On August 15, 1947, India, one of the oldest and most populated nations in the world, gained independence from Great Britain. The British East India Company controlled India, from the 1700s until the Indian rebellion of 1857. After the suppression of the revolt, the British Crown took control of the region from the Company. In the years after 1857 and during British rule of the region, calls for reform and Indian self-rule grew. But it wasn’t until 1947, after years of growing movements, the rise of Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience movement, the “Quit India” movement of the Indian National Congress Party, and after revolts and mass strikes, that India gained its independence. After 90 years of fighting against British Raj (British Rule) and calls for Indian Self-Rule, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 was signed.
Students, professors, and other members of the IU community were certainly aware of the struggles of Indians well before the 1940s. One faculty member, Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, Associate Professor of English, wrote to her family members about a lecture regarding India that she attended at IU in 1931. In her letter, Cecilia describes meeting a man who had met Gandhi and learned why he opposed British rule:
“He told of some conversations he had with Ghandi, and said when he asked Ghandi why he opposed the British rule, Ghandi answered that after all India was the country of the Indians, who had owned and ruled it for centuries before England ever existed, and that there were thousands of Indian people as well educated and trained as any English people, and fully able to manage their own government.”
Letter from Cecilia, 1931, Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers, Collection C413, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Independence Day is now one of only three national holidays in India. It’s celebrated on August 15 and is commemorated with a speech from the Prime Minister, references to the Indian Independence Movement, and celebration through cultural events. Flag hoisting events and kite flying in some areas are also hosted around India as a part of the celebration. Around the world, Indian emigrants celebrate with parades and events of their own, sometimes referring to the day as ‘India Day.’
At Indiana University, Indian Independence was celebrated as early as 1948. Indian student Ramnarase Panday was particularly active while attending Indiana University. He and another student, Raghubir Bhatia, organized that first Indian Independence Day celebration at IU. They asked President Wells to speak at the event at Alumni Hall, and invited others from around campus, including President Emeritus William Lowe Bryan, to attend the celebration.
Panday was from Beharr, India and attended the College of Arts and Sciences at IU. He earned his A.B. in Government in 1950 and his M.A. in History in 1952. He was a very active member of the college community. As an undergraduate, Panday was in the Cosmopolitan Club, a student organization for international students and cultures, and once in graduate school, he joined Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
The celebration of India’s first Independence Day at IU must have been a momentous occasion for everyone who attended. While we have been unable to find further records documenting the event or information on additional students who assisted with the celebration, we suspect that Panday and Bhatia were likely the only two students organizing the event.
President Herman B Wells spoke at the inaugural celebration in Alumni Hall:
“Birthdays are happy occasions whether they mark the passing of a year in the life of an individual or a nation. We are met tonight to celebrate an unusually significant birthday which marks the end of the first year of independence for one of the world’s oldest and largest nations – a nation rich in physical resources, in manpower, and in cultural acheivement. It is a privilege therefore to join with you in extending our congratulations and good wishes to the Indiana University students from India and through them to the great nation which they so ably represent.”
This celebration marking India’s independence was significant and marked the growing diversity of the university.
Over one hundred years ago a group of six students and one IU staff member made headlines– but not for sports or academic achievement. They were the late nineteenth-century version of a resistance to what they saw as outrageous misconduct and immoral behavior on the part of IU faculty members. Their actions uncovered a scandal in 1884, became campus folklore, could be said to have changed the course of Indiana University’s history, and today are largely forgotten except by those who study IU history.
So, who are they? The Moss Killers.
The Moss Killers consisted of six Indiana University students and an IU janitor:
James Zwingle Alexander McCaughan, A.B., I.U., 1885
David Kopp Goss, A.B., I.U., 1887
Joseph Woods Wiley, Ph.B., I.U. 1886
Lucian Rhorer Oakes, A.B., I.U., 1885
Edward A. Hall who died while a student in the university
Morton William Fordice, B.S., I.U., 1886
Thomas “Uncle Tommy” Spicer, the janitor.
Together these so-called “Moss Killers” didn’t actually kill anyone (or any fungi), but they managed to uncover and prove a scandal that lead to the resignations of the university president and of a Greek professor. As a result, the University trustees and legislators broke with the past traditions of moralism and classicism and moved toward new educational leadership and an embrace of the intellectual age and academic reform needed for sciences and modern professions that was already present in many other American universities at the time.
