in as a Squirrel and Leave as an Owl
By Trinity Peacock-Broyles '03
Before she graduated in May, Trinity Peacock-Broyles
took a personal interest in Smith history and spent a few afternoons
in the College Archives sifting through century-old student handbooks
and newspapers. What follows is her idea of the life of a Smith student
some 100 years ago.
I miss President Seelye's cow. Even
though I never met her, I feel a special connection to the
cud-chewing pacifist that I've seen in pictures circa 18751910.
like to return (maybe for a week) to the idyllic days when
cow grazed in what was then considered a "neglected area" of
campus and is now the Science Quad.
Think of how relaxing
it would be to walk to class and see a cow peacefully grazing
alongside your path. I think that every president should have a cow, as
of Smith's noble traditions and a reminder to live simply (while of course
acting locally and globally). Maybe the senior class could make a generous gift
of a dairy cow to President Christ and forthcoming senior classes could pay for
veterinary bills, boarding in the winter and perhaps some hay.
Photo courtesy Smith College
Speaking of hay
at Smith, I am equally fascinated by a picture in "Celebrating
a Century: The Botanic Garden of Smith College" that shows three women
in long dresses crossing the future Burton Lawn while farmhands pile hay onto
a wagon. I would love to be one of those women, for a little while at least.
This area was known as the "Back Campus" around 1894 when this photo
was taken. Along with the idyllic scene of an open field and a glimpse of a small
greenhouse, I examine the structure occupying the "knoll." Instead
of seeing Wright Hall, early students (perhaps bearing the names of Teedy, Teddy,
Tansy, or Babs, Bunny or Bounce) would have seen the Smith observatory, "devoted
to the study of the heavens," as described by the Hampshire Country Journal.
Built in 1886, this lovely work of architecture included a dome twenty-one feet
in diameter made of iron and fitted with a telescope that "even the slenderest
hand among the fair pupils" of Smith could easily turn. I'm sure
that most Smith students today would have no trouble swinging it around.
not so much of a science person, instead of spending my week down memory lane
studying the heavens, I might prefer to play some basketball. My
travel could take me no further than
1893, when the first women's basketball game in the country was played
at Smith. Looking through old local newspapers and photographs, I see that I
would need to adjust to having nine players on a team and to competition between
classes, not colleges. The bulky and unrevealing uniforms might be ugly and
uncomfortable, but it would not matter because no male admirers could attend
games. "A woman
out of her normal attire was not fit to be seen by a male," according to
Senda Berenson, instructor of physical culture at Smith, who introduced the game
To play the game I would have to show "good carriage and neatness
of appearance," and
I could never "snatch" the ball away from another young lady because
that would be an infringement of the rules. I would be called "Miss Peacock-Broyles," though
it's a mouthful, and I would have to get used to yelling at my teammates, "Hey,
Miss Hale, catch!" or "Heads up, Miss Baker!"
to follow many more rules to avoid getting kicked out. As the Smith saying goes,
you "come in as a squirrel, and leave as an owl." I
wouldn't have wanted to be a "squirrel" in 1918 when the college
rules required students to obey "quiet hours" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,
2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. And when the lights were extinguished at
10 p.m., students had to be in their rooms. I would watch out for the Department
of Hygiene and Physical Education, which issued "flunk notices" generously,
and make sure I didn't "fuss" (entertain men) or become a "grind" (study
The social restrictions extended to off-campus
behavior as well. I'd
sure to remember that "Rumor is the Patron Saint of Northampton" and
to read the Bulletin for facts. I'd watch out for the "Politeness
Policemen," an organization whose regulations forbid more than two girls
to walk abreast on Northampton sidewalks, and included an injunction against
eating while walking on Main Street. I'd keep in mind the popular verse: "The
gum-chewing girl and the cud-chewing cow -- The difference? Oh yes, I
see it now! It's the thoughtful look on the face of the cow!" And
before leaving my room, I'd remember yet another rule: "Don't
go below Beckman's [candy store] without a hat. Your reputation will
go further below if you do."
Despite the rules, there were many ways
for Smithies to enjoy themselves. For fun, I could take the trolley to Old
Hadley or a carriage ride for 25 cents.
I could go to the "libe" and read a book or, if I were feeling
especially adventurous, I could become a "grass cop," one of those "stalwart
girls" who is privileged to blow loudly on their whistles as a sign for
some thoughtless student to get off the grass. I could go bowling in the Alumnae
Gym's alley, participate in archery or play golf. If these were to aggravate
my "feminine disposition," I could always turn to canoeing, perhaps
borrowing one from a student who'd brought her own to school and kept
it at the boathouse.
I could attend the Junior Frolic dance, decorate
grave along with the freshmen of Dewey House on Memorial Day or join one of the
sings on the steps of the Student's Building. I might win the hoop-rolling
contest and be destined to become the first bride, and I could show off my other "stunts" along
with my fellow students.
I'd be a tired dog at the end of my week of time
travel. But come to think
of it there's one thing I miss even more than President Seelye's
cow -- the Smith College fees in 1923: $200 for tuition, with $250 for board
and $100 for a room.