Initial ideas for class re-creation

Class ideas

  • Recreate History class (4)
  • Recreate Education class
  • Recreate Home Economics
  • recreate photos from decade site — Sarah L.
  • Recreate Theater class (in the amphitheater) — Stephanie
  • Senior Day? — Brooke
  • One fun class and one serious class



  • Include veterans (a few) who were still around in early 1950s.
  • “Maybe each person could pick a major, not necessarily the same one they’re pursuing now, and look through courses and make a list of classes they’ve already taken, then think of a reason why they’re taking the particular class we reenact. If that works, maybe the same can be done for extracurricular activities (clubs, sports, etc.) so that we each have a small built-in scenario we can play with and use to interact with each other; this could bring in the non-academic resources as naturally as possible.” — Carrie
  • Students as students, McClurken as Professor

Working in non-academic items

  • — “There can be discussions in class about things that are happening and perhaps announcements made at the beginning of class of things that are happening socially around campus.”–Carolyn
  • — “I think the best way to do this would be to do what Dr. McClurken does at the beginning of our classes today: ask the class what they did over the weekend/ what their plans are for the week. Maybe there could be a dance or other social event coming up, or a new rule or privilege could have just been introduced.  A short discussion at the beginning of class of the world outside academics would be a great way to give a little authenticity to the class and also work in the elements that are not purely academic.” — Grace


  • Library — “ a handout, maybe – that would capture what using the library was like for students in the 50s.  A guide to the Dewey Decimal System, how to use a card catalog. “
  • Dress — General agreement that we should try to dress in 1950s style.  Ask Prof. McCluskey for help?
  • Material Culture — books?  Technology?  Notepads
  • Lots of suggestions here:



  • 1950s site, interviews, Dr. Crawley’s book, Battlefield, photos, Prof. McCluskey
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How to recreate the 1950s Class

I want to first start off by answering some of the concerns I’ve read on other people’s blogs about the men in class. There were veterans on campus through 1953-1954, so it shouldn’t be too hard to accommodate the men in our class.

I think we should try to capture as much of the material aspects of the 1950s classroom as possible to make it feel real. If possible, I don’t see Monroe as the appropriate setting with its modern interior. Even if we try to recreate a history class, we should try to find an available classroom in the few buildings that haven’t experienced as much renovation. I haven’t been in DuPont in two or three years, but I remember some of the classrooms felt rooted in the past. Trinkle, even if it housed the library during the 1950s, would feel better than Monroe.

Clothing would be difficult, but if we were truly trying to represent the 1950s, a time of fashion that some people even try to recapture today, we should attempt at least more demure clothes with high necklines and long skirts. Piercings should be kept to the lobes only. Girls should try to powder up faces and look respectable because no girl would be seen without a proper appearance.

We could easily find books, I’m sure, but I don’t think textbooks would be necessary. Notebooks, no laptops of course, would be acceptable.

To work in the social aspects of MWC during the 1950s, we should definitely set up some “topics” that people should be discussing if they have a chance to chat, like the late-night fire drill, who stole the Goat flag and hid it, or how excited a senior was to finally live in Ball.

Since we’re throwing ideas out there, we could also do Senior Day, given our recreation will be later in the semester. There’s a lot of information on how underclassmen should act and treat seniors on that day. “Seniors” would wear a cap and gown and could order the underclassmen to do almost anything they want. They would carry books, etc.

For the class/discipline, we should try a history class. I think, given the time, it would be interesting to have a class without the hindsight we have today; for example, on the Red Scare—how would the 1950s history classroom tackle that?

As a member of the 1950s group, I see us using the Battlefield, the course catalogs, and the interviews. Those sources are where we found the greatest depth and breadth of information.