Rev. Dr. Lemuel Moss was the sixth president of Indiana University and one of the last in a line of six “Preacher Presidents,” who served the university before Indiana University followed the lead of other American colleges and began to employ presidents more focused on educational philosophy and public responsibility rather than theology or moral instruction. Moss was at the University of Chicago before coming to Indiana University, and he had previously served as the Pastor of a Baptist Church.
As University President at IU, Moss was known to be a popular public speaker and a strict disciplinarian. Between 1880 and 1884 he was also a member of the National Council of Education, vice president of the American Baptist Missionary Union, president of the department of higher education, and a part of the National Education Association. However, his prolific career in higher education was to be interrupted as a result of the Moss Killers.
Miss Katherine Graydon, a young woman in her mid-twenties, began work as a professor of Greek at Indiana University in September of 1883. She was an attractive, charming, and intelligent young woman. The rumors regarding her relationship with Rev. Dr. Moss quickly began soon after the start of her appointment.
After months of suspicion and rumor, the “Moss Killers” formed from a group of undergraduates to find out the facts concerning the relationship between Dr. Moss and Miss Graydon. With the help of Uncle Tommy (the janitor), the six young men used a hand drill to cut a hole in the ceiling above Miss Graydon’s office and the Greek classroom in the University building. They stood watch to see what happened in the room below. And eventually they saw what had been rumored to be true.
The Moss Killers then presented sworn affidavits and charges of “improper and immoral conduct” between the University President and Greek professor to the University Board of Trustees on November 7, 1884.
The Minutes of the Board of Trustees reads:
Charges against the President of the Univ.
On motion of Mr. Robertson, the following preamble and resolution were made, the unanimous action of the Board:
Whereas, rumors of a grave character in regard to the relations of Prest. Moss with Miss Graydon, teacher of Greek have been published in newspapers of large circulation, and are common on the streets of Bloomington; and the Board was proceeding to investigate the same
The digitized and encoded Board of Trustees Minutes can be seen and searched here.
The students told the Trustees that they saw Moss present Miss Graydon with gifts and greet each other in ways that were not at all professional. What was once rumor was now full blown scandal, and an investigation began by the Board of Trustees. They planned to hear evidence on the matter from both Moss and Graydon on Tuesday November 11, 1884.
But, before a hearing or investigation could commence, both Dr. Moss and Miss Graydon presented their resignations abruptly on November 8, 1884.
The social repercussions of the scandal were more problematic for Moss and Graydon than they were for the university. Some say that the newspapers inflated the story before Moss resigned. In any case, the damage had been done.
After her resignation and after a later attempt to rescind her resignation, Katherine Graydon moved to Indianapolis permanently. She was the member of two prominent families, the Merrills and Ketchams, who became extremely defensive of her even when the congregation of her church became involved in the public judgement. In the end however, her defenders won and Miss Graydon became a well respected professor at Butler University and went on to have a long career there.
Dr. Moss was not so lucky. After his resignation he quickly left Bloomington. He spent some time in Chicago at a manufacturing firm, then worked editing a religious magazine, later spent time in Philadelphia, and was also a professor of Christian sociology at Bucknell. Dr. Moss died in New York in 1904 at 75 years old.
The Moss Killers, the scandal and affair they uncovered, and Dr. Moss’s resignation created some chaos at Indiana University. The role of president was filled temporarily by Elisha Ballantine, much to everyone’s approval. The University then went on to search for the right new president. The Board of Trustees needed to keep up with the times, and they needed a university president who could lead Indiana University into the new age of American intellectualism and science. The Moss Killers may not have killed anyone really, but their actions damaged one man’s reputation permanently, and ushered in a new era of leadership at Indiana University.
Many students are members of a club or two during college. It’s not uncommon. But, how many students can say they created an original club for themselves? What would this kind of informal club look like? Would you have rules?
The Moonlight Pleasure Club constitution is a document which shows us exactly what kind of club a group of Indiana University students decided to create for themselves in 1892.
The members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were likely graduate students when they formed their club in 1892. They didn’t create a formal student organization or aim to recruit more members. No. These four students just sat down and wrote their own constitution. It appears that one male and one female student were the charter members who then initiated another male and female student into the club. This initiation appears to have been the reason for the document’s creation since the constitution itself calls for the club to have four members only. The document includes twelve articles or rules, and has signatures from all four students including two labeled as protesting and two labeled as affirming. But, who were these students? What was this club for exactly, and why did they name it Moonlight Pleasure?
Unfortunately, a thorough search of the archives has not yet yielded much more information about the club. The Arbutus IU yearbooks document each of the four student authors of the constitution and their time at IU, but there is no mention of the actual Moonlight Pleasure Club in any of the yearbooks. We don’t know much about this mysterious club, but the students who wrote and signed the club’s 1892 constitution were a bit easier to track down.
