Part of Our Classroom Re-creation

After a semester of work, we recreated a typical class in the 1950s era including clothing and appropriate discussion of viewpoints for the time.

This clip is one excerpt of that class, a re-creation of what we imagine a debate over “A Woman’s Place Is in the Home” might have looked like in 1952 in a Current Events class in the History Department at Mary Washington College.

Class re-creation of 1952 views — Debate over Women’s Place in the Home from UMW History.

Please note that the material here is based on research the students did in MWC sources from the 1950s. They are an attempt to understand the issues and concerns facing college students at a mostly female teaching college in 1952.

They do not represent the actual viewpoints of the students or Dr. McClurken.

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Images from the Re-Creation

Pictures now, video may follow.

In our best approximation of 1950s clothes.

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An Outline for Re-Creating a 1952 History Class

Based on the work the groups have done, this is our schedule for the class.

Schedule/tasks for HIST 328 Re-creation class
Set in 1952
Professor Almont Darter-Quinzel
HIST 381 – Current Affairs

12:25 – Arrive early, if possible to get things set up for class

12:30—Have cameras ready, books, material items in place

12:30-12:35 – record students walking into the room, talking about social events

12:35 – Begin the “pre-class” announcements with material from the non-academic group.

  • Grace – May Day and nominee in the class for May Queen.
  • Other announcements? (non-academic group)

12:40 – Roll call (Using last names), with each student responding, “Present” and adding their Major and class (Devil or Goat).

  •  During roll call, theatrical whisper in the back that Prof. D-Q will stare down

12:50  Announce the topic for today’s debate, “A Woman’s Place Is In the Home”
— Divide into halves of the room

12:50-12:55 Talk in small groups about plans for the debate

12:55-1:00 – small groups go back into the big groups on each side to coordinate their debate

  • During these group discussions, some students fall off into their own discussions of social matters (assigned/prepped by Non-academic group)

1:05-1:15 – Debate between the two sides, employing the arguments that we’ve been talking and reading about for the last few weeks.  (Bonus points for mentioning specific authors/speakers/politicians.)

1:15-1:30 – Discussions –

  • Why is it important for mothers to raise sons and daughters who will support the ideals of a democratic nation?
  • What does the fight in Korea have to do with democracy and/or motherhood?    [Background on the war]
  • Could you see a Third World War in your generation?  What might it look like?  Since the Soviets have the atom bomb, do you feel unsafe?  What can you, as college students, do about it?
  • During this time, someone will clumsily pass a note, Dr. D-Q will get it and read it to the class, scolding them.

1:30-1:35 – end of class announcements from Dr. D-Q.

 

1:35-1:40 – Record student leaving the room talking about other non-academic items (or just complaining about classes)

 

 

For TH class –

  • Photo re-creation in normal clothes – 30-40 minutes
  • Discussion of the process of research and re-creation – 30-40 minutes

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The posts that each group did about our plans.

 

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Hello, my name is

Polly Davis and I am a Junior majoring in biology and in the pre-nursing program at Mary Washington College. I am from rural Fauquier County, Virginia and the first member of my family to go to college. I am one of five children and went to college to have a different life than my parents. I plan on being a nurse because I have always enjoyed helping people. I am a member of Pi Nu Chi (nursing club) as well as the Terrapin (swim club).

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Class Content


Maximum 5 minutes will be announcements–the prof (in theory) isn’t there and girls & vets have arrived early to discuss what’s going on during the week. We can let the Non-Academic group decide if they want to, but Senior Day and May Day would be good topics for conversation/information announcements.

10 minutes: After the announcements, the professor has roll call, using Miss to address us, and we could all give our major and class (Devil or Goat?).

20 minutes: Professor introduces the debate by writing on the board, “A woman’s place is in the home.” The professor should be the one splitting us into groups. Half of the room will debate for one side, while the other tries to support the other side. Small groups to start–for 5 minutes. Then have the small groups form one big group of their side. Discuss their topics for 5 minutes. Then the two sides come together after 10 minutes to debate for 10 minutes.

After this, the professor can then transition the class into history and current events for as long as the conversation lasts (maximum 30 minutes sounds reasonable)–why it’s important for a woman to raise children, sons and daughters, who support the ideals of a democratic nation. It’d be a great idea to then transition to Korea and possibly World War III since the Soviet Union has the bomb at this point.
We wouldn’t want McClurk to be lecturing the whole time, so he should frame it as a class discussion. “Why do women need to raise children with the democratic ideals of our glorious nation?” and then ask us “Could we see a World War III in our generation? Especially with the atom bomb present in other countries? Do we feel unsafe?”
I think in all this it would be great for him to interject about the Russian thing. Something like, “Learning Russian can help all Americans foresee threats to our land!”

