Thursday, June 13, 2013

Freshmen Women Rush Week 1939

Rush week finally began at Rice! It seems the freshmen girls were approached to rush, even before classes even began. I'm not completely up-to-date as to how things are done now, but at most colleges I visited with my son and we were told freshmen are not rush for least the first semester. Things have changed I guess.

Friday, September 15th, 1939
Rush Week at Rice Institute was opened Thursday night at the Houston Country Club when the Elizabeth Baldwin Literary Society entertained for 26 rushees with a diner and dance. 

The theme followed was that of the Taj Mahal, a large reproduction of which was reflected in the pool under a spotlight. Small pictures of the Taj Mahal were used as place cards. Fruit and purple candles decorated  the tables. Virginia Cashman and Charlotte Carr were in charge of decorations. 

Elizabeth Knapp, general chairman for the affair, was assisted by Betty Butler, Rosemary McKinney, Judy Biossat, Emily Montgomery, Demaris Delange, Margie Parsons, and Margie Boyd in arranging the affair. 

Honorees were Misses Betty Adams, Nancy Allen Blakemore, Katharine Cameron, Flora Clarke, Helen Eads, Eugenia Gantt, Stelloise Godbold, Elizabeht Philbrook, Betty Hall, Barbara Kirkland, Dorothy Herring, Janet Houstoun, Sue Kurth, Marguerite Lane, Hancel Langham, Hortense Manning, Laura Loise Peden, Grace Picton, Betty Ruth Robbins, Evelyn Smith, Virginia Stevens, Hester Stewart, Margaret Ann Sullivan, Ann Tuck, Pady Sue Whitecomb, and Katherine Coburn. 

The Owen Wister Literary Society will honor rushees with a dinner-dance at the Houston Country Club Friday at 7 p.m. Mary Margaret Raymond is president of the society. Elizabeth Hill chairman of arrangements, will be assisted by Katherine Gay, Jeanette Stevenson, Margie Bogar, Elizabeth Potter, Robyn Moncrief, Lois Lee Qualtrough, Lucy Ann Webster, Rhydonia Hamlink, Mildred Hargrove, Jerry Brown and Flora Jackson. 
* * *
Sunday September 17th, 1939
The Pallas Athene Literary Society dinner at River Oaks Country Club entered the series of rush parties at Rice Institute las week. Twenty five freshmen girls were honored at the dinner, followed by the first of the regular Rice Saturday night dances at Arabia Temple. 

Maryellen Snyder president of the society, was assisted in arrangements by Celeste McAshan, Evelyn Williams, Frances Bishop, Lucille Bertin, Marian Smedes, and Mildred Dattner.

Honorees at the dinner were Betty Adams, Nancy Allen Blakemore, Katharine Cameron, Barbara Clark, Flora Clarke, Katherine Coburn, Helen Eads, Barbara Frankl, Mary Olivia Fuller, Eugenia Gantt, Betty Hall, Janet Houstoun, Maisie Jones, Joanne Keith, Barbara Kirkland, Hancel Langham, Cordelia Lynn, Frances Moran, Grace Picton, Betty Ruth Robbins, Evelyn Smith, Virginia Stevens, Hester Stewart, Margie Ann Sullivan, and Ann Tuck

Does anyone know something about literary societies? Are these predecessors to sororities? They sure sound like sororities. The history, is actually quite interesting. They provided a way for women students at Rice, who were not able to live on campus until 1957, to organize and socialize. Not only were there no female dorms, but women had to be off the camps by 5:00 p.m., late into the 1930s. These societies began mostly to promote academic. Over time, they evolved and became purely social and quite exclusive. The societies reached their peak popularity in the fifties and then began a decline and eventually disbanded in the eighties. The Elizabeth Baldwin Society Literary, the first literary society at Rice, was founded in 1914. It's focus was to provide a social space for women to discuss politics and academics. In 1914, women's suffrage was at the top of women's political issues and at the root of the literary society. Together with a short lived male counterpart, The Owl Literary Society, the two groups started The Thresher, the student newspaper. About 75% of women were members of the society as the original idea was universal and for all women. As the demand for the society grew, an offshoot was started in 1919, the Pallas Athene Literary Society, to accommodate more women. This group focused on Literature. Together the two societies helped launched a third group, the Owen Wister Literary Society in 1924. This groups strove to  buy library books and band uniforms. There is a wonderful online exhibit about the history of these societies at the Woodson Research Center, complete with scrapbook and photos. The Cornerstone, the Newspaper of the Rice Historical Society, has a nice article reviewing the history of the Literary Societies available online.

What do you think about the Taj Mahal theme? Sounds like it was hard to beat. The other groups didn't have any decorations worth mentioning so I guess the Elizabeth Baldwin Society Literary took the lead on that! Not surprising since they were the oldest society and probably the most popular. 

I found it interesting that 17 of the 26 freshmen girls, rushed both societies (I've underlined the names which appear in both lists of honorees). It seems there was intense competition between the groups. I also couldn't help but notice that none of the names of the girls mentioned sounded Jewish. I'm pretty sure if you were Jewish, you couldn't get into these groups, that by the 1930's were quite exclusive. Ethel who reported on these societies, and certainly liked literature, did not belong to any of the literary societies. She belong to the Menorah Society instead. I wonder if she went to the various country clubs in order to report on the events, or rather she met with a representative who described the affair instead.


  1. Some how I cant see dinner and dances going on like that now. More loke go out and get bladdered (drunk)

    1. It does sound like it was probably a much tamer affair than the drinking parties of today. Remember prohibition was repealed by the 21st amendment in Dec of 1933, less than six years earlier than the dates of this scrapbook. I bet there was some drinking going on in college. We'll have to wait and see if there are any signs of it in the articles.


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