Maid of the Mountains, 1912

The minute I spied this book in a local consignment store I knew I was onto something good. But what?

As it turns out, Maid of the Mountains is a cross between a high school yearbook and a literary journal written by the girls at the Southern Seminary of Buena Vista, Virginia. Unlike the slick yearbooks of today (and even of the 1920s), This one appears to be entirely written and produced by the students of the school. The printing was done at a local press, and the photos were glued into the book.

The advances in education for girls played a major part in the movement toward equal rights for women. Schools like Southern Seminary produced a generation of women who were used to being leaders. And in the form of athletic attire, these women were used to wearing pants.

Athletics were a big part of what was happening at schools like Southern Seminary. The yearbook has pages for the baseball team, five different basketball teams, a tennis club, and a riding club. There was a boating club, but they must not have had a swimming pool, as swimming is not mentioned.

There’s not a photo of the baseball team, but a drawing by student May Wichelhausen shows the proper attire of athletic turtleneck sweater and bloomers. The basketball uniforms was similar with sweater (with SS logo) and bloomers.

Bloomers were not worn for tennis. Instead the girls wore the already traditional white skirt and middy blouse.

Two of the girls have words printed on headbands. I’ve tried enlarging them and have no idea what the one on the left reads, unless it is USS something. The one on the right seems to read “… George Do It”. It’s a mystery to me.

The younger girl at left in the back row is wearing the huge bow that was favored by teens at this time. One of the theories of how the 1920s flappers were so named came from the bows that were worn by them during adolescence.

The girls of the riding club wore a hodgepodge of garments, but all seem to be riding astride wearing divided skirts. I was surprised that not all were wearing hats.

This is part of a photo of the freshman class. All these girls were wearing the schoolgirl middy with a skirt right above the ankles. We can also see another flapper bow.

Contrast the freshmen with this photo of the yearbook staff, a group of juniors and seniors. No more middies for this adult-looking bunch…

except for when participating in boating club, of course.

The seniors and the superlatives all got an individual photo included. This portrait of senior Miriam Conklin was typical of the demure pose most girls struck.

But none of that for Miriam Thompson. She was voted most athletic, and to prove it she posed in her sweater and looked directly at the camera. She and her sister Virginia went on to college at Newcomb College, and Miriam eventually became Dr. Thompson, and a faculty member of Limestone College in Gaffney, SC where she was professor of mathematics. She retired in 1969.

Southern Seminary eventually became Southern Virginia University. The original building, the former Buena Vista Hotel, is still used as the school’s Main Hall.

19 Comments

Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing

19 responses to “Maid of the Mountains, 1912

  1. Tracy

    I googled Let George Do It as there seemed to be another word in front of the George. I found this http://www.dictionary.com/browse/let-george-do-it.
    The date is right. The other reference is to a radio show in the 1940s so it couldn’t be that, but might have come from the phrase.

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  2. Wow! What an amazing find! Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I love it! 🙂

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  3. Christine

    Thanks Lizzie. Such a fascinating post. I’ve never seen a yearbook of that vintage and especially of a girls’ school. There’s so much to see and learn from your background on SS and the attire of the day.

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  4. Mary Pfaff

    I always wondered how girls and young women could wear those giant bows. They look so uncomfortable. Were they tied onto the hair somehow, or did they use pins to hold them in place? I also wonder what kind of fabric was used–something stiff like grosgrain or thin like silk?

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  5. jacq staubs

    I have photographs of my Great Aunts from the same period. The midi top and same bows in hair and tied in front in a bow and low free hanging neck tie over midi sailor style blouse over a pleated skirt and thick stockings. Hair worn like a “Gibson in front and tied with bow with ponytail in back. It is dated 1918. She was born in 1900. She and my Grandmother in photos from the mid 20’s were in full flapper short skirts in early 20’s. If this info helps? The sailor midi tops and ties and bows in early 1900’s photos they had on as young children?!The Austrian and European royals were wearing them at the same time-interesting.

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  6. What a treasure! And how wonderful that you were able to track down Miriam Thompson. I would love to know how she dressed as she aged.

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  7. About the yearbook staff: Imagine putting your hair up like that every morning before going to school! Perhaps the girls helped each other. If we didn’t find photos like this, we might assume that only women with ladies’ maids wore these elaborate styles.

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  8. ceci

    Some of my older aunts reportedly went to SS a few years after this…..fascinating to see pictures. I wonder if any of them had similar yearbooks…..

    ceci

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  9. Such a wonderful record of social history that you found and thank you for sharing.

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  10. My husband’s grandmother was at Southern Sem at about this time. Her name was Frances Blue.

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  11. John Thomas

    I went to Washington & Lee University, some seven miles away in Lexington, VA, in the late ’60’s; and dated several young ladies from Southern Sem. The Main Hall building there, the former Buena Vista Inn mentioned above, was a very large, beautiful Victorian-era building. At that time Southern Seminary was a two year “finishing” school (a post high school education) for women.

    I was a history major and now sew clothes for our five granddaughters as a hobby. I really enjoy your blog posts on vintage clothing, etc.

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