Radcliffe Mother Returns to Rap 18-Year-Old Reprieve
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
I hate to resort to the public reprints for my complaints, but occasionally I become so incensed that I feel I must complain to someone. This time it is those silly people in Washington who don't want to draft 18-year olds.
I am a mother, and my daughter, who goes to Radcliffe, is 18 years old. Every weekend she goes out with a Harvard boy 18 years old, and I say draft him and his kind, the whole lot of them, the quicker the better.
Mothers of 18-year old boys may wonder why I say this. They should see my daughter's "suitor." They should see him simpering on her doorstep, his fuzzy face shining and insipid, his white shoes dirty and scuffed. They should hear his simple-minded conversation. Compare him with the veterans, compare him with the married men, compare him with the reservists who will have to go if he is deferred. I speak for other women, I am sure, in saying take this boy, put him in uniform, give him the experience which will make a man out of him. A Radcliffe Mother
This letter was written on the belief that CRIMSON readers would find the by-now patently fake Radcliffe Mother's opinion funny. The belief was apparently accurate; every undergraduate reply to the letter was similarly tongue-in-cheek. But "Radcliffe Mother"--and the CRIMSON--failed to reckon with the Associated Press.
Like many CRIMSON stories, the letter was picked up and promptly phoned in to t he Boston papers by their undergraduate "stringers." These papers relayed it, in turn, to the AP's Boston office. An AP staff man worked the letter into what his office calls a "college cutie," leading it "Awaken, ye men of Harvard ... a 'Radcliffe Girl's Mother' would like to see you drafted." His version of the letter came close to the original, thought it was somewhat shorter and substituted "inspired" for "insipid." The story attributed the letter to the CRIMSON, saying it was "purportedly from the mother of a Radcliffe girl."
This AP item went out over a regional wire covering most of the New England and Middle Atlantic states; it reached New York City in time to make the next day's afternoon papers. All of them printed it, and all of the wire editors who handled the story pencilled out the "purportedly."
New York editors considered the AP story good enough to run it the next morning, although it was by then more than two days old. Only one left in "purportedly;" it was the "Daily Compass," a newspaper usually far less conservative.
By this time the AP's New York office, smelling a good feature, had routed the story over its transcontinental B-Wire, a teletype hook-up that reaches newspapers and radio stations all the way to Los Angeles. More than 100 papers and radio stations used the story. Some played it straight, 'HARVARD SEEN DRAFT SOURCE,' some as a gag, 'MOM WANTS SIMPERING HARVARDS IN SERVICE.' Public relation to the "Radcliffe Mother" was quick and active.
The letters the CRIMSON has received from readers of the AP story break down into two types (nobody from outside the College questioned "Radcliffe Mother's" existence). One group charged the original letter's 18-year-old daughter" of actually encouraging the attentions of Harvard men. The other simply suggested that she, not her 18-year-old boy friend, be drafted. All the letters forcefully opposed an 18-year-old draft.
More than half the letters came from Kansas and Missouri. A woman in Kansas City wrote "I don't blame (the mother) for not signing her name. If the truth were known, I expect, her darling daughter LURED those boys to her doorstep, with MARITAL DESIGNS, taught by her mother ..." A Lawrence, Kansas mother asked "if you propose this method for making a man out of an 18-year-old boy, what sort of a similar Gethsemane do you propose for making a woman out of your 18-year-old daughter?"
Two letters linked Radcliffe Mother's problems with Margaret Truman. One, from Irvington, N. J., addressed to the mother, said, "You and Truman! If Margaret were a boy there would be no war."
Only one writer speculated about the CRIMSON's motives for printing the original letter. "If by ant chance you thought it funny to print that letter, I urge you to revise your sense of humor in fairness to American boyhood within your precincts." Of all the letters to the CRIMSON, it was probably the most misled. Local boyhood had no trouble with the CRIMSON's humor. Other people, aided and abetted by eager copy editors and an ambitious wire service, had plenty of trouble indeed.