In the early to mid-twentieth century, students didn’t make friends on social media or find a date through an app. They went to student sponsored socials and dances, with chaperones and live bands. The women were asked to dance by a different male student for almost every song, and they needed cards to avoid scheduling one dance with two different boys. They knew how to have fun and even got to hear some great music! Who wouldn’t want to hear Hoagy Carmichael or Louis Armstrong?
The Myra Montgomery Arthur Dance Card Collection and the Indiana University Archives Dance Card Collection hold numerous examples of inventive miniature booklets once used by female students to schedule their dance partners when at a social event. The two collections together contain over 50 different dance cards from dances and parties held at IU for students between 1900 and 1955. The ‘cards’ are often about the size of a person’s hand or smaller, with several pages provided for listing names. Some are in different shapes, such as a clover for a St. Patrick’s Day dance, or a football for the Foot-Ball Dance, held on the eve of the Syracuse-Indiana game in 1925. Others are attractive metal or leather booklets with a ribbon or string for a young lady to loop around her wrist while dancing. Parties and dances were sponsored by sororities, fraternities, and other student clubs and groups such as the Boosters Club, and there were always annual dances like the Annual Senior Siwash or the Junior Prom. There were so many dances, sock hops, and events to attend, a student could not only have a full dance card each night, but also a full schedule for the week!
Inside the inventive and colorful covers of a dance card was a lady’s promised dances, but also a list of chaperones, the name of the student organization sponsoring the dance, and who performed the live music. Many of the performers were local or college bands that played at IU often, but some were upcoming or established stars of the jazz and big band era! It turns out Hoagie Carmichael and Carmichael’s Collegians performed at a few of the student dances between 1924 and 1925 as his career was beginning. The students who planned The 1939 Junior Prom even somehow found a way to book Louis Armstrong!
Hoagy Carmichael was a Bloomington native who, after graduating from IU with a bachelor’s degree and law degree in 1925 and 1926, went on to become one of the most significant composers and musicians of his time. Famous for writing well known hits like “Georgia on My Mind” and “Stardust” among others, Carmichael is an icon of the jazz and big-band eras. He worked with Johnny Mercer on a number of projects including collaborating with him on “Skylark” in 1942, and his songs were performed by many famous singers including Louis Armstrong.
The young men and women who were lucky enough to attend a student dance where Hoagy Carmichael or Louis Armstrong were performing during the 1920s and 1930s not only had the chance to fill their dance cards, but also to see some of the era’s most famous musicians!
Margaret Albersmeyer Werling graduated with a bachelor’s in Education in 1953, and, according to her personal scrapbook, attended every sporting event, theater show, and dance that she possibly could between 1951 and 1953. While perusing her scrapbook, I discovered many interesting IU student traditions including: the decorating of fraternities for football games, the Law-Med School Boress, the Arbutus Queen Contest, and the Fall Carnival Parade.
Margaret was an avid attendee of athletic events and saved programs from basketball games, track and field events, and football games. She must have truly enjoyed attending the Old Oaken Bucket games between IU and Purdue because she saved tickets and programs from 1951 and 1952. Although she did get to see IU triumph in football, she watched the Hoosiers clinch the 1953 NCAA Basketball Championship over Kansas and attended campus celebrations.
I was most intrigued by Margaret’s impressive dance card collection. Dance cards initially became popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century and their usage peaked in the early 20th century. Dance cards were typically small, decorated booklets worn on a woman’s wrist or attached to her dress with a cord. Men carried pencils and wrote their names on lines next to the name of dances in the booklet.
Dance cards remained in fashion until the 1960s when dances became less formal affairs. Common phrases such as “pencil me in,” “my dance card is full,” and “save the last dance for me” are all tied to the dance card culture. Many of Margaret’s dance cards have a decorated cover that reflects the theme of the dance, lists of committee members who sponsored the dance, and details about the entertainment.
Dances were all the rage at IU in the 1950s. There were plenty of formal and informal dances to keep students busy. Students could attend the Freshman Frolic, the Freshman Tyronian, the Sophomore Cotillion, the Junior Prom, the annual Blanket Hop hosted by Sigma Delta Chi (the honorary journalistic fraternity), the Senior Siwash, and many more!
A dance that became an annual tradition on campus was the Wellhouse Waltz. The first iteration of this dance was held in 1944 at the Alumni Hall of the Union. Each year, male attendees selected a freshman woman to become “Miss Campus Coed.” It was said that in order for any IU woman to become a “true coed,” her date must take her to the Well House after the Wellhouse Waltz and then kiss her for the full twelve strokes at midnight.
The Junior Prom was the most formal dance of the season and was held in the Men’s Gymnasium with a dedicated theme. The festivities could last until two o’clock in the morning. Students must have truly enjoyed these dances because they would “end only by force of the 12:30 curfew when dates unwillingly part” (1953 Indiana Arbutus, p. 138). The theme of Margaret’s 1953 prom was “A Star Danced.”
