One-Sided Geniuses or Glorified Girl Scouts?
Cliffedwellers Choose Cautiously, Wellesley Girls Take Any Date; Both Prefer the Harvard Type
Each girl entering the freshman class at Wellesley this fall received a yellow introductory booklet describing life at the College. An essential element of Wellesley seemed to be Harvard, the editors implied. They defined it as: "Not strictly a part of Wellesley. We share it with Radcliffe."
Harvardmen might object to this possessive definition, but even the most conscientious objector could not deny the importance of both colleges in life at Harvard. Radcliffe's eminent position was even proclaimed nationally two years ago, when The Saturday Evening Post entitled an article: "They're Wearing Lipstick at Harvard Now."
The article mentioned only Radcliffe as the "Lipstick" factor. But look around today at the Princeton game, or at cocktail parties and dances afterward. You will see a great many girls--far too many for all of them to be Cliffdwellers. A survey of the crowd would probably reveal that there are equally as many, if not more, Wellesley girls present. All the girls will look approximately the same--their best. Yet underneath this? female facade, there are some basic difference between the average Annex girl and her Wellesley counterpart.
Situated on a 400 acre campus, Wellesley is an idyllic, but isolated community. Despite its relative closeness to Boston, it still remains a country school, virtually inaccessible without a car. A Harvard student who dates a Wellesley girl twice a week for one year, has to cover over 2,000 miles just to see his love and get home again. If he takes her into Cambridge or Boston each time, the distance traveled doubles, equalling that of a journey across the country and back again as far as Denver.
Most Wellesley girls deny that so much traveling makes their lives at all unnatural, although they do admit that there is a "vast difference" between weekdays and weekend existence. During the week they occupy themselves with studies and extracurricular activities. "It's a wonderfully friendly place here," one sophomore explained. "There's always plenty to do. The two days at the end of the week break up our normal routine."
It is this friendly, carefree Wellesley atmosphere which endears the College to many of its girls. But weekends are a problem. As one alumna pointed out, "Any girl who couldn't manage to have a date on Saturday night was in danger of being a social failure." A present junior, agreeing with this, understands the point: "life is much easier here with a weekend date."
The fundamental quality of the Wellesley girl's life is illustrated by one of the hints offered in the yellow introductory booklet. "Get as much sleep as you can," it suggests. "Then come weekend time you'll be gay and sparkling straight through." Few and far between are weekday dates at Wellesley, except for studying. There are, however, only two special study rooms available for girls and their dates in the recreation building. These are crowded, but only with juniors and seniors. And although girls can invite boys to any meal they desire, most of the guests only come for Sunday dinner. "None have shown up for breakfast yet," one girl commented.
The double existence of a Wellesley girl is also reflected in the way she dresses. "You need two kinds of outfits around here," one junior says: "A woolen dress for weekends, knee socks, bermuda shorts, and an old shirt for the rest of the week."
Life magazine illustrated this point all too well when it printed a Picture of the Week more than ten years ago showing a Wellesley girl walking down a street in dungarees with shirt tails hanging out in the accepted casual style of the day. The girl was photographed unawares, however, as a long standing Wellesley rule states that no girl may "pose for any picture or contribute any information to the press while under the jurisdiction of the College unless (she) has permission from the Director of Publicity."
The Administration probably would not object to picture-taking on weekends. Stimulated by the reappearance of the male element on the campus, the Wellesleyite is then less casual in her attire. Men are new and thrilling animals for her after their five day absence. One can see this enthusiasm especially in her attitude toward a blind date.
Such a date is, and must be regarded as something exciting--a Prince Charming who will remove the girl from the cloister into a new world. Always eager to meet new people, one southern belle commented brightly that she met most of her intriguing dates just by "wandering around on weekends, all dressed up, picking up strays." Naturally it is a treat for Wellesley girls to get away for weekends. Many would even go away with a blind date--provided that he had good references.
Of Key Importance
No matter how much Wellesley girls may like to escape their campus, however, they have to return promptly on time. Normally their dorms are locked up tight at 10 p.m. Any girl wanting to get in after that hour, unlike the Radcliffe girl, who has her own front door key, must push a button which turns on a light to attract the night watchman.
The exceptions to this procedure are on Friday and Saturday evenings when the doors are opened again at 12:55 a.m. to anticipate the one o'clock rush. But about one minute past the hour they are once again closed. Wellesley has a comprehensive honor system, but this is one phase of college life about which the administration is very strict. President Margaret Clapp summed it up in a letter she wrote to the class of 1959: "You will find us an informal group (though with a liking for propriety)."