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Recreating a 1950s Classroom

As far as ideas for how to go about the recreation of the 1950s website I’m a little lost. I think it would definitely be cool to dress in period clothing and maybe have era appropriate props such as books and bags and such, but other wise I don’t know how we’d go about making the classroom look as it did in the fifties. Looking over the photos from the website the classrooms look so much different than they do today. We should probably steer away from home economics or science classes that would have had dated equipment and would probably be difficult to find for our purposes. As far as roles people should have, the females could be students, Professor McClurken could be the professor, but I’m not sure what the males in the class could be since none of the pictures really show males. If we wanted to recreate the social aspect they could possibly be dates visiting girls in the dorm or something of that nature. Its really difficult for me to think of how to recreate the 1950s in 2012 when so much has changed and things are so different. If we were to recreate the 50s thoroughly I think it would turn in to a much bigger production that the syllabus has allotted for. So I suppose the question is, how thorough do we want to go, and what aspects of the 50s do we want to recreate?

The main goal at the beginning of this assignment was to discover what the classroom experience would have been like in each decade. We could use, if any exist, syllabus from classes in the 50s to try and recreate a class that way in order to experience what students might have learned and how a class was structured. This would meet the original goals for the assignment but I think would leave out many aspects of college life for a woman of the 1950s that shaped a student’s experiences at Mary Washington  in and out of the classroom.

We could combine the clothing with the class syllabus to add a further dimension of the 50s to our recreation. I think this would combine the classroom experience goal as well as help give the feeling of the 50s and the expectations of women in American society at the time since in class we have talked about the importance of clothing in shaping a woman’s identity and status throughout the years. This could also help keep the recreation from becoming too daunting of a project and keep it simpler but still effective in getting the feeling of the 50s at Mary Washington across.

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The Decade Has Been Chosen

We will be recreating the 1950s

— What class/discipline should we re-create?

— What roles should people have?

— What sources will we use?

— How will we work in non-academic material?

— Material aspects (clothes? books?)

Blog your suggestions this weekend.

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Further instructions on group sites

1) Building on the research done by each of the group members, each group will construct a site for their decade in UMWBlogs.  The design, format, and presentation of these sites will be determined by the group, with a broad audience in mind.  These sites are due by 11:59 PM on Monday, March 12 Noon on Friday, March 16.

2) Sites are completed by one (or more) members of the group creating a blog post introducing the site and linking to it.  Sites are “turned in” by emailing me with the links to  the group site and the blog post introducing it.

3) Starting Tuesday after class, based on these sites, we will vote on the best decade for us to recreate as a class using this page….  [In addition to the class votes, I will invite DTLT and the Alumni Association Board of Directors to vote, as well as those people who have been following the posts online.]




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Taking a Final Look

I have been working on mapping out majors and origin states for graduates, but I found so little variation throughout the ten years, I did not feel that it merited much of a post. So instead, I want to present something a little different that I ran across on my last browsing of the yearbooks. This was just too charming and too interesting to disregard.

As I flipped through the Battlefields this past weekend, hoping for any sliver of information I had not considered or pursued, I found some personal messages in the 1950 yearbook I had checked-out from the Simpson Library. I could not believe I missed this before! I looked in my notes from weeks ago when I first flipped through the Battlefields, but I must not have realized the value of such little notes.

One of the notes is found in the Class of 1950 gallery and another in the club photos of the Battlefield staff. The former is by Elaine Peake Henson of Hampton, Virginia. The latter is written by Leora Knapp.

Battlefield of 1950, Pg. 40

The first, pictured above, reads “Thank you for all those stimulating classes—I will miss them—Elaine Henson”

At first, I was not sure who she was writing to, but then I found the one pictured below.