 

 

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Persona

My name is Lucy Brooke Woods, but I go by Brooke Woods. I am a senior, majoring in psychology to become a primary school teacher after graduation. I love children and cannot wait until the day I get to have my own.  I am the President of R.A. (Recreation Association). I am the one screaming into the mic at the pep rally and making sure Devil-Goat day is perfect!

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Class Re-creation Schedule going forward

By end of class, Thursday, April 5: Have detailed work plan with clear assignments for each person in the group.

By class start on Tuesday, April 10: Have made progress on your group’s assignment*, and everyone post a brief bio about your character for the class on your blog.

*Minimum progress defined by group:

  • Class Content — clear explanation for plan for class activity
  • Photo group — choose 5 photos to recreate with list of supplies, locations needed for each, and plan for what to do with them.
  • Clothing/materials — Dress code for students/faculty; list of allowed supplies
  • Activities — flesh out specifics about what announcements will be made, which will be discussed casually, fliers made(?).  Need details for these and how they will be worked in to class time.
UPDATE: Outlines for the various parts of the recreation are now up, including specific advice and instructions for students.

By class start on Thursday April 12: Come prepared to discuss what still needs to be done.

Tuesday, April 17 and/or Thursday, April 19 — class re-creations

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Clothing and Material Culture

Today, we basically put together a list of things we need to learn about in order to make decisions on how we want to go about portraying the 1950s.

The first thing, of course, is to learn about what students wore; what styles were common for both men and women, and how students actually dressed for class. (A Google search turns up serious fashion, but how fashionable were students trying to look for lectures?) We’ll try to answer that question by looking at the pictures available on the 1950s website as well as those in the library’s collection.

We also talked briefly about material culture, and “no laptops” seems like a fairly basic place to start. We also considered handing out (or asking students to bring) college ruled paper and pencils. Books from this time period would help create a kind of ambiance, a sense that the 1950s is happening outside the classroom as well, and so we plan to borrow books from that decade from the library, so that people can carry around materials for “other classes”.

 

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Non-Academic Ideas

Our group talked about which events we could incorporate into daily conversation. We tried to include in our list school-wide events (such as Devil Goat) and day-to-day events individual students would be talking about (dates, classes).
  • Devil Goat Day
  • Going to lyceum after class
  • Opening of Dupont Hall (early 1950s)
  • Weekly convocation
  • Weekly chapel
  • Having to get permission to go on a date
  • Visiting UVA
  • Swimming class
  • Dances, theater performances
  • Having to get permission to keep your lights on later
  • Freshmen discussing notable faculty and how cool the school is (ex: Dr. Iltis’s life story or the Coke machine in Chandler)
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Reading 3/29

I was struck most by the excerpt from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. When I think of the 1950s in the most basic sense, I think of the wives and mothers found in the home. These women, though, like Friedan explains, are missing something. They are not sure what it is, like the title suggests, “The Problem That Has No Name,” but they know they are not getting it from their families. I have read similar feelings in diaries from the 1850s and 1860s, so it is most definitely not a new idea. What is new, though, is a general outpouring of the same sentiment. In class, we’ve discussed that the “flappers” of the 1920s were the minority. If this sentiment, though, that something is missing is coming from women (even if it is only white, middle-class women) on a broader scale, then the concept is new. This only reminded me that I cannot assume that most women during the 1950s, especially those my group has been studying, felt that the home was the place for them and they just needed to get married to get everything they always wanted. Betty Friedan is trying to show that even though women have lovely lives, a great family, a caring husband, new appliances, a new car–some are realizing that there has to be more to their lives than feeling “empty” or as if they “don’t exist.”

I also believe that this sentiment would not have occurred unless the families were prosperous. A family in need, working class or maybe a “broken family” would not being seeing life the same way. They are working towards the comfort that the women Friedman speaks of already gained. In a time of war, as well, these white middle-class women would not have been able to speak of something like that–even to their friends–because every one had a focus: the war. Now that the war is over, the white middle-class women can finally widen the focus and say, “Hey, I have all this stuff that I thought I wanted, but now I don’t feel like I have meaning.”

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