Considering the Wellesley girl's relative isolation and dependence on female society, the Radcliffe girl has an incredible degree of freedom. Being in a city, she does not feel separated from the outside world. The concentrated female element of a girl's college is softened by the daily infiltration of Harvard students. For those wanting company, it is always available, but not omnipresent.
The Radcliffe girl can be, if she wants to, quite independent. She is treated as a mature adult from the moment she enters college to the day she leaves. Her first possession is a key to her dormitory, and she is on her honor to sign in the correct time whenever she returns after 10 p.m. She is allowed considerably more one o'clocks, too, than her Wellesley counterpart. If she happens not to like girls, even though living in a dormitory, she can return there only to sleep.
The Radcliffe girl does not have to go far away to pursue her interests. Everything she can possibly want is within easy reach. "Men aren't just things we date," one girl explained. "They aren't a special weekend treat, over and above temporary vacations from classes." Because of this omnipresence of the male, most Radclie girls regard blind dates with a certain degree of apprension and the more popular consider them distasteful. When confronted with an inescapable one, the Cliffedweller will usually suggest a first meeting over a cup of coffee on some weekday night, after she course is decided upon, the girl will probably play bridge in the dormitory smoker until 10, speculating with her friends as to whether the gentleman in question has two heads (Radcliffe is pessimistic, generally). Leaving with a parting word as "see you in an hour," she will whisk her blind date out of the dorm, taking him to some obscure restaurant like the Midget.
Annex girls, as a rule, rarely go to another college for a weekend. For the most part, they are content to stay at Harvard and cheer for the College football team, unless they are in a particularly foul humor or madly in love with some Yale student. Anyway, as one girl said, the average Cliffdweller is basically much too lazy to pack up and take off for a whole weekend. The so-called unfeminine aspects of Radcliffe girls--green book bags and Knee socks, for instance--are actually a defense mechanism against the strain of looking beautiful all the time for the Harvardman. Since both the Cambridge citizenry and the 'Cliffe administration frown on Bermuda shorts in class, girls achieve the same effect by neglecting to comb their haid or to put on lipstick. Actually this attitude has its benefits. A Harvard junior reported how shocked he was at first to have girls in his classes. Having graduated from Exeter, he used to rush to his Humanities 2 lectures in Sanders Theater for box seat, so that he could "survey the crop of girls from every angle." "For the first three weeks he learned little about the Odyssey. But after a while he sighed, the objects of his attention "found being beautiful a bore" and he started to listen to the lectures.
As much as Wellesley and Radcliffe girls differ in attire and attitude, they agree on the need for being alone at times with a date. At Wellesley there is no problem. This is one of the advantages of a rural campus. Among the favorite spots are the so-called "spoonholders." These are defined by the yellow booklet as "pavilions along the lake, so named because they hold 'sh--secret!) spooners."
The Radcliffe girl, however, is at a distinct disadvantage along these lines. Luckily, she can carry her independence to amazing extremes. As one girl commented, "we can be alone by extension, merely by mentally concentrating on whatever we are doing." This fact caused the following warning to be printed in the Radcliffe Red-book:
"Come Spring, Radcliffe moves out-doors. Those apple blossoms are lovely, the grass is great, but Radcliffe is not Coney Island. Either relaxing with with your date or studying out of doors, remember that other people might like to admire the view. And for your own sake, save amorous activities, etc., for a more secluded spot. You may want the world to know you're in love--but there must be a better way. Take it from there!"
With all their differences, it is no wonder these Colleges have strange opinions of each other.
One Wellesley girl typed Radcliffe students as "one-sided geniuses," while another put it more kindly, claiming they are "extreme individualists." In either case, it seems clear that although Wellesley girls might consider Harvard as the hypotenuse and Radcliffe as the other side of the triangle, they do not think that Annex girls are like them. The feeling is mutual. Such epithets as "glorified girl scouts" and typical all-around girls--"healthy, outdoorsy, and clean," have been applied by Radcliffe to Wellesley.
Both institutions feel they have a certain hold on Harvard. And they do, too. But the Harvardman has not yet lost the last vestiges of his independence. He can still decide for himself whether he prefers the urbanized sophistication of Radcliffe or the simple, rural charms of Wellesley. A decision should not be based on the convenience of the Annex, either. As one Wellesley girl pointed out, "We're used to riding the trolleys with Harvardmen.