Battlefield 1950, Pg. 172

It reads, “Dr. Whidden, I owe you my Thanks for many things besides your help in making The Battlefield a success. I have enjoyed knowing you, and I know that whatever might I do will in many ways reflect your influence. Sincerely, Leora”

“Dr. Whidden” is Dr. Reginald W. Whidden, professor of English. Elaine Henson’s comment makes more sense now, given she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Taken alone, these two comments may have been considered a gift with the yearbook to the professor; however, even though Dr. Whidden was a sponsor of the Battlefield Yearbook, Elaine Henson was not a member of the Battlefield staff. This leads to two theories: the professor or the student must have initiated this signing or the students, Elaine Henson and Leora Knapp, knew each other and decided to leave special notes for their professor (both were English majors).

Either way, I think these notes are meaningful and illustrative of the relationship students had with professors. After reviewing the ten yearbooks and a number of scrapbooks, the relationship between professors and students is clearly an important aspect of students’ college experiences. There are pages upon pages devoted to faculty-student meetings and events. Of course, this does not reflect all students, but for many students, I imagine, it was very true. I suppose their relationships were similar to the ones students have today. While some students are content to go about their studies without getting to know their professors, others prefer to build relationships.

As this is my final research post, I want to finish with what this experience meant for me. I am not going to burst into song, but I already feel a sense of loss departing from these yearbooks to focus on the group site. From what I have had the privilege to examine, I believe these women came to find exactly what they were looking for at the Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia. Whatever their reason for coming to college, the yearbooks and scrapbooks tell the stories of exceptional women with lives that seem intangible today. Little things like Peanut week, Frosh week, and sister years are traditions Mary Washington probably will never have again, but for the ladies of the 1950s (and the few gentlemen in 1950 and 1951), those little things made up a wonderful four years.


Photos taken by me from The Mary Washington College Battlefield, 1950.

Featured image at top of page: University of Mary Washington Archives.Battlefield, 1950. Vol. 27, pg. 4. (accessed February 20, 2012).

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Post #4: Wrapping up my research

After hearing that it was a good idea to broaden our research to aspects of MWC other than the classroom experience, this past week I got to working on finding photos that demonstrated the atmosphere at Mary Washington. I was able to find a few more classroom experience photos, but they were once again Home Ec classes, art and science classes. When looking for more photos I also looked for faculty photographs and department photographs as well as photographs of the campus.

Sculpting Class, 1960 UMW Special Collections

Pollard Hall 1965 UMW Special Collections











After Thursday’s class and hearing other groups talk about the sources they had gotten the most information out of the next time I went to Special Collections I looked into the department files for the sixties. Our group is focusing on certain majors to prevent getting bogged down in too much resarch, so I requested the files for the Education, Chemistry, Home Economics, and English majors. In each department’s folder there were no references to curriculum in the ninteen-sixties. It was a little disapointing because I was hoping to find syllabi or at least documents pertaining to those majors so we could get more of a cohesive idea of what it would have been like to major in those different subjects.

Overall I think our website is coming along pretty well. Thanks to Tim Ownes we have a starting point for the format of our website. Right now I have a vague understanding of what it was like to go to Mary Washington in the sixties, but as we start to combine our findings we can begin to draw conslusions and get a broader understanding of what it might have been like.


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Post #3: The Details

This week  I went back to the student handbooks and photo archives to look in to topics we discussed in our group that we would like to include in our final website.

First I looked into the smoking policies because we wondered if in our reenactment of the classroom there would have been the possibility that there would have been students smoking in class. Up until 1967 smoking was not permitted in classrooms except in designated seminar rooms. The 1967 to 1968 student handbook is the first to allow smoking in classrooms as long as it wasn’t a safety hazard or a professor or a fellow student objected to it. From 1967 to 1970 students were allowed to smoke in the classroom and so it would not have been unheard of to have seen a student smoking in class.

I finished looking through the 1960s photos in the archive and did not come up with too many more photographs that added to the classroom experience. I came up with some photos that were related to the classroom in a broader sense. . .

1966 Students Lined Up for Registration, Mary Washington Archives

1968 New Student Orientation, Mary Washington Archives

and one that showed an actual classroom experience. . .

