Tag Archives: education

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.

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Filed under Curiosities, Proper Clothing

National Park Seminary: A School for Girls

The book I’m sharing today is enough to make me clean house a bit more often.  That’s because I found this one among my husband’s books which are usually in a bit of disarray.  The root of the problem is that we are both book lovers, and we have outgrown the two floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover two entire walls in his office.  We’ve decided to add more shelving, and so we are sorting through books, and that when I turned up A School For Girls.

The National Park Seminary was a private two year program for young women of means.  When this book was published in 1924, the school was being called a junior college, but in reality it was more of a finishing school.  There were several courses that girls could take, all of which were heavy on the arts and on homemaking skills.  There was also a four year high school program.

National Park Seminary, commonly referred to as The Glen School, started life as a hotel.  When the hotel failed in 1894, the property was purchased and converted into the school.   The facility was spread over ninety acres and consisted of around thirty buildings, many of which were connected by covered walkways.

In 1924 the school seemed to be on firm footing, but the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression  took a heavy toll on the school.  It barely remained open, and in 1942 the school was closed when the US Army bought the property.  It was established as part of Walter Reed Army Hospital as a rehabilitation  facility for disabled soldiers returning from WWII.

My husband does not remember where he got the book, but he does know why he bought it.  He was stationed at Walter Reed in the early 1970s.  The research facility in which he worked was located near the old school, and he and his co-workers would regularly go to the cafeteria there.   By that time the facility was severely underfunded by the army, but Tim still remembers the buildings as being quite grand.

The army eventually closed the Forest Glen facility, and it fell into disrepair.  Today it is being restored, and the old school and hospital is now being converted to condos and apartments.  A Google images search shows both the decay and the newly restored buildings, and is quite amazing to look at.

The book seems to a catalog of sort for prospective students.  It outlines the courses, lays out the rules, and brags about the facility and the clientele.  As expected, the school was quite expensive, with a basic charge of $1375 ($19,100 today), but with many additional charges, including up to $100 ($1400 today) per course.  Girls had to have five references in order to be considered for admission.  Any girl who turned out to be a “difficult case” was “…promptly returned to her home.”

The book is full of photographs of the school and of the girls.  After a while the photos, which are obviously staged, start to look alike, and I’m guessing that the same girls were used over and over.

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that all the young women are wearing very similar dress.  While not a true uniform, each girls was instructed to have:

Four dresses cut after the style of the two-piece sailor dresses.

There was a Dress Circular that was supplied to the mothers of applicants that laid out in detail the particulars of dress that was accepted at the school.  In addition to the four middy dresses, my book gives a few general dress requirements:

Three simple dresses to be worn at evening dinner and Sundays at home.

One evening dress for formal parties.

One topcoat or a tailored coat suit for trips to Washington.

All jewelry is forbidden…

Unfortunately, the book does not go into detail about athletic wear, but the pictures pretty much tell the story.

This shows Indian club exercise in the gym.

Several sports teams were pictured, all wearing the identical middy and bloomer combination that we see in use in the gym.

But for riding, the proper attire was a riding jacket and jodhpurs.

Note the covered walkway.

And the middy dress worked well for tennis.

Finally, I want to share one of the courses that was offered in the home economics department – Laundry.  At first I wondered why a girl who could afford to go to an expensive finishing school would need to know how to do the laundry.  Silly me!

An interesting course that ought to be taken by any girl who would intelligently supervise such work in her own home.  Many an expensive article has been ruined because the necessary caution or advice could not be offered by the inexperienced housewife.

 

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs

The Vintage Traveler Goes to College

If you have a blog or a website then you know that one of the most valuable tools around is a traffic tracker.  It’s almost like spying on your own site, seeing where your traffic originates, and in many cases, what search brought them to you. (I did a post on weird searches that brought traffic here, but I’m really due for an update.)

Last week I noticed I was getting a lot of traffic from a site called compositionatthebeach.com.  To be honest, if I get a link in my stats that looks a bit fishy, I usually refrain from clicking through to the site, but this sounded innocuous enough so like a good spy I went off to investigate.  Turns out that The Beach is California State University at Long Beach, and the link was to a forum where first year composition students discuss topics assigned by the instructor.

In this case the topic was “Do you ever stop to think about where your belongings come from? Does that affect their value?”  To facilitate the chat, the students were assigned to read two pieces, and one of them was a blog post I wrote about how I was concerned about how Pinterest users do not always properly link back to the source.  The other article was from Lucky Peach magazine,  written by Christine Muhlke and titled  “Trickle-Down: The Circuitous Path of Ideas in Food and Fashion.”  I can’t find the article online, but it is about how a good idea travels from innovator to mass market.

I thought this was an interesting way to get the students to talk about intellectual property and design.  When I first read the prompt, I assumed that this was going to be a discussion about products being made in Third World countries, but instead the instructor was referring to the actual origin of the belonging – how it was conceived.  And I loved that my blog was considered to be a “belonging.”

The resulting chat was interesting for as much as what the students did not say as for what they did say.   It was encouraging to read that most of them did see how I’d be upset that my photos and writing were posted on sites like pinterest and tumblr without giving proper credit.  It was a bit disturbing to read that some of them thought I was being naive to think I could post anything on the internet without knowing it would be stolen.

Many of them did take a more literal approach to the question, and discussed where their belongings were actually  made.  Almost every single one who made a statement of this sort said they never look at the labels to see where things they are buying are manufactured.  Most of them said that the cost of an item was more important to them than where the item was made.  And only a handful of them mentioned the issues of human rights violations in manufacturing.

Obviously there is work to be done in raising awareness of this issue.  Perhaps that is why the instructor chose the introduction to  Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion as the next springboard to discussion.

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