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. http://www.archive.org/details/battlefield195000univ (accessed February 20, 2012).

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