Well-known artists played at many IU dances. In 1952, Duke Ellington played at the Dames’ Ball, a dance where women escorted the men. According to the 1952 Arbutus, “The men reaped the benefits of inverted chivalry that evening as they were called for, paid for, and encumbered with original – and uninhibited – corsages.” At the end of the night, one man was chosen to be “King of the Dames.”
Students voted on a Queen at both formal and informal dances. At the 1952 Sweater Hop, the Sweater Queen was selected out of twenty-nine candidates. According to the 1953 Arbutus, “each housing unit had the privilege of selecting their candidate for the competition. The list was narrowed down to five girls before the dance by several judges picked from campus dignitaries. The sponsoring housing unit then put on an all-out campus campaign.” Couples attending the dance cast their vote and the winner was presented with a cashmere sweater and roses.
Margaret must have loved her time dancing the night away as an undergraduate at Indiana University because she came back to earn a master’s degree in education eight years later. If you would like to learn more about dances at IU, look at Margaret Werling’s scrapbook, or learn about other IU student traditions, contact the IU Archives.
The Alma Eikerman papers are now organized and available for research! If you don’t remember, the collection came to us in pretty rough shape; you can read about in my blog post from a few months ago.
Born in 1908, Eikerman was a well-respected artist and professor who taught in the School of Fine Arts (now the School of Art + Design) at Indiana University from 1947 to 1978. Known for her innovative metalsmithing, she was a vital force behind the development of the program at IU. Her work appeared in numerous exhibitions during her lifetime and now resides in private collections and museums across the country, including the Smithsonian and our own IU Eskenazi Museum of Art.
The Eikerman papers includes a wealth of material documenting Eikerman and her life. Included are papers from her extensive travels such as tickets, maps, itineraries, brochures, notes she took while on trips, and her passports with stamps of the countries she visited.
Her correspondence includes not only professional missives but also many personal letters, such as post cards Eikerman sent to her parents while she was working for the American Red Cross and a letter from her grandfather from around 1916. Eikerman also sent annual newsletters to her former students to keep everyone updated on each other, demonstrating her dedication to and interest in her students.
The photographs in this collection are my personal favorites and include slides, negatives and prints spanning her entire life, personal and professional. Also, can we all just agree that Alma Eikerman was incredibly photogenic?
Lastly, and perhaps most important to those familiar with her work as an artist, is the part of the collection that relates to metalsmithing. Here researchers can find notes, receipts for materials, price estimates, sale tickets, as well as preparatory sketches of her work in various states of development – some hardly more than doodles while others are detailed sketches of a piece complete with notes.
Contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment to view the Eikerman collection!
After 110 years of existence, the IU Student Building is being renamed in honor of Frances Morgan Swain (Miller). But wait, what’s so special about this lady?
Frances “Fannie” Hannah Morgan was born in Knightstown, Indiana, in 1860. Her family appears to have been reasonably well-off (her father, Charles D. Morgan was, by turns, a lawyer, banker, and state representative), and they were members of the Fall Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends in Henry County. It is unclear when Frances met Joseph Swain, who was by turns a student (B.L.1883, M.S. 1885), professor of mathematics (1887-1891), and president (1893-1902) of Indiana University. One account by the Bloomington Courier stated that they met as students at Indiana, but there is no record of Frances’s attendance before 1887. What is certain is that they were married in September 1885, presumably after connecting over their joint Quaker heritage. And love of mathematics. Keep reading–you’ll see.
Compared to the women who preceded her as “first lady” of Indiana University, Frances was hardly the conventional president’s wife. Unlike her predecessors, she actually attended Indiana University, completing junior-level mathematics coursework over two years. She began her studies in 1887, the same year that Joseph was appointed an associate professor in the department. Even more unusual was that she did so as a married woman. She began studying in 1887, the same year that Meadie Hawkins Evermann became IU’s first married female graduate. Swain’s education took a detour when her husband was invited to join the faculty of the newly formed Stanford University in 1891–she completed her A.B. in Mathematics there in 1893.
Perhaps the most significant difference between Frances and her predecessors was her public and active commitment to effecting change on campus. When the Swains returned to Bloomington, Joseph as the new university president, Frances completed some graduate-level mathematics coursework, but soon turned her interests to the welfare of students, especially women, at the university. The historian Thomas Clark describes President Swain’s era at IU as one of rapidly increasing enrollments, which proved particularly challenging in the area of housing for female students–there was no women’s dormitory at the time, and private housing options in town were limited. Women arrived on campus from “strict homes…bound down by admonitions, taboos, and inhibitions,” and there were few means of support beyond sororities to “safely” navigate their new environment. Frances’s answer to the problem was the organization of a “Women’s League” dedicated to the self-improvement of its members as well as improving conditions for women on campus and in the Bloomington community.