The four members of The Moonlight Pleasure Club were of similar ages, but each studied different academic subjects at IU.
Frederick Wilson Truscott (b. 1870 – d. 1937) graduated from Indiana University with his A.B. in German in 1891. He earned his A.M. in 1892, and later obtained his Ph.D. Truscott eventually became a professor of German at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He also served in World War I in the U.S. Army.
Daniel T. Weir (b. 1864 – d. 1949) graduated from IU with his A.B. in physics in 1891 and he obtained his A.M. in mathematics in 1893. He went on to teach in Indianapolis. Both Weir and Truscott contributed to war service efforts in various capacities.
Maud Freeman Van Zandt (b. 1868 – d. 1917) graduated from IU with her A.B. in English in 1888. Maud married and had children. She died at the age 48 after a severe case of pneumonia.
Grace Helen Woodburn (b. 1865 – d. 1922) graduated from IU with her A.B. in 1885 and with her A.M. in Latin in 1894. Grace also married and worked in the home.
Unfortunately, this is all that’s currently known about the students. The two men are known to have worked as a teacher and a college professor after their time at Indiana University. A line in the constitution’s Article I implies that all four were studying to either become teachers or to simply obtain a liberal arts education. The line reads: “The motto of this club shall be, ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.'” However, this interpretation of the line does not necessarily mean all members were educators.
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, it was common for women to gain a college education but then go on to primarily be homemakers and mothers. This seems to have been the case for Maud Van Zandt and Grace Helen Woodburn who both appear to have become a “house wife” after marriage according to U.S. Census records.
While to this point we don’t know much more about these club members, the constitution itself can offer a few more clues into what the students were like and what they did as a club. Articles I., II., and III. explain that the club basically aimed to have fun together as a group of friends. The club was likely a chance for each student to get away from school work and stress.
The next few articles in the constitution seem to contain stereotypical details and rules that a club might want to establish. The difference however, between this constitution and the usual sort of document used by a formal club is its tone.
The student members of the Moonlight Pleasure Club made jokes and appeared to mock formal club rules while writing their constitution. But even some of their jokes are representative of the social milieu of the time. There are two instances when the document makes it clear that the male members have more power and status in the club than the women. Articles V. and VIII. seem to make jokes at the expense of the women club members. While there are no leaders or positions of power in the club, Article V. also says “of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place.” And though the club appears to be democratic, it also gives the “gentlemen” the ability to have the final say in any tied votes.
But, were these rules all serious? Were students mocking social aspects of their time or did they seriously imagine men had a ‘higher grade of intelligence’ than women? Their constitution also says that the club “initiation fee the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members.” Is this a social idiom of the day, or were they mocking the often required fees for student organizations? Did they write this document as a joke with the aim to mock other university student clubs?
Unless we find more about the Moonlight Pleasure Club, we might not find out if these students were joking or mocking other student clubs, or if this was a serious matter to these students. In any case, this document provides a unique glimpse of what a group of friends did for fun together.
Below, you can look at the constitution for yourself! Can you find any more clues? A transcript of the constitution follows.
Below is a transcript of all four pages of the constitution:
Constitution of The Moonlight Pleasure Club 1892.
Members I. Charter. Grace N. Woodburn. Fred W. Truscott. II. Initiated Daniel T. Weir. Maud Van Zandt.
Article I. The motto of this club shall be, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men and some high school teachers.” Article II. The purpose of this club shall be to have an awfully nice time, and anything which tends toward education or intellectual improvement shall be looked upon with disfavor and suspicion.
Article III. The ruling spirit in this club shall be, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow begins my early week at school.” Article IV. This club shall consist of four members; of these two shall be gentlemen and two shall be women. Article V. This club shall have no officers; all members shall be on an equal footing but of course in cases demanding a high grade of intelligence the women shall give place. Article VI. This club will meet whenever it has a chance or whenever any body invites it out. In urgent cases any member may call a meeting and one person shall constitute a quorum for transaction of business.
Article VII. The Action of the club shall not be binding on the members, nor shall the action of any members be binding on the club. Article VIII. All questions shall be decided by a majority vote but in cases of a tie, the gentlemen shall have the say. Article IX. The color of this club shall be crimson, symbolical of the warm friendship among its members and the ruddy time which tinges all its proceedings. Article X. Freedom of speech is guaranteed to every member and also the right to yawn as violently and as often as he pleases without fear of molestation.