1968 Chemistry Class

This time when I was in special collections the staff found me the 1969-1970 handbook. It had been included in a different decade’s box and so had not been included in my previous posts.

1969-1970 Student Handbook

The handbook from the last year of the decade held many new additions to the academic aspect of Mary Washington College. Academic distinctions, Individual study, Honors work, Junior Year Study abroad Program, Grad School information, Intermediate and Final Honors, and a Grading Scale are all are first introduced in this student handbook. Not only does this handbook look much different than the other two styles of handbooks, but the last handbook of the decade seemed to put a greater emphasis on academics and less on the social aspects of campus life.


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Diving In

As my research continues, I am continuously pulled in by the Battlefield yearbook. Every page brings new questions and offers few answers. The 1950s seem like a time that everyone knows well. I’ve seen the movies, heard the music, and studied the advertisements, but I still feel like the world of these young women is still out of grasp.

The prose flowing from the Battlefield is wistful and dreamy, painting a picture of the idyllic lifestyle for any young woman: dreamboats, late-night card games, lounging by the pool, entertaining guests, and Coke—lots of Coke. From what I have found, classes and other pieces of academic life are greatly discounted. If classes are mentioned, they seem to be necessary burdens of an otherwise social year.

I first thought that classes were just so ordinary that the yearbook staffs did not find it essential to include more information on them. This could very well be true given interviews by another group member that can be found here. Equally likely is that the classroom experience was not only ordinary, but an inconsequential part of college life. When I compared the yearbooks from the 1950s to Battlefields during the 2000s, I noticed a distinct difference in what was featured. There was a noticeable presence of education in the more recent Battlefields. Classrooms do not overpower social activities, but they do fill more pages in one yearbook than I have found altogether in the 1950s yearbooks.

This lead me to wonder the exact reason why young women during the 1950s attended colleges, because today, education of young women (and of all young people) is very important to our society and is viewed as necessary to have a fulfilling career. While educating young women in the 1950s may have been important as well, most women probably did not see themselves having a career outside of the home (besides teaching). Therefore, extracurricular activities, dates, May Day events, and theatre performances took precedence to classroom experiences. College was more of a coming-of-age event rather than a pursuit of knowledge or career.

To recreate the classroom, I have discovered some bits of information that build a greater picture. First, a fair majority of classes must have been lectures, usually from a male professor at the front of the classroom. Students have their notebooks open, writing down notes that will only be viewed while cramming the night before the big exam. Roll call, class bells, term papers, and pop quizzes were all part of the routine. The most prevalent portrayal of professors was the teacher staying after class in order to help a student with questions or further discussion.

Finally, I do have some questions that I my group members’ research can provide answers for:

Is there a reason why female professors have older men also sitting in on the lecture? Or were the photos I found simply coincidences?

Were there rules for classroom engagement (proper etiquette)?

Battlefield, 1953 Battlefield, 1951 Sociology Department Group Photo


University of Mary Washington Archives.Battlefield, 1953. Vol. 30, pg. 18. (accessed February 9, 2012).

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Group Blog

Image Source: University of Mary Washington Digital Archives
Image Link:

We decided to have a blog based on visuals. Each visual will take the visitor to a separate page. These pages will include the following:
Courses and Majors (catalog information that is relevant, popular majors, majors that have disappeared, majors that were new in the decade)
Departments (focusing on relationship between professors, gender)
Classroom Experience (will be divided to the four types we decided on: technology classes, labs, arts/music/home economics, and lectures)
Social Life (if possible, we would try to limit this since we have such an abundance on this topic; possibly go into popular traditions)
Interviews page (we thought this would be an interesting page to do by adding pictures of our Alums from the yearbook with what information they offered us and maybe some background/biographical information)

We finished our meeting working on a theme for the blog, but decided to just meet up this coming Monday to finalize it.
We are still a little confused on what we should be including and what we shouldn’t given this is supposed to appeal to a wide audience.

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