Founded in 1895, the IU Women’s League was composed of women serving in various capacities on campus, including faculty, wives of faculty, members of campus clubs and sororities, and “unrepresented” female students–students who did not belong to a sorority or other club that provided housing or a support system. It provided educational and social programming for league members and the broader campus and Bloomington communities, including lectures, receptions, and dramatic performances. One of the League’s first speakers was Dr. Rebecca Rogers George, an Indianapolis physician who became a longtime, non-resident lecturer on female physiology and hygiene for the university. Over the years a variety of other speakers, including female educators, social reformers, and suffragists discussed current events and other topics of interest. Over time the mission of the Women’s League evolved, transitioning from a social club to a form of women’s student government.
One of Frances’s (and the League’s) most significant efforts on campus was the campaign for the construction of a Women’s Building on campus. Inspired by the existence of such facilities at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and other regional institutions, Frances and the Women’s League began raising funds so that female students at IU could have a building of their own. In March 1901, with $6500 in pledges under her belt, Frances appealed to the Board of Trustees to support the project, which she presented as a much-needed space for socializing, exercising, and relaxation. The Board responded with the following resolution:
Be it resolved, that the Trustees of the University most heartily endorsed the movement, presented and explained by Mrs. Swain, for the erection of a Women’s Building on the campus, and inasmuch as said building is to be erected entirely by private subscription, all friends of the University and of education generally are urged to aid Mrs. Swain and her association in their good work.
The campaign for the Women’s Building, essentially the first mass fundraising appeal by the university, ultimately found success through a generous matching donation offer by John D. Rockefeller. Sacrificed in the process, however, was the building’s status as a facility exclusively for women–it instead was built as the “Student Building,” and has remained so up until this week.
The Swains left Indiana when Joseph accepted the presidency of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. While the couple were doubtless as happy as, well, a pair of Quakers at a school for Quakers, their interest in the welfare of Hoosier Nation never ceased. Besides returning to campus for personal visits and university ceremonies, Frances and Joseph were the first donors to the post-World War I Memorial Fund, giving $500 each in 1921 and lobbying alumni to donate as well. In 1932, five years after Joseph died, Frances married John A. Miller, also a former faculty member of Indiana, Stanford, and Swarthmore. And a mathematics professor–see what I mean? But in Bloomington, she’ll always be remembered the most as Mrs. Joseph Swain.
As the existence of the Women’s League demonstrates, Frances Swain was not the only woman involved in promoting change on campus. The mere existence of women faculty and staff, however few, surely made a difference to the women who followed them. It is easy to overlook the legacy of women of Frances Morgan Swain’s era, when gendered social norms and expectations limited the ways they could participate in public life. The renaming of the Student Building this week is an important step to make sure they are not forgotten.
With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the swift entry of the United States into World War II, the Indiana University Bloomington campus quickly transformed itself to participate in the war effort. On December 13, 1941 President Herman B Wells addressed the anxious students of the University saying:
In this crisis, every patriotic American wishes to make a contribution to the defense of the nation and victory. In keeping with the tradition established in other wars, the students of the University are naturally eager to do their share….Some of you will be chosen for service in the army as rapidly as needed…But most of you will have to serve elsewhere….Most of you, therefore, can serve best through devoting extra time to the matters at hand. Study a little more, use the library a little more, use the laboratory apparatus a little more, learn a little faster….
University administrators, faculty and staff joined the Indiana Committee for Victory and the College Civilian Morale Service to encourage widespread participation “in all types of military activities” and the University quickly adopted a three semester academic plan so that the traditional four year program could be completed in two and two-thirds years in an effort to graduate as many students as possible before they were called to active military duty. By the end of 1942, U.S. Navy yeoman, WAVES, SPARS, and Marines were training on campus and the in 1943 the University signed a contract with the the US Army for an Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) unit. In addition, hundreds of men and women affiliated with IU (either current students or alumni) were called to active service in the various branches of the military.
Between 1941 and 1945, Margaret “Meg” Shaw Dwyer (BA Psychology 1941) continued to correspond with her university days mentor Frank Beck (advisor to the Student Religious Cabinet and the Town Hall Club) to share personal milestones and heartache of she and her husband, Robert “Bob” Arthur Dwyer (BS Business 1942). These included the announcement of their wedding, birth of their child, and the glorious news that Bob, presumed dead after being shot down over France, had been released from his POW camp and that the couple had been enjoying a recuperative vacation in Vermont when they heard the news of the war’s end on September 2, 1945.
The Dwyers lived an active and full life filled with family, work, travel, lifelong learning, and even glider flights following the war. Meg passed away at the age of 95 in 2014. Her beautifully written obituary gives us just a taste of the woman she had become.