Article XI. The initiation fee shall be paid right away by each initiate and shall be the price of one pair of shoes for each of the charter members. During the cold spells the senior members reserve the right to impose a repayment of this fee as often as they choose. The right is reserved to each initiate to do as he pleases about paying this. Article XII. This club will encourage as far as possible the use of the truly Hoosier expression “didn’t get to.” Everything that is Hoosier shall be welcomed and anything that savors of the worn out east shall be discountenanced.
When most of us began college, we never expected to have to attend any kind of prayer service or religious exercise. Such activities have always been a choice for our generation. Millennials may have gotten off easy though. We’ve grown up in a time when religion has had little influence on our public education. But this wasn’t the case for the IU students of the early 19th century!
Until after the 1887-1888 school year, students were required to attend religious services at the chapel at IU. Throughout its existence in different locations as a State Seminary, as the Indiana College, and finally as Indiana University, the campus has had a long relationship with chapel services. Student attendance and excused or unexcused absences were meticulously documented in the Chapel Roll.
A large brown leather bound book, the Chapel Roll is a record of student names, their rank as seniors, juniors, sophomores, or freshman, and their attendance at the mandatory chapel services from 1883 until 1891. It is interesting to look through the pages and see the numbers of students in each year and to try to decipher the chapel’s attendance system. Though the ornate writing in the book is attractive at times, it was likely a record that many students would have disliked. Most of us now probably can’t imagine having to sit in a religious service every day as a part of the college experience. And as student attendance was mandatory, any unexcused absences may have had consequences for early Hoosiers!
Though the location of the chapel and the content of the services eventually changed, and even though attendance was no longer required after the school year of 1887-1888, the Chapel Roll still kept a record of attendance for the difference activities held at the chapel. It can be found at the IU Archives.
In the early 1960s, women across the nation started to rise up to further combat the social and cultural inequalities they were experiencing. They yearned for equality in the workplace. They wished to see changes in custody and divorce laws, so that they could go to court confident in their ability to actually win their cases. Many wanted to draw attention to domestic violence issues. Overall, women wanted to break down the barriers being placed in front of them and have their voices be heard. Their efforts eventually culminated into what is known today as the Women’s Liberation Movement, which continues to do its part in changing our world today.
These very same sentiments took hold of the women at IU and within the Bloomington community in the late 1960s. Alumni Ruth Mahaney (’70) and Nancy Brand(’73) discuss this in detail in their interview with the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project.
According to Ruth, she and other women became more interested in the issues surrounding women’s rights following their involvement in the Vietnam War Protests because they felt that they were not seen as equals in the movement. At one point in the interview, Nancy describes her feelings of inferiority after talking to her husband about a rally she attended in DC saying:
After learning more about what other campuses were doing across the country, Ruth and many other women dived headlong into the Women’s Liberation Movement and started up support groups for women on campus. Nancy states in the interview that by the time she came to campus in 1969, IU already had multiple support groups fully established.
IU’s Women’s Liberation Movement soon grew out of support groups and went on to achieve a number of notable accomplishments. In the early 1970s, members created a newsletter entitled theFront Page to bring attention to important topics related to the feminist movement and discuss local issues regarding women’s rights. It also acted as an outlet for women to publish their more creative endeavors.
At first the Front Page seemed to publish anything that came across their doorstep. They mainly printed critiques, essays, articles, poems, and illustrations. Some issues, however, contained interviews with various women trying to make their way through various working conditions or perhaps describing prejudices they’ve encountered in the world.
Ads for self-defense classes, daycares, civil rights conventions, women’s groups, and even piano lessons plastered its pages. The wide-ranging focus of the newsletter was perhaps an attempt to include all women who wished to get their thoughts and stories out into the world. After the January-February 1975 newsletter, the editors introduced more topical themed issues to better focus the content.
It was also around this time that the group procured a house and established a Women’s Center which, according to Mel Dennison, “…was formed to be a meeting place, crash pad, information service, clearing house of feminist ideas and repository of feminist literature” (from the Nov-Dec 1974 issue of the Front Page). IU’s Women’s Handbook Spring ’75 contains a write-up on the house advertising its services and describing some of its accomplishments.
One of the things listed was that the house acted as a meeting place for the Front Page newsletter. In the lower right hand corner of the article (see below), you can see a woman holding the August-September 1974 issue of the Front Page.
According to Nancy, some of the other achievements included the establishment of the first international conference for groups trying to set up cooperative daycare centers. Their efforts also eventually produced a rape crisis center which developed into Bloomington’s Middle Way House.
To find out more about more about these issues, contact the IU Archives.