill Hall was built.

The photograph shows the statue of Diana and her fawn inside Morrill Hall. The back reads, “Woman’s Building Entrance Hall-1917. Statue of Diana and her fawn, bought by the college because the State Board wanted some good art in Bldg.” The statue stood where the elevator, built summer of 1914, is currently. The dining room was on the third floor and an elevator was demanded.

$95,000 was the final cost of this beautiful red brick building. It was a palace to the residents at the time. Called “The Coop” by the male students, this four-story structure provided everything necessary for the comfort and health of the young women. Each room came fully furnished with a bedstead, mattress, dresser, wash-stand, two chairs, washbowl and pitcher, and a closet and would cost about ten to twelve dollars a term. The building itself contained a kitchen laboratory, small dining-room for classes in cooking, parlors on the second floor, large dining room on the third floor, a two-story gymnasium on the ground and first floors, music rooms, waiting a reception rooms, toilet and bath rooms, laundry rooms, and living rooms. The hall was adorned with paintings, aesthetically pleasing furniture and décor, and artificial plants. The Women’s Building was in close proximity to the post office, library, and other college buildings. It faced a pleasant stretch of thick green lawn containing beautiful trees and shrubbery. There was even a small artificial pond nearby with a rustic bridge connecting to a small island in which the girls could go enjoy the landscape.

The building not only was able to house the 120 female residents, but also the Dean, the head of the home economics department, her assistants, and the physical education instructor. These faculty members would sleep in rooms adjoining the fire escapes to prevent late night loiters from entering through the unlatched windows to hang out with their friends. The Women’s Building had “absolute quiet” hours from seven to ten o’clock pm. Lights went out at ten o’clock, and only two eleven o’clock parties were allowed a term.

One student recalls that dinner was always an event: “And what a scramble to get to dinner. There was no elevator in the building and we climbed the stairs to the third floor three times a day besides taking our turn at a table waiting.” Life in the Women’s Building was quiet enjoyable for the residents living there at the time.

The photograph shows the Domestic Science Laboratory in Morrill Hall. Windows seem to face East overlooking newly cleared land and the “Lagoon.” The back reads, “Domestic Science Laboratory. (1908?) see window (illegible).”

In 1937, major changes took place to the building. Enrollment in the Women’s Program continued to increase and (the new) Sarah L. Williams Hall was built to house more students. With the new West Circle buildings being built to serve as housing for women, it was decided that $83,000 was to be spent on the Women’s Building to convert it into classrooms and offices for the Liberal Arts Division. Offices included the Dean of Liberal Arts division; departments of economics, education, English, geology and geography, history, mathematics, sociology and zoology, and large classrooms were also a part of the new building. This was also when its name changed to Morrill Hall, named after Justin Morrill, a Vermont senator who sponsored the Land-Grant Act in 1862 which gave states the money to establish agricultural and mechanical arts colleges. This act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The building would undergo one more renovation in 1956 where they expanded certain parts of the structure.

Now, 111 years after its initial opening, the building is plagued with

The photograph shows the gymnasium in the basement of Morrill Hall, circa 1908.

cockroaches in the floorboards, bats in the ceiling, leakage problems, tilted ceilings and floors, and even ghosts according to some professors. It still serves as office space for faculty of the English, History, and Religious Studies programs. The professors have to be careful where they place their books in their high ceiling offices in fear of the floor collapsing. The age of Morrill Hall first showed up in February 1991 when a 12 ft by 40 ft portion of the basement ceiling collapsed. Since then, the buildings wooden structure has been deteriorating causing the building to be an enormous safety hazard. It was decided in 2008 that the building would have to be demolished. March 2013 will mark Morrill Hall’s last days. There is a plan to spend $36 million to both demolish the building and either build a new Morrill Hall or renovate and rename an existing building.

It is sad to see such a historical building go, but until then, let it stand as a reminder as the first Women’s dormitory and the pioneer Women’s Program.

For more information regarding the history of Home Economics Courses at MSU, visit the University Archives and Historical Collections’ online exhibit here.

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?